Monday, 1 March 2021

Assassination of British judge (1931) Ralph Garlick, ICS, Alipore, West Bengal - Indian freedom struggle

Ralph Garlick ICS in Stratford before his job assignment in

Ralph Garlick ICS, judge, Calcutta

 India was in the midst of  active freedom struggle against the Raj and their oppressive rule after 1904  . The massacre of innocent people in April 1919  at Jalianwalla Bagh, Ameristar, Punjab, Mahatma Gandhi's salt long  march  to Dundy coast in Gujarat with his followers in March 1930 in protest against salt taxes, the parturition of Bengal in 1905 on communal line  and a host of unpalatable incidents infuriated the natives against  British government's misrule. As there  was no semblance of freedom to the Indians which was their aspiration, anger was way high  across the country, in particular, in Bengal. At variance with the  national leaders, countless young freedom fighter in Bengal and elsewhere thought violence as a means to cow down the British. Since 1906  violence committed by revolutionaries in Bengal  had gone up to 210. According to the police report  roughly 1038 persons  had some kind of link with the violence and outrages.  Through sustained efforts,  84 people  were convicted of specified crimes; out of then 30 were tried by the tribunals  constituted under the defense Act of India.  

Alipore, Calcutta, India. Maps of India com

 In 1931 an English judge  Ralph Garlick was felled down by the revolutionaries in Calcutta. Ralph Garlick,  born in 1876 in Stratford-upon-Avon, was the son of  a prominent burgess, a leading member of the Congregational Church and a music teacher with wide experience.  He was the owner of a music warehouse. Ralph  had his early education at  Shakespeare's old school King Edward VI that was headed by HM  the Rev. de Courcy Laffan. By virtue of becoming the school's first Head Boy in 1893 he led the first procession. Subsequently, it had become  part of the regular annual event -what was known as town's annual celebration of Shakespeare's birthday. In 1894 Ralph joined the Pembroke College, Oxford  on an open classical scholarship, During the college days he also excelled in outdoor sports activities and became a successful oarsman. Having successfully completed ICS competitive exam to seek a comfortable job in the colonial  administration of  the Indian subcontinent, he took up a job in  1900 in the judiciary department of Bengal. Being hard working and dedicated to his job, his gradual promotion to higher position was quite obvious. After successfully sailed through various ranks,  in 1929 he was appointed a judge to the Calcutta High Court. 

The Court House at Calcutta (Illustrated London News.

Sessions court, Alipore, Bengal.

When Ralph  took up the judgeship in Calcutta, the whole of Bengal was in a tumultuous state, rife with violent protest and frequent attack on British officials. Part of  the  reason  was  the new administration under the Crown followed suppressive measures to put down the freedom fighters, one of the grave mistakes committed by the early administration under the East India company  whose officers were corrupt and discriminatory. Frustrated Indians, unable to bear the persistent unjust rule and exploitation of their lands and  people, besides racial discrimination,  ran out of tolerance and in the later  stage resorted to violence to make the  English understand how Indians had been quite tolerant, longing for freedom and be free of shackles of  oppression and foreign rule.  In the wake of very stringent action by the police against the nationalists, frustration and resentment led to more frequent protests against the colonial rule. There sprang up some nationalist revolutionary groups in Bengal that launched   murderous attacks on British officials who insulted and insinuated  Indian natives.  Yet another reason was partition of Bengal on 16 October 1905 on communal line and it was effected by Viceroy  Lord Curzon who said it was done for better administration.  A large  Muslim population was confined to eastern areas and West Bengal  had  Hindu population. The Hindus were outraged by the division  that would make them  a minority. Though Bengal was reunited in 1911 and the capital shifted to Delhi from Bengal, the embers of hatred  and anger never died down among the Bengalis.  Bengal terrorism  is rooted in ant partition of united  Bengal. 

On the  fatal day of 27th July 1931 in Alipore, a suburb of Calcutta  Judge Ralph returned to his courtroom  after lunch  to resume his judicial work. All of a sudden, before one could wink ones eyes, a Bengali revolutionary and architect,   Bimal Das Gupta whipped up  a revolver and  shot  the judge from the other end in the court room.  As the shot did not hit the honorable judge, Gupta  quickly moved over to the witness-box and fired at the dazed judge. The death was instant as the bullet hit his head. this time.  

Though  in mid-July 1931, Ralph received a letter threatening his life,  Ralph.was unmoved and kept on carrying his court work. Not to take any risk, the administration had put two police officers  in the court  room, besides  had some sleuths stationed there  to confront the trouble makers. 

Freedom fighter, Bimal das Gupta's statue,Midnapore,

 Soon after the murder on the Judicial Court premises in Alipore, the media reported that  the police opened fire and killed the  assassin  Gupta on the spot. In the melee  one policeman was injured. Bimal Das Gupta was a ‘wanted’ man following the murder of a somewhat unpleasant  Mr James Peddie, district magistrate at Midapore, in April 1931.  A letter found in Gupta’s pocket stated that the murder was intended as a reprisal for the sentencing to death by Mr Ralph Garlick of Dinesh Gupta  who happened to be  Bimal’s mentor. The letter simply read, “Thou shalt be destroyed. This is the reward for the injustice done to Dinesh Gupta” and was signed by Bimal.

This unexpected murder of a learned judge in Calcutta  became a sensation scoop  across India and also in England. The politicians in the House of Commons  were highly critical of this murder and expressed condemnation in view of the  violence  that  begun to show up its ugly heads in many places. Obviously, the administration in London was  quite concerned about the safety of British higher-ups  in India.  Ralph Garlick's urn carrying his ash  was sent to  Stratford  to be handed over to his  family. His urn was placed in the grave of his the Cemetery on the Evesham Road.  It was in 1934 a fitting  memorial tablet was unveiled at King Edward VI School; it has recently been renovated.


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