Khudiram Bose: 18-year-old martyr who smiled at death

Independence Day | Remembering Khudiram Bose: The 18-year-old martyr who smiled at death

After numerous hearings and trials, the British judges gave the verdict of the death sentence

Revolutionary Khudiram Bose. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

At an age when youth begins to blossom, can you imagine someone giving up their life for the sake of the country's freedom? At 18, one man took it upon himself to free his motherland from the clutches of British rule. As India celebrates its 75th Independence Day, it is time to remember one of India's youngest revolutionaries — a forgotten hero named Khudiram Bose.

Born on December 3, 1889, in a small village named Mohobani in the Medinipur district of then undivided Bengal (present West Bengal), Khudiram was the fourth child in a family of three daughters. He lost his mother when he was six years old, and a year later, lost his father.

He joined a group named 'Anushilan Samiti', became a volunteer at the age of 15, and was arrested for distributing pamphlets against British rule in India. When he was a 16-year-old, Khudiram took part in planting bombs near the police stations and targeted government officials.

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In 1908, 'Anushilan Samiti' hatched a plan to murder Douglas Kingsford, who was the Chief Magistrate of the Presidency Court of Alipore. Kingsford was known for his antipathy towards the Indian revolutionaries, and his effort to cripple the Bengali newspaper 'Jugantar' drew severe criticism from many erudite people of that time but the group's first attempt to kill Kingsford by delivering him a book bomb failed flat.

On April 29, 1908, they made another attempt. And it was to be executed by Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki, who was then a 19-year-old. Khudiram and Prafulla adopted the name of Haren Sarkar and Dinesh Chandra Roy respectively and went to Muzzafarpur, where Kingsford was transferred to as the District Judge.

On a fateful day, Kingsford and his wife were playing bridge with the daughter and wife of Pringle Kennedy, a British author, and barrister. While heading home, Kingsford and his wife were in a carriage identical to the one carrying Kennedy and his family. As their carriage reached the eastern gate of the compound of the European Club, Khudiram and Prafulla ran towards the carriage and threw the bombs into the carriage. A loud explosion ensued and the carriage was taken to Kingsford's house. It was shattered and the Kennedy ladies sustained terrible injuries. Pringle Kennedy's daughter died within an hour and his wife on May 2.

Khudiram Bose was arrested on the morning of April 30 at the Wani station where he reached after walking 25 miles. Two police constables became suspicious of him when he asked for a glass of water at a tea stall. His disheveled look led the constables to suspect that something was wrong. They later found in his possession 37 rounds of ammunition, Rs 30 in cash, a railway map and a page of the rail timetable, thus sealing his fate. Prafulla Chaki committed suicide while trying to escape from the police. The Wani station is now known as Khudiram Bose Pusa station.

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Khudiram had to give a statement of declaration to the magistrate. Unaware of the fact that Chaki was dead, Khudiram took full responsibility for the act to save his compatriot from the inevitable threat of gallows. But once the police brought Chaki's body, he realised the futility of his effort.

After numerous hearings and trials, the British judges gave the verdict of a death sentence. Khudiram was hanged on August 11, 1908. At the time of his hanging, Khudiram was 18 years, seven months, and 11 days old, making him one of the youngest revolutionaries in India. The region around the prison was thronged by a large crowd, and 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.

Several newspapers like the Amrita Bazar Patrika, a prominent Bengali newspaper of that time, and The Empire, an established British newspaper, reported that Khudiram was smiling while mounting the scaffold.

His story will continue to burn with an aura of immortality, 113 years later. The legend of Khudiram Bose, who gave death a defiant smile, lives on.