Khudiram Bose was all of 18 years of age when he was sentenced to death for attacking and killing three Britishers in Muzaffarpur, Bihar in 1908. 100 years later, Bose remains relatively unknown in spite of being one the youngest revolutionaries of the Indian freedom struggle.
While Bose’s story of sacrifice and love for his motherland is a popular folklore in Bengal, his story remains unknown outside the state- just like several other matyrs who may have sacrificed their lives for the freedom of India but went unnoticed in the larger story of freedom struggle.
A student of Midnapore Collegiate School, 16 year old Bose was heavily influenced and inspired by Aurobindo Ghosh, a veteran freedom fighter and later known as spiritual leader Sri Aurobindo. As a student, Bose was known to act as a messenger for secret revolutionary groups in Midnapore region.
In 1908, Bose and Prafulla Chaki were appointed to kill Muzzaffarpur district magistrate Kingsford. As the Chief Magistrate of Calcutta Presidency, Kingston had become unpopular for passing harsh and cruel sentences on young political activists. He was also noted for inflicting corporal punishments on them and due his deeds, he was loathed by the locals. Soon after his transfer to Muzaffarpur, a plan was hatched to murder him. Chaki and Khudiram were chosen and sent to Muzaffarpur to execute this task.
On reaching Muzaffarpur, Khudiram observed his target for few days, noting his routine and observing his daily schedule. On 30th April 1908, Khudiram threw a bomb at a carriage believed to be carrying Kingsford right outside the European club. But instead of Kingford, the carriage was occupied by the wife and daughter of barrister Pringle Kennedy, a leading pleader of Muzaffarpur Bar.
Since the incident took place in the evening, there was utter chaos in the town. Extra police force was deployed to look for the murderer and a bounty of Rs 1,000 was also announced for anyone who could provide any information on Khudiram.
According to folklore, Khudiram walked through the night in an attempt to flee. He reached a railway station called Vaini after walking nearly 25 miles only to be arrested by two officers there.
Orphaned at an young age, Khudiram was raised by his elder sister. But the idea to fight for the country’s freedom came early in this boy’s mind. So when he was asked to name the co-conspirators during his trial, Bose is said to have taken full responsibility of his actions. His partner, Prafullka Chaki had split up from Khudiram soon after the attack. On being intercepted by the police, he shot himself dead before he could be put inside a jail. Khudiram was unaware of Prafulla’s death at the time of his trial.
Khudiram was eventually hanged to death on 11 August 1908. The morning after, Anandabazar Patrika reported how Bose died ‘cheerful and smiling’.
To honour the 18 year old’s death, poet Pitambar Das wrote and composed the popular Bengali song Ek Baar Bidaye De Ma – a song that resonates the passion the young boy had for his motherland. It is also a song that always manages to bring a lump in one’s throat because of its sad, haunting words.