Jatindranath Mukherjee, fondly remembered as Bagha Jatin, was one of the chief Bengali revolutionaries fighting against British rule in India. From a very young age, Bagha Jatin became the leader of the Yugantar political party in Bengal, which was instrumental in organizing revolutionary activities against the British. Though it was the English rule that he was fighting against, most Englishmen loved and respected Jatindranath Mukherjee. Charles Augustus Tegart, a police officer in British India famously commented that Bengali revolutionaries are a breed of selfless political workers and Bagha Jatin was a shining example. Apart from the conflict against the British, he was also involved in the German Plot of World War I.
Jatindranath Mukherjee was born on December 7, 1879 in the Kayagram village of the Kushtia subdivision of Nadia district of Bengal. Kayagram is presently situated in Bangladesh. Immediately after his birth, Jatindranath Mukherjee was sent to Sadhuhati, his father's ancestral home, and stayed there till his father's death when he was only 5 years of age. He then returned to Kayagram to live in the home of his mother's parents. As a child Jatindranath Mukherjee was widely known for his physical strength and courage. While he was a born leader, there was another side to Jatindranath Mukherjee's character which was lesser seen. As a kid, Jatin was jovial and very charitable. He loved to watch and act in plays based on mythology. Most importantly, he never discriminated between people based on their social or religious status. He lent a helping hand to Muslims just like he would have helped a Hindu and this was largely because of the manner in which he was raised and the values that he was taught by his mother at home.
In the year 1895, Jatindranath Mukherjee joined the Calcutta Central College as a student of fine arts. He also enrolled as a student of steno typing, a coveted course which opened new career vistas during his time. It was during his college years that Jatindranath Mukherjee came across Swami Vivekananda, whose social and political thoughts later served as the inspiration for Jatindranath Mukherjee to conduct his revolutionary activities. Jatin soon became part of the Indian group assisting Sister Nivedita for British subjugation in India. It was Swami Vivekananda who realized the potential of Jatindranath Mukherjee as a future revolutionary and sent him to the Gymnasium of Ambu Guha to learn wrestling. Here Jatin came across Sachin Banerjee, who would later become his mentor in conducting revolutionary activities against the British. Unhappy with the colonial educational system of British India, Jatindranath Mukherjee quit his studies in 1899 and left for Muzaffarpore as the secretary to barrister Pringle Kennedy, whose writings and historical research impressed and inspired Jatin.
As a Revolutionary
Though the reports could not be confirmed, it was said that Jatindranath Mukherjee was one of the founders of the Anushilan Samiti during his student years in Calcutta in the year 1900. The Anushilan Samiti worked towards killing officials and supporters of the British government. Media reports also suggested that Jatindranath Mukherjee had joined hands with Sri Aurobindo, already an established revolutionary during that time, and in the year 1903, the group chalked out plans to win over the Indian soldiers in the British regiment to their cause of revolution.
It was Jatindranath Mukherjee who drew the attention of the Prince of Wales towards the ill behavior that Indians had to face at the hands of the colonial English officers settled in India, while the Prince was on a formal visit to the country in the year 1905. Jatindranath Mukherjee's act opened the eyes of the Prince of Wales, who had previously received complaints about the treatment meted out to Indians by his men, and he reported about the same to higher authorities in his country.
In the year 1900 Jatindranath Mukherjee married Indubala Banerjee, a girl from his native Kushtia. The couple had four children over the next couple of years. However, Jatindranath Mukherjee's eldest son Atindra died at 3 years of age, a death that affected Jatin so much that he left on a pilgrimage to Haridwar to attain peace of mind and soul. Upon returning to his home in the Koya village after a few months of pilgrimage in 1906, Jatindranath Mukherjee learned that a leopard had settled in the jungle in the village's vicinity and was causing much trouble for people residing in Koya. Not worrying about his own life, Jatindranath Mukherjee decided to risk killing the leopard. Armed with only a khukuri (Gorkha dagger), Jatindranath Mukherjee killed the leopard by striking the weapon on its neck, but not before he had received a number of serious wounds on his own body. This act of bravery won Jatindranath Mukherjee a silver shield with an engraving showing him killing the tiger and the famous name 'Bagha Jatin'.
Revolutionary Activities Continue
Bagha Jatin soon returned to Calcutta to continue with his revolutionary activities, this time in a partnership with Barindra Ghosh, the brother of revolutionary Sri Aurobindo. Together they set up bomb factories in Deoghar and the Maniktala region of Calcutta. Bagha Jatin also laid the foundation of decentralized autonomous bodies, commonly referred to as the secret societies to trace British and Indian citizens in favor of the rule of the crown in India. However, the charitable spirit of Bagha Jatin helped him to introduce relief activities for the suffering in military operations and natural calamities like floods and epidemics. Bagha Jatin was always present in religious gatherings like the Kumbh Mela, the Ardhodaya or the celebration of Ramakrishna's birth. Media reports suggested that Bagha Jatin visited these events to get in touch with leaders of religious groups and win them over to his revolutionary cause so as to recruit more militants.
In the year 1907 Bagha Jatin was sent to Darjeeling on a special mission for a period of three years. In Darjeeling too Bagha Jatin became involved in several acts which enabled him to showcase his physical strength, his immense courage and fearlessness. Jatin Mukherjee opened a branch of the Anushilan Samiti in Darjeeling and named it the Bandhab Samiti. In April 1908, Bagha Jatin got involved in a fight with three English military officers at Siliguri railway station, thrashing all of them single-handedly. This display of bravery caught the attention of the Europeans who slapped a case against Bagha Jatin. However, it was the English who refused to further the case, serving only a warning against him, knowing well that the courage of Bagha Jatin would not be subjugated through a legal case. In 1908, while several revolutionaries in Bengal were accused in the Alipore Bomb Case at Muzaffarpur, Jatindranath Mukherjee was set free. As such, he took over the leadership of the secret society to be known as the Jugantar Party,
Bagha Jatin utilized the time during the Alipore trial to establish stronger links between different branches of the secret society over different cities across Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and UP. Bagha Jatin leased lands in the Sunderbans from Englishman Daniel Hamilton to engage militants and revolutionaries in several activities while they could continue work with the secret society averting the attention of the British government. His activities at a time when senior leaders were behind bars established Bagha Jatin as the new leader of the Bengal revolution against the British. He was responsible for introducing the extremist policy in Bengal, a policy called the bank robbery on automobile taxi-cabs which meant the killing of British officers. It was this policy which got the revolutionary's name out in the open when one of his aides revealed the name of Bagha Jatin after facing arrest. Subsequently, Bagha Jatin was arrested on January 27, 1910, though he was also released after a few days.
The Bagha Jatin Spirit
After courting arrest with the failure of the Howrah - Sibpur conspiracy case in the year 1910, Bagha Jatin was released in February 1911. After his release from prison, started a new era of Bagha Jatin's political thoughts and ideologies. Having lost his government job, Bagha Jatin started his own contract business in the Jessore - Jhenaida railway line. His business interests gave Bagha Jatin the opportunity to tour different places across the country. While he set out on a pilgrimage with his family to Haridwar, Bagha Jatin met the old revolutionary Jatindra Nath Banerjee, who instilled in him the confidence to further revolutionary activities in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Bagha Jatin returned to Calcutta in the year 1913 to resume revolutionary activities by reorganizing his party Jugantar. Bagha Jatin's return to politics was so impressive that revolutionary Rashbehari Bose shifted base from Benaras to Calcutta to work under the leadership of Jatindranath Mukherjee.
After the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Jatin Mukherjee's party Jugantar played an important role in controlling the activities of the Berlin Committee or the Indian Independence Party formed in Germany. While the Indians received the support of the Germans in their revolution plans against the English, it was Bagha Jatin who provided leadership and coordination in the entire process. However the activities of Jugantar and Jatin Mukherjee soon caught the attention of the police authorities, forcing Jatin Mukherjee to go for cover to Balasore in Orissa in April 1915. He chose the Orissa coast because this was where the Germans were supposed to deliver arms that would aid India in their uprising against the English. The plan of the Indian revolutionaries to take help from Germany was revealed to the US by Czech revolutionaries. The Americans in turn reported the same to Britain who took steps to curb the powers of Bagha Jatin. It has been famously commented by American publicist that had Bagha Jatin lived on for a few more years, nobody would have known Mahatma Gandhi as the father of the nation.
As soon as the British authorities were made aware of Jatin Mukherjee's involvement with Germany, they took immediate action to seal coastal regions in the delta areas of the Ganges and the Noakhali - Chittagong side of Orissa. A unit of the police intelligence department was sent to Balasore to search for the whereabouts of Jatindranath Mukherjee. Bagha Jatin was kept informed about the actions taken by the British and also left his hiding place, reaching the Balasore railway station after two days of running through forests and hills of Orissa. Not only the British but also the villagers were in pursuit of the fleeing Bagha Jatin and his companions after a reward had been announced by the British government to the person who would give them information on Jatindranath Mukherjee. Jatin Mukherjee and his companions took shelter at Chashakhand region in Balasore to protect themselves against the rain. Though his companions urged Bagha Jatin to leave them and run for cover, he refused to leave his friends alone in the face of danger. Government authorities tracked the revolutionaries down and a gunfight ensued which injured several from the British and Indian side. Bagha Jatin was taken to the Balasore hospital where he breathed his last on September 10, 1915.