Monday, 6 August 2018

Murder of three colonial British officials in succesive years, Midnapore, W. Bengal - Indian patriots' fury

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Prior to colonization of the Indian subcontinent by the British  there existed an amalgamation of  numerous independent states, with no proper identity and unity except religion - Hinduism which was a binding factor. The different states and people became united soon after the major Sepoy Mutiny of 1957 and  led to the understanding of nationhood, universal brotherhood and cooperation among many states to  become a Free Land and Free Indians. In this respect Bengal played a key role to get India freed from the British yoke.
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Midnapore, the second largest city in Paschim Medinipur district after Kharagpur in West Bengal  has a large Hindu and Muslim population as you can see from several temples and mosques in this place and  that they have been living in peace and harmony long before the arrival of the British in the late 17th century is a proof how the two religions coexisted with mutual understanding. If you take the British India history, the first casualty was Bengal (then undivided). The East India company who first entered  Bengal as traders, over a period of time took away the entire area from then Nawab Siraj-ud Dualah through dishonest means and coercion. The British, in the early stages,  broke the backbone of  Bengal and its natives to improve their economy back in Britain.   Centuries of exploitation and later division of Bengal into east and west based on religion (the British used administrative efficiency as an excuse under Lord Curzon), besides racial discrimination, etc infuriated the Bengalis. This is the reason why Bengal has the largest number of patriots in our country because at stake were their freedom  of expression, Bengali pride, dignity  and honor.  In the beginning of 20th century, soon after Gandhiji, Patel, Tilak and other leaders' Clarion  call for Quit India movement, people across India  took part  in numerous protests against the British. During this period a spate of assassination attempts were  made on the tough and arrogant British officials in Bengal as they treated the freedom fighters  in a shabby manner.

Hijli Detention Camp now Hijli Saheed Bhawan. Photo courtesy: Biswarup Ganguly (Wikimedia Commons)
Have you ever heard of murder of  three ICS  officials connected to the District  Administration  of Midnapore over a span of two years. This suggests to what extent the quiet people of India, in particular, Bengalis had been pushed to the other extreme of violence to get their grievances redressed. Those three murdered   were high ranking ICS officers  serving the district of Midnapore. They were James Peddy, ICS,  Robert Dougla, ICS  and D. E. Burge, ICS. The patriots who killed were pretty young Bengali men and one old woman , Driven by patriotic zeal they joined the revolutionary organizations and got trained in dealing with fire arms, etc. In this particular case they were helped by one Dinesh Gupta who founded a group in 1927 when he was a student of Midnapore college. However, their main office was Calcutta from where he would coordinate the activities of the revolutionaries
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This group under Dinesh Gupta wanted to get rid of James Peddy who was heading the district administration. Peddy was unpopular among the native for a different reason. He was mean and harsh on
the Satyagrahis. His forte was to beat them hard until they fell down  like 8 pins in the Bowling alley. Yet another technique employed by this well educated English officer was his graceful treatment of Bengali women. Literally he would  drag  the women to the open streets, strip them  of their clothes and leave them there. At stake was the modesty of Indian womanhood.  He was unscrupulous and struck terror among the people. The Group headed by Gupta decided on  10th April 1931 to get  rid of him soon. The task was given to four young  men Phani Kundu, Jyoti 
topyaps.com/7
Jevan Ghosh and Vimal Dasgupta. On 11 April, they wanted to kill him because of change of schedule of his district board meeting, the plan was postponed. Again 0n 7th May 931, the plan failed and the occasion was he was to open a student exhibition. So far, Dame Luck was in favor of  Peddy, a rattler in the wood pile. 


Following day, in the evening on the play ground adjacent to his
Robert Dougles. www.midnapore.
Above image:   In Memory of Peddi, District Magistrate Indian Civil Service. His life was taken by assassins at Midnapore on April 07 1931...........
Bungalow Peddy  was surrounded by teachers and officials. Jyoti and Vimal stealthily entered the ground posing to help the collector. The place was poorly lit, taking advantage of the situation they fired at Peddy  at close range and  he died on the following day.

During this tumultuous time  one  71 year old, uneducated  woman Matangini Hazra  took the people of Midnapore by surprise. In a jiff,  she did something that no body expected of her. This widow   was carrying  the national flag in hand  to unfurl it atop a building. Her age did not bother her and  she was already against wearing purdah. The police could not stop her and finally she was shot dead by them.
Matangini Hazra  topyaps.com/7

 Robert Douglas'  fate was sealed in Midnapore. He was concerned about his personal safety  and had to carry on his duty as the head of the district administration. He too was not a popular British official and an equally a treacherous man when dealing with  freedom fighters  He  was instrumental in killing two youths at Hijli Detention Camp, Midnapore.  The poor youths were unarmed and put to death. 
Robert Douglas www.midnapore.
 Above image:  Memory of Robert Douglas .Esq I.G.S District Magistrate, Indian Civil Service.Born Edinburgh Dec 4 1889 His life was taken by assassins at Midnapore on April 30 1932, Aged 42 years.........

On the 30th  of April 1932, he was presiding over a meeting of the District Board. Exactly at 5.30 pm. he was signing some papers surrounded by members of the Board. There was nothing unusual. Two youngsters  Pradoot Bhattacharya and Prabhakangsu  entered the room and in a flash one of them  whipped out a gun and shot st Douglas' chest and he died in the hospital.  This was done to revenge the killing of two innocent unarmed youths at the detention camp. The youth who did  the firing  escaped, but  Pradyot Bhattacharya  could not escape  as his gun did not work during stand-off with the police. So, he was arrested and the police tried to pry out the whereabouts of the other. He never betrayed his accomplice and was hanged to death  at Midnapore  Central  jail on 12th January 1933.

 The spate of violence against the British officials took the people and also the British by surprise. Many Europeans did not want to risk their lives working in Midnapore district which had become a center of revolutionary activities directed against the British.
None wanted to work in a place like this. At last, Mr. Bernard E. J. Burge volunteered to take the charge of magistrate post at Midnapore  unmindful of the risk involved in his work.  Burge, being shrewd and careful had a good security around him and had his bungalow properly fenced.  He would stay at home unless he had a solid reason to go out.  Several months went by without any untoward incident. 


On 2nd September Burge  decided to to play football match at police grounds as he was fond of the game.  There was a popular match between Mohammedan Sporting of Calcutta and the local Town Club of which he was the president.  Anath and Mrigen had already got mixed up with the players.  No sooner Burge had arrived at 5.30 pm evening than  8 shot rang out showering on Burge. The excitement and noise of the foot ball came drowned the noise and shouting  that followed the firing.  Mrigen was pinned down by a bodyguard and was killed. Other three Bengal accomplices Ramkrishna Roy, Braja Kishor Chakraborty and Nirmal Jibon Ghosh were  arrested in  connection with the conspiracy. Braja and Ramkrishna were jailed on charges of killing Bernad and  sentenced them to death on 25 th October 1934 and Nirmal Jibon Ghosh following  day- 26th October. Since then  Midnapore never had Magistrate till independence. Thus 3 British officials in successive years, 1931, 1932 and 1933 were assassinated by the Indian revolutionaries. All the martyred men were Bengalis.
Tomb of Bernard Burge .midnapore.in
Above image:  Memory of Bernard E J Burge (Bobby), District Magistrate,  Indian Civil Service. His life was taken by assassins at Midnapore on Sept. 02 1933, Aged 38 years....................

On the 26th October 1933, the 3000 patriots in the jail shed tears for those who were hanged  to death by the British, The inmates included several women revolutionaries  who wanted India to be freed from the British soon.
 http://www.midnapore.in/bv.html
 https://www.telegraphindia.com/1070930/asp/calcutta/story_8376581.asp
 http://www.bhavans.info/heritage/martyrs.asp