When Indian revolutionaries looted the train at Kakori

Even 95 years after the Kakori train robbery – one of the defining events of Indian independence movement, the memories of it are still etched in the heart of every Indian.

The Kakori Train Robbery, also known as the Kakori Plot, was an armed robbery that took place on August 9, 1925 on a train in central Uttar Pradesh and the subsequent trial instituted by the government of British India against more than 20 Indian revolutionaries accused of direct or indirect involvement in the act of bravery.

The revolutionaries were the members of the newly formed Republican Hindustan Association, a revolutionary organization, which was later renamed the Republican Socialist Hindustan Association. The mission of the revolutionary organization was to liberate India from British colonial rule through a revolution that included armed rebellion.

The Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) was formed in October 1924 by a group of Indian National Congress youths, displeased with Mahatma Gandhi’s sudden call to stop the non-cooperation movement.

The main objective of Kakori’s conspiracy was to gain funds for the HRA by taking money from the British administration by force. The HRA’s other objective was to create a positive image of the HRA among the Indians by attacking a high-profile British government target with minimal collateral damage.

Kakori’s flight was planned by revolutionaries – Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqullah Khan. It was performed by Bismil, Khan, Chandrashekhar Azad, Rajendra Lahiri, Shachindra Bakshi, Keshab Chakravarty, Murari Lal Khanna (Gupta), Banwari Lal, Mukundi Lal Gupta and Manmathnath Gupta.

On August 8, 1925, the decision to steal from the public treasury to buy weapons was made at a meeting of the HRA. The next day, August 9, the revolutionaries stopped train number 8 near Kakori traveling from Saharanpur to Lucknow and looted Rs. 8000 from the guard cabin. The particular train was supposedly carrying bags of money belonging to the British government treasury.

The target was a guard cabin, which was transporting money collected from various railway stations to be deposited in Lucknow. Although no passengers were targeted by the revolutionaries, a passenger named Ahmed Ali was killed in the crossfire between the guards and the revolutionaries. This made it a manslaughter case. After the incident, most of the revolutionaries fled to Lucknow.

Following the theft, the British administration launched a manhunt to arrest all the revolutionaries. A month after the attack, more than two dozen HRA members were arrested. British authorities arrested more than 40 people for planning and executing the plot.

On September 26, 1925, Ram Prasad Bismil was arrested by 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, then reorganized the HRA and led the organization until 1931. He committed suicide after being seriously wounded and until his last bullet at Alfred Park, now known as Chandrashekhar Azad Park, during a shootout with police on February 27, 1931.

Kakori conspiracy case

The trial on the Kakori conspiracy case started in Lucknow on May 21, 1926 against 28 active members of the Republican Hindustan Association. Interestingly, the British Crown Prosecutor was Pandit Jagat Narayan Mulla, who refused to defend the revolutionaries. He was very close to Motilal Nehru, the father of Jawaharlal Nehru. Mulla also did not like Ram Prasad Bismil much since 1916 since he led the procession of Bal Gangadhar Tilak in Lucknow. He was appointed public prosecutor.

The final verdict of the Kakori Kand was pronounced in July 1927. About fifteen people were acquitted by the court for lack of evidence. Five people escaped during the trial. The court sentenced Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaq Ullah Khan, Thakur Roshan Sing and Rajendra Lahiri to death.

Sachindra Bakshi and Shachindra Nath Sanyal were sentenced to deportation to prison cell in Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The others were sentenced to varying prison terms – Manmath Nath Gupta was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Revolutionaries such as Ram Krishna Khatri, Mukundi Lal, Raj Kumar Singh, Govind Charan Kar and Yogesh Chandra Chatterjee have all been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Suresh Charan Bhattacharya and Vishnu Sharan Dublish were imprisoned for seven years. Prem Krishna Sharma and Bhupen Nath Sanyal were imprisoned for five years, while Keshab Chakravarthy was sentenced to four years in prison.

The revolutionaries, who were sent to different prisons to serve their sentences, undertook hunger strikes to protest against the conditions of detention and also to demand for them the status of political prisoners.

The death sentences of the four revolutionaries sparked strong protests in the country. However, the colonial government was unwilling to reconsider. The four death sentences were carried out between December 17 and 19, 1927.

Thelma J. Longworth