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Anushilan Samiti


Anushilan Samiti was one of the secret revolutionary organisations operating in Bengal in the first quarter of the 20th century. It was bent on overthrowing the British colonial rule. The genesis of the terrorist parties in Bengal in the first decade of the twentieth century can be traced to the formation of small, non-terrorist youth clubs devoted to the three-fold aims of physical, mental, and moral development of the youth. Such a concept, developed by bankimchandra chattopadhyay, Swami vivekandanda, and aurobindo ghosh, is rooted in Shakta Hinduism. They urged the Hindus to become vigorous spiritually, physically and intellectually. To give effect to their thoughts, numerous youth clubs designated as Anushilan Samitis (Anushilan Samiti) in the rural and urban areas were formed for undergoing mental and physical exercises long before the actual beginning of the revolutionary terrorism.

It is not very certain at what time the Anushilan Samiti had adopted terrorist programmes. However, the year 1905 is now recognised as the time when the Anushilan Samiti started terrorist activities. The immediate events triggering off terrorism were the unpopular educational reforms of Lord curzon and the Partition of Bengal (1905). In March 1906, members of the Samiti began publishing a Bengali weekly, Jugantar which advocated sedition in no ambiguous terms. Branches of the Samiti were set up all over Bengal.

bipin chandra pal's fiery speech against the Partition of Bengal at Dhaka in 1905 deeply stirred the listeners and spread unrest among Hindu gentry of East Bengal. After Bipin Chandra Pal's speech, eighty youngmen, headed by Pulin Bihari Das, who was once a teacher in the Dhaka Government College and, later, a founding headmaster of 'National School' (Dhaka), formed an Anushilan Samiti in Dhaka in September 1906 with Dhaka as its head quarters.

The aims and methods of the Samiti and the Swadeshi Movement were quite similar. The Calcutta Anushilan Samiti and the Dhaka Anushilan Samiti were formed and organised on the lines of the secret societies of Russia and Italy. pramathanath mitra, a Barrister and a leading figure in the revolutionary movement of late 19th and early 20th century Bengal founded the Calcutta Anushilan Samiti in 1902. Jatindranath Banerjee, a young Bengali who took military training in the army of the Maharaja of Baroda and barindrakumar ghosh, the younger brother of Aurobindo Ghosh, assisted him. The activities of the Calcutta Anushilan Samiti were initially confined to physical and moral training of the members and were not particularly significant till 1907 or 1908.

From 1907 the members belonging to the Anushilan Samiti were very active in revolutionary activities. On 6 December 1907 they tried to blow up the train in which the Lieutenant-Governor of the new province of Eastern Bengal and Assam was travelling. A few days later, on 23 December, they attempted to assassinate Mr Allen, formerly District Magistrate of Dhaka. On 30 April 1908, they mistakenly killed Mrs and Miss Kennedy, two innocent English ladies, but their actual target was Douglas Kingsford, Magistrate of Calcutta and later District Judge of Muzaffarpur, Bihar. Of those involved in the Muzaffarpur action prafulla chaki immediately shot himself, while his associate Khudiram Bose was arrested, tried and hanged. The Muzaffarpur killing is one of the most famous events in the history of Bengal terrorism. Both Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki became heroes among the masses of Bengal. A bomb-manufacturing factory was later discovered in Maniktola garden in Calcutta. Barindra Kumar Ghosh, a leader of the Anushilan Samiti, was brought to trial in the so-called Alipur Conspiracy Case.

The Alipur trial led to a series of arrests and raids culminating in the divisions in the Anushilan Samitis. Though all the samitis were mutually independent of each other, yet there was a kind of central action committee led collectively by Pramathanath Mitra, Barindra Kumar Ghosh, and Pulin Bihari Das. However, the government had identified the samitis in two broad groups: Jugantar group and Dhaka Anushilan group. By and large, police identified the West Bengal terrorists as Jugantar party after The Jugantar and the East Bengal terrorists were described as Dhaka Anushilan Samiti. The revolutionary activities in Western Bengal practically came to a stop for a time from 1910 and since then the storm centre of revolutionary activities shifted to Eastern Bengal.

Organisationally, the Dhaka Anushilan Samiti was an independent body under the supreme direction of Pulin Bihari Das. But it was connected with Pramathanath Mitra's Calcutta Anushilan Samiti where Das used to stay during his visits to Calcutta.

Appeal to Hindu spirituality and religion provided dynamic power to the Samiti. The profoundly Hindu character of its inspiration is evident in the reading list of its members, which was predominantly Hindu mythology. Among the books recommended for its members, the works of Swami Vivekananda were given the first place. The Gita was employed at the time of administering the vows when one was admitted to the fold of the Anushilan Samiti and this was a technical reason why a Muslim could not be admitted.

The Dhaka Anushilan Samiti soon overshadowed its parent body in Calcutta. It spread to the other districts of East Bengal and by 1932 it had 500 branches. Its rapid growth and premier position was due to the organising ability of Pulin Bihari Das. Bhupesh Chandra Nag of Barodi (Dhaka District) was the most able lieutenant of Pulin Bihari Das and took his place when Pulin was arrested. Sachindra Prasad Bose of Jessore was a prominent agitator and the 'Inspector of Branches' of the Dhaka Anushilan Samiti from its inception. The members of these samitis were mostly school and college students coming from Hindu Bhadralok families. The members recruited were divided into two classes sanyasis and grhis (family men).

For their operations, the revolutionaries needed fund, which they tried to raise from plundering the houses of people loyal to the Raj. Pulin Das, at the time of his founding the National School in Dhaka, meant it to be a training ground for raising a revolutionary force. The rapid progress of Pulin's revolutionary activities may be measured by the fact that his students at first drilled with lathis and wooden swords, then with daggers and finally with pistols and revolvers.

The Dhaka Anushilan Samiti apparently broke up when Pulin Das was arrested and tried for dacoities and deported for life. The Samiti then went underground and suspended all its communication for a time with its members in the mofussil. But soon the Samiti revived its operations under new leadership of trailokyanath chakrobarty and Pratul Chandra Ganguly. The famous Barisal Conspiracy Case of 1913 established the fact that there were hundreds of revolutionary followers of the Samiti in the Barisal district alone.

The Dhaka Anushilan Samiti's relations with the Jugantar group had been slender until the First World War. The World War situation provided the Bengali terrorists with the opportunity to coalesce into a somewhat united movement. Jugantar again came into being as a federation of revolutionary cells all over the country. But the government maintained strict vigilance over the suspects who could hardly move without detection on the part of the government security spies, who were implanted down to the very local level. During the non-cooperation movement, the Jugantar rendered support to Gandhi, but the Dhaka Anushilan Samiti continued its revolutionary activities. In 1924, a unity was established among the terrorist detainees of both brands in the Midnapur Central Jail. But the unity could not be effected at field level because of the continued detention of the leaders.

surya sen (Mastarda) conducted the last revolutionary terrorism in East Bengal. Sen, a member of the Dhaka Anushilan Samiti and also of the Jugantar, had organised the Chittagong armoury raid on April 18, 1930, an event which was matchless in organisation and prowess in the whole history of the terrorist movement. Surya Sen was tried and hanged to death on 12 January 1934. But Sen's spark of success and glory came at a time when the revolutionary movement changed its ideology and got merged partly with the Congress and party with the socialists. No more terrorism of note was to be heard after Surya Sen's perilous move. [Chitta Ranjan Misra and Mohammad Shah]