Hindustan Republican Association
India Against Corruption's is affiliated to - the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA), a revolutionary movement which emerged after World War I from the Ghadar independence movement and avowedly terrorist Bengali organisatisions like Jugantar and Anushilan.
The history of the HRA is a history of the real Indian Independence movement.
The outbreak of the first World War in 1914 give a new lease of life to the nationalist movement which had been dormant since the heavy days of the Swadeshi movement. Britain's difficulty was India's opportunity. The west coast of North America had since 1904, become home to a steadily increasing number of Punjabi immigrants. The discriminatory policy of the host countries soon resulted in a flurry of political activity among Indian nationalists.
As early as 1907, Ram Nath Puri, a political exile on the west coast issued a circular-e-azadi(circular of liberty) in which he also pressed support to the swadeshi movement. Tarak Nath Das in Vancouver started the Free Hindustan and adopted a very militant nationalist tone; G.D.Kumar set up a Swadesh Sevak home in Vancouver on the lines of the India House in London and also began to bring out a Gurumukhi paper called Swadesh Sewak which advocated social reform and also asked Indian troops to rise in revolt against the British.
In 1910, Tarak Nath Das and G.D. Kumar, by now forced out of Vancouver, set up the united India House in Seattle and U.S.A. The first fillip to the revolutionary movement was provided by the visit to Vancouver, in early 1913, of Bhagwan Singh, a Sikh priest who had worked in Hong Kong and the Malay states. He openly preached the gospel of violent overthrow of the British rule and urged the people to adopt Vande Mataram as a revolutionary salute. Bhagwan Singh was expelled from Canada after his stay of 3 months .
The centre of revolutionary activity soon shifted to the U.S. which provided a relatively free political atmosphere. The crucial role was now played by Lala Hardayal, a political exile from India. Hardayal arrived in California in April 1911, taught briefly at Stanford University and soon engaged himself in political activity. But the bomb attack on Lord Hardinge , the viceroy of India, in Delhi on 23 December, 1912, excited his imagination and roused the dormant Indian revolutionary in him. His faith in the possibility of a revolutionary overthrow of the British regime in India was renewed, and he issued a Yugantar circular praising the attack on the Viceroy.
Meanwhile, Indians on the west coast of U.S. had been in search of a leader and had even thought of inviting Ajit Singh who had become famous in the education in Punjab in 1907. But Hardayal was already there, and, after December 1912, showed himself willing to play an active political role. Soon the Hindi association was set up in Portland in May 1913.
At the very first meeting of the association, held in the house of Kanshi Ram, and attended among others by Bhai Parmanand, Sohan Singh Bhakna and Harnam Singh 'Tundilat', Hardayal set forth his plan of action - do not fight the Americans, but use the freedom that is available in the U.S. to fight the British. You will never be treated as equals by the Americans until you are free in your own land the root cause of Indian poverty and degradation is British rule and it must be overthrown, not by petitions but by armed revolutions, go to India in large numbers and enlist there support. Hardayal's idea found immediate acceptance. A working committee was set up and the decision was taken to start a weekly paper, The Ghadar, for free circulation, and to set up a headquarters called Yugantar Ashram in San Fransisco .
Unsurprisingly, The Ghadar, succeeded, in a very brief time. The message went home, and ardent young militants began thirsting for 'action'. Hardayal himself was surprised by the intensity of the response. He had, on occasion , spoken in terms of 'ten years' or 'some years' when asked how long it would take to organize the revolution in India. But those who read the hearty exhortations of The Ghadar were too impatient, and ten years seemed a long time.
Hardayal was arrested on 25th March 1914 ,on the stated ground of his anarchist activities though everybody suspected that the British government had much to do with it. Released on bail, he used the opportunity to slip out of the country. Canada had for some years imposed very strict restrictions on the Indian immigration by means of a law that forbade entry to all, except those who made a continuous journey from India.
But in November 1913, the Canadian Supreme court allowed entry to 35 Indians who had not made continuous journey. Encouraged by this judgement, Gurdit Singh, an Indian contractor living in Singapore, decided to charter a ship and carry to Vancouver, Indians who were living in various places in East and South-East Asia. Carrying a total of 376 Indian passengers , the ship began its journey to Vancouver. The government of Canada had in the mean time plugged all the legal loop holes which had resulted in the November Supreme court judgement. The battle lines were clearly drawn.
When the ship arrived in Vancouver, it was not allowed into the port and was cordoned off by the police. Soon the Komagata Maru was forced out of Canadian waters. Before it reached Yokohama, World War I broke out, and the British Government passed orders that no passengers be allowed to disembark anywhere on the way, but only at Calcutta. On landing at Budge Budge near Calcutta, the harrased and irate passengers, provoked by the hostile attitude of the authorities, resisted the police and this led to a clash in which 18 passengers were killed and 202 arrested.
A few of them succeeded in escaping. The Government of India, fully informed of the Ghadar plans armed itself with the Ingress into India ordinance and waited for the returning emigrants. On arrival, the emigrants were scrutinized. Of an estimated 8000 emigrants who returned to India, 5000 were allowed to proceed unhindered. Precautionary measures were taken for roughly 1500 men. Upto February 1915, 189 had been interned and 704 restricted to their villages. Many who came via Colombo and South India succeeded in reaching Punjab without being found out. But Punjab in 1914 was very different from what the Ghadaraites had been led to expect- They found the Punjabis were in no mood to join the romantic adventure of the Ghadar.
The militants from abroad tried their best, they toured the villages, addressed gatherings at Melas and festivals, all to no avail. The chief Khalsa Diwan proclaiming its loyalty to the sovereign, declared them to be 'fallen' Sikhs and criminals, and helped the Government to track them down.
Frustrated and disillusioned with the attitude of the civilian people, the Ghadar made an attempt to find a leader; Bengali revolutionaries were contacted and through the efforts of Sachindranath Sanyal and Vishnu Ganesh Pingley, Rash Behari Bose, the Bengali revolutionary who had become famous for his daring attack on Harding, the Viceroy, finally arrived in Punjab in mid-January 1915 to assume leadership of the revolt.
Bose established a semblance of an organization and sent out men to contact army units in different centers, (from Bannu in the North-West frontier to Faizabad and Lucknow in U.P.) and report back by 11th February 1915. The emissaries returned with optimistic reports, and the date for the mutiny was set first for 21st and then for 19th February. But the criminal investigation department (C.I.D.) had succeeded in penetrating the organization, and the Government succeeded in taking effective pre-emptive measures.
Most of the leaders were arrested, though Bose escaped. For all practical purposes, the Ghadar movement was crushed. But the Government did not stop there. In what was perhaps the most repressive action experienced by the national movement this far, conspiracy trials were held in Punjab and Mandalay, 45 revolutionaries were sentenced to death and over 200 to long terms of imprisonment.
The revolutionary terrorists were severely suppressed during World War I, with most of their leaders in jail or absconding. Soon after, the National Congress launched the non-cooperation movement and on the urging of Gandhiji, C.R. Das and the other leaders most of the revolutionaries either joined the movement or suspended their own activities. But the sudden suspension of the non-cooperation movement left them disillusioned. They were not attracted by the parliamentary politics of the swarajists. Many were drawn to the idea that violent methods alone could free India.
Thus it is not accidental that nearly all the major new leaders of the revolutionary terrorist politics, for example, Jogesh Chandra Chatterjea, Surya Sen, Jatin Das, Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Shiv Verma, Bhagwati Charan Vohra and Jaidev Kapur, had been enthusiastic participants of the non-cooperation movement. Gradually two separate strands of revolutionary terrorism developed - one in Punjab, U.P. and Bihar and other in Bengal.
The revolutionaries in northern India were the first to emerge out of the mood of frustration and reorganize under the leadership of the old veterans, Ramprasad Bismil, Jogesh Chatterjea and Sachindranath Sanyal whose Bandi Jiwani served as a textbook to the revolutionary movement. They met in Kanpur in October 1924 and founded the Hindustan Republican Association (or Army) to organize armed revolution to overthrow colonial rule and establish in its place a Federal Republic of the United States of India whose basic principle would be adult franchise.
Before armed struggle could be waged, propaganda had to be organized on a large scale, men had to be recruited and trained and arms had to be procured. All these required money. The most important action of the HRA was the Kakori Robbery. On 9 August. 1925, ten men up the 8-Down train at Kakori, an obscure village near Lucknow, looted its official railway treasury. The Government reaction was quick and hard. It arrested a large number of young men and tried them in the Kakori case, Ashfaqullah Khan, Ramprasad Bismil, Roshan Singh, Rajendra Lahiri were hanged, four others were sent to the Andaman for life and seventeen others were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. Chandrashekhar Azad remained at large.
The Kakori case was a major setback to the revolutionaries of northern India, but it was not a fatal blow. Younger men such as Bejoy Kumar Sinha, Shiv Varma and Jaidev Kapur in U.P., Bhagat Singh, Bhagwati Charan Vohra and Sukhdev in Punjab set out to reorganize the HRA under the overall leadership of Chandrashekhar Azad. Finally nearly all the major young revolutionaries of northern India met a Ferozeshah Kotla Ground at Delhi on 9 and 10 September 1928, created a new collective leadership adopted socialism as their official goal and changed the name of the party to the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (Army).
Even though the HSRA and its leadership was rapidly moving from individual heroic actions towards mass politics, Lala Lajpat Rai's death, as the result of a brutal lathi-charge when he was leading an anti-Simon Commission demonstration at Lahore on 30 October 1928, led them once again to take to individual assassination. The death of this great Punjabi leader, popularly known as Sher-e-Punjab, was seen by the romantic youthful leadership of the HSRA as a direct challenge.
And so, on 17 December 1928, Bhagat Singh, Azad and Rajguru assassinated, at Lahore, Saunders, a police official involved in deadly lathi-charge on Lala Lajpat Rai. In a poster, put up by the HSRA after the assassination, the assassination was justified as follows: 'The murder of a leader respected by millions of people at the unworthy hands of an ordinary police official ... was an insult to the nation, It was, the bounden duty of young men of India to efface it ... We regret to have had to kill a person but he was part and parcel of that inhuman and unjust order that has to be destroyed.'
The HSRA leadership now decided to let the people know about their changed objectives and the need for a revolution by the masses. Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt were asked to throw a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly on 8 April 1929 against the passage of the Public Safety Bill and the Trade Disputes Bill which would reduce the civil liberties of citizens. The aim was not to kill, for the bombs were relatively harmless but, as the leaflet they threw into the Assembly hall proclaimed 'to make the deaf hear'. The objective was to get arrested and to use trial court as a forum for propaganda so that people would become familiar with their movement and ideology. Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt were tried in the Assembly Bomb Case.
Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt were tried in the Assembly Bomb Case. Later Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru and tens of other revolutionaries were tried in a series of conspiracy cases. Their fearless and defiant attitude in the courts - every day they entered the court-room shouting slogans 'Inquilab Zindabad,' 'Down, Down with Imperialism,' 'Long Live the Proletariat' and singing songs such as Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamare dil mein hain (our heart is filled with the desire for martyrdom) and 'Mera rang de basanti chola' (dye my clothes in saffron colour, the colour of courage and sacrifice) - was reported in newspapers unsurprisingly this won them the support and sympathy of people all over the country including those who had complete faith in non-violence.
Bhagat Singh became a household name in the land and many persons, all over the country, wept and refused to eat food, attend schools, or carry on their daily work, when they heard of his hanging in March 1931.
The country was also stirred by the prolonged hunger strike the revolutionary under-trials undertook as a protest against the horrible conditions in jails. They demanded that they be treated not as criminals but as political prisoners. The entire nation rallied behind the hunger strikers. On 13th September, the 64th day of the epic fast; Jatin Das, frail young man with an iron will, died. Thousands came to pay homage at every station passed by the train carrying his body from Lahore to Calcutta. At Calcutta, a two-mile-long procession of more than six lakh people carried his coffin to the cremation ground. A large number of revolutionaries were convicted in the Lahore conspiracy Case and other similar cases and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment many of them were sent to the Andamans. Sukhdev and Rajguru were sentenced to be hanged. The sentence was carried out on 23 March 1931.
In Bengal, too, the revolutionary started reorganizing and developing their underground activities. At the same time, many of them continued to work in the Congress organization. This enabled them to gain access to the vast Congress masses; on the other hand, they provided the Congress with an organizational base in small towns and the countryside. They cooperated with C.R. Das in his Swarajist work. After his death, the Congress leadership in Bengal got divided into two wings, one led by Subhash Chandra Bose and the other by J.M. Sengupta, the Yugantar group, join forces with the first and Anushilan with the second.
Among the several 'actions' of the reorganized groups was the attempt to assassinate Charles Tegart, the hated Police Commissioner of Calcutta, by Gopinath Saha in January 1924. By an error, another Englishman named Day was killed. The Government came down on the people with a heavy hand. A large number of people, suspected of being terrorists, or their supporters, were arrested under a newly promulgated ordinance. These included Subhash Chandra Bose and many other Congressmen. Saha was hanged despite massive popular protest. The revolutionary activity suffered a severe setback. Among the new 'Revolt Groups', the most active and famous was the Chittagong group led by Surya Sen.
Surya Sen had actively participated in the non-cooperation movement and was popularly known as Masterda. Arrested and imprisoned for two years, from 1926 to 1928, for revolutionary activities, he continued to work in the Congress. In 1929, Surya Sen was a Secretary and five of his associates were members of the Chittagong District Congress Committee. Surya Sen, a brilliant and inspiring organizer, was an unpretentious, soft spoken and transparently sincere person. He was fond of saying: 'Humanism is a special virtue of a revolutionary'. He was a great admirer of Rabindra Nath Tagore, and Kazi Nazrul Islam.
Surya Sen soon gathered around himself a large band of revolutionary youth including Anant Singh, Ganesh Ghosh and Lokenath Baul. They decided to organize a rebellion, on however small scale, to demonstrate that it was possible to challenge the armed might of the British in India. Their action plan was to include occupation of the two main armories in Chittagong and seizing of their arms with which a large band of revolutionaries could be formed into an armed detachment; the destruction of the telephone and telegraph system of the city; and the dislocation of the railway communication system between Chittagong and the rest of Bengal. The action was carefully planned and put into execution at 10 o'clock on the night of 18 April 1930.
A group of six revolutionaries led by Ganesh Ghosh, captured the Police Armoury, shouting slogans such as Inquilab Zindabad, Down with Imperialism and Gandhi's Raj has been established. Another group of ten, led by Lokenath Baul, took over the Auxiliary Force Armoury along with its Lewis guns and 303 army rifles. Unfortunately they could not locate the ammunition. This was to prove a disastrous setback to the revolutionaries plans. The revolutionaries also succeeded in dislocating telephone and telegraph communications and disrupting movement by train. In all, sixty five were involved in the raid, which was undertaken in the name of the 'Indian Republican Army', Chittagong Branch.
All the revolutionary groups gathered outside the Police Armoury where Surya Sen, dressed in immaculate white khadi dhoti and a long coat and stiffly ironed Gandhi cap, took a military salute, hoisted the National Flag among shouts of Bande Mataram and Inquilab Zindabad and proclaimed a Provisional Revolutionary Government.
It was not possible for the band of revolutionaries to put up a fight in the town against the army which was expected. They, therefore, left Chittagong town before dawn and marched towards the Chittagong hill ranges, looking for a safe place. It was on the Jalalabad Hill that a thousand troops surrounded them on the afternoon of 22 April. After a fierce fight, in which over eighty British troops and twelve revolutionaries died, Surya Sen decided to disperse to the neighbouring village there they formed into small groups and conducted raids on Government personnel and property. Despite several repressive measures and operations by the authorities, the villagers, gave them food and shelter to the revolutionary outlaws and enabled them to survive for three years. Surya Sen was finally arrested on 16 February 1933, tried and hanged on 12th January 1934.
A remarkable aspect of this new phase of the terrorist movement in Bengal was the large scale participation of young women under Surya Sen's leadership, they provided shelters, acted as messangers and custodians of arms and fought guns in hand. Preetilata Waddekar died while conducting a raid, while Kalpana Dutt (now Joshi) was arrested and tried along with Surya Sen and given a life sentence. In December 1931, two school girls Commilla, Shanti Ghosh and Suneeti Chaudhary, shot dead the district magistrates. In December 1932, Beena Das fired point blank at the Governor while receiving her degree at the convocation.