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Anushilan Samiti (Bengali: অনুশীলন সমিতি "Self-Culture Association", meaning to follow the teachings of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee) was the principal secret revolutionary organisation operating in Bengal in the opening years of the 20th century. This association, like its offshoot the Jugantar, operated under the guise of suburban fitness club. The members were committed towards the path of armed revolution for independence of India from British rule. Kolkata and, later, Dhaka were the two major strongholds of the association. However, the group succeeded in penetrating rural Bengal and had branches all over Bengal and also other parts of India.

Contents

Background

The growth of the Indian middle class during the 18th century, amidst competition among regional powers and the ascendancy of the British East India Company, led to a growing sense of "Indian" identity.[1] The refinement of this perspective fed a rising tide of nationalism in India in the last decades of the 1800s.[2] Its speed was abetted by the creation of the Indian National Congress in India in 1885 by A.O. Hume. The Congress developed into a major platform for the demands of political liberalisation, increased autonomy and social reform.[3] However, the nationalist movement became particularly strong, radical and violent in Bengal and, later, in Punjab. Notable, if smaller, movements also appeared in Maharashtra, Madras and other areas in the South.[3]

Beginnings

Political terrorism began taking an organised form in Bengal at the beginning of the twentieth century. By 1902, Calcutta had three societies working under the umbrella of Anushilan Samity, a society earlier founded by a Calcutta barrister by the name of Pramatha Mitra. These included Mitra's own group, another led by a Bengalee lady by the name of Sarala Devi, and a third one led by Aurobindo Ghosh- one of the strongest proponents of militant nationlism of the time.[4] The Anushilan Samiti had Sri Aurobindo and Deshabandhu Chittaranjan Das as the vice-presidents, Suren Tagore the treasurer.[5] Jatindra Nath Banerjee (Niralamba Swami), Jatindra Nath Mukherjee (Bagha Jatin), Bhupendra Nath Datta (Swami Vivekananda's brother), Barindra Ghosh were among other initial leaders. By 1905, the works of Aurobindo and his brother Barin Ghosh allowed Anushilan Samity to spread through Bengal. The controversial 1905 partition of Bengal had a widespread political impact: it stimulated radical nationalist sentiments in the Bhadralok community in Bengal, and helped Anushilan acquire a support base amongst of educated, politically conscious and disaffected young in local youth societies of Bengal. The Dhaka branch of the Anushilan Samiti was formed by Pulin Bihari Das, who was once a teacher in the Dhaka Government College and, later, a founding headmaster of 'National School' (Dhaka), along with his followers, in 1906. He, like Barindra Ghosh, believed in a highly centralised one-leader organisation. Under their leadership, respectively in Dhaka and elsewhere, in a spirit of a boastful showdown, Anushilan Samiti slowly adopted untimely terrorism programmes during the first decade of 20th century, with 1905 Partition of Bengal acting as a major catalyst. The Dhaka branch of Anushilan was led by Pulin Behari Das and spread branches through East Bengal and Assam.[6] Aurobindo and Bipin Chandra Pal, a Bengali politician, began in 1907 the radical Bengali nationalist publication of Jugantar (Lit:Change), and its English counterpart Bande Mataram. Among the early recruits who emerged noted leaders where Rash Behari Bose, Jatindranath Mukherjee, and Jadugopal Mukherjee.[4]

Revolutionary acitivites

Anushilan, notably from early on, established links with foreign movements and Indian nationalism abroad. In 1907, Barin Ghosh arranged to send to Paris one of his associates by the name of Hem Chandra Kanungo (Hem Chandra Das), he was to learn the art of bomb making from Nicholas Safranski, a Russian revolutionary in exile in the French Capital.[6] Paris was also home at the time Madam Cama who was amongst the leading figures of the Paris Indian Society and the India House in London. The bomb manual later found its way through V.D. Savarkar to the press at India House for mass printing. In the meantime, in December 1907 the Bengal revolutionary cell derailed the train carrying the Bengal Lieutenant Governor Sir Andrew Fraser. A few days later, on 23 December, they attempted to assassinate Mr. Allen, formerly District Magistrate of Dhaka. Anushilan also engaged at this time in a number of notable incidences of political assassinations and dacoities to obtain funds.[7] This was, however, the crest for Anushilan.

Alipore conspiracy case

In April 1908, two young recruits, Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki were sent on a mission to Muzaffarpur to assassinate the Chief Presidency Magistrate D.H. Kingford. The duo bombed a carriage they mistook as Kingsford's, killing two English women in it.[7] In the aftermath of the murder, Khudiram Bose was arrested while attempting to flee, while Chaki took his own life. Narendra Nath Bhattacharya, then a member of the group, shot dead Nandalal Bannerjee, the officer who had arrested Kshudiram. Police investigations into the murders revealed the organisations quarters in Manicktala suburb of Calcutta and led to a number of arrests, opening the famous Alipore Conspiracy trial. Some of its leadership were executed or incarcerated, while others went underground. Aurobindo Ghosh himself retired from active politics after serving a prison sentence, his brother Barin was imprisoned for life.[8]

The result of the trial was a division of the Anushilan Samiti. Two main groups that remained were the Jugantar itself and the Dhaka Anushilan Samiti, in the western and the eastern parts of the Bengal, respectively. The initial Anushilan disappeared. Jatindra Nath Mukherjee escaped arrest in the Alipore case, and took over the leadership of the secret society, to be known as the Jugantar Party. He revitalised the links between the central organisation in Calcutta and its several branches spread all over Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and several places in U.P., and opened hideouts in the Sunderbans for members who had gone underground[9] The group slowly reorganised guided Mukherjee's efforts of aided by an emerging leadership which included Amarendra Chatterjee, Naren Bhattacharya and other younger leaders. Some of its younger members including Taraknath Das left India. Through the next two years, the organisation operated under the covers of two seemingly detached organisations, Sramajeebi Samabaya (The Labourer's cooperative) and Harry & Sons.[8] At around this time, Jatin began attempts to establish contacts with the 10th Jat Regiment then garrisoned at Fort William in Calcutta. Narendra Nath carried out through this time a number of robberies to obtain funds . In the meantime, However, a second blow came in 1910 when Shamsul Alam, a Bengal Police officer then preparing a conspiracy case against the group, was assassinated by an associate of Jatindranath by the name of Biren Dutta Gupta. The assassination led to the arrests which ultimately precipitated the Howrah-Sibpur Conspiracy Case.[8]

Further investigations led the police to a small scale bomb manufacturing unit in Maniktala of Kolkata. Barindra Ghosh and several other members of Anushilan Samiti and Jugantar were arrested and tried in the famous Alipore Bomb Conspiracy case. Many were deported for life to Port Blair in the Andaman Islands.

Some notable Jugantar members

Shibdas Ghosh
  • Surendra Mohan Ghosh alias Madhu Ghosh (1893-1976)
  • Satish Chandra Mukherjee alias Swami Prajnanananda (1884-1921)
  • Manoranjan Gupta (1890-1976)
  • Arun Chandra Guha (1892 born)
  • Narendra Ghosh Chaudhuri (1894-1956)
  • Kiran Chandra Mukherjee (1883-1954)
  • Harikumar Chakrabarti (1882-1963)
  • Gopen Ray
  • Jibanlal Chatterjee
  • Debabrata Bose, later Swami Pragyananda
  • Ullaskar Dutta

Dhaka Anushilan Samiti

Pulin Bihari Das was in charge of the Dhaka Anushilan Samiti that maintained regular contact with the Kolkata group. Due to the police activities, the Kolkata group curbed its terrorist activities and the Dhaka Anushilan Samiti soon overshadowed the parent Kolkata organization. The Anushilan Samiti opened several branches all across the eastern Bengal and by 1932 it had 500 branches. The members of these samitis were mostly school and college students coming from Hindu middle-class educated families. The members were trained in traditional arms like Lathi and sword as well as firearms. However, firearms were not easily available. The revolutionaries looted wealthy families that were loyal to the British Raj to maintain funding.

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Notable Members of Dhaka Anushilan Samiti

Arrest of Pulin Das

The arrest and deportation of the leader Pulin Das created chaos among the Dhaka Anushilan Samiti which had to go underground temporarily. His successor, Makhanlal Sen, was attached to the social welfare and spiritual development taught by Vivekananda, disagreeing with gratuitous violence. Spending most of his time in Kolkata since 1910, in company of the Jugantar people and visiting regularly the Ramakrishna Mission, Makhanlal Sen let Narendra Mohan Sen assume the leadership of the Dhaka Anushilan.[10] Soon, working by his side, Trailokyanath Chakraborty and Pratul Chandra Ganguli took charge and the rebels were united again. The famous Barisal Conspiracy Case of 1913 established the fact that there were hundreds of revolutionary followers of the Samiti in the Barisal district alone. Informed about the Indo-German plot, desirous to determine the part his party could play therein, Pratul Chandra became close to Atul Krishna Ghosh, Jatin Mukherjee's intimate associate, going to the extent of discussing terms with Jatin. For unknown reasons, the Dhaka party decided not to collaborate in this revolutionary programme.[10]

After the first World War

After the first World War, the communication between the Dhaka Anushilan Samiti and the Jugantar party increased. However, during the Non-Cooperation Movement the Jugantar party supported Gandhi as the representative of the revolutionary tide, while the Dhaka faction continued the violent activities. Planning to oppose the Non-cooperation Movement, the Government offered a large sum of money : the Jugantar rejected it, while the Anushilan agreed to the proposal. (Source: Aurobindo and Jugantar, by Arun Chandra Guha, p44.) The police increased vigilance and arrested many leaders.

Unification and failure

Following these major setbacks, there was an attempt to unify the revolutionary activists in Bengal. Anushilan Samiti and Jugantar were brought close by the joint leadership of Narendra Mohan Sen of Anushilan, represented by Rabindra Mohan Sen, and Jadugopal Mukherjee of Jugantar, represented by Bhupendra Kumar Datta. However, this merger failed to revive the revolutionary activities up to the expected level.[11][12]

Neo-violence or the Revolt Group

The younger leaders of the revolutionaries belonging to the Anushilan as well as to the Jugantar were frustrated by the failure of the attempted merger. This led to the formation of a new confederation in 1929, called the Neo-Violence party or the Revolt group. On the forefront were Pratul Bhattacharya and Niranjan Sen Gupta of the Barisal Anushilan, Satish Chandra Pakrashi and Satya Gupta of the Dhaka Anushilan, Binoy Raychaudhuri and Jatin Das of the South Calcutta Anushilan, Panchanan Chakrabarti and Jatin Bhattacharya of the Madaripur Jugantar, Ananta Singh and Ganesh Ghosh of the Chittagong Jugantar party, who enlarged the movement. (Source: Panchanan, pp16–17.)

Later years

The scenario changed with the years. The British were planning to quit India, while communal and religious politics came into play. The basic political background on which revolutionary ideas were founded seemed to evolve towards a new direction. The Revolutionary Movement can thus be said to have come to an end by 1936.

On 9 September 1938, the Jugantar members issued a statement not to reorganise their separate party headquarters and to avow full allegiance to the Congress. (Source: Guha, p70.) Some of the members chose, however, the trend led by Subhas Bose; some followed M. N. Roy; and a few joined the Communists.

The Anushilan Samiti evolved into the Revolutionary Socialist Party. The wing in East Pakistan evolved into the Shramik Krishak Samajbadi Dal in current day Bangladesh.

See also

References

References

  • Mukherjee, Jadugopal (1982), Biplabi jibaner smriti (2nd ed.).
  • Ganguli, Pratul Chandra (1976), Biplabi'r jibandarshan.
  • Asiatic Society of Bangladesh (2003), Banglapedia, the national encyclopedia of Bangladesh, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka.
  • Chakrabarti, Panchanan (1995), Revolt.

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