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The Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA), known as the Hindustan Republican Association until 1928, was an Indian independence organisation formed to overthrow the British Raj through armed struggle.





The Non-cooperation movement of 1920 led to large scale mobilisation of Indian population against the British rule. Though intended as a Nonviolent resistance movement, it soon turned voilent. After the Chauri Chaura incident, Gandhi suspended the movement to prevent escalation of violence. This disillusioned a section of nationalists who felt the suspension was premature and unwarranted. The political vacuum created by the suspension led to the formation of revolutionary movements by the more radical amongst those who sought to overthrow British rule.


The Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) was established at a meeting in 1924, in the village of Bholachang, Brahamabaria subdivision, East Bengal. Present at the founding meeting were Pratul Ganguly, Narendra Mohan Sen and Sachindra Nath Sanyal. It emerged as an offshoot of the Anushilan Samiti[1].The name was suggestive of the Irish Republican Army. Sanyal,the leading light of the new movement, wrote the organisation's manifesto titled The Revolutionary.[2]

Objectives and Ideology

The stated objective of the HRA was establishment of a "Federated Republic of the United States of India by an organised and armed revolution".[3]. Armed struggle, terrorism and retaliatory strikes were the favored tactics in the attempt to defeat the British empire. Its manifesto declared

The Official terrorism is surely to be met by counter terrorism. A spirit of utter helplessness pervades every strata of our society and terrorism is an effective means of restoring the proper spirits in the society...this revolutionary party has deliberately abstained itself from entering into this terrorist campaign at the present moment...because the party is waiting to deliver the final blow. But when expediency will demand it the Party will unhesitatingly enter into a desperate campaign of terrorism, when the life of every officer and individual helping the foreign government will be made intolerable... [2]


The Indian revolutionaries are neither terrorists nor anarchists... They do not believe terrorism alone can bring independence and do not want terrorism for terrorism's sake.[2]

The HRA was also socialist in its attitude and was inspired by Bolshevik Russia. The manifesto stated,

..the railways and other means of transportation and communication,the mines and other kinds of very great industries... shall be nationalised...Instead of private and unorganised business enterprise, the Party prefers co-operative unions[2]

Amongst other goals stated by the manifesto are Universal Suffrage, supremacy of the legislature and religious freedom.

Early Activities

From 1924 to 1925, the HRA grew in numbers with the influx of new members like Bhagat Singh, Chandrasekhar Azad, Sukhdev and Ram Prasad Bismil. The Kakori train robbery was the first well known action by the HRA. On 9 August, 1925 the members of the group looted government money that was being transferred in a train. The Kakori conspiracy case led to the hanging of Ashfaqullah Khan, Ramprasad Bismil, Roshan Singh and Rajendra Lahiri. Sanyal and Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee were sentenced to life imprisonment.[4] The Kakori arrests decimated the leadership of the HRA and dealt a major blow to its activities. Of the original conspirators, only Azad and Kundan Lal Gupta escaped. During this period the HRA splintered into various factions based in Kanpur, Lahore and Bengal. In 1927 a new group of revolutionaries like Jatindra nath Sanyal (brother of Sachindra), Phanindra Nath Ghosh and Bhirendra Nath Bhattacharjee emerged as active members. Ghosh was behind the attempted assassination of Rao Bahadur JN Banerjee in Benares in 1928. BN Bhattacharjee was the prime accused in the Deogarh Conspiracy Case[3].

The Hindustan Socialist Republican Association

In September 1928, the Lahore faction (Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev) and Kanpur faction (Azad, Kundan Lal Gugta) of the HRA merged with the Bengali revolutionary faction led by Phanindra Nath Ghosh to form the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association(HSRA)[3]. This amalgamation came into existence at a meeting of the various factions at Feroz Shah Kotla grounds in Delhi. Bhagat Singh declared socialism as their ultimate goal and that their party's new name should reflect that. Azad was appointed as the Commander-in-chief and Bhagat Singh placed in charge of ideology[5]. The HSRA's manifesto titled Philosophy of the Bomb was written by Bhagawathi Charan Vohra[6].

Assassination of JP Saunders

The HSRA decided avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai in a police lathi charge (a form of crowd control in which the police use heavy staves or `lathis' in Hindi) in November 1928. They decided to assassinate J A Scott, the Superintendent of Police, Lahore who had ordered lathi-charge. The plan was to be executed by Bhagat Singh, Shivram Hari Rajguru, Azad and Jai Gopal. The assassination attempt was carried out on 17 December, 1928 in Lahore. It was planned that Jai Gopal would give a signal to Bhagat Singh and Rajguru as soon as Scott came of his office. However, Jai Gopal misidentified J. P. Saunders, the Assistant Superintendent of Police as Scott and gave the signal. Saunders was shot dead by Bhagat Singh and Raj Guru. A head constable was also killed while trying to chase the shooters[7]. The next day the HSRA acknowledged the assassination by putting up posters in Lahore that read

JP Saunders is dead; Lala Lajpat Rai is avenged ...In this man has died an agent of the British authority in India...Sorry for the bloodshed of the human being, but the sacrifice of individuals at the altar of inevitable[8]

Assembly Bombing

The next major action HSRA carried out was the bombing of the Central Assembly in Delhi. This was done to protest the introduction of the Public Safety Bill and the Trade Disputes Bill. The HSRA decided to bomb the Assembly while the bills were being introduced to arouse public opinion against them. On April 8, 1929 Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt threw bombs at the empty treasury benches. They made no attempt to escape and courted arrest while shouting Inquilab Zindabad (Long Live the Revolution) and Samrajyavad ko nash ho (Down with Imperialism). Their rationale for the bombing was explained in a leaflet titled "To Make the Deaf Hear" (paraphrasing the words of Édouard Vaillant). This leaflet was also thrown in the assembly and was reproduced the next day in the Hindustan Times. No one was killed in the bombing as it was designed as a propaganda operation. On April 15, 1929 police raided the HSRA's bomb factory in Lahore and arrested Kishori Lal, Sukhdev and Jai Gopal. The Assembly Bomb Case trial followed and Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged on 23 March 1931 for their actions[9].

Later Activities

In December 1929, the HSRA bombed the special train of Viceroy, Lord Irwin. The viceroy escaped unhurt. Later the Lahore faction of HSRA broke away and formed the Athisi Chakar (Fire Ring) party under the leadership of Hansraj 'Wireless'. They carried out a series of bombings across Punjab in June 1930. On 1 September 1930, the Rawalpindi faction made a failed attempt to burgle the Office of the Controller of Military Accounts. During this period the leading members of the HSRA were Azad, Yashpal, Bhagwati Charan Vohra and Kailash Pati. In July 1930 the HSRA robbed the Gadodia stores in New Delhi and carried away 14,000 Rupees. This money was later used to fund a bomb factory. In December 1930, an attempt was made to assassinate the Governor of Punjab, which wounded him in his arm.[10]


By 1931, most of the HSRA's main leaders were either dead or in jail. Kailash Pati was arrested in October 1930 and turned approver (witness for the prosecution ). On 27 February, 1931, Chandrasekar Azad shot himself during a gunfight with the police. Bhagat Singh, Sukdhev and Rajguru were hanged in March 1931. After Azad's death there was no central leader to unite the revolutionaries and regional differences increased. The Organisation split into various regional groups and they carried out bombings and attacks on Indian officials without any central coordination. In December 1931 another attempt was made to revive the HSRA at a meeting in Meerut. However this attempt failed with the arrests of Yashpal and Daryao Singh in 1932[11]. This effectively ended the HSRA as an united organization though the various regional factions kept up their armed struggle till 1936.


The association's methods were diametrically opposite to that of Gandhi's Nonviolent resistance movement. The revolutionaries and their methods were severely criticized by Gandhi. Responding to the attack on Lord Irwin's train, Gandhi wrote a harsh critique of the HSRA titled "The Cult of the Bomb" (Young India,2 January 1930). In it he declared that bomb throwing was nothing but froth coming to the surface in an agitated liquid. He condemned the HSRA and it's actions as "cowards" and "dastardly". According to Gandhi, the HSRA's violent struggle had its hazards. Violence led to more reprisals and suffering. Also, it would turn inward as it was an easy natural step from violence done to the foreign ruler to violence to our own people. [12]. The HSRA responded to this criticism with its own manifesto 'The Philosophy of the Bomb'[6], in which they defended their violent methods as being complementary to Gandhi's non violent methods[13].

Prominent Members

Name Involved in What happened to him
Sachindra Nath Sanyal Kakori train robbery (1926) Sentenced to life in Andaman Cellular Jail; Died in prison (1942)
Bhagat Singh JP Saunders assassination (1928), Central Assembly bombing (1929) Sentenced to Life in Assembly Bomb Case; Sentenced to death in Second Lahore Conspiracy Case; Hanged in 1931
Chandrashekar Azad Kakori train robbery(1926), JP Saunders assassination (1928) Killed himself with his last bullet instead of surrendering in a shootout with police(1931)
Ram Prasad Bismil Kakori train robbery(1926) Sentenced to Death in Kakori Case, Hanged in 1927
Ashfaqullah Khan Kakori train robbery(1926) Sentenced to Death in Kakori Case, Hanged in 1927
Rajendra Lahiri Kakori train robbery(1926) Sentenced to Death in Kakori Case, Hanged in 1927
Roshan Singh Kakori train robbery(1926) Sentenced to Death in Kakori Case, Hanged in 1927
Shachindra Nath Bakshi Kakori train robbery(1926) Sentenced to Life in Kakori Case; Released in 1937
Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee Kakori train robbery(1926) Sentenced to Life in Kakori Case; Became a Member of Parliament after independence
Manmath Nath Gupta Kakori train robbery(1926) Sentenced to Life in Kakori Case; Became a journalist after independence
Govind Charan Kar Kakori train robbery(1926) Sentenced to Life in Kakori Case
Sukhdev Thapar JP Saunders assassination (1928) Sentenced to death in Second Lahore Conspiracy Case; Hanged in 1931
Batukeshwar Dutt Central Assembly bombing (1929) Sentenced to Life in Central Assembly Bomb Case; Released in 1937
Bhagavathi Charan Vohra Central Assembly bombing (1929) Killed in bomb blast (1930)
Kailash Pati Gadodia Store Robbery (1929) Arrested in 1930. Turned Approver
Phanindra Nath Ghosh Leader of Bengali faction Arrested in 1930. Turned Approver; Killed in retaliation (1931)
Yashpal Viceroy train bombing (1929) Arrested in 1932. Sentenced to seven years rigorous imprisonment; Became a Award winning novelist
Jaidev Kapur Central Assembly bombing (1929) Sentenced to life in Second Lahore Conspiracy Case;
Sheo Varma Central Assembly bombing (1929) Sentenced to life in Second Lahore Conspiracy Case;
Bejoy Kumar Sinha Central Assembly bombing (1929) Sentenced to life in Second Lahore Conspiracy Case;
Gaya Prasad Central Assembly bombing (1929) Sentenced to life in Second Lahore Conspiracy Case;

See also


  1. ^ Saha, p. 16-17
  2. ^ a b c d Ralhan, P. 801-807
  3. ^ a b c Ralhan, p.806
  4. ^ Grewal, P.42
  5. ^ Grewal, P44-45
  6. ^ a b Bowden & Davis, P.29
  7. ^ Bhagat Singh, P.16
  8. ^ Grewal, P.46
  9. ^ Bhagat Singh, P.18
  10. ^ Relhan, P.716-720
  11. ^ Relhan, P.720-730
  12. ^ Gandhi, P.298
  13. ^ Nayar p.173-175



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