A Gamble for Freedom
The empire labelled it as a conspiracy but it was a radical attempt at fighting colonisation instead of sitting back and appealing to their conscience. With the Kakori Conspiracy, a group of revolutionaries made a dash to liberty or freedom.
A newspaper report giving an account of the Kakori conspiracy; Image Source: Public Domain

Happened on 9th August 1925

In the middle of the night, someone pulled a chain of the Number 8 Down Train en route to Lucknow. This any usual journey on any usual night would turn into something extraordinary. Near the station of Kakori, a few people boarded this train. These weren’t just passengers but revolutionaries on a mission to shake the foundations of the British colonial state.

The members of the Hindustan Republican Association were radical revolutionaries, they believed in taking action directly and the plan this time was to plunder a train.

It was said that this particular train was carrying money from fellow countrymen. Looting this would kill two birds with a stone- prevent the British from using this money to further oppress Indians and carry out revolutionary activities of HRA.

In the pursuit of freedom, it was necessary for change to accompany optics that stood as a clear declaration of the motive of Indians. This audacity was a message that we had what it takes to live in sovereignty.

The plan was the brainchild of Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqulla Khan, and accompanying them were Rajendra Lahiri, Chandrashekhar Azad, Sachindra Bakshi, Keshab Chakravarty, Manmathnath Gupta, Mukundi Lal, Murari Lal Gupta and Banwari Lal.

With great courage and grit, on 9th August 1925, these revolutionaries stepped onto the train, ready to risk it all.

A meticulous yet simple plan of action was laid down- get on the train, take the cash and leave. Everything was under execution perfectly until Khan handed a Mauser C96 semi-automatic pistol to Gupta.

In the heat of the moment, mixed with excitement and apprehension, Gupta accidentally fired it. What followed was the worst thing possible- the bullet hit a passenger, Ahmed Ali, who went to see his wife in the ladies compartment.

Not only did the sound of the firing alert the guards on duty, but Ali was also killed. From this point on, things went completely out of control and by the end of the ambush, all revolutionaries were arrested. While only 10 men were a part of the Kakori conspiracy, in an iron-fisted crackdown, the British took away more than 40 people.

Although some of them were let off, the majority were to stand a trial that was heavily stacked against them. They were the enemies of the state who murdered an innocent man. Many of these revolutionaries were already operating exclusively underground as the colonial regime was hunting them down. Multiple appeals were made but all were rejected. Things were perfect for the British as they finally had these men in chains.

In the end, the legal battle lasting 18 months was lost. Bismil, Ashfaqulla Khan, Roshan Singh and Rajendra Nath Lahiri were given death sentences. Many received long imprisonments.

Despite the restraints they were put in, these revolutions did not stop for their free spirits could not be contained within prison bars. They wrote autobiographies, pamphlets, and songs that cherished complete freedom. The British put in all their effort in banning the circulation of Bismil’s writings but the sheer force of his will stood in their way.

Even though the participants of the Kakori conspiracy did not succeed in their pursuit, they did manage to give a huge blow to the power of the British, inspiring many to get into action and fight for the nation.

Palak Jain Author
Right from the dark academia tag on Tumblr to Post-Colonial perspectives, I am a History Honors student at Delhi University, who is interested in everything about the subject. When I am not reading or watching animated movies, I like to spend my time (unsuccessfully) learning languages.

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