Revolutionary Terrorism During the 1920s

Emergence of Revolutionary Terrorism during the 1920s

  • The revolutionary terrorists were severely suppressed during World War I, with most of the leaders in jail or absconding.
  • In order to create a more harmonious atmosphere for the Montague-Chelmsford reforms, the Government released most of them under a general amnesty in early 1920.
  • Soon after, Non cooperation movement was launched.
  • On persuasion of Gandhiji and other Leaders most of the revolutionary terrorists either joined the movement or suspended their own activities in order to give the movement a chance.
  • But, the sudden withdrawal of Non-cooperation movement left most of them disillusioned.
  • Many young people began to question the very basic strategy of the national leadership and its emphasis on non violence and began to look for alternatives.
  • They were not attracted by the parliamentary politics of the Swarajists or the patient and undramatic constructive work of the no-changers.
  • Many were drawn to the idea that violent methods alone would free India.
  • Revolutionary terrorism again became attractive.
  • Nearly all major new leaders of the revolutionary politics like Surya Sen, Jatin Das, Azad, Bhagat Singh etc. had been enthusiastic participants in the non-violent Non-Cooperation Movement.
  • Gradually two separate strands of revolutionary terrorism developed — one in Punjab, U.P. and Bihar and the other in Bengal.

Major Influences

  • The upsurge of working class trade unionism after the war
  • Russian Revolution and the success of the young Socialist State in consolidating itself
  • the newly sprouting Communist groups with their emphasis on Marxism and Socialism
  • Novel and Books such as Bandi Jiwan by Sachin Sanyal and Pather Dabi by Sharatchandra
  • Journals publishing memoirs and articles glorifying the self-sacrifice of revolutionaries

Revolutionary Terrorism in Punjab-UP-Bihar

  • The revolutionary terrorist activity in this region was dominated by the Hindustan Republican Association/Army or HRA (Later renamed Hindustan Socialist Republican Association or HSRA)
  • The HRA was founded in October 1924 in Kanpur by Ramprasad Bismil, Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee and Sachin Sanyal
  • Its aim was to organise an armed revolution to overthrow the colonial government and
  • To establish in its place a Federal Republic of United States of India whose basic principle would be adult franchise

Kakori Robbery (August 1925)

  • The most important “action” of the HRA was the Kakori train robbery.
  • The men held up the 8-Down train at Kakori, an obscure village near Lucknow, and looted its official railway cash.
  • Government crackdown after the Kakori robbery led to arrests of many, Of whom 17 were jailed, four transported for life and four— Bismil, Ashfaqullah, Roshan Singh and Rajendra Lahiri—were hanged.
  • Kakori proved to be a setback.

Saunders’ Murder (Lahore, December 1928)

  • The, death of Lala Lajpat Rai due to lathi blows received during a lathi-charge on an anti-Simon Commission procession (October 1928) angered the revolutionaries who were beginning to move away from individual heroic action
  • Once again they resorted to individual assassination
  • Consequently, Bhagat Singh, Azad and Rajguru shot dead Saunders, the police official responsible for the lathicharge in Lahore.
  • The HSRA leadership now decided to let the people know about its changed objectives and the need for a revolution by the masses.
  • Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt were asked to throw a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly on April 8, 1929 against the passage of the Public Safety Bill and Trade Disputes Bill
  • The bombs had been deliberately made harmless and were aimed at making ‘the deaf hear’.
  • The objective was to get arrested and to use the trial court as a forum for propaganda so that people would become familiar with their movement and ideology.

Official Reaction

  • Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were tried in the Lahore conspiracy case.
  • Many other revolutionaries were tried in several other cases
  • In jail, these revolutionaries protested against the horrible conditions through a fast, and demanded honourable and decent treatment as political prisoners.
  • Jatin Das became the first martyr on the 64th day of his fast.
  • Azad was killed in a police encounter in a park in Allahabad in February 1931.
  • Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged on March 23, 1931.

Revolutionary Terrorism in Bengal

  • During the 1920s, many revolutionary groups reorganized their underground activities, while many continued working under congress
  • Many cooperated with C. R. Das in his Swarajist work.
  • After Das’s death (1925), the Bengal Congress broke up into two factions
  • One led by J. M. Sengupta (Anushilan group joined forces with him) and the other led by Subhash Bose (Yugantar group backed him)
  • Actions of the reorganised groups included an assassination attempt on the notorious Calcutta Police Commissioner, Charles Tegart (another man named Day got killed) by Gopinath Saha in 1924.
  • Government, armed with a new ordinance, came down heavily on revolutionaries.
  • Many including Subhash Bose were arrested. Gopinath Saha was hanged.

Chittagong Armoury Raid (April 1930)

  • Surya Sen decided to organise an armed rebellion along with his associates to show that it was possible to challenge the armed might of the mighty British Empire.
  • They had planned to occupy two main armouries in Chittagong to seize and supply arms to the revolutionaries,
  • They also aimed to destroy telephone and telegraph lines and to dislocate the railway link of Chittagong with the rest of Bengal.
  • The raid was conducted in April 1930 and involved 65 activists under the banner of Indian Republican Army— Chittagong Branch.
  • The raid was quite successful; Sen hoisted the national flag, took salute and proclaimed a provisional revolutionary government.
  • Later, they dispersed into neighbouring villages and raided government targets.
  • Surya Sen was arrested in February 1933 and hanged in January 1934
  • But, the Chittagong raid fired the imagination of the revolutionary-minded youth and recruits poured into the revolutionary terrorist groups in a steady stream.

Participation of Women in Revolutionary Terrorism in Bengal

  • There was a large scale participation of women especially under Surya Sen
  • These women provided shelter, carried messages and fought with guns in hand
  • Prominent women revolutionaries in Bengal during this phase included:-
  • Pritilata Waddedar who died while conducting a raid
  • Kalpana Dutt who was arrested and tried along with Surya Sen and given a life sentence
  • Shanti Ghosh and Suniti Chanderi, school girls of Comilla, who shot dead the district magistrate (December 1931)
  • Bina Das who fired point blank at the governor while receiving her degree at the convocation (February, 1932)

Official Reaction

  • There was panic at first and then severe government repression
  • Armed with 20 repressive Acts, the government let loose the police on the revolutionaries
  • In, Chittagong, several villages were burned and punitive fines imposed on many others
  • In1933, Jawaharlal Nehru was arrested for sedition and given two years sentence because he had condemned imperialism and praised the heroism of the revolutionaries.

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