Bagha Jatin: The Unsung Bengali Tiger Whose Valor Scared the British Empire
Jatindra Nath Mukherjee Bagha Jatin Biography
Publish- December 21, 2020, 10:04 AM
Rifat Tabassam - UNB staff writer
Update- December 24, 2020, 03:26 PM
Freedom Fighter Bagha Jatin
Today we are living in a free country and enjoying a peaceful life with family and friends. But do the new generations ever think how much bloody sacrifices were paid by our ancestors to earn this freedom? In this article, we are going to introduce you to Bagha Jatin, the unsung revolutionary freedom fighter of Bengal whose indomitable courage and valor threatened the then British emperors and served as a harbinger of the long-cherished independence of the Indian Sub-continent.
Who was Bagha Jatin?
It was a regular day at a crowded railway platform of Siliguri, Bengal in April 1907. A Bengali young man was rushing to his compartment carrying water to serve an ill co-passenger. But he unintentionally collided with a British captain. Bearing the common grudge against the natives, the captain beat that man. After a few minutes, that brave Bengali guy returned to the captain and questioned about this rude attitude. Then he was confronted by three more British soldiers.
The rest was history. All four British men were thrashed down on the floor of the platform. Later, charges were pressed against that Bengali young man. But in the courtroom, those soldiers were admonished, as nothing could be more damaging to the fame of British rule than to acknowledge that the English military officers had been single-handedly knocked out by a Bengali boy. That brave man was none other than Jatindra Nath Mukherjee, known as Bagha Jatin.
Early Life of Bagha Jatin
Jatindra Nath Mukherjeewas born on the 7th December 1879 in kushtia district of Bangladesh (then Bangla Presidency). The anecdote says that in 1906, Jatindra single-handedly killed a ferocious Leopard with a tiny Gorkha dagger to save the life of his cousin. After that incident people started calling him, ‘Bagha Jatin’ which refers to ‘Jatin with the strength of a Tiger.
Jatin lost his father at a very young age and was raised by his mother Sharatshashi – a dedicated social worker, and a poet. Completing the Entrance degree in 1895, Jatin learned short-hand with typewriting and got appointed as a cleric (stenographer) to the then government of Bengal under Financial Secretary Henry Wheeler. Keeping a small portion of his salary, Jatin used to send the rest amount to his family and distressed people. In 1900, Jatin got married to Indubala Banerjee of Kumarkhali Upazila in Kushtia. The couple had four children.
Evolution of The Revolutionary Activist
In student life, Jatindranath met Swami Vivekananda in a relief camp. Swami enlightened Jatin about the art of conquering libido and encouraged him to join other courageous youths who could selflessly serve the distressed people in famine, epidemic, and flood. Getting impressed by Jatin’s ardent fervor to die for a cause, Vivekananda sent him to the Ambu Guha Gymnasium, where he practiced wrestling.
In 1902, the Anushilan Samiti was formed in the Bengal region, as a coalition of the local youth groups and gyms (akhara). This organization supported the practice of revolutionary violence for ending British rule in the Indian Sub-continent. In 1903, Jatin came in touch with Sri Aurobindo Ghosh a nationalist leader who planted the seeds of revolution in Jatin’s mind against British rule.
Some sources say that Jatin played a leading role in founding the branches of Anushilan Samiti in different districts. This organization was also involved with beneficiary activities like adult night schools, homeopathic dispensaries, small scale cottage industries, agriculture, etc. Furthermore, Jatin used to send the local meritorious students abroad to acquire higher studies and learn the military craft.
In the guise of a sub-urban fitness club, Anushilan Samiti emerged as a secret revolutionary trend called ‘Jugantar’ – created with a vision to train the dedicated youths for fighting against the British. At that time, the people of the sub-continent started to stand against the British Empire in the spirit of Indian nationalism. In this wake, thousands of fearless patriotic youths joined Bagha Jatin’s movement of freedom.
Jugantar spread its units across the country and turned into a pan-India movement. Soon their activities spread overseas to South-East Asia, Europe, and America. The Indian liberation movement made a wonderful blend of cultural nationalism and socialism keeping revolution against the British at the focal point.
Image: A Commemorative Indian Postage Stage (September 9, 1970) on Bagha Jatin
Armed Revolution against the British Rule
Jatin dedicated himself to the cause of ‘total independence’ of India termed as, ‘Purna Swaraj’ as opposed to the proposed framework of the Indian National Congress. In 1912, Jatin met the German Crown Prince during his visit to Calcutta and asked for arms supply for carrying out the revolution of forming a socialist government in India. And, the First World War broke out in 1914.
Manabendranath Roy, the chief lieutenant of Jatin got the responsibility of receiving the weaponry in April 1915. They planned to ship the arms by German ships via the port of Sumatra, and reach the Andaman Islands. Then, form the army of liberation at Balasore in Orissa coast. Jatin was assured that a cargo filled with ammunition left towards its destination. But, the consignment had never reached the Indian shores. Unfortunately, this plan was uncovered by international spies and secret agencies. And, the British authorities got informed about this plot.
Reports suggest that a Czech spy namely EV Voska found the information regarding the delivery of German consignments at the Indian east coast. The spy sold this information to the British. Some sources said that the German agent, who was in charge of that arms consignment, was a double agent and passed the information to the British.
Image: Equestrian statue of Bagha Jatin in Kolkata, West Bengal India
Battle of Balasore
Jatin and his followers took positions at Kaptipada village in the Mayurbhanj district of Odisha near Balasore to take delivery of the shipload of arms consignments coming from Germany.
But when the information was passed to the British authorities, they jumped into action in no delay. In the meantime, Jatin and his group reached Balasore Railway Station walking on foot for two days through the rough terrain of Mayurbhanj. On the 9th September of 1915, they took shelter on a hillock at Chashakhand village in Balasore. The team members requested Jatin to leave the place safely; as they were guarding on another side. However, the brave-heart Jatin denied leaving his followers.
Afterward, a large battalion of British Police led by the top-ranked European police officers from Calcutta and Balasore along with an army unit from Bhadraks Chandbali approached those five revolutionaries from both sides through a pincer movement. The gunfight between the British side and the revolutionaries lasted for about two hours. While the British Police and Army officers were armed with modern rifles, Jatin’s team fought with the traditional Mauser pistols.
In the battle, Jatin was shot in the abdomen and breathed his last, at the age of 35, in Balasore city hospital on the next day, 10th September 1915. Before death, Bagha Jatin took full responsibility for the actions through a statement and asked for fair judgment for his followers. Two months later, two of his followers, Nirendranath and Manoranjan, were sentenced to death.
Charles Tegart, the famous British police officer, used to tell his fellow colleagues that if Bagha Jatin (Jatindranath Mukherjee) were an Englishman, his statue would have been built next to Nelson’s Column at Trafalgar Square, Central London.
Vandalism to Bagha Jatin Sculpture
Have we paid enough tribute to this brave freedom fighter against British reign in the Indian sub-continent? Recently some miscreants have vandalized the sculpture of Bagha Jatin at Kumarkhali Upazila in Kushtia which is very unfortunate for a sovereign country, like Bangladesh. To preserve the golden history of Bangladesh we must honor this forgotten hero and stand against all attempts of hatred, intolerance, and extremism.