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Khudiram Bose
Calendar art depicting the hanging of Khudiram Bose
(Khudiram Basu) (3 December 1889 - 11 August 1908)

Khudiram Bose

Khudiram Bose was a boy of 18 years when he threw the bomb in Muzaffarpur which immortalised him as “the first Indian to use any dangerous product of modern science” against the British. In this short life, he hardly had the opportunity to do things which could have given any historian to write at length about him. So barring some details of his early life at Medinipur we do not have much information about his personal life. But, as they say, a life’s story does not begin with birth and ends with his death. Khudiram life was a very long life. He remains still alive in the memory of all those who love the land of his birth the way a child loves his mother.

Family background

Khudiram was born on 3 December in 1889 at a village, Habibpur, not very far from Midnapur town  of Bengal. His grandfather, Ramdhan Basu, had five sons: Trilokyanath, Kamalakanta, Dwarkanath, Iswarchandra and Taraprasad. Khudiram was the son of Trilokyanath Basu. His mother , Lakshmipriya Devi, was the daughter of Dukhiram Das of Kalagram village of Keshpur thana. His father, Trilokyanath was a Tehsildar (revenue collector) in Narajol Raj estate. 

Trilokyanath and Lakshmipriya Devi had three daughters- Aparupa, Sarojini and Nanibala. Their two sons died- one after the birth and the other when he was six years of age. They desperately wanted a son. According to a biographer of Khudiram who had the opportunity to talk to many of his childhood friends and relatives, the mother prayed to Goddess Kali in a Siddheshwari Kali temple near the house for three days. On the third night, goddess Kali appeared in her dream and said to the mother that soon she will give birth to a child. That child would not live for long but he would be remembered forever.

When Laksmipriya Devi gave birth to a son, it was decided that the newly born boy should be ‘sold’ to avoid premature death. As per the customs of those days, he was ‘purchased’ by his sister by offering 3 mutho khudi (rice). As he was taken up by offering khudi he was named Khudiram.

Khudiram survived but he could not enjoy the love of his parents for long. At the age of six he lost both his parents one after another. His mother died first. After few months his ailing father also expired. Khudiram’s father had remarried two weeks before his death.

Khudiram was lucky that he had a loving elder sisiter Aparupa Devi. He was very close to his elder sister and he remained dependent on Aparupa Devi throughout his life. Now he was completely dependent on his sister who brought him up like a mother at her home in Hatgachhia village where she had been married. Khudiram joined a village school . Later, he was admitted to Hamilton School at Tamluk in 1901. At Hamilton School he impressed everyone with his remarkable courage and capacity to bear pain with dignity. Once he had climbed to a big Badam tree. He jumped from the tree. His clothes were torn and he was badly hurt but, when he faced the teacher, he stood erect and he showed no sign of any pain on his face.

In another incident, which showed he was a soft at heart, he was gracious enough to pardon a class friend who had caused him trouble. While he was reading a book in the reading session, one of his classmates thrust in a pencil around his rectum through a hole in the desk. Khudiram bore the pain during the class but later, blood started coming out of the wound and his friends reported the incident to the teacher. Furious teacher was about to hit the culprit when Khudiram stopped him.

Khudiram’s childhood friends had narrated many stories which indicate that he possessed remarkable courage and he cared little about his personal safety. He had no fear of death, a feature which enable him years later to smile when he was sentenced to death for his historic act. Even in his school days he showed this trait of his character. His friends told his biographer that he was not afraid of even poisonous snakes. Often he used to catch a snake, played with it and then released it.

Two years later he was admitted in Midnapur Collegiate School where he studied up to the 3rd class, equivalent to the present day class VIII standard. He was a boy who could not bear injustice and it is said that even at school level he stood against injustice of all sorts and he did not hesitate to avenge unjust conduct, whoever might be its victims.

About Khudiram’s school life, it is not very well known out side Bengal that he was a very committed social worker. When Cholera broke out in Tamluk town and people were apprehensive to go close to its victims he selflessly nursed patients very earnestly without bothering much about his own health.

In one of those days, when four-five Cholera deaths were common almost daily, nobody dared to go to the ghat in late night where dead bodies were put on fire. A tree was considered particularly dangerous as many spirits dwell on that, thought Khudiram’s friends. To test his mental strength Khudiram’s friends challenged him to go and touch that dreaded tree in late night. To check whether he did that in real or not, his friends waited to see. In the night, Khudiram dared to go and pluck a branch of tree. Later, when his friends went and confirmed that he had actually done that he was hailed as a hero.

In another incident Khudiram showed that he had extraordinary strength to endure pain. A teacher challenged students to show their physical strength by hitting a table with force as many times as possible. Everybody retired after hitting the table 6-7 times. Khudiram hit more than thirty times. Later, his friends found out that his hand was bleeding. Khudiram, however, did not show any sign of pain on his face.

He was meritorious but he took little interest in his studies. He, however, was always loved and admired by his friends who appreciated his courage. He was also more sensitive towards swadeshi loving people. In 1903, one of his school friends Phani Bhushan Ghosh entered in the school in a swedeshi dhoti. He was ridiculed by his friends. But, Khudiram appreciated Phani Bhushan and he embraced him. After Khudiram’s appreciation other friends realised their mistake and they all hailed his bold action. Even at this age of 14 Khudiram could show such maturity.

All these, however, caused some anxiety in Khudiram’s guardian’s mind. They wanted him to concentrate on his studies. He along with Lalit, the son of his sister, who was about the same age, were admitted in a new school with the hope that they would concentrate on studies in new school environment. In the school, he came into contact with three teachers- Upendra Nath Chandra, the Headmaster, Ramchandra Sen, drillmaster, and Gyanendra Basu ( the elder brother of Satyendra Nath Basu). Rajnarayan Basu had been the headmaster of this school in the past. In this school Khudiram continued up to class VIII, till August 1905.

While studying in class II he was attracted towards revolutionary ideas and activities. But, the real break came in 1905 when the spirit of 1905 partition movement had moved entire Bengal. When the spirit of swadeshi movement reached Medinipur Khudiram , then a student of class III ( 8th standard), was foremost in participating in different activities related to anti partition agitation. He was a regular in exercise sessions, which was prescribed to make young revolutionaries for gaining sound physical condition, and he excelled particularly well in a sport- parallel bar. In an exercise competition of his school his performance in parallel bar show was so eye catching that his drill teacher – Ramchandra Sen’ was given 5 Rupee per month salary hike. In those days, he was exercising regularly to keep his body and mind strong . Among the sports he was good in were lathi khela, chhora khela, Asi khela. Khudiram had also become adept in playing lathis in both hands. In those days, it was considered essential for any true revolutionary to pay attention on three things- character building, physical training and knowledge enhancement.

During this period, Khudiram was particularly impressed by his teacher Gyanendra Sen. Around this time; Satyendra Nath Basu became friendly to Khudiram and Lalit. His age and his friendly approach to his students were reasons of his popularity among his students. Khudiram and Lalit were not very good students but they managed to pass their final exams and were promoted in third division. Khudiram was getting no joy in studying in a school in a those days of intense agitations against the British rule and he decided to quit his studies for the sake of serving the motherland.

There is another story related to his decision of leaving his studies. On Aswin 1st, Medinipur’s teachers, students, prominent citizens swore at a Jagannath temple that until the partition of Bengal was not cancelled they won’t consume foreign salt and sugar or use foreign clothes. This changed Khudiram’s life. After this he did not find any satisfaction in attending classes in his school. It is said that he was deeply inspired by anti-British campaign of nationalist Bengali leaders and he decided to follow Satyen Bose, who was adding his responsibilities of a teacher and a an organiser of youths for revolutionary movements in the village areas of Midnapur. Satyen Bose was very impressed by Khudiram and he decided to recruit him in his organisation. A branch of Aurobindo’s secret society was at Medinipur. It was run by Gyanendra Nath Basu, Satyendra Nath Basu and Hemchandra Das. They used to watch the activities of youth of the area so that the best of them could be picked for greater responsibilities. They organised meetings to involve youths. In these meetings, the youths were given books like the Gita, Swami Vivekananda’s works, and some revolutionary books. They were also trained to use lathi , Chhura ( knife), Asi (sword). Khudiram was given the early lessons of revolutionary path in this centre. He was particularly close to Satyendra Nath Bose, the youngest of three leaders of the secret society.

Khudiram got excited by this and he had no hesitation in leaving the school for the service of country. Whatever be the case it should be said that he was willing to do anything to serve his country in 1905 and Satyen Bose was the man who was instrumental in his entry into the revolutionary organisation.

Bengal partition had been announced in July 1905 and the Swadeshi movement started in full swing on 16 October, 1905. But, even before that there had been protest meetings in different parts of Bengal. In the first week of August, 1905, a huge public protest meeting was organised at Medinipur. In those days, the use of swadeshi made goods was aggressively supported by anti-partition agitators. Khudiram had also taken the oath of swadeshi service. He was foremost in organising meetings and helping all those who had been organising meetings to arouse popular sentiments of common people against the British rule. He was involved in picketing, organising demonstrations, treatment of patients and all those who needed care.

In the Medinipur meeting people from all walks of life assembled. It was estimated that more than ten thousand people gathered in this meeting. Towards the success of this meeting Khudiram worked very hard and ran from one place to another. He, however, did not give any public speech in any of these meeting. He was happy helping others in getting prominence.

Midnapur had become a strong base for swadeshi supporters. In 1906 onwards we come across to many cases in which swadeshi activists had issued warnings to merchants for not importing any bilati ( foreign) salt, cloth or any other item. In one of such cases, the Raja of Narajole asked merchants of Midnapur not to import Belat cloth for sale. Government reports had also confirmed that "between February 1906 and December 1907 the swadeshi propaganda was actively pursued at Midnapur."



Khudiram was successful in creating an image of an uncompromising swadeshi supporter who was determined to boycott foreign goods. Due to his efforts foreign goods disappeared from the local market. On some occasions the shopkeepers were forced to get rid of foreign goods. He became famous for his zeal to boycott foreign goods. Shopkeepers who kept foreign goods were scared of him. Once Khudiram gathered that a shopkeeper, despite repeated requests and warnings, smuggled foreign clothes. Khudiram reached to that place, where the foreign made clothes were stocked, with a match and bottle of kerosene to put the entire stock on fire.



Bhupendra Nath Basu, brother of Satyendra Nath Basu, has written about those days of Khudiram that Khudiram considered those shopkeepers anti-national who, despite repeated warnings, brought foreign clothes. Khudiram was a determined person, once he took a task he never left it without finishing that. 

Khudiram’s biographers and his contemporaries have written about his involvement in relief works during natural calamity which hit Midnapur in those days. During the flood of Kanswati river he heard of the plight of villagers of Gobardhanpur, a village which was situated five miles from Midnapur town. Khudiram collected some clothes, foodstuffs and other materials and rushed to that village with some of his friends. He helped children and old people in reaching to safer places. He distributed relief material and stayed there for some days during which he helped villagers in reconstructing their houses. He did all this without informing his sister and his brother in law, their guardian. After his return, after more than a week’s relief work, his guardian tried to convince him that he should not indulge in these kind of activities and he should rejoin his studies. Khudiram paid no attention to these advices. He, however, realised that it would be difficult for him to continue from his relatives’ house. After all, his brother in law was a paid servant of British government. Khudiram decided to move out of his relative’s house . He got accommodation in the house of Pyari Lal Ghosh who was a locally famous lawyer.

In this phase, a sense of bairagya, overtook him. He wrote a letter to his elder sister in which he wrote that it would be too much for him to abide by this worldly norm. He reiterated that he did not want to study in the school anymore and he found no justification of wasting his sister’s money for that. He declared, “I will henceforth travel in different parts of this country.”

Khudiram’s infatuation with Vairagya proved short-lived and he soon he returned to his house, hungry and exhausted. A writer has given some details of his experiences during this phase. According to this story, Khudiram wanted to live as a peasant in Bankura district to get acquainted with the experiences of ordinary peasant life. But, he was unable to continue this way. Local people took him as a spy of the police and he had no option but to escape!

Khudiram returned to his sister and tried not to disclose how he had tried to live in a village and face a hard life but his sister came to know about it once she saw his hardened palm which had clear signs of hard physical work.

Khudiram was a very kind hearted person. In a cold morning, a beggar came to his house. Deeply moved Khudiram went inside and came out with a very expensive pashmina Kashmiri shawl to give it to the beggar. The beggar thought that the boy was making fun of him but when Khudiram insisted and said that “ there is nothing more I can offer you,” he was overwhelmed. That shawl was given to his late father by Raja Narendra Lal Khan. Khudiram’s sister objected to his giving away of this shawl by saying that this beggar would never use this himself and he would simply go to the market and sell it. Khudiram said, “ Let him do that. At least, the money he would get by selling this would help him to some extent.”



Revolutionary activities

Bose was inspired by his teacher Satyendranath Bose and readings of the Bhagavad Gita, which helped him embrace revolutionary activities aimed at ending the British Raj. He was especially disillusioned with the British following the partition of Bengal conflagration in 1905. He joined Jugantar - the party of revolutionary activists.

At the nascent age of sixteen, Bose was defying police after planting bombs near police stations and targeting government officials. He was arrested three years later on charges of conducting a series of bomb attacks. The specific bombing for which he was sentenced to death resulted in the deaths of 3 persons: a Mrs. Kennedy, her daughter and a servant.

The Muzaffarpur killing

Khudiram and Prafulla Chaki were sent to Muzaffarpurmarker, Biharmarker to assassinate Kingsford, the Calcutta Presidency Magistrate, and later, magistrate of Muzaffarpur, Bihar.

Khudiram and Prafulla watched the usual movements of Kingsford and prepared a plan to kill him. On the evening of April 30, 1908, the duo waited in front of the gate of the European Club for the carriage of Kingsford to come. When a vehicle came out of the gate, they threw bombs and blew up the carriage. However, the vehicle was not carrying Kingsford and instead two British ladies - Mrs and Miss Kennedy (the wife and daughter of barrister Pringle Kennedy) were killed. The revolutionary duo fled. Prafulla committed suicide when cornered by police at the Samastipur Railway station. Khudiram was later arrested about 20 km from Samastipur at a distance of 12 km from Pusa Bazaar where Rajendra Agricultural Universitymarker was first established. The railway station where Khudiram was arrested while having tea was earlier known as Pusa Road and recently has been renamed as Khudiram Pusa .He was the first youngest freedom fighter.

Death

On this Muzaffarpur bombing and other charges of bombings carried out by him, a pretense of trial was carried out for two months. Although the leading Calcutta advocate Narendra Kumar Basu mounted a stout defense of Khudiram's actions in defense of his motherland (without charging any fees), Khudiram was sentenced to death. The sentence was carried out, and he was hanged on August 11, 1908.But the one thing that surprised everyone was that as he was hanged he was still smiling. And to this the Bengali poet Kazi Nazrul Islam wrote a poem "Ekbaar biday de maa, ghure asi" to honor him.

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