IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


19th December, 2022 History

Copyright infringement not intended


Context: Prominent revolutionaries of the Indian independence movement were hanged on December 17 (Rajendranath Lahiri) and December 19 (Ashfaqullah Khan, Ram Prasad Bismil, Thakur Roshan Singh) in 1927, two years after the Kakori Train Robbery.


The founding of the Hindustan Republican Association

  • In 1920, Mahatma Gandhi declared the launch of the Non-Cooperation Movement, a campaign which asked Indians to revoke their support from any activity that “sustained the British government and economy in India.”
  • Gandhi had envisioned this movement to be non-violent, using his methods of satyagraha to eventually attain self-governance.
  • However, an incident changed the movement’s trajectory in 1922.
  • After police firing killed three protesting men in the town of Chauri Chaurain present-day Uttar Pradesh, a mob later set fire to the police station, burning 22 policemen to death.
  • In his autobiography, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said this incident led to the “sudden” end of the Non-cooperation movement, with Gandhi calling it off despite significant internal disagreement within the Indian National Congress(INC).
  • The HRA was thus founded by a group of young men who were disillusioned by Gandhi’s tactics and what they felt was zealous preaching of “non-violence.”
  • Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqulla Khan, both of whom had a flair for poetry, were among the group’s founders.
  • Others included Sachindra Nath Bakshi and trade unionist Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee. Figures such as Chandra Shekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh would also join the HRA. Their manifesto released on January 1, 1925, was titled Krantikari(Revolutionary).
  • It proclaimed, “The immediate object of the revolutionary party in the domain of politics is to establish a federal Republic of United States of India by an organized and armed revolution.” The manifesto looked at these revolutionaries as “neither terrorists nor anarchists… they do not want terrorism for terrorism’s sake although they may at times resort to this method as a very effective means of retaliation.”
  • Their envisioned republic would be based on universal suffrage and socialist principles, importantly, the “abolition of all systems which make the exploitation of man by man possible.”

What was the Kakori Robbery incident?

  • The train robbery at Kakori was the HRA’s first major action, in August 1925.
  • The Number 8 Down Train ran between Shahjahanpur and Lucknow. On a fateful day, it carried treasury bags meant to be deposited in the British treasury in Lucknow.
  • The revolutionaries planned to rob this money, which they believed legitimately belonged to Indians anyway. Their objective was both to fund the HRA and garner public attention for their work and mission.
  • On August 9, 1925, as the train was passing the Kakori station, about 15 km from Lucknow, Rajendranath Lahiri, a member of the HRA who was already seated inside, pulled the chain and stopped the train.
  • Subsequently, around ten revolutionaries, including Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqullah Khan, entered the train and overpowered the guard. They looted the treasury bags (containing approx Rs 4,600) and escaped to Lucknow.
  • Due to a misfiring Mauser gun, one passenger (a lawyer named Ahmad Ali) was killed during the robbery, harming the revolutionaries’ intentions to elicit a positive public reaction.
  • The British authorities were enraged, undertaking a violent crackdown and soon arresting many members of the HRA.
  • The only major leader of HRA at this time who evaded arrest was Chandrashekhar Azad.

What happened to the HRA afterwards?

  • In 1928, a year after the execution of the Kakori Conspiracy accused, the HRA merged with various other revolutionary groups that had emerged in Punjab, Bihar and Bengal and became the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA).
  • Gradually it made its Marxist leanings more explicit, working with the Communist International and speaking of a revolution involving a struggle by the masses to establish “the dictatorship of the proletariat.”
  • By the 1930s, the HSRA had lost steam with many of its prominent leaders either dead or in prison.

However, over the latter half of the 1920s, the group was key in carrying out various acts of resistance against British rule, participating in protests against the Simon Commission, the subsequent assassination of assistant police commissioner J.P Saunders, the bombing of Viceroy Irwin’s train, among others. In the 1930s it broke down into various regional factions.