Even 95 years after the Kakori Train Robbery – one of the landmark events of the Indian independence movement, the memories of it are still etched on every Indian’s heart.
The Kakori Train Robbery also known as the Kakori conspiracy was an armed robbery which took place on August 9, 1925, on a train in central Uttar Pradesh and the subsequent court trial instituted by the government of British India against more than 20 Indian revolutionaries accused of involvement, directly or indirectly, in the brave act.
The revolutionaries were the members of the newly formed Hindustan Republican Association, a revolutionary organisation, which was later renamed as Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. The mission of revolutionary organisation was to liberate India from British colonial rule through a revolution which included armed rebellion.
The Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) was formed in October 1924 by a youth group of the Indian National Congress, who were disgruntled over Mahatma Gandhi’s sudden call to stop the non-cooperation movement.
The primary objective of the Kakori Conspiracy was to gain funds for the HRA by taking the money from the British Administration by force. The other objective of the HRA was to create a positive image of the HRA among Indians by attacking a high profile British government target with minimum collateral damage.
The Kakori robbery was planned by Revolutionaries – Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqullah Khan. It was executed by Bismil, Khan, Chandrashekhar Azad, Rajendra Lahiri, Shachindra Bakshi, Keshab Chakravarty, Murari Lal Khanna(Gupta), Banwari Lal, Mukundi Lal Gupta and Manmathnath Gupta.
On 8 August 1925, the decision to rob the government treasury to buy arms was taken at an HRA meeting. The next day on August 9, the revolutionaries stopped the Number 8 down train near Kakori travelling from Saharanpur to Lucknow and looted Rs. 8000 from the guard cabin. The particular train was supposedly carrying money-bags belonging to the British Government Treasury.
The target was a guard cabin, which carried money collected from various railway stations to be deposited in Lucknow. Though no passengers were targeted by the revolutionaries, one passenger named Ahmed Ali was killed in the crossfire between the guards and revolutionaries. This made it a manslaughter case. After the incident, most of the revolutionaries fled to Lucknow.
Following the robbery, the British Administration launched a manhunt to arrest all the revolutionaries. A month after the attack, more than two dozen HRA members were arrested. The British authorities arrested more than 40 people for conceiving and executing the conspiracy.
On September 26, 1925, Ram Prasad Bismil was arrested by the British police. A year later, other masterminds behind the train robbery Ashfaqullah Khan and Shachindra Bakshi were also arrested.
The revolutionary Chandrashekhar Azad, who could not be captured by the British, later reorganized the HRA and ran the organization till 1931. He shot himself after being grievously injured and down to his last bullet at Alfred Park, now known as Chandrashekhar Azad Park, during a shootout with the police on 27 February 1931.
Kakori Conspiracy Case
The trial on the Kakori conspiracy case started in Lucknow on 21 May 1926 against 28 active members of the Hindustan Republican Association. Interestingly, the public prosecutor for the British Crown was Pandit Jagat Narayan Mulla, who had refused to defend the revolutionaries. He was very close to Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru’s father. Mulla also was not quite fond of Ram Prasad Bismil since 1916 ever since he led the procession of Bal Gangadhar Tilak at Lucknow. He was appointed the public prosecutor.
The final verdict of the Kakori Kand was pronounced in July 1927. Around 15 people were let off by the court for lack of evidence. Five people escaped during the trial. The court awarded death sentences to Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaq Ullah Khan, Thakur Roshan Sing and Rajendra Lahiri.
Sachindra Bakshi and Shachindra Nath Sanyal were sentenced to deportation to Cellular Jail in Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The others were sentenced to varying lengths of imprisonment – Manmath Nath Gupta was sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment. Revolutionaries such as Ram Krishna Khatri, Mukundi Lal, Raj Kumar Singh, Govind Charan Kar and Yogesh Chandra Chatterjee were all sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Suresh Charan Bhattacharya and Vishnu Sharan Dublish were jailed for seven years. Prem Krishna Sharma and Bhupen Nath Sanyal were imprisoned for five years, while Keshab Chakravarthy was sentenced to four years in jail.
The revolutionaries, who were sent to different jails to serve their punishments, undertook hunger strikes protesting against the jail conditions and also demanding political prisoner-status for them.
The death sentences to the four revolutionaries evoked strong protest in the country. However, the colonial government was unwilling to reconsider. The four death sentences were carried out between 17 to 19 December 1927.