Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Kakori Conspiracy [25th August, 1925] – A Historical Testament

A small district oblivious of its historical moorings lies 14 km. North of Lucknow. Kakori, once a flourishing town famous for Urdu poetry & literature, is the seat of Qadiria Qalandria Sufi order. Among its eminent personalities were Mohsin Kakorvi, a great poet of the ‘na’at’ genre and Noorul Hasan Nayyier, the compiler of Noorul Lughaat, among the most authentic of Urdu dictionaries. It traces back the Abbasi clan that claims lineage to Al-Abbas, an uncle of Prophet Mohammed. Nawab Ishtiaq Ahmed Abbasi, a noted lawyer from the district was married to Akhtari Faizabadi, who rose in stature as ‘Begum of Kakori’. She was none other than the legendary Begum Akhtar, who also earned the sobriquet of ‘Mallika-e-Ghazal’.

The town attained national eminence on 9th August 1925 with the ‘Kakori Conspiracy’, a well-documented testament of India’s freedom struggle, when a group of revolutionaries braved death to capture the British treasury being ferried in the Shahjahanpur-Lucknow section of the Northern Railway. These brave young men shared a common affiliation as members of the Hindustan Republican Association [HRA], later re-christened as Hindustan Socialist Republican Association [HSRA] whose sole aim was to overthrow the British rule through armed revolution. When caught, most of them were either hanged or deported for life for trials under the Birtish were generally farcical.

As the legend goes, one of its members, Pt. Ramprasad Bismil, who often traveled the Shahjahanpur-Lucknow route, observed that the British treasury was loaded and transported to Lucknow with the minimum of security measures. This is how the seed of thought to loot the treasure-chest germinated in his mind, to help fund the activities of the HRA. At the fall of dusk, when Number 8 Down was about to touch Kakori, the group of revolutionaries that had boarded the train, pulled the chain and overpowered the guard. The steel box carrying the cash was pulled out. Though, it had a hole in the middle through which cash used to be dumped in, the box was so huge that no hand could reach down below to pull out the currency notes. It required a few hefty blows by a stout Ashfaqullah Khan to break open the lock. A sum of Rs. 10,000/- of the British Treasury was taken out and transferred to gunny bags which were then carried away by the revolutionaries in batches.

For a while, no one was captured though investigations had begun in the right earnest. The HRA, however, was not a well-organised group and as expected, once the British dragnet was spread, all the revolutionaries involved in the act were rounded up. Pt. Ramprasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah Khan, Rajendra Lahiri & Roshan Singh were awarded capital punishment, which may appear undeservingly harsh, for all they did was to purloin a diminutive portion of the Government coffers. But it was not so simple. Apparently, during the hold-up, despite the warnings to the passengers not to leave their seats, one European attempted to slip out and was shot dead. That, besides the audacity of the act, was reason enough for stringent court reprisals, for in those days, killing a ‘white’ was considered the most heinous of crimes. Despite a nationwide clamour for mercy, all four were hanged in November 1927. In their poignant memory, a ‘Shaheed Smarak’ has been established just adjacent to the exact spot of the incident, which is identified by an isolated stele (1085 km./47) erected on the left side of the railway track, 02 km. beyond the Kakori station.

This heart-wrenching saga of sacrifice & valour is described somewhat aptly by these lines of Mirza Zauq, set to tune by Khaiyyam and embellished in the vocals of the erstwhile ‘Begum of Kakori’ – ‘Layee hayaat aaye, qazaa le chali chale, apni khushi na aaye, na apni khushi chale..’. Farewell to you, O brave soldiers of the revolution!