Flying the Flag of Revolution, The Indian Struggle for Independence

Flying the Flag of Revolution, Part 3 – Fighting Against British Rule

The uprising that had begun at Awadh soon spread to Meerut, and before long the effort was blazing throughout northern and central India. British authorities initially believed that the disturbance could be easily suppressed, but the movement proved to be far greater than they had anticipated.

According to British history books, this incident is known as the Indian Rebellion of 1857. However, such a name gives an inaccurate portrayal of these events. In reality, what unfolded here was a brave and valiant battle against British rule, and a fight to end their relentless control over India.

During this time, Hindus and Muslims did not work in isolation to free themselves from the evil grip of the British East India Company, but rather, all the citizens of India came together as one. As united compatriots with a common goal, they took up arms and fought side by side against the British. It was a truly magnificent event that to this very day gleams like a jewel, ornamenting the pages of Indian history.

In the early stages of the battle, the Indian mercenaries completely annihilated the British officers, and on the 11th, three mercenary units went on to occupy Meerut. All involved fought with great vigour, and their spirits soared so high that they could touch the clouds.

The units that took Meerut installed Bahadur Shah at Delhi as the king of India, and his sons as the commanders-in-chief of his forces. The struggle continued on in this manner for some months, with fierce battles being fought in various locations.

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The Early Years, The Indian Struggle for Independence, The Youth Who Crave Revolution

The Youth Who Crave Revolution, Part 6 – Dedicating My Life to India’s Independence

My father had made his position on the matter very clear. I was not to dedicate my life to fighting for India’s independence, but rather, it was his desire that I should further my education and pursue a professional business career. As much as I wanted to honour his wishes, however, I held fast to my dreams of raising up the move for our freedom.

After the response to my last army application had been intercepted by my father, I finally abandoned this approach. Realizing that I would not be able to become a soldier and fight for our freedom in this manner, I decided to use other methods to strengthen the movement.

At the time, I was still very young but I eagerly took up every opportunity to drive forward our efforts, and by the age of fifteen I was already a true revolutionary. During this time, the movement in India began to develop at a remarkable pace, and from 1908 to 1915 my plans were in full force.

In 1915, I made contact with like-minded Indian soldiers and established plans to launch a large-scale revolution in the north. But despite all effort, the move was unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, the situation was growing tense and British government officials in India caught wind of my actions. They began to employ all possible means to secure my arrest, dispatching spies, distributing my photos throughout the country, and placing a bounty on my head that would eventually reach as high as 12,000 rupees.

Before I go into all the details of my personal engagement in the struggle for Indian independence, however, I would first like to set the backdrop and talk about the history behind the revolutionary movement.

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The Early Years, The Indian Struggle for Independence, The Youth Who Crave Revolution

The Youth Who Crave Revolution, Part 5 – Against My Parents’ Wishes

Despite numerous setbacks, I continued to pursue my goal of joining the army and fighting for India’s independence. Against my father’s warning, I had determinedly sent out one more application, fully prepared to yet again be met with silence. However, my dedication had paid off and at long last I received a response.

Naturally, I was faced with one final obstacle, as the letter ended up in the hands of my father. Upon opening the envelope and seeing that I had gone against his word, he gripped the paper firmly in his hand as he came to confront me.

“I have made my position very clear. I have told you the path that you ought to follow, and explained to you every reason why you must abandon this childish dream. And yet, you still insist on becoming a soldier!”

He reprimanded me harshly.

Our conversation dragged on, with each of us attempting to assert our thoughts on the matter, but no matter how much my father scolded me, I held fast to my convictions. There was not a single moment when I let my mind falter, or allowed his stern words to sway me from my goals.

In the end, I did not enter the army, but nevertheless I responded to my calling to fight for India. Even at the young age of thirteen I had already thrown myself headfirst into the Indian revolution effort, and within the coming years I  soon found myself in the midst of plans to launch a large-scale revolution in the north.

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Author's Comments

Rash Behari Bose on the Vaisakhi Day Incident at Amritsar

I have been publishing my translations from Rash Behari Bose’s book, “The Indian Struggle For Independence”, in the order in which he wrote them, however in light of the present time of year I would like to move ahead momentarily to some of the topics that he addresses further on in his book.

In this post, I will touch on one of the many sections in which he writes about the events surrounding the Amritsar massacre. Throughout his writings, Bose continues to return to this incident, each time focusing on different aspects as they relate to the topic at hand, as it was a pivotal turning point in the move for Indian independence.

In one such section, Bose writes that by 1917, the Indian National Congress and the Indian people at large were in widespread agreement that the autonomy of India must be secured. There were differing opinions on how this could be achieved, with some suggesting that they work together with the British and look towards the example of places such as Canada, while others proposed that India aim for total independence and expel Britain all together.

Not long thereafter, the British government offered a promise that they would help India establish its own independent self-government contingent upon their assistance in achieving an Allied victory in World War I. The Indian public erupted into joyful elation and dedicated tremendous effort and sacrifice to the war effort.

After the conclusion of the war, faced only with the newly instated Montague-Chelmsford Reforms, the people of India fell into indignation over such an insufficient measure. Sensing their discontent, the British government responded by establishing the infamous Rowlatt Act which laid out in clear terms the dire situation that the Indian public would now face.

In his writings, Rash Behari Bose goes into the details of these events, elaborating on the extent of the sacrifice that Punjabis had made during the war, all with the promise of an independent India. He also addresses the contents of the Rowlatt Act, the public response, and the implications that the Act held for Indian society.

Directly preceding the fateful events that would soon unfold at Jallianwala Bagh, Bose speaks of the increasing tensions in Punjab that eventually led to a protest in front of the residence of the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar. General Reginald Dyer was soon dispatched to suppress the public.

Then, on April 13, Bose writes that large crowds of people had gathered from all across the region to enjoy the festivities at Jallianwala Bagh Garden, Amritsar, in celebration of Vaisakhi. The plaza overflowed with people, young and old, as their faces lit up with excitement and joy unaware of what would soon follow.

Bose writes in great detail about the events that unfolded that day, the aftermath, and the results of the investigations that followed. He provides us with the statements of firsthand witnesses, including the well-known personage, Alice Coomaraswamy, otherwise known as Ratan Devī.

Bose’s book also covers the first War of Independence in 1857, and explains how India came to be trapped in the situation that it was presently facing at the time of his publication.

His books were originally written in old Japanese in such a manner that their contents could be understood by any Japanese citizen who was not familiar with Indian history and Western colonization. Bose dedicated his time to writing materials that would spread understanding of India’s history, culture and tribulations with people far beyond the Indian borders.

The contents of the pages that I have summarised above will take time to work through and translate, but when I complete these valuable passages, I will include them on this site along with the rest of the posts.

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The Early Years, The Indian Struggle for Independence, The Youth Who Crave Revolution

The Youth Who Crave Revolution, Part 4 – Father Discourages Me From Joining the Army

I had been forced to abandon my attempts to become a soldier, and was sent back to my school in Chandannagar. Day in and day out, I whiled away my time in the classroom for what felt like an eternity, eagerly awaiting my chance to get back on the road in search of an army that would accept me. Even as I sat at my desk trying to listen to the teacher lecturing at the front of the room, my mind was consumed with dreams of launching a revolution that would lead India to freedom.

Eventually, I could wait no longer and decided to pay a visit to my father in the hopes of convincing him to let me pursue my dreams of joining the independence effort. I stood squarely in front of him and presented my argument, but he merely dismissed my plans as the transient whims of a young boy. The only advice he gave was that I dedicate myself to my schooling and graduate as soon as possible so that I could build up a successful professional career.

He tried all manner of method to discourage me from my goal, at first scolding me harshly and then attempting to persuade me through reason. My heart went out to him, but as much as I wanted to honour his words, no amount of urging could convince me to abandon my plans.

After our conversation, I secretly mailed out yet another application to the commanding officer of an army corps. After so many rejections and non-responses, fate was fulfilled and I finally received a reply. However, I was not around when the letter arrived, and it ended up in the hands of my father. Discovering that I had gone behind his back despite his repeated appeals, his reaction was severe.

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The Early Years, The Indian Struggle for Independence, The Youth Who Crave Revolution

The Youth Who Crave Revolution, Part 3 – Postponing My Dreams of Joining the Army

In between my clerical duties at Fort William, I spent each free moment writing up applications and sending them out indiscriminately to every possible army. As long as I would be on Indian soil fighting for our independence, it did not matter where in the country I ended up serving.

After sending out numerous applications and getting nowhere, I decided to take matters into my own hands and left my post at Fort William in search of some army that would have me. It seemed that each place was either rejecting Bengalis, or was no longer recruiting. If they would not acknowledge me in writing, I was determined to travel in person to each and every cantonment across India until I was admitted.

My ambitions, however, were once again cut short. As luck would have it, one of my relatives caught wind of my plans and set out in search of me. I was intercepted midway through my travels and admonished harshly, being told that it was outrageous for me to abandon my schooling with fanciful thoughts of joining the army. In great frustration, I was forced to put my plans on hold for the time being while he transported me back to my home in Chandannagar.

I returned to the school that I had once abandoned in pursuit of my dreams, and there I wasted away my time sitting idly by while my mind was consumed with thoughts of the struggle for freedom that was being bravely fought at that very moment.

I stayed on for some time and graduated to the following grade, but even then I was not able to concentrate on my studies. Constantly assailed with heroic imaginings of raising a powerful and fearless army that would launch the revolution, I decided to pay a visit to my father and convince him to let me pursue my dreams of becoming a soldier.

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INA, The Early Years, The Indian Struggle for Independence, The Youth Who Crave Revolution

The Youth Who Crave Revolution, Part 2 – Rejected by the Army

I waited on the edge of my seat, anxious to hear back about my application to the army, but when the reply finally came, I was met with rejection. In the envelope, there was only a brief note informing me that they would not be accepting applications from Bengalis at the present time. I considered this no more than a minor obstacle, however, and brushed it aside determined not to let it deter me from my goal.

With my heart set on dedicating myself to the independence effort at all costs, I immediately changed my approach. If Fort William would not accept me, I would apply to the French forces at Pondicherry.

Knowing that if I simply mailed in another letter I would be forced to sit around agonizingly waiting for their reply, I instead traveled to Pondicherry to request admittance in person.

Upon my arrival, without a moment’s delay I went directly to the admissions officer and spoke with great determination,

“I am here to volunteer as a soldier.”

“There are no openings at the moment,” I was told. “Once a position opens up, we will contact you.”

That was all.

There was no way of knowing if and when I would receive word, and it was imperative that I become a soldier as soon as possible. The sooner I joined the force, the sooner India would be free.

I would not stand passively by and wait for the opportunity to come to me. For the time being, I took on employment as a clerk at Fort William with the intention of changing posts as soon as the chance arose. Meanwhile, I randomly sent out application after application to every cantonment I knew of, hoping that even just one would accept me. It did not matter where in India it was, as long as I was working for the achievement of free India.

I eagerly awaited their replies, but none came. Eventually, I could wait no longer and set out in search of some army that would accept me.

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