Khudiram Bose (aka Khudiram Bosu) (3 December 1889 11 August 1908) was an Indian Bengali revolutionary, one of the youngest revolutionaries early in the revolutionary movement for Indian independence. On the day of his hanging, he was only 18 years, 8 months and 8 days old.
Khudiram Bose was born on December 3, 1889 in the small village named “Habibpur” situated under Keshpur Police Station in Midnapore district of Bengal. His father was a Tehsildar in the Nerajol. Khudiram was the fourth child in a family of three daughters. His parents, Trailokyanath Bose and Lakshmipriya Devi had two sons before the birth of Khudiram but both of them died prematurely. Following the traditional believes and customs, the new born child was symbolically sold to his eldest sister in exchange of three handful of food grains locally known as Khud, in an attempt to save him from dying at an early age. This way he acquired the name Khudiram. He lost his mother when he was six year old. His father died a year after. Aparupa Roy, his elder sister, brought him to her house at Hatgachha village under Daspur police station. Aparupa’s husband, Amritalal Roy got him admitted to Tamluk’s Hamilton High School.
In 1902 and 1903, when Sri Aurobindo and Sister Nivedita respectively visited Medinipur and held a series of public lectures along with secret planning sessions with the revolutionary groups; Khudiram was among the teenage student community of the town which was fired up with a burning inspiration of revolution. Apparently he joined Anushilan Samiti, and came into contact with the network of Barindra Kumar Ghosh of Calcutta. He became a volunteer at the age of 15, and was arrested for distributing pamphlets against the British rule in India. At the young age of sixteen, Khudiram took part in planting bombs near police stations and targeted government officials.
In 1907, Barindra Kumar Ghosh arranged to send to Paris one of his associates by the name of Hem Chandra Kanungo (Hem Chandra Kanungo Das), who was to learn the art of bomb making from Nicholas Safranski, a Russian revolutionary in exile in the French Capital. Returning to Bengal, Hem began working with Barin Ghosh again. With Fraser alerted, a new target was selected in Douglas Kingsford. Kingsford was the Chief Magistrate of the Presidency court of Alipore, and had overseen the trials of Bhupendranath Dutta and other editors of Jugantar, sentencing them to rigorous imprisonment.Jugantar itself responded with defiant editorials. The defiance of Jugantar saw it face five more prosecutions that left it in financial ruins by 1908. These prosecutions brought the paper more publicity, and helped disseminate the Anushilan Samiti’s ideology of revolutionary nationalism. Shukla Sanyal notes in 2014 that revolutionary terrorism as an ideology began to win support among a significant populace in Bengal, tacitly even if not overt Kingsford also earned notoriety among nationalists when he ordered the whipping of a young Bengali boy by the name of Sushil Sen for participating in the protests that followed the Jugantar trial. Thus during his posting as Chief Magistrate of Calcutta Presidency, Kingsford had become unpopular for passing harsh and cruel sentences on young political workers. He was also noted for inflicting corporal punishments on such workers.
- The Kingsford assassination – first attempt
The first attempt to kill Kingsford was in the form of a book bomb that Hem constructed. An empty tin of Cadbury’s cocoa was packed with a pound of picric acid and three detonators. This was packed into a hollowed section of Herbert Broom‘s Commentaries on the Common Law and delivered wrapped in brown paper to Kingsford’s house by a young revolutionary named Paresh Mallick. Kingsford placed the unopened package in his shelf to examine it later. By March 1908, fearful of the judge’s safety, he was promoted to District Judge and transferred by the government to Muzaffarpur in northern part of Bihar. With him went his furniture, library and the unexploded book bomb made by Hem Chandra.
- The reconnaissance at Muzaffarpur
Anushilan Samiti persisted in their attempt to kill Kingsford. In April, a two-man reconnaissance team visited Muzaffarpur, which included Parfulla Chaki. On their return, Hem provided the bomb that was to be used, composed of 6 ounces of dynamite, a detonator and a black powder fuse. Prafulla returned to Muzaffarpur with a new boy, Khudiram Bose.
- The police got the scent
The police got suspicious on the activities of Aurobindo Ghosh, Barin Ghosh and their associates. The outlines of these plans to attempt to take Kingsford’s life had also become known to Calcutta police, and commissioner F.L. Halliday had passed on the alert to Muzaffarpur superintendent of police. Kingsford was thus alerted by the superintendent, but had ignored the warnings. Four men were assigned to guard the magistrate’s house. In the mean time, Khudiram adopted the name “Haren Sarkar”, and Prafulla “Dinesh Chandra Roy”, and they took up residence in a ‘dharmashala’ (free, charitable inn) run by one Kishorimohan Bandopadhyay. For the next few days they closely observed the daily routine, activities and movements of their target, Kingsford, taking note of his timings at the court, the club and his house. On the evening of 29 April Khudiram and Prafulla were in place to execute their plans. Pretending to be schoolboys, they surveyed the Muzaffarpur park, opposite The British club frequented by Kingsford. They were noticed by a constable.
- The Kingsford assassination attempt at Muzaffarpur
For three weeks the two revolutionaries were successful to hide their identities and movement. The CID officer who came from Calcutta following them had returned with a letter from Armstrong, the superintendent of Muzaffarpur police that the two had not arrived at Muzaffarpur at all, only six hours before they struck. On the evening of 30 April, 1908, they returned and, being noticed by the same constable, they scurried away. The duo moved away, then doubled back, hiding in a tree with the bomb. Kingsford was playing bridge that night at the club with his wife and the wife and daughter of Pringle Kennedy, a leading pleader of Muzaffarpur Bar. Finishing the last game at 8:30 in the evening, the group broke up to head home. Kingsford and his wife were in a carriage identical to and immediately behind that carrying the Pringles.
On the 30th April 1908 at, 8-30 P.M., Mrs. and Miss Kennedy left the Station Club in Mozufferpur to drive home in a single-horsed carriage. Their carriage is similar in appearance to that which the District Judge, Mr. Kingsford, was then using. On their way home the ladies had to take the road turning to the right or west after leaving the Club grounds and to pass in front of the compound of the house occupied by Mr. Kingsford. The night was dark. As the carriage reached the eastern gate of Mr. Kingsford’s compound, two men ran towards it from the opposite or southren side of the road where they had been concealed under the trees, and one of them threw a bomb or both threw bombs into the carriage. Aloud explosion followed and the horse bolted with the carriage It was stopped after a short distance and taken back to Mr. Kingsford’s house. The body of the carriage was then found to have been shattered and the two ladies to have sustained terrible injuries. The syce who had been standing on the footboard at the back of the carriage was picked up near the eastern gate insensible and wounded. Miss Kennedy died of her injuries within an hour. Mrs. Kennedy survived till the morning of the 2nd May, when she also died of the injuries which she had sustained.
- A failed bid to escape
Since the attack took place before 9 in the evening, by midnight the entire town was aware of the incident and was in a state of chaos. All the stations in that rail-route were already occupied with armed police and the staff were ordered to keep a sharp eye on every passenger embarking or disembarking. Khudiram meanwhile had continued to walk through the countryside instead of boarding a train, and had been walking non-stop all night. Having covered nearly 25 miles, he reached exhausted at a station called “Waini” (Now known as Khudiram Bose Pusa Station or Pusa Road Station) in the morning of May 1, 1908. As he asked for a glass of water at a tea stall, he was confronted by two armed constables, Fateh Singh and Sheo Pershad Singh, who immediately suspected something upon seeing his dusty feet (without any footwear), and his exhausted and perspiring appearance. After a couple of questions, their suspicion became stronger, and they decided to detain Khudiram. Khudiram started struggling with the two men, and immediately, one of the two hidden revolvers fell out. Before Khudiram could use the other one to fire on the constables, one of them held him from behind in a bear-hug. The much younger and lightly built Khudiram had no more chance of defense or escape. On his person were found 37 rounds of ammunition, Rs. 30 in cash, a railway map and a page of the rail timetable. Khudiram’s fate was sealed.
Meanwhile, after a similar long journey, Prafulla Chaki, too, was exhausted with hunger and thirst. On that same day, 1 May, a local resident named Trigunacharan Ghosh, a civil servant, saw a young boy coming his way, totally exhausted in the midday heat at the peak of the summer. In the meantime the news of the bomb attack had also reached that area and the man could easily realize that he was another of the fleeing revolutionaries. Being an employee of the British government, he never could do anything for his country on a personal level, but he thought that if he could make a way for this boy to save his life, he could at least have his conscience clear and make at least one tiny contribution towards his country. He took “Dinesh”, i.e. Prafulla to his house, and let him bathe, eat and rest. After he gave the boy some new clothes to wear, he arranged for the boy’s safe return to Kolkata in a night train. But halfway on such a smooth road to safety, fate played a cruel trick on Prafulla, after such an initial smile, by a drastic turn-away and abandonment. After boarding a train From Samastipur, Prafulla was to get down at Mokamaghat, from where he intended to get on a train to Howrah. In the same compartment sat Nandalal Banerjee, a sub-inspector in the British police. He at once began to suspect the young Bengali student. He came up and started a conversation with the boy. After a few words from the unsuspecting, young boy, he realized that he was involved in the Muzaffarpur incident. When Prafulla, still unaware that his fellow traveller was a sub-inspector who has just trapped him, got down at the Shimuraighat station to drink water, the sub-inspector immediately telegrammed the Muzaffarpur police station about his encounter, suspicion and the conversation. The instructions immediately arrived to arrest Prafulla. Prafulla finished the journey up to Mokamaghat, and disembarked to get on the scheduled train to Howrah. Suddenly, he saw his fellow-traveller coming at him purposefully, with several policemen. Prafulla attempted to kill Nandalal Banerjee by firing on him, but was not successful. Determined not to end up in the hands of the British, Prafulla attempted to escape from the platform fighting his way through with his revolver and, down to his last bullet, shot himself in the mouth.
On 1 May, the handcuffed Khudiram was brought from that station to Muzaffarpur. The entire town descended at the police station to take a look at the teenage boy surrounded by a team of armed policemen. Khudiram was taken to the house of the district magistrate Mr. Woodman. The English daily, The Statesman, wrote on the following day, May 2, 1908:
The Railway station was crowded to see the boy. A mere boy of 18 or 19 years old, who looked quite determined. He came out of a first-class compartment and walked all the way to the phaeton, kept for him outside, like a cheerful boy who knows no anxiety…..on taking his seat the boy lustily cried ‘Vandemataram’.
Back in Muzaffarpur, Khudiram was made to give a statement or declaration to the magistrate Mr. Woodman. He was yet to know that Prafulla was dead. To save his partner, and to protect his revolutionary mentors and their entire group, Khudiram took up the full responsibility of the entire operation and the loss of lives solely upon himself. Only after Khudiram finished giving his statement that the body of Prafulla was brought to Muzaffarpur for identification. Khudiram realized too late that trying to save Prafulla was in vain. Even after he confirmed the identity of his partner, and even after they had previously received details of the encounter of Nandalal Banerjee with Prafulla aka “Dinesh’s”, the British, instead of believing Khudiram, thought it more proper to cut off the head from the body and send it to Kolkata for better confirmation.
Trial, sentencing and execution”]
The historical trial started on 21 May 1908 in the court of Mr. Corndoff, the Judge and two Indians, Nathuni Prasad and Janak Prasad, were appointed as jury. Along with Khudiram, two others were tried for assisting the boys in their mission Mrityunjay Chakraborty and Kishorimohan Bandopadhyay, who had accommodated Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki in his dharmashala for their mission. Mrityunjay died during the trial, and subsequently the trail of Kishorimohan was separated from that of Khudiram.
Mr. Mannuk and Binodbihari Majumdar became the prosecutors for the British government, while eminent lawyers Kalidas Basu, Upendranath Sen and Kshetranath Bandopadhyay took up Khudiram’s defense. They were joined later in the trial by Kulkamal Sen, Nagendra Lal Lahiri and Satischandra Chakrabortyall of them fighting the case without any fees, fighting for their country.
On 23 May, Khudiram resubmitted his statement to magistrate E.W. Bredhowd, denying any involvement or responsibility in any aspect or stage of the entire mission and operation down to the bombing. Initially Khudiram was not ready to sign in this statement, but sign at length on persuasion from his lawyers. On 13 June, the scheduled date for the verdict and sentence, the judge and the prosecutors received an anonymous letter of warning, which told them that there was one more bomb coming for them from Kolkata, and that henceforth it will be the Biharis, and not the Bengalis, who are going to kill them. On the other hand, that made the defense lawyers more confident, that it was proof that there could be other masterminds and executors of the Muzaffarpur bombing other than Khudiram, and that along with Khudiram’s age, should make the judge deliver a sentencing other than death. But to the disappointment to all, the Judge pronounced the death sentence for Khudiram.
Khudiram’s immediate and spontaneous response was to smile. The judge, surprised, asked Khudiram whether he had understood the meaning of the sentence that was just pronounced. Khudiram replied that he surely had. When the judge asked him again whether he had anything to say, in front of a packed audience, Khudiram replied with same smile that if he could be given some time, he could teach the judge the skill of bomb-making. By then the Judge was instructing the police to escort the boy out of the courtroom.
As per the legal system, Kudiram had 7 days time to appeal to the High Court. Khudiram refused to make appeal. He was by then on a different mental plane, and was fully prepared to embrace his destiny. However, after some persuasion by his counsellors with the logic that if he receives a life sentence instead of getting hanged because of this appeal, he would live to serve his nation once free and he would have age on his side when that happens Khudiram finally agreed, in a detached manner to go along with his defense team.
The High Court hearing took place on 8 July. Narendrakumar Basu came to Khudiram’s defense, and concentrated all his legal skills and experience on this case to save the precious life of a boy who had overnight become a wonder and a hero for the whole country. He challenged the verdict of the session court by saying that the judging was not according to law and was flawed. He reasoned that according to article 164 of the penal code, the accused is required to submit his statement in front of a first class magistrate (which Mr. Woodman) was not, and moreover during the first statement Khudiram was not told anything of the person’s identity and position. Secondly, pointed out Basu, the article 364 requires that all questions to the accused be made in the mother tongue of the same, and all answers from the accused in his mother tongue be documented verbatim in that language, but which was done in English in Khudiram’s case. Moreover, Khudiram’s signature was required to be given on the statement on the same date and at the time of the statement in the presence of the magistrate, but in reality Khudiram was made to sign the day after, and in front of a different person, who was an additional magistrate. Lastly, since such a statement are by definition required to be totally voluntary, with the magistrate being sure that it was so, there was no proof that Khudiram was allowed to give a voluntary statement without any direct or indirect manipulation after his capture. Lastly Narendrakumar Basu said that Prafulla aka “Dinesh” (the name used in the trial) was stronger than Khudiram was, and he was the bomb-expert among the two of them, thus it is highly likely that the actual thrower of the bomb was “Dinesh”. Further Prafulla’s suicide on the verge of capture only reinforces the possibility of his being the actual thrower of the bombs.
After the defense, it was announced by the two British judges that the final verdict would be passed on the 13th of July, 1908.
Since Khudiram was the only of the two alive, and since therefore only his lone statement of a two-man team was the foundation for the entire case, and since all the points By Narendra Kumar Basu were believed to be technically correct, it was hoped that, for the sake of the lawabout which the British prided themselves ad infinitum Khudiram’s life would at least be spared. But on the historical day, the British judges, confirmed the conviction and sentence, and dismissed the appeal.
As a final attempt, an appeal was made to the Governor General to overrule a death sentence for Khudiram. But the appeal was summarily turned downthe British were scared to fight. On the contrary, the order came to carry out the death sentence latest by 11 August 1908. Kolkata erupted in intense protest from the entire student community. The streets of Kolkata started to be choked up with processions all at the same time, for several days.
On 11 August, the region around the prison became packed with a swelling crowd before it was 6 amthe scheduled time. People holding flower garlands filled up the front rows of the crowd. Upendranath Sen, the lawyer-journalist of the Bengali news daily “Bengalee”, who was close to Khudiram, reports having reached the venue by 5 am, in a car with all the necessary funerary arrangements and clothes. After the hanging, the funeral procession went through the city, with police guards holding back the crowd all along the central artery street. The people kept throwing their flowers on the body as the carriage passed by.
The Amrita Bazar Patrika, one of the prominent dailies of that era, carried the story of the hanging the next day, on 12 August. Under the headline “Khudiram’s End: Died cheerful and smiling” the newspaper wrote:
“Khudiram’s execution took place at 6 a.m. this morning. He walked to the gallows firmly and cheerfully and even smiled when the cap was drawn over his head.“
An established British newspaper, The Empire, wrote:
“Khudiram Bose was executed this morning…It is alleged that he mounted the scaffold with his body erect. He was cheerful and smiling.“
The Kesari, nationalis Marathi news paper, observed on 26th May 1908:
“Neither the Jubilee murder of 1897, nor the reported tampering of the Sikh regiments had produced so much commotion, and the English public opinion seems inclined to regard birth of the bomb in India at the most extraordinary event since the mutiny at 1857.“
The Bengali poet Kazi Nazrul Islam wrote a poem to honor him.
A Statement made by Khudiram Bose
In his own words, Khudiram made a statement (which was undated) while under arrest, recorded by the special branch of the police, before he was hanged: I was naughty in my childhood. (But after I entered Midnapore Collegiate School) a change overtook me.
Khudiram Bose is remembered through number of ways till the present day in Bengal.
- Khudiram Bose Central College, established in 1965, is an undergraduate college in Kolkata, West Bengal, India. It offers only courses in arts and commerce. It is affiliated with the University of Calcutta.
- A metro railway station near Garia in Kolkata is named after Khudiram Bose – Shahid Khudiram Station.
- A hospital in B T Road near Kamarhati Municipality is named after Khudiram Bose – Shahid Khudiram Bose Hospital.
- The Muzaffarpur Jail, where the freedom fighter was incarcerated and hanged on August 11, 1908, is named as – Khudiram Bose Memorial Central Jail
- Sahid Khudiram Siksha Prangan (also known as Alipore Campus) is a University campus for post graduate studies of University of Calcutta, Kolkata. It is located at 1, Reformatory Street, Alipore, Kolkata – 700027
- Khudiram Anushilan Kendra, Kolkata is located adjacent to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Indore Stadium.