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Bagha Jatin: The Forgotten Hero

Bagha Jatin: The Forgotten Hero

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Bagha Jatin

We share the life and revolutionary activities of Bagha Jatin, an unsung hero of India’s struggle for independence, whose name remains relatively unknown outside of Bengal and Orissa. Here we explores his early life, influences, and the pivotal role he played in the fight against British colonial rule.

A film graced the screens today titled “Bagha Jatin,” and it filled my heart with joy while igniting admiration for Dev Entertainment Ventures, the dedicated producers, and Arun Roy, the visionary director. This sentiment was born from the recognition that history often neglects the sacrifices and contributions of those who laid the groundwork for significant movements. Jatin Mukherjee, affectionately known as Bagha Jatin, is one such unsung hero in India’s struggle for independence.

Despite the historical significance of his endeavors and the pivotal role he played in the battle against British colonial rule, Bagha Jatin’s name remains relatively obscure beyond the borders of Bengal and Orissa. The film served as a powerful catalyst, prompting me to share this article where we aim to illuminate the life, principles, and revolutionary endeavors of Bagha Jatin, whose courageous actions predate India’s independence in 1947.

Early Life and Influences

Born in 1879 in the village of Koya in the Kushtia district of undivided Bengal (now in Bangladesh), Jatin Mukherjee’s journey towards becoming a revolutionary leader began early. He joined the Central College in Calcutta in 1895 after completing his school education. Mukherjee’s life was marked by a spirit of bravery and valor, exemplified by an incident in 1904 when he saved a friend from a tiger attack in Darjeeling by killing the tiger with a dagger after an intense three-hour struggle. This act of courage earned him the moniker “Bagha Jatin” or “Tiger Jatin.”

Bagha Jatin’s ideals and beliefs were heavily influenced by the concepts of religious nationalism put forth by leaders such as Swami Vivekananda and Aurobindo Ghosh. Their ideas, along with the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita and the writings of Bankim Chandra, set fire to the nationalist spirit sweeping across India, especially in Bengal. The clarion call for militant nationalism forged a strong bond among the youth, who had become disillusioned with the slow pace of progress toward independence through constitutional means and were losing faith in non-violent forms of protest.

Revolutionary Activities

The year 1905 marked a turning point in India’s struggle for independence due to the partition of Bengal. It fueled the revolutionary movement, and at the forefront of this movement was Bagha Jatin. Despite being a government employee working as a short-hand clerk, Jatin was actively involved in the revolutionary activities taking place in Bengal.

Around 1905, he organized the Chhatra Bhandar, which appeared as a Student’s Co-operative Store Association but was, in reality, a gathering place for revolutionaries. He brought together a group of young, like-minded individuals who were willing to go to great lengths to achieve independence.

In 1915, during the First World War, when the world was embroiled in conflict, Jatin Mukherjee, alongside other prominent revolutionaries like M.N. Roy, sought to attain India’s independence through armed insurrection in cooperation with Germany. This endeavor, although it did not come to fruition, played a crucial role in shaping the course of India’s struggle for independence.

The Balasore Encounter

The Sedition Committee Report of 1918 sheds light on the daring activities of Jatin Mukherjee and his associates. They were involved in a series of murder and dacoity cases aimed at raising funds for their armed insurrection against the British colonial rule. One noteworthy event was the Garden Reach dacoity on February 12, 1915, which was orchestrated by notable leaders like Jatin Mukherjee.

This event was followed by another attempt at Beliaghata in Calcutta to extort funds. The report mentions an incident in Cornwallis Street, Calcutta, where an inspector was killed, believed to be planned by Jatin Mukherjee. All these activities were indicative of the increasing unrest against British rule in India.

The Outbreak of World War I and Collaboration with Germany

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 provided further impetus to the revolutionary activities in India. Indian revolutionaries in exile looked toward Germany as a source of hope. M.N. Roy, in his memoir, mentioned that the Indian Revolutionary Committee in Berlin had obtained a promise of arms and funds from the German government to declare a war of independence.

A clandestine plan was hatched, with Jatin Mukherjee as the Commander-in-Chief of the upcoming revolution. He was tasked with securing the initial funds needed for this audacious plan. M.N. Roy, who had left India in April 1915, was instrumental in organizing this collaboration. Roy returned to India in June to execute the plan.

The S.S. Maverick, a ship intended to bring arms from the West Coast of Mexico to Java, was to be part of the plan. Jatin Mukherjee, anticipating the arrival of arms and ammunitions, had already moved to Balasore with a select group of followers. The plan was to divide the arms into three parts, to be sent to different regions in India, with a focus on disrupting railway links to Bengal by blowing up key bridges.

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The Balasore Battle

The British police eventually got wind of this plan, leading to the events that would become a significant chapter in the story of Bagha Jatin. The British administration and police cordoned off the area to prevent Jatin Mukherjee and his associates from escaping.

In a series of confrontations, the revolutionaries fought bravely but were eventually surrounded. An intense battle, lasting 75 minutes, took place between five revolutionaries armed with Mauser pistols and a significant number of police and army personnel with rifles. The battle concluded with casualties on both sides.

Chittapriya Roy Choudhury succumbed to injuries, and Manoranjan Sen Gupta and Niren Das Gupta, two of Jatin Mukherjee’s comrades, were captured. Jatin Mukherjee and Jatish Pal were seriously wounded and subsequently arrested. Manoranjan and Niren were executed, and Jatin was transported to the government hospital at Barabati in Balasore, where he later passed away.

Legacy and Commemoration

Jatin Mukherjee’s sacrifices and contributions to India’s struggle for independence remain a testament to his indomitable spirit and commitment to the cause. His actions, as well as the audacious plan to collaborate with Germany during World War I, hold historical significance.

M.N. Roy, who was a close comrade of Jatin Mukherjee, wrote in 1949 that Jatin’s name might be crowded out of the list of national heroes, but his actions were a turning point in the history of modern India. Jatin Mukherjee’s fight at Balasore was a defining moment in the struggle for India’s freedom, and it deserves to be remembered and celebrated as part of the country’s rich history of resistance against colonial rule.

In conclusion, Bagha Jatin’s life and actions are a testament to the courage and determination of the unsung heroes of India’s fight for independence. His legacy serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by countless individuals who dedicated their lives to the cause of freedom. It is essential that we remember and honor their contributions as we reflect on the history of India’s struggle for independence.

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