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

Khudiram Bose. Photo credit: MythicalIndia.com

18 years, an age when the flower of youth begins to blossom, opening up a whole new world for a bewildered individual. But, can we imagine someone giving up his life at that age, for the sake of his country's freedom, to free his motherland from the clutches of the British imperial empire? On India's 73rd Independence Day, this article aims to pay homage to one of the youngest revolutionaries of India. The forgotten hero named Khudiram Bose.

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Born on December 3, 1889, in the 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, his father died.

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

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 29 April 1908, they made another attempt. And it was to be executed by Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki, who was then 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 as the District Judge.

On the 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. Miss Kennedy died within an hour and Mrs. Kennedy died on 2 May.

Khudiram Bose was arrested on the morning of 30th April, in the Wani station, where he went by walking 25 miles. He was suspected by two police constables when he asked for a glass of water at a tea stall. His dishevelled look led the constables to suspect that something was amiss, and later they found in his possession 37 rounds of ammunition, Rs. 30 in cash, a railway map and a page of the rail timetable, 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.

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 the death sentence. Khudiram was hanged on 11 August 1908. At the time of his hanging, Khudiram was 18 years, 7 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 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.

The folklore will continue to burn with an aura of immortality, 111 years later. The legend of Khudiram Bose, who gave death a defiant smile.

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