Jatindranath (or Jyotindranath, as he used to sign) was born on 8 December 1879 at his maternal uncles’ house at Koya in Kushtia Subdivision (now in Bangladesh) of Nadia district. His ancestral home was at Sadhuhati-Rishkhali in Jhenidah Subdivision of Jessore (now in Bangladesh, too). His father Umeshchandra, a well-to-do Brahmin of patriotic and spirited disposition, died when he was five and his sister, Benodebala, ten.
His mother, Sharatshashi, took the children to her parents’ house at Koya. Basanta Kumar Chattopadhyaya, her elder brother, brought up the children with exceptional care. He became the Government advocate at Krishnagar, where he got Jatindranath admitted into the Anglo-Vernacular School.
Sharatshashi laid solid foundations for the character of the future Jatindranath, morally and physically redoubtable. Side by side with his studies, he was encouraged to be proficient in wrestling, swimming and riding. At eleven, Jatindranath caught by the mane and controlled a restive horse that caused a scare on the street of Krishnagar. With his years grew in number the anecdotes about his acts of valour and charity. While in Government service, he knocked down with blows and kicks four British soldiers, who had insulted the “native”. He wrestled with, and killed with a dagger a tiger which was causing havoc in the countryside. He was thus called Bagha Jatin (‘Jatin valorous like a tiger’).
Passing the Entrance examination in 1895, he joined the Central College, Kolkata, for his First Arts. Soon he started visiting Swami Vivekananda and was considerably influenced by the latter’s vision of a politically independent India as the spiritual guide of humanity. For acquiring a greater physical force and nerves of steel, the Swami sent him to his own trainer in wrestling, Ambu Guha and his son, Khetra Guha. This wrestling club was, towards the end of the 19th Century, a meeting point of several thought-masters of the time.
Anxious to be financially free and boycotting university studies which helped only preparing efficient servants of a colonial government, Jatindranath simultaneously took a steno-typist’s course, freshly introduced in India and leading to a lucrative career. On completing this course, he found immediately a job with Ahmutty & Co, a European merchant office, and he left study. In 1899 he joined at Muzzaffarpur the service of Barrister Pringle Kennedy, “a Premchand Roychand scholar of the University of Calcutta, a lawyer and Editor of the Trihoot Courrier. He (…) pleaded for a National Army for India from the Congress platform”: this contact with Kennedy was a great impetus in Jatin’s creative approach to life. In August 1901 he was appointed in the Bengal Secretariat, before serving – since May 1904 – as a confidential clerk with the Bengal Government’s Finance Secretary, Henry Wheeler. According to the Police Report, “In 1907, he was sent to Darjeeling on some special work. From early he had had the reputation of a local Sandow and he soon attracted attention in Darjeeling in cases in which, true to his reputation as one of the earliest exponents of the physical force party, he tried to measure his strength with Europeans. In 1908 he was leader of one of several gangs that had sprung up in Darjeeling, whose object was the spreading of disaffection, and with his associates he started a branch of the [Calcutta] Anushilan Samiti, called the Bandhab Samiti.”
Meanwhile, several influences had been working on him. Bankimchandra Chattopadhyaya’s Anandamath inspired the generation. Benodebala, then a childless widow, instilled patriotic fervour in him. The Guhas’ wrestling club introduced him to Sachin Banerjee. Sachin’s father, Yogendra Vidyabhushan, though a Deputy Magistrate, published exciting essays and biographies on Mazzini and Garibaldi. His writings attracted to his house prominent revolutionaries including Aurobindo Ghosh. Right from his first meeting Jatindranath Mukherjee at Vidyabhushan’s house, in 1903, the young man’s bearing impressed Aurobindo. Devoted service to the plague-stricken people induced Sister Nivedita to speak of Jatindranath to Vivekananda, and to discover that they had already met often.
In 1900 Jatindranath married Indubala daughter of Umapada Banerjee of Jeerut-Balagarh (Hugli). She was brought up in her maternal uncle’s family at Kumarkhali near Koya. The family’s Vaishnav traditions gave her the fortitude to bear sufferings calmly. In 1904 Jatindranath was spiritually initiated by Swami Bholananda Giri pf Hardwar, who was known to be infusing into several disciples a zeal for national independence.
Agitation against 1905 Partition of Bengal gave an impetus to the growth of Samitis or physical culture associations. Some of them were banned, some went underground. Revolutionary thinkers were preaching “Passive Resistance”, which really meant building up of a parallel government by the people. Sri Aurobindo knew that it presupposed a conscious nation, which Indians were not yet. As a first step towards arousing the people, he agreed with Jatindranath Mukherjee to conceive of acts of self-immolation under the patriotic impulse.
He initiated action. The journal Yugantar as well as a bomb factory were started. It all resulted in the martyrdoms of Prafulla Chaki and Kshudiram Basu, Kanailal Dutta and Satyen Basu. Other actions, initiated at Jatindranath’s instance, set brilliant examples of self-immolation by Charu Bose and Biren Dutta Gupta. The Yugantar ideal of defiance of death produced the desired effect: Awakening dawned.
Aurobindo later described Jatindranath as his right-hand man. Their mutual relation was unknown. Aurobindo settled in Calcutta in 1906, when Jatindranath, under the cloak of Government service, visited towns, villages and ‘Samitis’, forming a loose federation of secret groups. Such an organisation was less vulnerable to conspiracy charges. Some of his activities remain unknown to this day because of the spirit of self-effacement in which Jatindranath worked.
His personality fascinated young men. To them his message was: Be men; read the Gita, never fear death. His headquarters for inter-provincial links were the ‘Shramajibi Samabaya’ managed by Amarendranath Chatterjee and, uniquely for Bengal groups, the ‘Chhatra Bhandar’, run by Nikhileswar Roy Moulick. Naren Chatterjee of Sibpur group had the mission of seducing Jat soldiers in the Calcutta Fort and Naren Bose of ‘Atmonnati’ group maintained contact with Indian soldiers in Upper Indian Cantonments. Rasbehari Bose later benefited by these as also by Swami Niralamba’s civilian organisations at Delhi, Lahore and other North Indian towns, particularly with the help of the Arya Samaj leaders.
When Biren Dutta Gupta killed a Government prosecutor in the crowded High Court premises on 24 January, 1910, Jatindranath with 46 others was tried in the Howrah Conspiracy case. The case failed. But Jatindranath lost the Government job. He started contract business constructing Jessore-Jhenidah Railway line. Earlier, during the anti-partition agitation there was an exodus of young men in search of ways for achieving Indian freedom. Leaving India in 1906, Taraknath Das – Jatindranath’s emissary – had been joined up by Guran Ditt Kumar, Adhar Laskar and Panduranga Khankoje (Tilak’s emissary); they organised night schools for the Indian immigrants on the Western coast of North America. Earnest about Jatindranath’s scheme of introducing a systematic military training in India (training especially denied to the Bengalis), Taraknath entered in 1908 the Norwich university in Vermont, “a high-class engineering and military establishment, in order to receive military training. He also applied for enlistment … in the Vermont National Guard, but this was not permitted by the US authorities. It was noticed in the College that he was bitterly hostile to England and voiced his hostility on all occasions. He had, in the meantime, been singled out as the editor of the Free Hindustan published from New York, “an imitation of the Indian Sociologist” (edited by Shyamaji Krishnaverma from London). Their efforts led to the formation, in America, of the nuclei of the Ghadar party, later led by Hardyal and, in Germany, of the Berlin Committee initaited by Birendranath Chattopadhyaya, Champakaraman Pillai and others.
In 1911, Taraknath Das informed from California that Germany was preparing for war against Britian. Deciding to take advantage of the war, Jatindranath advised revolutionary societies to be prepared and to avoid overt acts. He consulted his senior colleague, Nirlamba, at Brindaban, where Rashbehari was also called. A provisional programme was drawn up.At this juncture, in spite of great financial difficulties, Jatindranath sent out Satyen Sen to meet Tarak Das in Seattle (USA) with a clear picture of the Extremist preparation. On learning about this instruction from Satyen Sen, Tarak Das invited Bhupendranath Datta – studying then in New York for his graduation – to join him in Seattle. Two years later, on obtaining his M.A. from Brown University, Datta was to leave for Berlin with a message from Tarak Das and join a batch of highly patriotic Indian students, organising themselves into a Committee for serving India’s cause.
Inside India, existing revolutionary groups had been reorganising the Yugantar Party under Jatindranath’s leadership; the highly centralised branch of the Anusilan Samiti in Dhaka - believing more in a coup than in a revolution - dissented. The Anglo-German War began in August 1914. Before going underground, Jatindranath entrusted his sister Benodebala with the care of his wife Indubala, his daughter, Ashalata and his two sons, Tejendranath and Birendranath.
Birendranath Chattopadhyaya with a few members of the Berlin Committee contacted the German Foreign Office. A treaty followed envisaging all help for an Indian uprising, even an army of liberation strictly under Indian control invading India in a pincers movement : through Afghanistan and through Thailand via Burma. Aid arrangements were to be implemented by the German Embassy in America. With it was attached an Indian Committee, of which Taraknath Das, Hemendra Kishore Rakshit Roy, Bhupendranath Dutta were the leading spirits and were working with the Ghadar Party. Some money was received at Harry and Sons in Calcutta. More being necessary, Jatindranath now permitted Naren Bhattacharya (M. N. Roy) to loot a British firm’s cash. Some more money was similarly collected.
Indian emigres, returning from the Far East via Canada, disturbed the silent preparations in the Punjab. Rasbehari sought Jatindranath’s advice. The latter in the company of M. N. Roy and Atul Ghosh visited Benares. Their conference with Rasbehari decided that an army mutiny in Upper India might precede a general rising. A provisional date was fixed. But betrayal baffled Rashbehari. Isolated skirmishes followed. Rasbehari escaped to Japan in May 1915.
Receiving messages from Berlin through Shrish Sen, and then from U. S. through Satyen Sen and Pingley, Jatindranath sent Bholanath Chattopadhyay to Gokarni near Goa and Dr. Jatin Ghosal and Harikumar Chakravati to the Sunderbans to unload arms from German ships. He himself went to Balasore and found shelter at Kaptipada in Mayurbhanj, then an Indian State. The U.S., meanwhile, grew anti-German. Besides, Indian revolutionaries in America, trusting the Czechoslovaks, who sought Allied help against the Austro-Germans, were betrayed. Czechoslovak reports were pursued by British Naval and Indian Central Intelligence.
The chartered German ship Maverik, compelled to leave the U. S. coasts without the expected quantities of aid, was intercepted and interned at Batavia. Other shipments met a similar fate. The Sunderbans party returned disappointed. Bholanath was captured. M. N. Roy, sent to investigate the causes of dislocation, could not return and reached U. S. via the Far East.
Clues, succeeding clues, exposed Harry and Sons in Calcutta, Universal Emporium at Balasore and eventually Jatindranath’s Kaptipada shelter. He got timely information but, characteristically, would not leave behind two comrades who were nine miles away. Exit was cut off, British police alerted village officers in Mayrubhanj and Balasore.
Hundreds of simple villagers, misled into believing that they were to apprehend ordinary criminals, were in pursuit. With occasional skirmishes, the revolutionists, running through thorny jungles and marshy lands, harried and hungry for days, at last took up position on 9 September 1915 behind an improvised trench in a bush on a hill-top at Chashakhand in Balasore.
Reinforced by the army unit from Chandbali, the police party surrounded them. An unequal battle of 75 minutes between the five revolutionaries with Mauser pistols and an overwhelming number of police and armymen with up to-date rifles ended with an unrecorded number of casualties on the Government side and on the revolutionists' side, with Chittapriya Ray Chaudhuri’s death, Jatindranath being mortally and Jatish Pal seriously wounded and Manoranjan Sengupta and Niren Dasgupta being captured after their ammunition ran out. Jatindranath breathed his last in the Balasore hospital on 10 September. Niren and Manoranjan were executed, and Jatish was transported for life.
During this trial, the prosecuting British official advised the Defence lawyer to read a manuscript by Jatindranath and remarked: “Were this man living, he might lead the world.” Jatindranath was known to be writing good English and Bengali and contributing in handwritten magazines short stories and poems in Bengali, some of them humorous, ridiculing antiquated social ideas and practices.
Jatindranath knew that logically, in a country under bondage - owing to leakage and betrayals - such an ambitious plan could not but fail. He did consider this failure to be a pathway to success. Indeed - as reminds the eminent historian Amales Tripâthi -, this operation dealt a serious blow to the British colonial policy, since definite chances were on the side of the Indians. He quotes the overtly admitted report by Charles Tegart - that notorious Commissioner of Police in British India - that the driving power of Jatin was immense; that this uprising had been extremely well conceived; that it could lead to Great Britain’s defeat in the First World War. Out of the ashes of these martyrs, and with the help of those who survived, in 1915, rose the phoenix of revolution incarnated in the Mass Movement led by Mahâtmâ Gandhi.
Uncommonly fearless and with superhuman physical strength, Jatindranath’s intellectual and spiritual qualities, attributed by many to an inner illumination, won deep esteem even of persons like Poet Tagore, Sri Aurobindo and C. R. Das. Between his workers and Jatindranath there subsisted a relation of rare devotion and love that sometimes reclaimed the moral outcast.
1. Jatindranath Mukherjee (Bagha Jatin) From Wikipedia
2. Jatindranath Mukherjee (Bâghâ Jatîn) By Bhupendrakumar Datta
3. Bagha Jatin By Sathyasai