Back in Time is ED’s newspaper type column that reports an incident from the past as though it has happened just yesterday. It allows the reader to re-live it several years later, on the date it had occurred.
For this incident, we go back in time to 1925.
Lucknow, Sunday, 09 August: In perhaps the most audacious act of resistance against the British Imperial Empire, an unknown band of revolutionaries robbed a train travelling from Shahjahanpur to Lucknow, near Kakori. The train, a Number 8 Down train was allegedly carrying money-bags belonging to the British Government Treasury amounting to Rs 8,000 on its way to Lucknow
Details of the incident are still sketchy. However, anonymous sources within the Railway Police Administration have told us that a group of 8-10 overpowered the guard and fled with the money while the train was on a halt. An enquiry has thus been instituted against the local Superintendent of the Railway Police Administration, and has been summoned to Delhi for an explanation as to the lax security surrounding a train carrying Treasury money.
A massive manhunt has now ensued to apprehend the persons involved in the train robbery. Although the office of the Lieutenant-Governor was unavailable for comment, sources tell us that a warrant has been issued against a list of over fifty suspects, and a lookout notice has been sent to all authorities within the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, from Allahabad to Kanpur.
The British authorities are suspecting the hand of a flourishing, underground revolutionary group known as the Hindustan Republican Association in the Kakori robbery, whose leaders include Chandrasekhar Azad, Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah Khan and Bhagat Singh. The group, which demands the overthrow of British Imperial rule in India, was also allegedly responsible for the rash of post office robberies in Calcutta last year. However, considering that British rule does not look like abating any soon, resistance is expected to grow exponentially in the coming days.
Although the authorities are discussing charging the suspects with robbery, these charges may soon include murder as well, after the death of one passenger on the train, possibly by accidental fire.
“We will apprehend the suspects very soon. Any act of war against the British India government will not be tolerated and will be met with swift justice,” the Investigating Officer boasts, even as the incident was greeted by muted celebrations across the province.
Meanwhile, circulation of pamphlets distributed by groups like the HRA has increased and membership too, has risen significantly. “Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it,” one young man said, on the condition of anonymity. Only time will tell however, whether the Kakori incident will stimulate more revolutionary activity or will instead, initiate a harder crackdown by the authorities on such activities.
Post-Scriptum: Four of the conspirators in the Kakori Conspiracy, including Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqullah Khan were sentenced to death and hanged after being apprehended and tried, in 1927. The incident, memorialized by several films that followed was one of the most important footnotes in the history of the Indian Independence Struggle and the HRA, firmly took up the void left by Gandhi by his leave from active politics in the 1920’s.
Personally, I have never understood why men like Bismil, Azad, Khan and even Bhagat Singh were renounced as revolutionaries. As I believe, they were true freedom fighters, as anyone else who bled for India’s freedom. Their actions may have eventually contributed little to the British leaving India but, knowing that the day is still celebrated in India after so many years, shows that it did in fact, have a larger impact on the people of their country.