The original target of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar and Shivram Rajguru on December 17, 1928 was not the Assistant S.P. ,John SAUNDERS, rather James SCOTT , the Lahore Superintendent of Police who had ordered his men to lathi-charge non-violent protestors agitating against Simon Commission on October 30th. As a result of the beatings sustained on that fateful day , Lala Lajpat Rai succumbed to death on November 17th. It was his murder that the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army (HSRA) had sworn to avenge, and hence Scott was the marked man.
Benoy , Badal and Dinesh had intended to shoot the cruel and infamous Calcutta Police Commissioner, Charles Tegart. They launched an attack on Writers’ Building (Secretariat) on December 8th, 1930, engaged and injured many policemen and shot and killed Col.SIMPSON (IG ,Prisons). Once cornered, Badal Gupta consumed Potassium Cyanide, whereas Benoy Basu and Dinesh Gupta shot themselves. Tegart survived many assassination attempts during his seven year long tenure, and went onto serve in Palestine before he died in 1946.
Even earlier, in 1924, TEGART was the target of a revolutionary , Gopinath Saha, who mistakenly shot and killed a white civilian ,Mr.Ernest DAY , at Chowringhee Road. Later on, Tegart even survived a bomb attack and shot the attacker dead in 1930.
Khudiram Bose and Praful Chaki had intended to assassinate Judge Douglas KINGSFORD at Muzzafarpur. In a horrific case of mistaken identity, they ended up throwing bombs on a carriage similar to Kingsford’s ,in which two ladies were travelling. Mrs Kenneddy and her daughter succumbed to injuries.While Kingsford remained unscathed, Chaki consumed poison and Bose was hanged to death in 1908 at the age of 19.
In December 1912, on the occasion of the transfer of capital from Calcutta to Delhi , an elaborate conspiracy was hatched to eliminate /overthrow Viceroy HARDINGE . A homemade bomb was thrown at the Viceregal Howdah as the procession passed through Chandni Chowk in Delhi. The Mahaout was killed , but the Viceroy escaped with injuries on his arms,shoulders and back. Rash Behari Bose was the kingpin of the Delhi Conspiracy , and Sachin Sanyal assisted him. Balmukund, Awadh Behari, Amir Chand and Basant Kumar Biswas were hanged , while Lala Hanumant Sahai was sent to the Andamans. Pratap and Zorawar Barhat of Rajasthan were also involved in this conspiracy. This near miss was the closest that Indian revolutionaries came close to assassinating any high-ranking British official.
So many failures and virtually in all the assassination attempts cannot be coincidental ,they must point towards some Indian trait or bitter truth. Perhaps not enough importance was accorded to intelligence gathering, and training. Maybe Gandhi understood that we do not possess the capability to launch targeted violence, and lacked the capacity to bear too much of it.
CURZON WYLLIE, the political aide-de-camp of the Secretary of State for India, was shot dead by Madanlal Dhingra in 1909. Dhingra also shot and killed Cawas LALCACA, a Parsee doctor, who tried to resusciate Curzon Wyllie. Where was any need to go all Rambo ? What was to be achieved by killing someone like a political ADC ?
BEENA Das fired five shots at Governor of Bengal,Stanley Jackson,at her college’e convocation in December 1932,but failed to assassinate him .The faulty revolver was supplied to her by Kamala Das Gupta.
It is even suggested that UDHAM Singh’s intended target was Brigadier General Reginald DYER, the butcher of Amritsar. Michael O’ DWYER, the erstwhile Lt.Gov. of Punjab, who imposed martial law in the state and was assassinated by Udham Singh in 1940 at Caxton Hall , was known for his pro-Dyer and anti-Indian stance. Dyer went onto enjoy a threat-free, respectable life and died his natural death in 1927. O’Dwyer ,who was quite a racist and was indirectly responsible for imposition of martial law in Punjab was also a worthy target. Even if it was a case of mistaken identity, the end result was not a bad one.
Perhaps it was just Santi Ghose and Suniti Chowdhury, who successfully identified and shot dead a British bureaucrat and District Magistrate of Comilla ,Charles Geoffrey Buckland Stevans. They killed him in his own office after making small talk in December 1931. The duo’s deed is one of the few silver linings in an otherwise lacklustre record of Indian revolutionaries.
I enumerated these incidents of revolutionary violence only as case studies and with due reverence, and not to mock at the noble efforts of our ancestors. Indian kraantikaaris neither had proper guns nor bombs , nor finance , nor even clear strategy to be successful. Public did feel sympathy for them, but they didn’t receive much material support from any quarter. Their deeds were even condemned by top Indian political leaders of the day. It also leaves us with food for thought in that the British resolve melted in face of the first organised violence directed against them by Azad Hind Fauz ,which also inspired revolts in the Royal Indian Navy and other armed forces.