The freedom movement of India wasn’t a one-day or one-month affair; it was one of the longest in the world, just like Rome took a long time to come into its real being. Similarly, India’s independence was not achieved by the endeavours of a few freedom fighters only.
Saheed Baji Rout, the youngest freedom fighter in India’s freedom struggle, was just 13 years old when he was shot by British officials for not ferrying them across the river as a mark of protest. His sacrifice was no less than any other big name in the books of history. There is another great freedom fighter – Jatindranath Mukherjee aka Bagha Jatin – who was instrumental in India’s independence struggle.
Jatindranath was born on December 7, 1879, in Kayagram village under Kushtia district (Present-day Nadia, Bangladesh), in Bengal Presidency, British India. He was that Royal Bengal Tiger, whose claws even threatened the almighty British Empire.
Jatin lost his father at the tender age of five and was raised by his mother who was a poetess. His mother’s religious inclination helped in laying the foundation of Jatin’s idea of patriotism and spirituality. He also adopted the masculine traits of his late father who was fond of horses and known for his valour and strength.
Growing into his youth hood, Jatin gained popularity amongst the villagers for his daredevilry and passion for patriotism. He encouraged villagers to host dramas and write plays on freedom, which is often traced back to his meeting with noble prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore.
After passing from Krishnanagar Anglo-vernacular School in 1895, he joined the Calcutta Central College (now Khudiram Bose College) to pursue Fine Arts. During this period, he also took training for steno typing skills. Being revolutionary by nature, he was deeply drawn towards the strong Vedanta philosophy of Swami Vivekananda and eventually chose him as his mentor. This is where he got initial exposure towards Vedic teaching and celibacy (Brahmacharya).
Swami Vivekananda discovered the potential of Jatin, and sent him to a gymnasium where he learnt wrestling and other forms of fitness exercises. Soon, Jatin left colonial education and started working for barrister Pringle Kennedy, editor of the Trihoot Courrier.
From Jatindranath to Bagha Jatin:
By 1900, Jatin was married and had four children with his wife Indubala Banerjee. The biggest turning point in Jatin’s life was when his eldest son Atindra died in 1906, and his wife went on a pilgrimage leaving him emotionally damaged. But soon he emerged as a more determined person.
In 1906, upon returning to his village, Jatin found the villagers were terrified due to the presence of a ferocious Bengal Tiger. Brave Jatin went to the nearby jungle on a tiger hunt and single-handedly fought the big cat and killed it. This is how he earned the name of Bagha Jatin (Bagha means Tiger in Bengali/Odia), and recognition from the Government of Bengal with a silver shield engraved with his fighting scene and title “BAGHA”.
Freedom Struggle, Death and Aftermath:
Jatin was one of the founding members of Anushilan Samiti and Yugantar, which was a secret society of revolutionaries who fought against the British Empire.
He got involved in multiple anti-social activities to provoke the rulers and regularly managed to bring them down to their knees. Jatin gained prominence when he created havoc during the Prince of Wales’ visit to India in 1905 which gained him huge fame, as it was one of the massive surveys of the Indian subcontinent by the colonial regime.
On 27th January 1910, Bagha Jatin was arrested on charges of murdering Inspector Shamsul Alam, the investigating officer for the Alipore bomb case, but was released, to be immediately re-arrested along with 46 others in connection with the Howrah-Sibpur conspiracy case, popularly known as Howrah Gang Case.
Jantin’s Yugantar group started a new series of crimes to garner funds to acquire arms and ammunition from German sources to fight against the establishment. This enraged the Britishers and they started an immediate manhunt to crack down on the anti-social activities.
Bagha Jatin escaped from Bengal to hide in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj region to acquire weapons which were supposed to arrive via the Balasore route which was traced by British intelligence. Jatin and his aides, who travelled through the dense forests of Mayurbhanj for two days, were gheraoed by a large number of police officials upon arriving at Balasore.
The famous encounter between revolutionaries accompanied by Jatin, and the police force headed by officer Charles Tegart which took place at the Chashakhand suburb of Balasore, lasted for nearly 75 minutes. Jatin was grievously injured, while his partner Chittapriya Roy Choudhury was killed on the spot. Other associates such as Manoranjan Sengupta, Niren Dasgupta, and Jyotish Pal were caught.
On 10th September 1915, Bagha Jatin succumbed to the wounds during treatment at Balasore hospital. Meanwhile, two of his partners Manoranjan and Niren were executed in jail while Jotish was sent to Cellular Jail in Andaman.