Capture, sentencing, and execution by hanging

Last updated: 10 October 2017 From the section Khudiram Basu

Rs 1,000 bounty

Since the incident took place in the evening, there was utter chaos in the town. The British Government machinery was shocked that despite their all efforts two Bengali young men came to Muzaffarpur, traced their target, threw the bomb and flee from the site. The local authorities had been alerted by the Calcutta Police but these two revolutionaries succeeded in eluding the police at Muzaffarpur. In Calcutta, the police did not want to take any further action as the revolutionaries might take alarm and re-form at another centre which would not be known, and would therefore, presumably be more dangerous.

In Muzaffarpur extra police force was deployed to look for the murderer and by midnight a bounty of Rs 1,000 was also publicly announced for anyone who could provide any information on the assassins and help catch them alive. This announcement was proclaimed in Muzaffarpur town by drum beat throughout the night.

Khudiram and Prafulla both were too young to execute this kind of action with professional expertise. They executed their original plan but, while leaving the scene in a hurry they left their shoes and chaddar at the site. Soon, it became obvious that this was the work of two Bengali young men who were seen on the road nearby by two policemen. The police searched some Bengali houses and there was a strong rumour in the morning of 31 April that the houses of all Bengali houses would be searched. All routes were blocked and the police officials were ready to catch Khudiram and Prafulla in all exit points. Every wayside station between Muzaffarpur and Mokamah and Pahleza Ghats were sealed. All trains leaving Muzaffarpur after the incident were thoroughly searched.

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Arrest near Vaini railway station

According to folklore, police took control of the railway stations and monitored every movement. All the neighbouring railway stations were alerted through telegrams. Khudiram knew this and he avoided boarding a train and instead walked all night on foot through the countryside and along the railway track in an attempt to flee and find a safe place to hide. He reached a railway station called Vaini the following morning completely exhausted after walking nearly 20 - 25 miles. When he sought a glass of water from a shop to quench his thirst, he overheard some people discussing the previous night's bomb blast. Someone had said that Kingsford escaped but his wife and daughter were killed. Khudiram was stunned. He instinctively exclaimed "Did Kingsford not die?". Two armed constables, Fatesh Singh and Sheo Prasad Misra, were standing nearby and observed his behaviour. Suspecting him and seeing him barefoot they arrested him. Khudiram struggled with them, resisted, but was finally trapped by the constables. He was found carrying arms, 37 rounds of ammunition, Rs 30 cash, a railway map and a railway timetable. Elsewhere, some historians state two pistols and 30 cartridges were recovered from his possession.

In the morning of 1 May 1908 at around 8 am he reached a market near the station very hungry, thirsty and exhausted. He bought baked rice (chirre) and ate. The proceeded towards a tube-well to have some water. Here the police descended on him. They asked him many questions and Khudiram realised the gravity of situation. He tried to escape but the thin built exhausted young man of 18 years could not free himself from the policemen. He tried to take his revolver from his pocket to fire but failed to do so as he was very tightly held. He was searched and two revolvers and some cartridges were found in his pockets.

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Getting the news of Khudiram's arrest, Armstrong, the Superintendent of Police at Muzaffarpur at once rushed to Vaini with armed guard and brought him in a special train to the district headquarters.

The Vaini railway station has since been renamed to 'Khudiram Basu Pusa Station' in honour of Khudiram.

Handcuffed and detained

Khudiram was brought to Muzaffarpur with handcuffs and detained in jail on that same day (i.e. 1 May 1908). The entire town gathered at the police station to take a look at the teenage boy surrounded by armed policemen. Later on, he was taken to the house of the district magistrate Woodman. During enquiries, Khudiram, who did not know that Prafulla was dead, confessed his role to the magistrate but took full responsibility for the bombing in an attempt to save his co-conspirators. Subsequently a case was filed against him.

By this time the news of the capture of man who had thrown bomb in Muzaffarpur on Englishmen spread like wildfire. People were dying to see the face of the man who dared to kill an Englishman. When people saw the innocent face of this lanky Midnapore boy in an exhausted state in the police custody they were unable to comprehend how this young boy could do that! But, when this boy entered the police van he shouted with passion 'Bande Mataram!' This moment onward this boy had become a symbol of protest against the British rule in the hearts of millions of people.

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The Railway station was crowded to see the boy. A mere boy of 18 or 19 years old, who looked quite determined. He came out of a first-class compartment and walked all the way to the phaeton, kept for him outside, like a cheerful boy who knows no anxiety.....on taking his seat the boy lustily cried 'Vandemataram'.

The Statesman newspaper

Court trial: takes full responsibility before backtracking upon lawyer Kalidas Basu's recommendation

Khudiram's court trial began few weeks later in the Sessions Court, Muzaffarpur. Some historians claim it began on 21 May 1908. Others claim 25 May 1908, or even 28 May 1908. The presiding Judge was Corndoff and two Indians, Nathuniprasad and Janakprasad, were appointed as the jury. Along with Khudiram, two others were tried for assisting the boys in their mission — Mrityunjay Chakraborty and Kishorimohan Bandopadhyay, who had accommodated Khudiram and Prafulla in his dharmashala.

Binodbihari Majumdar and Mannuk were the public prosecutors for the British government, while eminent lawyer Kalidas Basu was the Chief Defence Counsel. He was assisted by the highy reputable Upendranath Sen and Kshetranath Bandopadhyay. They were joined later in the trial by Kulkamal Sen, Nagendra Lal Lahiri and Satischandra Chakraborty — all of them fighting the case without any fees. The advocates looked upon it as an opportunity to serve the nation.

In the court Khudiram said that he had tried to kill Kingsford because he was among the most unjust British men, And, to save his friends and unaware that Prafulla had committed suicide, Khudiram took up the full responsibility of the entire operation and the loss of lives solely upon himself. He also expressed sorrow and regret for two innocent women who died due to this. He kept on repeating this in his statements in the court in a dignified voice. And though Khudiram's attempt at assassination failed because he chose the wrong target, he announced in the court that if he were to get a second chance, he would go after Kingsford again.

However, Khudiram's lawyer Kalidas Basu yearned to save the young boy's life. He advised Khudiram not to take the responsibility of bomb throwing. Khudiram refused to do that. But, once he came to know about the death of Prafulla he followed his lawyer's advice. Kalidas Babu then tried to argue that the bomb was actually thrown by Prafulla Chaki. He also got a mercy petition signed by Khudiram by using all his persuasion power.

Like a devoted patriot, Khudiram took upon himself the entire responsibility for having thrown the bomb, but refused to disclose the identity of his associates or any other secret.

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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.

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It can be said that all through the court trial beginning from 25 May till his execution in August Khudiram was a great symbol of revolutionary courage who cared little for his own life. Various details of his behaviour and utterances clearly testify this. In this hearing he was not apologetic at all and, he took the full responsibility of bomb throwing. He added that he was unhappy over this face that a person like Kingsford was still alive!

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It was during the court proceedings which started on 9 June 1908 onwards that the boldness and conviction of this frail looking young boy from Midnapore really caught the attention of all those who had fortune to see him or know about how he conducted himself. He was selfless and not afraid of death. His conviction that this land must be freed and all those who came in the way of revolutionaries, who love their motherland the way a child loves his mother, be eliminated, was so great that his every uttering in the court became benchmarks of bravery and love for the motherland. "I am a man from Midnapore. My father, mother, brother, uncle, aunty all have passed away. No one is alive except my elder sister whose son is of my age."

What Khudiram allegedly told his lawyer on 11 June 1908, when it was clear that he was to be hanged sooner or later

On 13 June 1908 his case was heard with two assesses - Babu Nathuni Prasad and Babu Janak Prasad. Both of them found Khudiram guilty of murdering Mrs Kennedy and her daughter. Judge Corndoff agreed with the opinion of the assessors and convicted Khudiram of the offence charged and sentenced him to death under Section 302, Indian Penal Code. He was to be executed by hanging. By doing this the British authorities wanted to send a strong message to revolutionary threats.

Judge Corndoff later recollected that the judgement that he would be hanged till death created no visible impression on Khudiram's face. So immune Khudiram was from the proceedings that he was found sleeping while the court proceedings were on. Even after the final judgement when the judge noticed that Khudiram was showing no expression on his face he asked him a few questions which became most cited conversation of Khudiram with his judge:

Judge: "Have you understood the judgement?"
Khudiram: "Yes."
Judge: "Appeal should be made in 7 days time."
Khudiram: "I want to say something."
Judge: "There is no time for it. I do not want it."
Khudiram: "If given chance, I would have given description about how the bomb was made."
Judge: "Take the convict to jail!"

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Khudiram's answers to questions put before him were widely reported as heroic defence of a young revolutionary. On 18 June 1908 Sanjivani published "Khudiram's bold answers" in which this was cited:
"Question: Do you want to see anyone?"
Khudiram: "Yes! I want to see Midnapore once. Didi (elder sister) and her son also".
Question: "Any regret?"
Khudiram: "No."

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Khudiram's bold attitude in front of a packed audience at court left everyone astounded. By now Judge Corndoff was instructing the police to escort him out of the courtroom.

As per the legal system, Khudiram had seven days to appeal to the High Court. Khudiram refused to make appeal. He was ready to embrace destiny and die for his motherland. However, Kalidas Babu tried to convince Khudiram that if he be released he would be able to do more service to the nation. Khudiram was not convinced but he signed only to please his lawyer who was doing all he could to save his life.

The case was submitted to Calcutta High Court under Section 374, Criminal Procedure Code, for confirmation of the sentence and since the appellant had also filed an appeal.

Calcutta High Court maintains execution decision

In a last bid effort to save Khudiram's life, his case was brought at Calcutta High Court under "Khudiram Bose vs Emperor (3 Ind Case 625)" where it was championed in front of two British judges, Justice Bell and Justice Ryves, by prominent Bengali lawyer Narendra Kumar Basu. No other Bengali lawyer came forward to plead his case as there was none who could pay the fees for Khudiram. A final attempt was made to save his life during the hearing, which began on 8 July 1908. Narendra challenged the verdict of the Muzaffarpur session court by saying that the judgement had not followed the strict tenets of the law and was flawed. He presented several arguments which would avert the possibility of a death sentence for a revolutionary who had become an overnight hero for young nationalists in India after the Muzaffarpur incident. Additionally, Narendra reasoned that Prafulla was the bomb-making expert and thus most likely to have thrown the bomb.

The High Court hearing took place on 8 July 1908. Narendrakumar Basu came to Khudiram's defense, and concentrated all his legal skills and experience on this case to save the precious life of a boy who had overnight become a wonder and a hero for the whole country.

He challenged the verdict of the session court by saying that the judging was not according to law and was flawed. He reasoned that according to article 164 of the penal code, the accused is required to submit his statement in front of a first class magistrate (which Mr. Woodman) was not, and moreover during the first statement Khudiram was not told anything of the person's identity and position.

Secondly, pointed out Basu, the article 364 requires that all questions to the accused be made in the mother tongue of the same, and all answers from the accused in his mother tongue be documented verbatim in that language, but which was done in English in Khudiram's case. Moreover, Khudiram's signature was required to be given on the statement on the same date and at the time of the statement in the presence of the magistrate, but in reality Khudiram was made to sign the day after, and in front of a different person, who was an additional magistrate. Lastly, since such a statement are by definition required to be totally voluntary, with the magistrate being sure that it was so, there was no proof that Khudiram was allowed to give a voluntary statement without any direct or indirect manipulation after his capture.

Lastly Narendrakumar Basu said that Prafulla aka "Dinesh" (the name used in the trial) was stronger than Khudiram was, and he was the bomb-expert among the two of them, thus it is highly likely that the actual thrower of the bomb was "Dinesh". Further Prafulla's suicide on the verge of capture only reinforces the possibility of his being the actual thrower of the bombs.

Wikipedia - Khudiram Bose

After the defense, it was announced by Justice Bell and Justice Ryves that the final verdict would be passed five days later on 13 July 1908.

Since Khudiram was the only surviving attacker, and his lone statement was the foundation for the entire case, and since all the points made by Narendra Kumar Basu were believed to be technically correct, Khudiram's supporters were hopeful for the sake of law - about which the British prided themselves ad infinitum - Khudiram's life would at least be spared.

However, on 13 July 1908 the Calcutta High Court decreed that the order of Muzaffarpur Court was not to be changed. The judges reasoned, even if it was 'Dinesh' who threw the bomb, it was the "common intention of them both" to kill the District Judge and as such "the other was equally guilty of the offence of murder". Khudiram's intial "voluntary" confession, the evidence of eye-witnesses, and the "impracticality" of recording the confession in Bangla, further strengthened their judgement. The appeal was dismissed and death sentence was upheld.

44. We agree with the Sessions Judge and assessors in finding Khudiram Bose guilty of the offence of murder as charged.

45. The case has been tried with great care and fairness by the Sessions Judge and every assistance that was possible was given to the accused for his defence. We may add that we desire to endorse the encomiums passed by the Sessions Judge on the good work done by the District and Police authorities in the detection of the offenders and in the investigation and inquiry into the offence.

46. It remains for us to determine whether there are to be found in this case any extenuating circumstances in favour of the accused which would in law justify us in reducing the extreme sentence which has been passed by the Sessions Judge and in dealing with question, we are bound by the law and can only give effect to considerations which would in law justify us in interfering with the sentence. Other considerations, if there are any in this case, can only be dealt with by another authority.

47. The learned pleader for the appellant in pleading on behalf of his client for a mitigation of the sentence has urged the following facts:- (1) his youth, his age being about 19 years, (2) his confession to the District Magistrate which shows that his feelings have not been fully developed and that the crime was an insane act of criminal folly, and (3) his attitude during the trial which goes to support the inference that the accused is not a young man of strong mind, and that he was a mere tool in the hands of others.

48. The accused is not a mere youth but a young man who has attained the age fixed for majority in this country. The crime was not committed at the instigation of older men present on the spot. For twenty days the accused and his companion had been in Mozufferpore watching for an opportunity to commit the crime, and when they thought the opportunity offered itself they carried it out with deliberation and determination after first taking precautions to avoid detection and secure escape. It is impossible to treat the accused as a young man who did not know fully well the serious nature of the crime he was committing.

49. His confession does not appear to us to disclose that his feelings were undeveloped or that the act was one of criminal folly. He has given his reasons for the commission of the crime and has explained the steps which he took to carry it into effect in concert with his companion. His conduct may, as the learned pleader observed, indicate great depravity and wickedness of mind, but that is not a fact which could be taken into consideration in extenuation of the offence.

50. Nowhere in the defence during the trial was it stated that the accused was a tool in the hands of others. In his confession he claimed that the intention to commit the crime was his own, though it had been aroused by the speeches and writings of others and that the commission of the crime was carried out by him and Dinesh at their own initiative. Whether this be true or not it is impossible for us to say, but on the materials before us we are unable to give effect to the suggestion of the learned pleader that the accused was a mere tool in the hands of others in committing the crime.

51. The murder was deliberately planned and cruelly carried out under cover of darkness by the accused and his companion, both being armed with pistols and having made careful preparations for their own safety and escape.

52. We can find in the case no extenuating circumstance which would in law justify our interference with the extreme sentence which has been passed on the accused by the Sessions Judge. We, therefore, confirm the conviction and sentence, and dismiss the appeal.

Extract from the judgement of 'Khudiram Bose vs Emperor' (3 IC 625)

A frantic appeal was made to the Governor-General to overrule a death sentence. But it was summarily denied. The order came to carry out the death sentence by 11 August 1908. Calcutta erupted in intense protests and the streets were choked by processions for several days.

The sentence led to a huge uproar among people, young and old, who accumulated in front of the courthouse to shout slogans of protest against the sentence. The local press was vociferous in making the sentiments of the Indians heard.

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The spreading of massive protest in Kolkata also made the British apprehensive about letting Khudiram free and amid all the protest, Khudiram was hanged. It was said the British made his trial a farce because of political reasons.

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Smiling to the gallows

In police custody Khudiram asked Upendranath Sen, the defence lawyer who assisted Kalidas Basu in Muzaffarpur Session Court and who was also then a correspondent of 'Bengalee' daily newspaper, to supply him biographies of Italian revolutionaries Mazzini and Garibaldi and the works of Rabindranath Tagore. Khudiram read these.

On 10 August 1908, the day before his execution, Kalidas Basu met Khudiram in jail. Khudiram told the pleader that he 'would die as fearlessly as the Rajput women of old'.

On the day before his execution, Khudiram had told lawyers: "Do not worry. In old days Rajput women used to jump into the fire to accept death without any fear. I will also accept my death without any fear."

The stories of how boldly one faces death are considered a yardstick to know the quality of a man. Khudiram Bose's fearlessness was pronounced in all his deeds before he was executed.

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On the date of the hanging, the region around the Muzaffarpur Jail was packed with a swelling crowd before the scheduled time of death. People holding flower garlands filled up the front rows of the crowd. Upendranath Sen reports having reached the venue by 5 am, in a car with all the necessary funerary arrangements and clothes. A 15 feet high execution podium was erected. Khudiram had requested somebody to bring charanamrit (Holy Water) from a temple which he had before moving towards the podium. He stepped on to the platform shouting 'Vande mataram' (I praise thee, Mother) loudly and put the noose around his neck with his own hands. The hangman pulled the string and Khudiram died almost immediately. It was 6 am on 11 August 1908. Khudiram was 18 years 8 months and 8 days old - making him the youngest freedom fighter of India. The morning after, Amrita Bazar Patrika, one of the prominent dailies of that era, reported how Basu died 'cheerful and smiling'. The young man was not hesitant to embrace his destiny.

Khudiram's execution took place at 6 am. He walked to the gallows firmly and cheerfully and even smiled when the cap was drawn over his head.

Amrita Bazar Patrika wrote on 12 August 1908, the day after Khudiram's hanging, under the headline 'Khudiram's End: Died cheerful and smiling'

Khudiram Bose was executed this morning...It is alleged that he mounted the scaffold with his body erect. He was cheerful and smiling.

The Empire, an established British newspaper

The sentence led to a huge uproar among people. But it was Khudiram Bose who surprised many by embracing his death gracefully by going to the gallows on 11 August 1908 with a smile on his face.

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On the occasion of Khudiram Bose's execution for the Muzaffarpur bombing, the Bande Mataram commented that "he not only read the Gita but also acted on it". Such a focus on action as its own justification was still not the same as the reveling in destruction that was liable to be associated with nihilism, however - or with the similar characterisation of Bengali shaktism [strength].

Among the Bengali militants, it was typical to fixate on the climatic moment of sacrifice itself rather than on the tactical outcome or mode of social organisation to come afterward. But there was nevertheless a tactical goal: to use the symbolic violence to rouse quiescent popular consciousness, by punching a hole in the complacent functioning of an intolerable system.

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Khudiram's life underlines the rebellious background of some children that contributed to their evolution as political activists in the national crisis of the time. Khudiram's example facilitated the creation of insubordinate child protagonists who were the pride of their parents, teachers, community and by extension the nation.

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Burial

So powerful was the impact of Khudiram on his sympathisers that Upen Babu refused to be present at the time of his execution. He was broken. He, however, made arrangements for the last rites of Khudiram. Khudiram's dead body was claimed by some local Bengalis who took it to the cremation ghat. A procession followed his last journey. Those who had assembled there were overwhelmed with emotions. Upendra Nath Sen has mentioned that while he was pouring water on the ashes of Khudiram a piece of burnt wood touched his chest leaving a scar.

Public uproar

Khudiram's execution had been a great sensation. In Calcutta his execution was mourned by thousands. On 11 August 1908 students of schools and colleges attended classes barefooted. Most of the students of Presidency and General Assembly College (later Scottish Church College) came to their colleges in mourning dress. Hindu School's students also came barefooted. Many young men took vegetarian food on that day.

Khudiram was the first Bengali who attempted to kill a Rajpurush (British).

Sanjivani sums up the pride in Khudiram's act

[Khudiram had become]... a martyr and a hero. Students and many others put on mourning for him and schools were closed for two or three days as a tribute to his memory. His photographs had an immense sale, and by-and-by the young Bengali bloods took to wearing dhotis with Khudiram Bose's name woven into the border of the garment.

Times newspaper (UK)

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