This memorial reminds of a train heist at Kakori

This memorial reminds of a train heist at Kakori

It’s a train heist which, though had taken place over nine decades ago at an obscure town near Lucknow, is still etched in the memory of Indians as those, who did it included none other than the great Indian revolutionary Chandrashekhar Azad.

The memorial reminds the people about the heist. On the evening of August 9, 1925, a group of revolutionaries held up 8-Down passenger train from Shahjahanpur to Lucknow at Kakori Railway Station and looted about Rs 8,000 from the guard’s carriage, which was to be deposited in the government treasury. One passenger was killed in a shot fired accidentally by the revolutionaries.

It also tells the story of extreme courage and love for freedom that prompted the freedom fighters to challenge the might of the British as also of the betrayal by some that led to the arrest of the revolutionaries and subsequent punishment, including hanging.

The daring robbery, which was planned besides Azad by Ramprasad Bismil, Roshan Singh, Rajendra Lahiri, Sachindra Bakshi, Keshab Chakraborty Mukundi Lal, Banwari Lal, Manmathnath Gupta and Ashfaqullah Khan, shook the then British regime.

Bismil and his two other colleagues Jogesh Chatterjea and Sachindranath Sanyal had founded the Hindustan Republican Association with the objective of overthrowing the British regime.

The revolutionaries, who had taken part in the heist, were members of the association.

According to the Avadh historians, the revolutionaries had planned to loot the treasure to meet the expenses incurred on carrying out their struggle against the repressive British government. Another objective was to grab the public attention and encourage more youths to join their ranks to fight the British regime. A meeting was also held two days before the heist at Shahajahanpur in which several members of the team took part.

The historians say that the plan was to loot the 8-Down train on August 8 but the plan failed as the revolutionaries were delayed and the train had already departed, when they arrived at the station.

They then decided to give effect to their plan the next day.  As per the plan, at least 20 revolutionaries boarded the train when it arrived at Kakori. They stopped the train by pulling the chain barely a few kilometres away from Kakori near Bajpur village.

Train guard Jagannath Prasad was overpowered and immobilised. The box containing the cash was thrown down near the tracks. Some revolutionaries, who carried weapons, stood guard around the cash box. Historians say that there were some passengers, who also had arms, but they could not gather the courage to stop the revolutionaries.

The cash box was broken a few hundred metres from the tracks. The revolutionaries fled  after looting Rs 4,601 from the box. The place, where the box was looted has also been conserved as a memorial.
 
The passenger train reached the Charbagh (Lucknow) Railway Station about one hour behind schedule at around 2040 hours. An FIR was lodged by the station master after he found that the cash box was not there. The box contained the collections from the sale of tickets to passengers, who were travelling on the train. The government treasury was not available at any of the stations except in Lucknow.

It was Prasad, who had informed the railway controller about the heist from Alamnagar Railway Station, which was between Kakori and Lucknow.

Shaken by the daring heist, the British authorities expressed their resolve to crack the case and arrest the perpetrators. A senior police official R A Hurton was handed over the investigation of the case. A sharp detective, Hurton conducted a thorough investigation and gathered clues that could have led him to the revolutionaries. He also quizzed some passengers to ascertain about the appearance of the revolutionaries. He reached the conclusion that those behind the heist were not robbers but the revolutionaries.

A massive manhunt was launched to arrest the revolutionaries after their identification. Rewards were also declared on some of them. Bismil was arrested on September 26, 1925. Others barring Azad were also apprehended soon thereafter. Ashfaqullah and Bakshi had managed to evade the arrest for about a year.

The historians say that the authorities managed to arrest the revolutionaries as there were some insiders, who had betrayed them and provided information to the British regime.    As the case had generated tremendous interest in the country, efforts were also launched to provide the revolutionaries legal help and fight their case in the court. A committee was formed under the chairmanship of freedom fighter Motilal Nehru for this purpose.

As expected the revolutionaries were convicted. Bismil, Ashfaqullah, Lahiri and Roshan Singh were sentenced to death. Four other revolutionaries were deported to Andamans and others awarded imprisonment. Chandrashekhar Azad, who had evaded arrest, was trapped inside a park in Allahabad in 1931. Azad preferred to turn his pistol on himself rather than being captured by the Britishers.

Intensive campaigning to save the lives of the revolutionaries on death row proved futile. Lahiri was the first to be hanged on December 18, 1927 followed by Bismil and Ashfaqullah a day later. Roshan was hanged on December 20  the same year.

“Their act of bravery will remain etched in our memories for ever,” said  local MLA Indal Rawat. The state government has decided to initiate steps to make people familiar with the sacrifices of the martyrs and plans to hold exhibitions, site visits and prepare posters for this purpose.

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