Intelligence Failures, Militarization, and Rehabilitation: The Anti-Terrorist Campaign After the Chittagong Armoury Raid
- 68 Downloads
This chapter analyzes how the Bengal revolutionaries’ escalation of their anticolonial campaign in the early 1930s led to the deployment of new anti-terrorist strategies by colonial authorities. The Chittagong Armoury Raid of April 1930 demonstrated the revolutionaries’ capacity to carry out more ambitious attacks on colonial officials and institutions. The revolutionaries’ renewed campaign of violence also created a sense of panic on the part of the white community in Bengal, who demanded summary justice and reprisals. In response to the surge in revolutionary activity, British and Indian Army troops were stationed in key districts of the province, and military officers (known as Military Intelligence Officers) bolstered the ranks of the Intelligence Branch. The militarization of the counter-terrorist campaign and the issues of civil-military cooperation that they raised anticipated colonial counter-insurgency campaigns following the Second World War. At the same time as colonial authorities came to rely more extensively on the military in the policing of the revolutionaries, they simultaneously intensified efforts to “reform” and “rehabilitate” many of the thousands of terrorist suspects detained during these years in an effort to eliminate the threat of revolutionary violence in Bengal.
Mohandas Gandhi’s Salt March of March 1930 began the second major cycle of nationalist civil disobedience in interwar India. The campaign was to last for almost four years and produced the arresting and, to imperialists, unsettling image of Gandhi, in Winston Churchill’s words, “striding half-naked up the steps of the Vice-regal Palace” in early 1931. Equally disturbing to imperial authorities was the upsurge in revolutionary anticolonial activity that took place during these years. The prosecution of Indian and British labor activists and revolutionaries in the Meerut Conspiracy Case (1929–1933), at the time the most expensive legal case in British imperial history, illustrated the transnational threat that imperialists believed that communism posed to the British Empire.1 In April 1929, two members of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, Bhagat Singh and B. K. Dutt, were arrested for disrupting the Central Legislative Assembly by throwing two non-lethal bombs, firing pistols, and distributing propaganda leaflets. The execution of Bhagat Singh for his role in the Lahore Conspiracy Case made him into a nationalist martyr and a household name in India.2 In all, the Intelligence Bureau of the Government of India recorded violent anticolonial activity in nine Indian provinces, stretching from the Sindh to Burma, in 1930.3 Following an assassination attempt against the Governor of Punjab in December 1930, the Director of the Intelligence Bureau gloomily reflected that “at the close of the year, it is unfortunately beyond all doubt that the twin shadows of violence and terrorism are steadily lengthening and deepening over the land.”4
In Bengal, one event stood above all others in terms of revolutionary activity: the Chittagong Armoury Raid of 18 April 1930. At around 10:30 in the evening, three groups of Jugantar party revolutionaries carried out a coordinated attack on security and communications installations in the port of Chittagong in eastern Bengal. The revolutionaries set fire to the Police and Auxiliary Force armories and the telephone office, while two other groups of insurgents cut telegraph wires, derailed a train, and attempted to derail another at locales forty and seventy miles from Chittagong, respectively.5
Although the revolutionaries retreated into the hills around Chittagong a few hours later, the night’s events represented only the beginning of the raid’s impact in Bengal. Colonial authorities were fortunate that the revolutionaries failed to achieve some of their critical objectives. Although they seized rifles and Lewis guns from the Auxiliary Force Armoury, they were unaware that the ammunition for the rifles and machine guns was stored elsewhere, rendering a potentially powerful insurgent arsenal useless.6 A British captain who had attempted to confront the revolutionaries that night wrote that “had they been armed with 0.303 rifles and ammunition nothing could have prevented their occupying Chittagong and terrorizing the whole district.”7
While noting the revolutionaries’ mistakes, the Bengal Police Intelligence Branch (IB) also, in somewhat ominous tones, acknowledged their achievements. In R. E. A. Ray’s judgment, “in the Chittagong raid Bengal terrorists reached a standard of organization and daring of conception and execution never previously attained.”8 In particular, the IB noted the thoroughness of the revolutionaries’ months of preparations for the uprising. Ray acknowledged that “the mobilization scheme was so well thought out” that when two of the raid’s leaders, “alarmed by indications that the police were mediating some action against them, decided to make their attempt earlier than they had originally planned, they were able to collect their force in one day, detail the various batches under leaders and proceed to the attack only one hour later than their scheduled time.”9 The raid, “the first of its kind” among the Bengali revolutionaries, Ray concluded “was very nearly successful.”10
The Chittagong Armoury Raid illustrated the evolving capacity of the Bengali revolutionaries to challenge the colonial state. Not only was the Bengal Police Intelligence Branch unable to prevent the raid, but colonial authorities were unable to capture many of the raiders for years afterward. The leader and organizer, Surjya Sen, was not apprehended until February 1933. (He was executed the following year.) Former Bengal Chief Secretary Robert Reid estimated that the six years it took to bring the revolutionary campaign “fully under control” cost over £1.5 million.11
The difficulties faced by colonial authorities in Bengal were undoubtedly compounded by a groundswell of support for the revolutionaries among Bengali Hindus, and the intersection of revolutionary activity during the first half of the 1930s with the civil disobedience campaign of the Indian National Congress.12 Yet at the root of the ineffectiveness of colonial efforts to bring the Bengali revolutionary movement under control was a massive failure of police intelligence. Although police intelligence officers often attributed the failure to lack of personnel and need for more extensive emergency legislation allowing detention without trial, the revolutionary offensive that followed the Chittagong Armoury Raid laid bare the structural problems of police intelligence in Bengal and their inability to penetrate revolutionary networks.
This chapter will examine the reasons for these intelligence failures and how colonial authorities attempted to remedy these deficiencies in the face of the renewed revolutionary offensive that followed the Chittagong Armoury Raid. These efforts further accentuated the coercive element of the colonial anti-terrorist campaign in Bengal, as the number of revolutionary suspects detained without trial and the militarization of policing both increased dramatically. The actions of revolutionaries in the early 1930s also stoked the fears of both British colonial officials and the non-official European community in Bengal. Although present in some form since the beginning of the revolutionary movement before the Great War, colonial anxieties regarding the potential of revolutionaries to disrupt colonial administration and assassinate members of the British community reached new levels. In particular, there was a marked decline in the morale of British and Indian police and intelligence officers, leading to fears that the intelligence networks of the Bengal Police would simply cease to function. Anxieties about the activities of Bengali revolutionaries, as we have seen in the previous two chapters, led to the construction of an extensive intelligence apparatus. The failures of that intelligence apparatus in the early 1930s resulted in a renewed sense of anxiety—and at times panic—which disillusioned individual officers and led colonial authorities to turn to the British and Indian Army to bolster police morale and flagging intelligence efforts. Bengal in the years after the Chittagong Armoury Raid was thus markedly an “insecurity state,” and violence and the threat of violence was a marked feature of the British response to revolutionary terrorism.13 Yet at the same time, the decade also featured the most prominent attempts by the colonial state to reform and refashion the “Bengali terrorist,” often in ways in which imperial values featured prominently.
1 The Aftermath of the Chittagong Armoury Raid: Intelligence Failures and Frustrations
The Chittagong Armoury Raid revealed the weaknesses of police intelligence in Bengal and stoked British-Indian anxieties about the potential of the revolutionaries to threaten Europeans and destabilize colonial administration. It also had an immediate impact on revolutionary groups throughout Bengal. In May 1930, the Government of Bengal noted that “reports show that there is an eager impatience among the younger members in several places to emulate or surpass the sensational exploit at Chittagong and also to murder police officers.”14 A Government of India report on terrorism, which drew heavily on the analysis of the Bengal IB, noted how “recruits poured into the various groups in a steady stream”:
Young women were among the recruits who swelled the ranks of the revolutionaries in these years, and the willingness of female revolutionaries to participate in dacoities and political assassinations represented for intelligence officers a new and sinister development in the revolutionary movement. By the end of 1931, the IB had knowledge of at least 100 “female terrorists.”16
Some could not believe that such a daring coup was the work of Bengali terrorists. When the truth was known the effect was electric, and from that moment the outlook of the Bengal terrorists changed. The younger members of all parties, whose heads were already crammed with ideas of driving the British out of India by force of arms, but whose hands had been restrained by their leaders from committing even an isolated murder, clamoured for a chance to emulate the Chittagong terrorists.15
The Bengal Police IB compiled a list of seventy-one terrorist “outrages” in 1930, almost all of which took place after the Armoury Raid.17 While some of these episodes simply involved weapons stolen by revolutionaries or recovered by the police, the revolutionary groups staged a series of attacks on senior police officials in the months following the Chittagong uprising. On 25th August, a bomb was thrown at Calcutta Police Commissioner Charles Tegart, but it failed to explode. Just four days later, the Inspector General of the Bengal Police, F. J. Lowman, was fatally shot and another British police superintendent wounded while visiting a colleague in the Mitford Hospital in Dacca. On 1st December, two participants in the Armoury Raid shot dead Railway Police Inspector Tarini Mukharji, who was traveling on the same train in eastern Bengal as Lowman’s successor as Inspector General. A week later, in an episode which for both British officers and Bengalis revolutionaries loomed second only to the Chittagong Armoury Raid, three revolutionaries—Benoy Ghosh, Badal Gupta, and Dinesh Gupta—attacked British colonial servants at the heart of the colonial administration in Calcutta. Dressed in European clothing and armed with revolvers, the three entered the Writers’ Building in Dalhousie Square and killed Lt.-Colonel N. S. Simpson, the Inspector General of Prisons, in his office, wounding two other British officials and engaging in a gun battle with police.18
A Government of Bengal official later reflected that “in the war against terrorism … the Bengal Intelligence Branch had been built up to an extraordinary degree of efficiency.”19 Yet the Chittagong Armoury Raid revealed many weaknesses in the intelligence apparatus, in spite of its elaborate structures and its overwhelming focus on a single aspect of anticolonial activity, revolutionary terrorism. Indeed, by the end of the 1920s, intelligence officers in the Bengal and Calcutta Police believed that the revolutionaries were in a stronger position than they had been following the royal amnesty of 1919. While hundreds of revolutionary suspects had been detained without trial under the Bengal Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance of 1924 and the Bengal Criminal Law Amendment Act (BCLAA) of 1925, almost all had been released by 1928. The act expired on 21 March 1930, although its provision allowing trial by special procedure remained for another five years.
The use of detention without trial was a fundamental colonial strategy for defeating the revolutionary movement, and it was intimately intertwined with police intelligence.20 Intelligence officers strongly and consistently argued that the BCLAA of 1925 ought to remain permanent, as a deterrent to revolutionary activity.21 Indeed, the Bengal Police maintained that only the powers of detention and special tribunals to try revolutionary suspects could stop the revolutionaries. The detention without trial of thousands of suspects under the Defence of India Act during the second half of the Great War was, in the view of the police, the means by which the first generation of revolutionary organizations was broken, as confessions flowed freely to the police from demoralized revolutionaries in custody.22 In contrast, the Intelligence Branch believed that while they had been obtained “a great deal of inside information” from detainees under the 1925 BCLAA, they had “not so definitely broken the morale that the arrested men are anxious to unburden their souls to us, which was practically the position in 1918.”23
Intelligence Branch reports in the second half of the 1920s are peppered with discussions of the revival and re-organization of revolutionary groups; the creation of new organizations; and their efforts to stockpile firearms and bombs in order to carry out acts of violence against the colonial state.24 By this point, intelligence officers had identified Chittagong as one of the Bengal districts whose revolutionaries posed the greatest threat.25 While the IB saw Chittagong as “but little affected” by first revolutionary campaign, both the noncooperation movement and revolutionary activity featured prominently there following the Great War.26 In 1925, the Intelligence Branch reported that a section of Jugantar and two sections of Anushilan were active in Chittagong, and that in spite of the arrest of Jugantar’s leader, Nogendra Sen (also known as Jhulu), “all accounts agree that this section is well provided with bombs and arms and has retained its tendency towards violence.”27 In addition to carrying out the assassination of a local Police Sub-inspector, Chittagong revolutionaries were also involved in the 1924 attempt to assassinate Charles Tegart and the murder in Alipore Central Jail in 1926 of IB Special Superintendent Bhupendranath Chatterji.
As was the case elsewhere in Bengal, former Chittagong detenus released in 1928 were subjected to surveillance by the local DIB. This “general watch” was extended to others whom the police considered political suspects. But although police “watchers” filed regular reports, these contained little illuminating information about the activities of these revolutionary suspects.28 Following an abortive effort at an alliance between the leadership of Jugantar and the Anushilan Samiti, younger revolutionaries of both groups formed a “new amalgamated party” for what the IB termed “immediate terrorism,” such as attacks on police stations.29 This led to more intensive surveillance of the Chittagong revolutionaries, and in November 1929 the Central IB ordered the local DIB to keep a number of ex-detenus under special watch. The Chittagong DIB implemented a twenty-four-hour watch on the former detainees with twenty-four constables. In February 1930, the surveillance was brought under the direct control of the district superintendent, who urged cooperation between the uniformed police and DIB “‘in keeping a vigilant eye upon the movements and haunts of political suspects.’”30 The Deputy Inspector General of the IB found these arrangements inadequate, following an inspection tour on 24–26 March 1930, and ordered the Superintendent of Police, J. R. Johnson, to take “direct and complete charge of the D. I. B. which had hitherto been working under the supervision of the Deputy Superintendent.” In addition, “immediate steps were taken to intensify the system of watch and make it more effective.”31 The watch staff was increased by a further twenty-two men, and police watchers were posted at thirty-one fixed posts for twenty-four hours a day.32 In April 1930, Johnson issued “a list of the more active local suspects” which emphasized “the apprehension of terrorist activities and the necessity of a strict watch on the movements of those suspected.”33
The ineffectiveness of the surveillance of the Chittagong revolutionaries was the result of several factors. The first was the precautions taken by the revolutionaries themselves. The “planning and organization” of the Chittagong Armoury Raid, as one officer recalled, “was kept an unusually close secret.”34 The revolutionaries were well aware of police surveillance and in many cases simply allowed the watchers to track them to innocuous locations such as the local Congress office.35 In addition, the revolutionaries carried out counter-surveillance of the police watchers, and exploited the Intelligence Branch’s reliance on informers in order to feed the police misinformation. Through a college student who had turned police agent, Jugantar members in Chittagong were able to convey to the police that the revolutionaries planned to stage a mass meeting on 21st April—three days after the Armoury Raid—in order to read aloud “‘the exploits of revolutionaries from proscribed texts.’”36 While the reports compiled by DIB watchers were later utilized to establish a conspiracy case against the Chittagong Armoury Raiders, they did not provide the police with the intelligence required to determine that a major offensive was imminent.
The second factor was a lack of coordination between the Central and District Intelligence Branches. As noted above, the Central Intelligence Branch in Calcutta had been aware of plans for widespread actions like those of the Chittagong revolutionaries prior to April 1930. In a note dated 28 November 1929, the IB warned that “at a recent meeting in Calcutta” a number of revolutionaries
Even though this information was circulated to all District Intelligence Branches in the province, it is questionable how seriously it was taken.
declared that their intention was to bring a rebellion in a particular district. They proposed to take by surprise the district police and capture the district treasury and armoury. Even if they sustain the attack for an hour and then die fighting as the Irish rebels did in their Easter rising in Dublin, they consider it will have a tremendous moral effect. And they have decided to organize Chittagong and Barisal districts for a rebellion.37
In spite of this warning, there was little communication between the Central IB and the DIB in Chittagong, as well as an unwillingness to share information with government officials outside of the Intelligence Branch. The Central IB claimed to have forwarded “all available information,” but local intelligence officers were not made aware that the main informant in Chittagong, whose identity was never revealed to them, “had ceased to be able to work as an agent.” The Deputy Inspector General in charge of Chittagong was apparently not informed of any secret information, even that relating to “ordinary” police work, such as increasing the postings of sentries. In addition, the District Magistrate of Chittagong was not made aware until the end of 1929 that Chittagong “was a dangerous district from the terrorist revolutionary [sic] point of view.” Nor was any of the IB’s information about a potential rising in Chittagong shared with military authorities in eastern Bengal. As W. D. R. Prentice of the Government of Bengal observed, “It is easy to be wise after the event but the conclusion has been forced upon me that the craze for secrecy has been followed to excess and that general efficiency has suffered thereby. Liaison arrangements have to be improved, and the policy must be one of trust rather than mistrust.”38
Another factor, according to Prentice, was that the local police work was “very bad,” which he attributed to the “frequent change of the officers in charge of police work at Chittagong.” In spite of the elaborate intelligence structures that had been developed over the previous decades, staff was in short supply and in many districts simply not competent. The lack of systematic training for intelligence officers meant that it was difficult to produce new officers quickly. The DIB in Chittagong made almost no headway in obtaining information about the activities of local revolutionaries either before or after the raid. British officers there placed the blame for this squarely on the shoulders of their Indian subordinates, who played a critical role in intelligence-gathering. The Circle Inspector in Chittagong, according to Deputy Inspector General J. C. Farmer, “proved a complete dud” and was replaced, while District Intelligence Officer Sarada Bhattacharji
has been a complete failure and his incompetency merits his reversion to the rank of Sub-inspector and I have told him I shall draw up proceedings to this and unless he can show something to prove his competency to continue as Inspector within the next week. He has been here 3 years and has not got a single source of any description. A Muhammadan source went to him with information before the occurrence but he turned him away saying his information was unbelievable, and now he [the source] won’t work for him but is working directly under [District Superintendent] Johnson.39
Finally, police intelligence in Chittagong was hampered by both the economic disruption of the Great Depression, as well as the Indian National Congress’ civil disobedience campaign. The disastrous impact of the Depression on peasant indebtedness, particularly in eastern Bengal, led to an increase in robbery and dacoity. These often took the form of attacks by tenants or peasant creditors on moneylenders in which the “dacoits” attempted to destroy contracts and financial documents as well as carry off property. The overall dacoity figures for the province more than doubled to an average of 1543 per year from 1930 to 1934.40 The contemporaneous civil disobedience campaign was both “multifarious and violent” in Bengal, where the number of arrests (15,000) and violent incidents (136) reflected the highest totals of any Indian province in 1930–1931.41 The IB catalogued a total of thirty-one “outrages” associated with the campaign in 1930; these included bomb attacks on police stations, dacoities, attacks on policemen, and police firings on crowds.42 In Chittagong, the District Superintendent of Police noted that from July to October 1930 the police were preoccupied with countering Gandhian civil disobedience in the district, including “the picketing of schools, colleges, liquor and cloth shops. This involved very heavy duties on all ranks and much valuable time had to be lost on this account.”43 As a result, “the work of rounding up the rebels” was “practically at a standstill owing to the other calls upon the police.”44
2 Police Violence and Chitforce
While the inadequacies of police intelligence were revealed in the immediate aftermath of the Raid, the Government of Bengal’s efforts to capture the Chittagong insurgents was to be a long and painstaking process, in spite of the presence soon after 18th April of a variety of military forces. The slowness of the military campaign against the insurgents further fueled the breakdown of police morale and led to the use of arbitrary violence against suspected revolutionaries and, more generally, Hindus in Chittagong.
The revolutionaries suffered heavy casualties during and shortly after the raid; a dozen revolutionaries died, either on the spot or later, in a gun battle in the hills outside Chittagong four days after the raid. The revolutionaries had fought bravely with police muskets against military police (the Eastern Frontier Rifles) and Auxiliary Force (the Surma Valley Light Horse) troops armed with rifles and Lewis guns, and in spite of their casualties and lack of supplies and weaponry, efforts to apprehend or kill the remaining rebels proved difficult. This was despite the fact that the police, Auxiliary and military police forces outnumbered the rebels at least five to one. A month following the raid, the Commander of Presidency and Assam District attributed the failure chiefly to a lack of clear command, and “too great an inclination to guard Chittagong instead of attacking the raiders.”45
Divisions over the role of the military police continued in the subsequent months, as officers were reluctant to engage in anything that they considered to be “police operations.” Lt.-Col. E. D. Dallas Smith of the Eastern Frontier Rifles, who had led the attack against the rebels on 22nd April, soon came to question whether his forces had any role to play there at all. The decision of the revolutionaries to split up into small parties and wear their ordinary clothing made “operations of a military nature extremely difficult, if not impossible.”46 In August 1930, the Inspector General of the Bengal Police complained that the 150 men of the Eastern Frontier Rifles posted to Chittagong were mainly employed guarding the Auxiliary Force armories, which he believed should have been the responsibility of the military.
Diverse strategies were considered for tracking down the raiders. The commander of the Eastern Frontier Rifles contemplated bombing the raiders’ positions in the jungles outside of Chittagong town.47 While the use of air power formed a prominent colonial strategy for defeating insurgents in the interwar era, in this instance local authorities had to settle for a plane for reconnaissance hired from the Air India Transport Company. The plane made two flights in an unsuccessful search for the revolutionaries on 30th April and 1st May, at which time the authorities agreed that the revolutionaries had split up, and the plane was therefore of no further use. Taking a markedly different strategy, the District Superintendent sought to draw on indigenous knowledge through the use of fifty of the tribal people known as Santhals employed by the town of Chittagong to search for arms abandoned by the revolutionaries and evidence of funeral pyres or freshly dug graves. In addition, a search party of Santhals was deputed to follow the routes taken by the rebels.48
It soon became apparent that intelligence, not air power or the tracking powers of indigenous peoples, would enable the authorities to locate the revolutionaries. As in past police actions against the revolutionaries, colonial authorities were dependent on human intelligence, which in the aftermath of the Armoury Raid was sorely lacking. Dallas Smith complained to the Inspector General in early May that “it is getting increasingly difficult to know what action to take or in which direction to try any operation, in the absence of any information as to the whereabouts of any band of rebels.” DIG J. C. Farmer, who was involved in the search missions, concurred: “The futility of raids into the jungles where one has to creep along for miles in single file unable to see a yard around you was quickly realised, but the difficulty in getting anyone to go into the jungle and get ‘khabor’ [news] was a snag I had not anticipated.”49
The authorities in Chittagong quickly realized that no information about the whereabouts of the raiders was forthcoming from the local Hindu population. The largely urban and middle-class Hindus of Chittagong, who made up over 30 percent of the population in the districts surrounding the town, continued to display strong support for the revolutionaries.50 The task of the DIB was further complicated by the fact that the predominantly Muslim peasantry also gave the terrorists a measure of support. Farmer attributed this not to outright support for the rebels, but to the evident weakness of colonial power in Chittagong in the aftermath of the raid. “Government being no longer a real factor,” he wrote, local Muslims were “not willing to incur the displeasure of the Hindus by taking an active part in hunting out the rebels.”51
A year after the raid, the District Superintendent reported that no officer in the countryside or the town had succeeded in “securing an informant who can give any inside information of any value,” and mentioned several instances where boys who had offered information to the police were “severely assaulted.” The District Magistrate noted grimly that “the most disquieting manner in which practically all sources of information have dried up, a fact which indicates that they have formed their own opinion as to which side is winning.”52 Six months later, the Government of Bengal reported a loss of morale among members of the local police, who were “not too anxious to obtain information even if it is forthcoming.” The revolutionaries, in contrast, were “fully informed of all movements against them.”53
The inability of police to gain information about the raiders who remained at liberty led in 1931 to the deployment of military forces in the district. In April 1931, two companies of the 1/8th Gurkha Rifles were sent to Chittagong, but their effectiveness was hampered by the refusal of their commanding officer to employ them “on anything in the nature of Police duties.” As a result, no troops were available for raids, a situation that the Bengal Police tried to remedy by sending an additional 120 constables and 1 inspector, 2 sub-inspectors, and 10 head constables to Chittagong. Less than a month later, the Gurkhas’ withdrawal was prompted by the army’s unhappiness that soldiers might have to assume police duties and, more importantly, because their presence in Chittagong reduced the number of troops available in case of an emergency elsewhere in the province. In his final report, the Gurkhas’ commanding officer stated that “the only duty for a military force to do at Chittagong was to wait for a situation to develop,” and “from a military point of view the retention of troops here without a real military objective was undesirable, especially in a large district like the Presidency and Assam District which has a very small regular garrison.”54
The temporary posting of troops in Chittagong and increased levels of police thus did little to improve the paltry flow of intelligence or assuage the rising sense of desperation, anger, and frustration felt by the police. In August 1931, district superintendent J. R. Johnson expressed the opinion that Surjya Sen was well aware of the strain on local police, and was patiently waiting for an opportunity to strike back: “However vigilant we may be there is bound to come a time when the overworked watcher or officer is going to make a mistake. We shall then have another sensation in Chittagong with the necessary success of the terrorist party and perhaps another good life gone.” Johnson made a plea to the Inspector General for a military solution to the apprehension of the revolutionaries. All that was needed, he wrote using capital letters for emphasis, was someone to administer martial law “and a certain number of troops”:
THIS IS WHAT EXASPERATES ME AS THE SOLUTION AND THE ANTIDOTE TO THESE DEEDS SEEMS SO SIMPLE ONLY IF WE CAN GET THE POWER. We have all the forces and the personnel requisite and we only want the powers. ALL WE WANT IN CHITTAGONG IS THE EXECUTIVE ORDER FOR MARTIAL LAW AND LEAVE US TO SETTLE OUR OWN TROUBLES ONCE FOR ALL.55
The ability of the Chittagong revolutionaries to not only evade but also attack the police was dramatically illustrated just a few days later. On 30 August 1931, Police Inspector Khan Bahadur Ahsanullah was fatally shot in the chest immediately after a football match in Chittagong. Along with another Muslim officer, Ahsanullah had emerged as the leading Indian officer in the local DIB. He was primarily responsible for the investigation of the Chittagong Armoury Raid case and was described as Superintendent Johnson’s “right hand man”; the Government observed that “his death inflicts a severe loss on the police.”56 Revolutionaries in contrast reviled Ahsanullah as a brutal figure who was given free rein by the authorities to carry out beatings, torture, and other abuses.57
The killing of Inspector Ahsanullah also sparked one of the most notorious episodes of police violence in the history of the Bengali revolutionary movement. At Ahsanullah’s funeral the day after his murder, which was attended by thousands of local Muslims, two shots were fired not far from the funeral procession. Later that morning, more than 280 predominantly Hindu-owned shops in and around Chittagong suffered three hours of looting with damages estimated at around one million rupees. While the Government of Bengal’s enquiry placed the blame for the disorder on Muslims “from the laboring class” as well as “Muhammadan bad characters,” what emerged most clearly from events following Ahsanullah’s murder were the punitive actions of the police.58 While these events have been analyzed in the context of the history of “communal riots,” they shed more light on the failures of police intelligence following the Armoury Raid and police use of violence and coercion in the anti-terrorist campaign.59 According to an enquiry carried out by the Indian National Congress, armed police, including Gurkhas and British officers, pursued a “general vendetta” against Hindus in Chittagong. “They particularly attacked the houses of those who had incurred the displeasures of the local authorities, including political ‘suspects,’ pleaders in the Chittagong Armoury Raid case, and the men employed in at least one well-known printing press.”60
Although the Government of Bengal denied many of the charges (such as the claim that police stood by while looting took place), their own report detailed numerous police reprisals following Ahsanullah’s death. In particular, police targeted Panchajanya Press, the publisher of a nationalist newspaper of the same name, which was loathed by police for its sympathy for the Armoury Raiders.61 Possibly accompanied by two Indian DIB officers, a detachment of Auxiliary Forces beat workers at the press and smashed the presses with hammers. Superintendent J. R. Johnson, who had dispatched the Auxiliary Forces to the Panchajanya Press, also ordered Assistant Superintendent Robert Shooter to take a party of Eastern Frontier Rifles and search for arms and absconders in Patiya and Boalkhani thanas near Chittagong in order to “convey a severe warning to suspects and persons believed to have sheltered absconders.” Shooter took a force of 100 Eastern Frontier Rifles, officers from the EFR and Assam Rifles and some DIB members. The police divided into two groups, each with a guide who was “familiar with the locality and a list of suspects.” The inhabitants of homes were ordered out and police were ordered to go inside and break open all boxes. The Government of Bengal acknowledged the “irregular” procedure in these searches, in which at least four homes were burnt:
Admitting the necessity of a rapid search for absconders and arms, there is no doubt that the main object of the expedition was punitive. Regarded as a search there was an absence of the usual procedure. The urgency and the number of houses might excuse the lack of warrants. But no provision was made for witnesses; the owners of the houses were made to stand aside and were not given the opportunity of opening locked boxes and cupboards…. I am forced therefore to the conclusion that the main object of the searches was to punish those persons whose names were to appear on the police list as suspects, harbourers and absconders.62
In addition, Shooter administered “corporal punishment” to at least one suspect he found during the searches, and a number of boys at local schools were beaten as well. Eighteen boys were “chastised” at the Rahatali HE School, while at the Saroatali School Shooter personally “chastised the boys of the higher classes” on the grounds that schoolboys there had recently taken part in demonstrations in support of Ram Krishna Biswas, a revolutionary convicted and executed for the assassination of a police inspector. Both Biswas and Ahsanullah’s assassin had been pupils at the school, and police found the words “without bloodshed, no country can attain freedom” written on a wall there. The indiscriminate beatings and attacks revealed police frustration at the long-standing appeal of the revolutionaries to Bengali Hindu youth, and the use of schools as recruiting grounds for the revolutionary movement.
None of the officers involved in the destruction of the press or the beatings at the schools were punished, though severe censures were given to Shooter, Johnson and Kemm, the District Magistrate, and censures to three other British officers. Neither the censures nor the report were made public.63 Rather, while admitting that the police “had taken the law into their own hands,” the Government of Bengal emphasized the “extenuating circumstances” in form of the “severe strain” they had faced from “dangerous and elusive gangs of murderers” which had placed “the police … entirely on the defensive, and baffled at every turn when they attempted the offensive.”64 Shooter, whom one ICS officer considered “one of the brightest and most promising officers the police have had for a long time,” after weeks of depression committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with his revolver.65 Although neither depression nor suicide was unusual among members of the Indian Police, the Government of India believed his death was due to his being made a scapegoat for the failure of the local authorities to provide him with the powers they needed to suppress the revolutionaries.66
The evident loss of control of the police led to major changes in the way that the anti-terrorist campaign in Chittagong was conducted. Police operations were placed under the command of a Deputy Inspector General, who was to serve as a liaison between the police and the Indian Army troops who were now to be stationed in Chittagong. On 30 November 1931, the first troops—one battalion of the 5th Mahratta Light Infantry and two companies of the 8th Gurkha Rifles—in what became known as “Chitforce” arrived in Chittagong.67
The military were utilized primarily for cordon and search operations conducted with the police. The area around Chittagong was divided into five subareas, with Chittagong itself the sixth. Three wireless stations were set up, each under the command of a senior military officer. On receiving information about the potential location of rebels, the military cordoned off an area while the police conducted the actual searches.68 In the largest operation to date on 11th December, an entire village, an area of six square miles, was cordoned off by soldiers and search parties spent the entire day going through it. Although the search was deemed to have been carried out on the basis of “reliable” information, neither terrorist suspects nor useful information was found.69
That result would prove to be typical for Chitforce. Even though reports featured optimistic pronouncements that troops were acquiring “a most intimate local knowledge of the areas in which they were working” and that the flow of “information, the most important factor of all, has improved, and will undoubtedly continue to improve,” the Chitforce operations accomplished little in terms of suppressing the Chittagong revolutionaries.70 T. G. H. Holman, police liaison officer with Mahratta Light Infantry, recalled the dismal results of early searches: “With a hurriedly augmented intelligence service and guides lacking local knowledge, only luck could land an absconder in his own warren.” What success Chitforce had was through painstaking searches of area after area, and the results were chiefly limited to the recovery of arms rather than the arrest of revolutionaries.71 In March 1932, an India Office official observed gloomily that “it is difficult to make out from these reports exactly what is happening but the practical results up-to-date appear to be nil.”72 Despite hundreds of searches, none of the raiders were apprehended by Chitforce, and the final results of the operation, which lasted until the end of 1932, were “negligible.”73
Most notably, Chitforce failed to capture Surjya Sen, the main architect of the Chittagong Armoury Raid. Indeed, one encounter on 13 June 1932 resulted in the death of a British officer in the Gurkha Rifles and the revolutionary leader’s escape. Upon learning that Sen was in a house in Dhalgat, about ten miles from Chittagong, Captain Cameron of the Gurkha Rifles chose not to assemble the entire platoon of troops he was commanding, and instead proceeded there with only two sub-inspectors, two constables, and eight Gurkha soldiers. Cameron was shot and killed by the revolutionary Nirmal Sen while searching the house. After his death, one of the sub-inspectors and a havildar returned to the military camp at Patiya to get reinforcements, which allowed Sen to escape. Cameron had underestimated the fighting abilities of the revolutionaries, and his actions reflected the mounting frustration of colonial officials at their failure to apprehend the architect of the Armoury Raid. The District Magistrate observed that the lesson learned was that a platoon of troops was necessary for cordon and search operations, and that greater cooperation between police and military forces was also required: “The relative responsibility of the officer commanding the police on these occasions must be clearly defined, and that the officer commanding the troops must be empowered to take any means necessary including opening fire to ensure the safety of the party engaged on the search.”74
Lastly, Sen and the revolutionaries demonstrated a continuing capacity to stage attacks in Chittagong. On the night of 24 September 1932, the female revolutionary Pritilata Waddadar, who had been recruited by Sen, led an attack on the Parhartali Railway Institute outside Chittagong, an Anglo-Indian club patronized primarily by the subordinate staff of the railways. The revolutionaries threw two bombs and fired revolvers that killed one woman and wounded several others, including two police officers.75 Waddadar, who took cyanide while the other revolutionaries escaped, exemplified for intelligence officers the new threat posed by female revolutionaries. She was dressed in men’s clothing, and carried not only revolver cartridges but a long manuscript in which she exhorted other Bengali women to follow her example of patriotism and sacrifice.76 The attack on the Parhartali Institute was the revolutionaries’ response to the loud public support with which the European community in Chittagong had called for the elimination of the threat of “Bengali terrorism.”77 As we will see, the white population across Bengal also threatened violent reprisals against the revolutionaries.
3 European Community and Reprisals
By the latter half of 1931, the revolutionaries’ targeting of Britons—including both colonial officials and members of the civilian community—induced fears approaching panic not only among members of the police, but among the British-Indian community throughout Bengal. The European community in Bengal was one of the largest and most politically active in the Raj, and it played a prominent role in provincial politics in the interwar era.78 Calcutta’s network of European clubs brought British-Indian businessmen and other prominent members of the non-official European community together with colonial officials and created the opportunity for British-Indians to protest policies which they opposed, particularly those perceived to threaten their political and economic position.79 Calcutta, the center of British-Indian economic, social, and political life in Bengal, was, in David Washbrook’s estimation, perhaps the only place where Britons in India were “able to make a ‘British India,’ which excluded everything and everybody else.”80
This “British India” in Calcutta was characterized, as elsewhere in colonial India in the post-1857 era, by a recurrent pattern of colonial anxieties focused on the fear of rebellion.81 The Bengali revolutionary movement intensified these fears.82 The escalation of the revolutionaries’ campaign against the colonial state following the Chittagong Armoury Raid led to an even greater sense of anxiety on the part of the British-Indian community. While “non-official” Europeans had previously been the inadvertent victims of revolutionary assassination attempts, revolutionaries in the early 1930s began to target prominent members of the British-Indian community. R. E. A. Ray observed in 1931 that “a new feature of terrorism in Bengal is the determination to murder not only British officials of high rank but also Europeans generally.”83 As we have seen, two of the most prominent attacks by the Chittagong revolutionaries were aimed at European clubs, the distinctly imperial institutions through which the British-Indian community sought to maintain and display the power of the white colonial elite.84 The Intelligence Branch later observed that by early 1932, “the air was thick with threats to carry out indiscriminate massacres of Europeans in clubs and cinemas.”85
As Kama Maclean notes, the psychological impact of terrorism on the British-Indian community was substantial.86 Anxiety and fear, which already to a considerable degree shaped the everyday lives of colonizers, came particularly to the forefront with the wave of revolutionary assassinations in Bengal. They stand as a prominent example of how, as Harald Fischer-Tiné and Christina Whyte have noted, “the history of colonial empires has been shaped to a considerable extent by negative emotions such as anxiety, fear and embarrassment, as well as by the regular occurrence of panics.”87 The possibility of assassination in one’s daily life—at the home, office, sports ground, cinema, club, or golf course—created a palpable sense of fear among the British-Indian community and a suspicion of bhadralok Hindu youth as potential assassins. In Chittagong, for example, a young Bengali was arrested for “loitering in very suspicious circumstances” near the ninth tee of a golf course.88 Familiar elements of British-Indian colonial life—the club, the golf links, the verandah—were thus transformed into a “landscape of fear.”89
The attacks and threats of attacks on colonial institutions during the 1930s raised the ever-present specter of a repeat of the “Mutiny” of 1857.90 Female Britons were not the revolutionaries’ specific targets, but attacks such as the one on the Parhartali Railway Institute led to the deaths of British-Indian women, recalling the mass slaughter of men and women which had taken place at Cawnpore, and the rape of white women widely but erroneously believed to have taken place in 1857. The Intelligence Branch speculated that if the Chittagong revolutionaries had been able to take over the town in 1930, in addition to the execution of British officials “other barbarities would undoubtedly have been committed.”91 Following the rioting that followed Ahsanullah’s funeral in August 1931, ICS officer John Younie expressed happiness that “with so many troops there there is no danger of this becoming a second Cawnpore.”92
Fears of attacks by revolutionaries prompted a new array of security measures for the British population. In the early 1930s, as David Laushey observes, “British officials in Bengal turned their quarters into ‘small forts’ surrounded by barbed wire and heavily guarded by sentries.”93 Officials believed to be under the threat of assassination received an armed policeman as an escort, police guards were posted at government buildings, and small bodies of European special constables were created.94 H. Quinton, district magistrate at Alipore around this time, recalled how the compound in which his bungalow was located was “enclosed in a high wire cage” whose entrance was guarded day and night. District magistrates were allocated two guards armed with revolvers and were required themselves to carry a loaded revolver and attended weekly target practice.95 In Mymensingh District the wives of British officials took target practice with revolvers as well; Coralie Taylor, the wife of the local district superintendent, described their lives as a “state of siege” and expressed the hope that her husband would be able to obtain several additional revolvers. “We are again prisoners in the constant care of armed guards,” she wrote to her mother in November 1933.96
Simon Ball has identified a “‘liberal’ script for dealing with political violence” in the imperial state that sought to minimize the threat of conspiracies and adopt a generally stoic approach to political assassination.97 Yet as Ball also acknowledges, the liberal approach was always more prominent among government officials in the metropole than among “men on the spot” in the Empire. Stoicism was notably less prominent among the British-Indian community in Calcutta than in London, and even less so in the mofussil, or hinterland, of Bengal, particularly in locales such as Chittagong, which was remote from Dacca, the major urban area of eastern Bengal, let alone Calcutta or New Delhi. The British-Indian community in Bengal, directly threatened by violence and assassination in the early 1930s, advocated a militant response to revolutionary terrorism that went beyond simply elaborate security precautions. Members of the non-official community, and some government officials as well, called for reprisals against and even summary executions of revolutionaries in custody. In August 1931, the British-Indian Statesman approvingly quoted views favoring “a vigorous policy of reprisal and summary vengeance,” arguing that “terrorism must be driven out by terror.”98
On 29 October 1931, a revolutionary made an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate the president of the European Association, Edward Villiers. By this point, the Government of Bengal was concerned not only about the flagging morale of police and the broadening ranks of the revolutionaries, but also the danger of reprisals by the province’s European community. Following a discussion with the Inspector General, the DIG of the Intelligence Branch, the Chief Secretary and other government officials, H. W. Emerson of the Government of India reported that “there is a very real danger of the European population taking the law into their own hands, if outrages continue.” Bengal officials agreed that if the attempt on the life of Villiers had succeeded, “extensive reprisals would have taken place in Calcutta and elsewhere.”99
British-Indian fears of “Bengali terrorism” led to the formation in 1931 of a new political organization known as the Royalists. Composed of young British-Indian men, the Royalists sought to exert pressure on both the European Association and the Government of Bengal in support of a more forceful government action against the revolutionaries. In the words of one of their organizers, the Royalists sought “to support and strengthen the policy of the European Association and to bring all possible constitutional pressure to bear on the Government to enforce law and order.”100 The Royalists deployed the language of loyalism utilized across the “British world” from Ulster to southern Africa to Australasia, asserting fealty to crown and empire while disparaging the policies of government.101 In their manifesto, the Royalists declared, that “a severely critical attitude towards the Government is not incompatible with loyalty to the King.”102 A primary target of their ire was Sir Stanley Jackson, Governor of Bengal from 1927 to 1932, who was widely seen as ineffectual and overly conciliatory toward Indian nationalism.
While the Royalists stressed they were “not a militant body,” the threat of violence and military action was present in their statements. “We wish to organise in such a way,” the manifesto read, “that, if the emergency arises where the Community must protect itself, the organization can be used for the formation of a defense force.”103 In a letter to the Times written to counter reports that the Royalists favored reprisals against the revolutionaries, D. W. Mullock, one of the movement’s organizers, sought to convey that a “state of war” existed in Bengal, and that the British-Indian community, already armed, was close to taking action to defend itself. Referencing the failed assassination of Villiers and the shooting of sessions judge R. R. Garlick earlier in the year, Mullock wrote
Following the failed assassination attempt on Villiers, the Royalists issued a manifesto, which occasioned a rare commentary on British-Indian politics from the Raj’s intelligence officers. In his weekly report, the Director of the Intelligence Bureau observed that the terrorist situation in Bengal was “steadily deteriorating,” and that the Royalists had “flooded Calcutta with leaflets demanding action on the part of Government.105 The Royalist manifesto declared that “Congress TERRORISM must be CRUSHED,” and listed the names of British and Indians recently killed or wounded by the revolutionaries, concluding with “WE WANT ACTION.”106
After Mr. Garlick’s murder and again after the attack on Mr. Villiers feeling ran very high among our community, and on the latter occasion only the assurance of the delegation which saw the Governor that Government was really alive to the situation, and their further assurance that some visible sign of that realization would soon be apparent, prevented some more forcible demonstration of feeling than can be expressed merely by the passing of a resolution.104
While Villiers’ survival may have prevented reprisals by the Royalists, men of the British-Indian community in Chittagong participated in retaliatory attacks following the shooting of Inspector Ahsanullah in August 1931. The local superintendent of police had called out members of the local Auxiliary Force who had been enrolled as special constables; the men, however, refused to turn out as constables, instead appearing at the local police station in their military uniforms with rifles and a Lewis gun. Rather than dispersing the men, the superintendent suggested to one of their officers that “they could visit the Panchajanya Press and ensure that it ceased to function as a press.” The men destroyed the printing presses and assaulted workers there; the Government of Bengal’s inquiry concluded that “they were neither Auxiliary Force nor special constables but an unlawful assembly.”107
A desire for retribution against the revolutionaries was not limited to the non-official community. In 1932, British colonial officials in Dacca expressed concern that it was “only a matter of time” before assassinations caused the colonial administration to be “paralysed for lack of officers.”108 In a three-page memorandum, they advocated for “very much wider powers” against the revolutionaries; although they did not advocate reprisals, their proposals included making the possession of pistols, revolvers or “other lethal weapons” capital offenses. They also advocated collective punishments of the families of those convicted of terrorist offenses, who were to have all of their property confiscated and be deprived of government positions, as well as against localities deemed to have sheltered revolutionaries.109 In a proposal that echoed the Murderous Outrages Act, Dacca officials called for trials, sentences and executions to be carried out immediately. Like the “fanatics” of the Northwest Frontier, the “Bengali terrorists” were to have no rights of appeal; the terror of immediate capital sentences were to be a deterrent to terrorism.110
Such appeals for summary justice also found supporters at the highest level of the Bengal government. In a memo of March 1932, Chief Secretary R. N. Reid complained that “our officers are exposed to war risks, on unfair conditions. The enemy attack under any and every circumstance, can chose their time and place, and it is only they who do the attacking.” The solution, Reid argued, was to “meet terror with terror” in the form of reprisals against revolutionaries:
Reid stated that his memo was based on conversations with Government of Bengal officers and was “an attempt to put into writing what I know a great many, probably most officers feel. I fear it is not practical politics perhaps to talk of reprisals, but I do feel we are moving in that direction, and it is perhaps of some use to take out the idea and have a look at it.”112
The best form of defense is attack and the time has come when we ought to ask ourselves whether we should not meet terror with terror as an act of statesmanship, let alone a duty to our officers. Fear and self-interest are the dominating motives which actuate the terrorist and if we can touch them we shall make some advance. The obvious line is reprisals on hostages. We have the hostages in the shape of 1000 hostages. It would be very easy to announce that for every Government official killed 3 or 4 or 5 or any number which the Government thought suitable to the occasion, would be taken out and shot. The terrorist has up to now been able to bank on Government never going outside normal, or only slightly abnormal, methods, never to attempt to really hurt them. Detention without trial is abnormal but it does not hurt … If they knew the gloves were off and Government were determined to use its power and its resources ruthlessly in order to defeat the enemy, we should put an end to this menace.111
The responses of the British-Indian community in Bengal to the intensified revolutionary offensive of the 1930s bore marked similarities to those of other white communities in the British Empire facing violence and insurgency from indigenous populations. Although India was never a colony of white settlement, the response of Bengal’s British-Indian community—a group with a distinct sense of identity and a history of political and economic influence—bore similarities to the later response of the British community in Kenya during the Mau Mau insurgency, which John Lonsdale has characterized as “the pained panic of paternalism betrayed.”113 In 1930s Bengal, as in 1950s Kenya, this panic took place in spite of the fact that the actual levels of violence against Britons were extremely low—fewer than ten British-Indians in Bengal lost their lives to revolutionaries during the 1930s—relative to the overall scale of the conflict. While the British-Indian press, due to pressure from the Government of India, generally advocated restraint and took a moderate line regarding the threat of terrorism in Bengal, expatriate Britons in the province did not “panic quietly.”114
4 Military Intelligence Officers
The Government of Bengal’s efforts to restore the morale of colonial officials and the British-Indian population and revitalize the attenuated networks of police intelligence became intertwined during the first half of the 1930s. The deployment of military forces was one strategy employed by colonial authorities not only to attempt to apprehend the insurgents, but to reassure the British-Indian population of Bengal after the Chittagong Armoury Raid. Tea planter Alexander Burnett of the Surma Valley Light Horse was sent to Chittagong immediately after the raid. He recalled that with the rebels still at large and “not a single rifle or musket (apart from a few sporting guns) to defend the town … the residents on our arrival were in a state of nervous tension … Our first duty was to march through the town at various points to create the impression that troops had arrived in force.”115 Yet on the whole the deployment of military forces in Chittagong, and throughout Bengal, was a slow process, and British morale and intelligence networks remained weakened for several years.
The reluctance of the Indian Army to deploy troops in Chittagong reflected an ambiguity regarding the internal security role of the army in late colonial India: were troops to prevent the breakdown of public order, or only assist civil authorities in case of an outbreak of rebellion?116 Military authorities were particularly hesitant to send troops to provinces such as Bengal and Madras where the inhabitants were regarded as “non-martial,” believing that such demonstrations would encourage rather than deter anticolonial opposition.117 This reluctance also reflected the Government of India’s desire, in the wake of the 1919 Amritsar massacre and post-war retrenchment, for provincial governments to build up their own armed police reserves rather than relying on the military to quell civil disorder.118
The attachment to “minimum force” in British imperial thinking, as Huw Bennett has recently argued, can be exaggerated, however, and “exemplary force” continued to be deployed within the empire.119 In practice, British and Indian troops continued to be deployed to suppress peasant and tribal uprisings, labor unrest, and nationalist protests in India throughout the interwar period.120 An important reason why the military was not deployed extensively either in Chittagong or elsewhere in Bengal following the Armoury Raid is that commanders believed there was no role for them to play in what was fundamentally a matter for police intelligence officers. When, after repeated requests, two companies of the 1/8th Gurkha Rifles were dispatched to Chittagong at the end of April 1931, their commanding officer kept them in reserve as a “striking force,” and refused to allow them to do anything which he considered “in the nature of Police duties,” such as patrols outside the town. After less than two weeks, the commanding officer in Calcutta complained that the Indian Army’s internal security arrangements in the region were “entirely upset by the battalion being locked up at Chittagong,” and that he was “most emphatically anxious that the 1/8th Gurkhas be recalled from Chittagong at the earliest possible moment.”121
In addition to asking the military to take on duties best left to the police, military commanders believed that civil authorities in Bengal had not worked out a clear role for troops in the campaign against the revolutionaries. At a conference in November 1931 which included the Director of the Intelligence Bureau, the Inspector General of the Bengal Police and the DIG of the Intelligence Branch, H. W. Emerson of the Government of India reported that the Government of Bengal’s attitude regarding the plan of operations against the revolutionaries was “most unsatisfactory,” and that no detailed plans had been worked out. Civilian and military officials also disagreed on how operations were to be carried out. Emerson reported that
there was not the understanding and spirit of co-operation between the two that was desirable. My impression was that the military were not to blame in this and that they were ready to give all assistance possible. It is, however, right to say that part of the difficulty was due to the unwillingness in the past of the military to undertake what they regard as police duties, and, since it is, in practice, extremely difficult to define what police duties are, the civil authorities were afraid lest the military assistance might not give the relief to the police that was desirable.122
The arrival of Sir John Anderson as Governor of Bengal in March 1932 led to renewed efforts to elicit the cooperation of the Indian military in the campaign against the revolutionaries.123 Anderson, former Home Secretary and Undersecretary of State in Dublin Castle, drew extensively on his experience during the Anglo-Irish War in his tenure as governor. He placed particular focus on the issue of civil-military collaboration. Several months after his arrival, the Government of Bengal submitted a “Trial of Terrorist Offenses” bill, based on the 1920 Restoration of Order in Ireland Act, which allowed for military tribunals to try certain offenses.124 This legislative effort was rejected by the Government of India, which feared that such courts would place an “unreasonable responsibility” on military officers by asking them to undertake the responsibilities of civil authorities. The Government of India also feared that such a measure might invite attacks on troops by the revolutionaries, and subsequent reprisals by soldiers. “If that did take place it might be exceedingly difficult to control the soldiers,” a member of the Viceroy’s Council warned.125
Anderson was more successful in incorporating the military into other spheres of the anti-terrorist campaign. In August 1932, Anderson and General Sir Norman Macmullen, the recently appointed General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Command, mutually agreed to station additional British and Indian Army troops in Bengal. The Government of Bengal suggested six battalions while the military authorities suggested seven, or one brigade for both eastern and western Bengal. The original plan was for troops to arrive at the beginning of November, but “the probability of intensified terrorist activity” and fears of “a possible epidemic of outrages” led to a hasty deployment two months earlier.126 By the end of the 1932, one British and four Indian Army battalions had been stationed in Bengal to support the campaign against the revolutionaries, a number later increased to seven.127
The militarization of the police in Bengal was particularly striking, as Macmullen observed in 1932, “in a province where troops were rarely seen.”128 Macmullen outlined three phases in which troops were to be employed in Bengal: flag marches in which their role was “to move freely about the districts”; the stationing of troops in localities where information was collected; and a final phase where troops, together with police, would be “engaged in active operations against terrorist organizations.” Another army officer summarized these three phases as “Demonstration, Discovery and Action.”129 During the “Demonstration” phase, designed as an impressive display of colonial power with marches and flag-saluting ceremonies whenever the column halted, troops were to “maintain an attitude of complete indifference towards the local inhabitants” that one officer described as a “compromise between fraternizing and antagonism.”130
If the colonial authorities had hoped that displays of military power would cow terrorists and inspire new flows of information to the police, they were sorely disappointed. Chitforce had already demonstrated that troop deployments did not necessarily lead to an increased flow of intelligence. Civil and military officers observed that flag marches alone did little to motivate rural Bengalis to provide information to the police; P. C. Bamford of the Intelligence Bureau, a former Bengal Police intelligence officer, believed that such displays of imperial patriotism actually increased hatred for the Union flag.131 The District Magistrate of Midnapore observed in 1933 that “there is a little room for doubt that the flag march method is ineffective, serving neither to encourage loyalists nor to hamper the movements of terrorists for any length of time.”132 Military commanders in turn continued to complain that the lack of police intelligence hampered their effectiveness. In November 1932, Lt.-Col. Dennys of the Presidency and Assam District complained that troops stationed in Bengal were not given enough information about the reasons for the harassing searches which they were asked to carry out. “The troops knew so little about the information on which ‘civil’ worked: but the troops were definitely affected by it.” This was particularly an issue in Chittagong District, where troops were called upon to do searches “night after night, and most of them fruitless.” The CO of the battalion stationed there opined that “it was doubtful where anyone but Gurkhas”—an epitome of the imperial “martial races”—could have stood it without a loss of morale.”133
There was a broad consensus among colonial authorities in Bengal that “the mere presence of troops,” although reassuring to colonial officials and the European community, did not alone do much to improve the flow of intelligence to the local police.134 Equally if not more important, in the eyes of the Government of Bengal, was the use, beginning in 1932, of British officers of British and Indian Army regiments as intelligence officers in centers of revolutionary activity. The idea for the deployment of these Military Intelligence Officers (MIOs) originated with military rather than civilian authorities. General Norman Macmullen, hoping to avoid repeating the intelligence failures of the Burma Rebellion of 1930–1932, sought to bolster the intelligence capabilities of the Bengal Police by utilizing army officers to supplement the ranks of the District Intelligence Branches. The first four officers arrived shortly after the first troops in the fall of 1932.135 The number of MIOs was increased to eight in 1934 and later to twelve.136
Most, though not all, of those selected as Military Intelligence Officers had backgrounds in intelligence, ranging from army courses to practical experience in India and Burma.137 Their intelligence experience, or even their military background, was not considered to be as important in their effectiveness, however, as their status as British officers. Macmullen emphasized imperial factors in the MIOs’ effectiveness: the officers’ Britishness, and their ability to command and direct Indian subordinates. “The important point,” he stated in 1934 at a conference of civil and military officials in Calcutta,
The Commissioner of Chittagong Division agreed that a group of British police officers could achieve similar results to the MIOs if they were given proper training and freed from bureaucratic routine:
is not that they are Military, but that they are British and specially selected. Any Britisher in control of your District Intelligence staff, provided he is of the right type and has the necessary training, would produce just the same results under the same conditions.138
the value of the Military Intelligence Officer lies in the fact not that he is a military officer, but that he is a British officer entirely untrammeled by office and routine work, able to live out in the areas with which he is dealing, to get into close contact with the people whom he has to frighten or encourage and generally to inspire confidence in the officers from whom he has to obtain results.139
Indeed, colonial authorities regarded this freedom to focus on intelligence work as a key element of the MIOs’ success. Although they were seconded to the Bengal Police with rank of additional superintendent and worked within the structures of District Intelligence Branches under the authority of district police superintendents, they were able to work exclusively on cultivating agents, compiling dossiers on revolutionary suspects and analyzing local revolutionary activities. One of the first MIOs, Captain D. R. G. Leonard, who had served as an intelligence officer with Chitforce from November 1931 to February 1932, considerably bolstered the intelligence-gathering efforts of the Mymensingh DIB. Leonard personally enlisted his own agents and supervised District Intelligence Officers in “the enlistment of regular agents.” He also compiled information about revolutionary groups into a “Black Book” which was taken as a model for District Intelligence Branches in Bengal. District Superintendent S. G. Taylor detailed how Leonard traveled throughout the district and sought to cultivate relationships at the village level:
Similarly, the MIO in Rangpur District in northern Bengal greatly expanded the intelligence archive of the local DIB, by opening a file on anyone suspected of involvement with the revolutionary groups, even if the individual was mentioned by only a single agent. The history sheets maintained by the MIO provided the only reliable list of revolutionary suspects in the district.141 The local superintendent reported that this was an “excellent system and the Military Intelligence Officer derives great benefit when touring or on occasions when action is necessary against the groups as a whole.” No other officer, he noted, would have had the time to maintain such an extensive filing system.142 During the elaborate security precautions taken during the visit of the Governor of Bengal to Rangpur in 1936, the MIO was also responsible in conjunction with senior DIB officers for the positioning of plain-clothes policemen.143
[He] organises anti-terrorist associations and other extensive propaganda for the education of the public against terrorism. For this purpose he holds meetings in the mufassal and personally explains to individuals how terrorism can, and should, be fought. He calls up parents and guardians of suspects and, where there is no fear of the exposure of agents, tells them what their wards have been doing and explains to them how to check the activities of the latter.140
MIOs were frequently stationed in rural areas of Bengal, where they worked closely with Indian officers of District Intelligence Branches. In an effort to apprehend remaining raiders following the capture of Surjya Sen in 1933, MIO Captain Ivor Stevenson moved out of Chittagong town to the interior where he lived with a number of DIB officers and men. Stevenson and the DIB staff engaged in both propaganda and intelligence-gathering regarding the revolutionaries’ movements.144 John Hunt, an officer in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, served as an MIO in Bengal from 6 January 1934 to 3 April 1935. He recalled spending weeks without seeing another European, as he worked closely with Bengali subordinates in the local DIB. The thrill of such clandestine operations was a major reason for the appeal of MIO positions, which for Hunt offered a relief from the “boredom and frustration” of serving in a British regiment in Calcutta in the early 1930s:
For a young man with no experience of civil administration, scant knowledge of the law, no training in covert operations and no previous contacts with the people among whom I was to live and work, including the Indian Army, this was an exciting new world, full of surprises, pitfalls and a certain spice of danger.145
The Military Intelligence Officers thus stood as exemplars of the “individualist myth that sustained colonial rule”: the lone imperial officer with the ability to “know the country.”146 To be sure, the MIOs were under civilian control, exemplifying one of the key tenets of post-Amritsar Indian military policy, and some officers such as Hunt seem to have developed a true affection for the people and the landscape of rural Bengal.147 Yet a dramatic increase in military force lay behind the successes of these “lone imperial officers.” In Chittagong and Midnapore Districts, where the revolutionary campaign was most active, MIOs served as liaisons between police and military.148 Macmullen emphasized that the Military Intelligence Officers were “most necessary” for “intensive operations by the troops.” “It must be realised,” he added, “that the use of troops under the special Acts in force in Bengal differs from the normal use of the military in aid of the civil power and closely resembles their use under Martial Law.” Macmullen invoked Charles Gwynn’s recently published Imperial Policing—written with a military rather than a police audience in mind—as an illustration of this, suggesting that if one substituted “terrorists” and “absconders” for “rebels” Gwynn’s discussion of martial law was “identical with rules now in force in parts of Bengal.”149
The effectiveness of the Military Intelligence Officers and of the Bengal Intelligence Branch after 1930 thus depended on the presence of the British and Indian Army in Bengal’s districts.150 This was illustrated an episode from Mymensingh District in January 1934. While two companies of the Norfolk Regiment camped in the Munshiganj subdivision of Mymensingh, all suspected terrorists in the subdivision—some 300 men—were brought in and interrogated by the Military Intelligence Officer and DIB inspectors. The District Magistrate and Police Superintendent agreed that the presence of the troops was responsible for securing a large number of agents for the police on this occasion.151
The “intelligence” efforts of these civil-military collaborations also not infrequently involved the brutal treatment of revolutionary suspects and those suspected of possessing information about terrorists. By the 1930s, the Government of Bengal drew little distinction between the two.152 This was illustrated in Chittagong District, where District Magistrate A. S. Hands and MIO Ivor Stephenson developed a policy of calculated brutality in searches carried out in villages in the district. Under the Bengal Suppression of Terrorist Outrages Act of 1932, collective fines were imposed on villages found to have harbored terrorist suspects. A collective fine of Rs 80,000 was imposed on Chittagong town after the Parhartali Railway Institute Raid, for example, but smaller fines were also routinely levied for simply failing to supply information. In March 1933, a fine was imposed on the village of Bidgram, near Chittagong town, when villagers denied knowledge of one of the Armoury Raiders who was chased there by two police officers.153
In May 1932, the Army and Police began a policy of “regular and persistent searches” of all houses suspected to be used as shelters by Armoury Raiders, and over the next year, an average of 100 dwellings per month were searched. Hunt recalled the punitive nature of these searches:
Hunt noted the discomfort of some senior British police officers and in particular the dislike of some Bengali subordinate officers with such “crude methods of countering violence with violence,” which “were distasteful and a matter of shame.”154 Nonetheless, the consensus among colonial officials was that such searches were effective in increasing the flow of intelligence in Chittagong. Prior to June 1932, according to A. J. Dash, “Reliable specific information was so scanty that regular searches of possible shelters had to be undertaken in order to exert a vague general pressure on absconders and their supporters.” The MIO, Stevenson, made village Watch and Ward Committees “audiences for his propaganda,” based on a combination of searches, fines, and “general harassment.” At the same time, Stevenson used the information received to coordinate the searches conducted by military troops. Behind this lay villagers’ fears of British and Indian Army units:
Under the forceful leadership of the District Magistrate Adam Hands and the MIO, Ivor Stephenson, the District was being subjected to a deliberate programme of harassment by the battalion of the Additional Garrison. Raids and searches in the villages were conducted by the troops, often acting on little or no firm information, on the theory that the terrorists, if they were not fortuitously caught in the cordon, would be driven into some other area where our intelligence had improved.
Particular advantage is derived from the personal contact which Captain Stevenson effects between the administration and responsible village opinion. Leaders feel they are in the presence of an officer who is virtually in charge of the direction of information and operations and who is in a position to bring immediate punishment if they fail to carry out what he has convinced them are reasonable requests for assistance.155
British observers credited the cooperation of the MIO and District Magistrate as crucial in increasing the flow of information. Stevenson was quickly awarded the Companion of the Indian Empire after only a six-month posting in the police, much to the resentment of many Bengal Police officers, who felt that he and other military officers were being singled out for commendation at the expense of their police colleagues.156 Hands as well was credited for his willingness to go to great lengths to produce intelligence. According to ICS officer Henry Twynam, he
While Military Intelligence Officers thus bolstered the capacity of the Bengal Police IB to carry out effective intelligence work, the presence of the British and Indian Army lay behind their successes in the realm of “information,” “interrogations,” and “investigation” in the 1930s.
had been very successful in obtaining secret agents and information. His methods, although within the law, were unorthodox. As later in Malaya, the villagers were more scared of the Terrorists than the Police, but Hands evolved methods which made life so uncomfortable for non-cooperating villagers that eventually informants began to talk and—as usually happens—once information begins to come in, further interrogations and investigation help it to gather volume, like a snowball.157
5 Reforming the Terrorist
By the mid-1930s, police confidence in their intelligence networks had been restored, as troops became a regular presence in “disturbed” Bengal districts and military officers became a presence among the police. At this time, the Government of Bengal began to focus on additional strategies for achieving their elusive goal of bringing three decades of “Bengali terrorism” to an end. Colonial authorities sought to eradicate what regarded as the core elements of the social, economic, and psychological issues which intelligence officers believed central to the composition of the “Bengali terrorist.” These, in essence, amounted to a sustained effort to “reform” and rehabilitate Bengali revolutionaries. As Durba Ghosh has shown, Indian colonial authorities had by this time come to define terrorism as antithetical to the process of political reform. Repression—in the form of detention camps and emergency legislation—occurred in tandem with reforms such as the Government of India Act.158 The individual “Bengali terrorist” was also the subject of reform efforts, which as we will see relied heavily upon elements of imperial culture and British conceptions of manliness, as well as stereotypes about Bengali Hindus.
One element at the core of British attitudes to Bengali revolutionaries was the perception that they were not only misguided but malleable, and thus candidates for transformation into loyal colonial subjects. Charles Tegart expressed this view in 1932 in his lecture on “Terrorism in India,” in which he argued that the revolutionary rank and file was composed largely of youths with both physical and emotional weaknesses who had been manipulated by their leaders. The Bengali, Tegart stated, drawing on long-standing colonial stereotypes of Bengali Hindu “effeminacy”:
is an intensely sensitive and emotional being, endowed with generous impulses. But he is easily led, quick to fancy insults and slights and quick to respond to anything that ministers to his personal vanity. In the terrorist movements his emotions once stirred found vent in misdirected patriotism. He was flattered by finding his services so much in demand. He was inspired by eulogies of the so-called heroes who had died for their country and longed to emulate their example. He believed what he was told and had read about the oppression and the arrogance of the Government, largely because he never heard it contradicted.159
While the revolutionary leadership might be relegated to the category of “irreconcilables,” the rank and file were potential projects for reform. Intelligence officers—including, ironically, those singled out by revolutionaries as practitioners of abuse and torture—took pride in their ability to “turn” former terrorists. Fellow officers believed that Tegart’s Irish background—“his characteristically Irish nature—gave him insight into the “mind of the bomb- and pistol-wallah.”160 Tegart’s wife Kathleen claimed that “among the large numbers of actual or potential terrorists whom he converted, many not only abandoned their connection with outrages but voluntarily enlisted themselves to help the police in the prevention of such crimes.” Indian intelligence officers such as Basanta Kumar Chatterjee were also reputed to have the ability to make “good citizens” out of former revolutionaries.161
Inspired by “the missionary zeal of the Church of Scotland,” John Anderson also took an interest in reforming one of his would-be assassins, Rabindra Banerji of Dacca District, who had attempted to shoot Anderson at Lebong Racecourse in Darjeeling on 8 May 1934. Anderson commuted Banerji’s capital sentence to fourteen years imprisonment in the Andaman Islands. There, according to Anderson’s biographer, he “came under the benign influence” of chaplain Cyril Pearson. The chaplain and Anderson agreed that the youth was a “foolish lad” who was “not beyond redemption.” Anderson visited the young man in his cell in the Andamans in 1937, and subsequently granted him parole to study electrical engineering in England. In a final development which must have been particularly gratifying to former governor, not only did his would-be assassin enlist in the R. A. F. during the Second World War but also converted to Christianity, along with his Jewish wife.162
In addition to these individual attempts, the Government of Bengal undertook collective efforts to alter the mentalities of young Bengalis that, in their view, had led them to terrorism. Some of these measures focused on practical efforts that attempted to provide former revolutionaries with vocational and technical training, but others attempted to instill them with imperial ideals of appropriate masculine behavior. The first efforts at reform took place following the granting of amnesty in 1919 to revolutionary suspects detained under the Defence of India Act. In the following year, the Government of India and the Indian YMCA initiated a residential program for former detainees. Following a conversation between the Viceroy, Lord Chelmsford, and K. T. Paul of the YMCA Council, Intelligence Branch DIG W. G. Dixon and the Political Secretary of the Government of Bengal met with Paul and a representative of the Indian Association to develop a program to assist former detenus. The goal was twofold: to provide vocational training and establish an alternative to the social and political world of the revolutionaries.163 The man selected to head the program, R. O. Raha, an MA graduate of Calcutta University, had no particular expertise regarding the revolutionary movement, but had practiced law for several years and was considered to be familiar with Indian criminality.
The scheme was initially funded by the YMCA, with contributions from the Government of India, Government of Bengal, and small donations from Indians, including moderate nationalists such as Surendranath Banerjee. Although Paul emphasized that no attempts at religious conversion were to take place, there was a distinct moral tone to the enterprise, which was to create a “ministry of friendship” with the goal of “establishing confidence permanently in a healthy quarter to which one may turn for advice and help in the long future.” Raha was aided by the nationalist lawyer B. C. Chatterjee who supplied him with the initial names of former detainees who were candidates for entry into the YMCA’s program. Chatterjee’s participation was considered crucial to securing the support of former revolutionaries for the program. Rana wrote that “Mr. Chatterjee’s political past is a guarantee on which these men can rely, and when he backs up the Hostel they feel that they can without prejudice go there.” Chatterjee was also said to have helped to quash “vague but subtle and dangerously adverse rumours” about the program.
By August 1920, 165 former detenus had resided at the hostel, which soon moved to larger premises. In addition to vocational training in a variety of fields ranging from motor driving and mechanics to telegraphy and laboratory training, the hostel made efforts to provide the men with “healthy recreations,” such as swimming, volleyball, and badminton. The scheme was regarded to be a success, as the former detainees were considered to have embraced the YMCA hostel, taking a “jealous pride” in it and responding to any criticism as a “personal insult.” Raha also opined that the YMCA’s work had a “soothing effect” on the political situation, with the “outer fringe” of the former detainees “settled in life,” and the “inner ring … gained over to constitutional ways.”
Following the mass detention of thousands of suspected revolutionaries in the early 1930s, the Government of Bengal began a program to train selected detenus in “agricultural and technical occupations.” Colonial authorities hoped that such vocational training would not only “accelerate the release of detenus and thus … counteract public opinion against the policy of long detention,” but also could eventually be applied to unemployed young Bengalis more generally.164 ICS officer S. C. Mitter, Director of Industries of Bengal and one of the highest-ranking Indian members of the Bengal government, developed the training scheme with the endorsement of John Anderson. District magistrates recommended detenus who had been in home or village detention.165 Four training camps were established in January 1936 to train detenus in kitchen gardening; brass, bell-metal and cutlery making; pottery; and umbrella-making. A fifth opened in the following year to train detenus in button-making. Three agricultural camps were also established at the end of 1935. With space for fewer than 200, the capacity of the camps was small, particularly in comparison with the tremendous expansion of detention camps for political prisoners, where around 2500 detenus were held at a time in the first half of the 1930s.166
In addition to vocational training for select detenus, the Government of Bengal made broader efforts to deter young Bengalis from involvement with revolutionary groups. These schemes drew heavily on both colonial stereotypes of the “effeminate Bengali” and British imperial ideals regarding sport and masculinity. The reform efforts aimed to make supposedly weak, emotional, and effeminate colonial subjects into something akin to the ideal of British imperial masculinity. Or as Anderson’s private secretary put it, to give “the Bengali boy a healthier physique and a healthier outlook on life … to make him the kind of young man who … would punch you on the nose instead of stabbing you in the back!”167
An important component of this reform effort was the attempt to foster participation in “healthy” European sports by Bengali Hindu youth. Although European sports played an important role as agents of anglicization and cultural imperialism within the British Empire, they also became a venue for the construction of “alternative athletic masculinities.”168 The Bengal revolutionary groups, who fostered an emphasis on physical culture and “traditional” Indian sports such as lathi play in attempts to build both the physique and character of young Bengali men were a notable example of this. European sport competitions also became a contested realm in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Bengal, as football tournaments were one of the few mixed public spheres in the racially segregated city of Calcutta.169
The Indian Police, in common with other colonial police and military forces, was also thoroughly imbued with an ethos of sport as a way of cultivating and maintaining loyalty and discipline.170 Police superintendent P. E. S. Finney, later an intelligence officer and supervisor of the Deoli detention camp, had a typically enthusiastic attitude toward sport. While superintendent at Mymensingh District in the mid-1930s, Finney gave preference to armed police recruits who were skilled at football and hockey, and accepted a few recruits from the district—not normally considered reliably “martial” material—who were “good footballers.”171 In 1930, Finney persuaded local Bengali football teams who were boycotting British-organized leagues to compete in a tournament with British teams (including those organized from the local police) that became known, to his great pleasure, as the “Finney Shield.”172 District police participated intensely in drill, hockey, and soccer in various “shield” competitions, one of which was named for F. J. Lowman, the Inspector General of the Bengal Police who was one of the revolutionaries’ victims. Football pitches, cricket grounds and golf courses also became venues for revolutionaries’ assassination attempts against police and other colonial officials. Khan Bahadur Ahsanullah and B. E. J. Burge, the third of the three Midnapore district magistrates assassinated by the revolutionaries, were both shot dead at football matches.
In the mid-1930s, the Government of Bengal made a number of efforts to prevent Bengali youth from being attracted to terrorist groups and practicing “Indian” sports such as lathi play through competing programs of sport, athletic competitions, and scouting. Much of the impetus for this came from Military Intelligence Officers. John Hunt, for example, “embarked on a constructive program among the young people” when he was stationed in Noakhali District in Eastern Bengal in the 1930s. Hunt “instituted a scheme of house captains and games competitions within the school, culminating in District championships, and it was found that a politically active character could often be transformed simply by giving him responsibility.” A similar program was adopted by the District Magistrate in Midnapore.173 Military, police, and civil service officers developed a number of similar programs in other districts, and from 1935 the military commander in Bengal, Major George Lindsay, began to sponsor such schemes as well.174
One of the most ambitious of these programs was developed by the Military Intelligence Officer and District Magistrate in the north Bengal district of Rangpur in 1935. According to District Magistrate S. K. Ghosh, the goal was “to catch the boys young and … get them inculcated in ways which will not only appeal to them, but will gradually help to build up their character, making them more robust and manly with less inclination for crooked and underhand things.” The schemes in Rangpur focused on two main areas: Boy Scouts and “physical culture including boxing,” which were to inculcate the “games ethic” and sportsmanship:
In order to counteract the lathi and dagger playing which is made such a feature of most “samitis” (which are probably all more or less terrorist organizations) we intend to lay very great emphasis on teaching of boxing, as this game makes for the development of physical and mental qualities which lathi and dagger playing do not touch at all. The Bengali boy with his physique and quickness of eye and movement should do very well at this game and it is not unlikely that he will do even better when he realises that in time he may represent India in the Olympic games at this game.175
The Military Intelligence Officer in Rangpur distributed instructions to institute a “house system” in all Higher English schools in the district, as well as rules for games such as netball and a game known as “Hindusthan ball.” In September 1935, a ten-day physical training course was held for masters of selected schools. The masters were taught instruction in various games including football, boxing, wrestling, volleyball and basketball, and received lectures from the District Military Intelligence Officer on subjects such as “Terrorism in Schools” and “The House System.” Local officials were ecstatic at the results, noting that local boys reported that revolutionaries had attempted to offer them “literature of a dangerous kind,” while in one case a boy obtained “all the up-to-date cypher systems of the various revolutionary parties” and turned them in to the Military Intelligence Officer.176
In addition to the efforts to replicate the sporting ethos of British public schools, the Government of Bengal also utilized youth and cultural organizations in an effort to blunt the appeal of “Bengali terrorism” to bhadralok youth in the towns and villages of Bengal. Tegart, then a member of the Council of India, in conjunction with Dr. D. M. Maitra, the founder of the Bengal Social Service League, advocated adapting the Czechoslovakian Sokol movement, which emphasized a combination of physical exercise and cultural and educational uplift.177 The Government of Bengal ultimately turned to two organizations, the Boy Scouts and a Bengali folk organization known as the Bratachari movement, in an effort to promote values that would inculcate loyalty to the Empire.
Like sports, scouting was a contested realm in colonial India, and colonial authorities were initially suspicious of its potential for building support for nationalism among Indian youth. Prior to the Great War, the Government of India encouraged the formation of scout troops among Europeans and Eurasians, but not Indians. In 1912, the Viceroy Lord Hardinge expressed the fear that if scouting were placed under the control of Indian officials it “might very soon develop into a political and semimilitary movement” along the lines of the Bengali samitis.178 By the interwar era, however, Indian demand for scouting had grown considerably, and the Government of India in response sought to actively attempted to utilize the scouting movement as a tool to combat the influence of Indian nationalism. In 1921, R. S. S. Baden-Powell came to India to coordinate the development of scouting, and an All India Council for Scouts was formed with the Viceroy as the Chief Scout of India.179
Indian Scout organizations, while drawing heavily on Baden-Powell’s conception, nonetheless differed markedly from his vision of Scouting as an organization binding the youth of the Empire together. Indian scouting organizations such as the Seva Samiti Boy Scouts Association had strong links to the Indian National Congress and to Indian nationalism more generally.180 In 1937, the Government of Bengal expressed concern about the inclusion in the second edition of Scouting for Boys in India of lines from “Vande Mataram” because of their connection to the Bengali revolutionary movement. A Bengal government official explained to Baden-Powell the context of the song in Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s novel Anandamath and how “the leaders of the Bengal revolutionary societies borrowed many ideas from this novel,” including the system of vows. They informed him that “‘Vande Mataram’ has been literally the war cry of the terrorists in Bengal.” As a result, Baden-Powell agreed to remove the words to “Bande Mataram” from next edition.181
Nonetheless, by the early 1930s, British police superintendents and district magistrates were actively promoting scouting as a way to thwart recruitment to the revolutionary groups. The wife of superintendent S. G. Taylor in the Kishoreganj subdivision of Mymensingh District in eastern Bengal wrote that officers there were
By 1935, the Government of Bengal had granted the Boy Scouts a 6000-rupee annual subsidy, and Military Intelligence Officers had also begun to promote scouting. In 1938 the Government of Bengal praised the performance of MIOs “whose keenness and success in giving life to such activities as the Scout and Bratachari movement and the House System help to keep students from being over-interested in politics.”183
pushing the Boy Scout movement as hard as they can as they find it is taking on like anything and is probably going to help the anti-terrorist movement more than any one realises. The people in the Town have taken it up like anything, and not only fathers of young families, but even grandfathers, have become Rovers. We attended a bonfire jamboree last night and were given the proper yells. Most enthusiastic they were.182
The other organization promoted by the Government of Bengal, the Bratachari movement, has been aptly described by John Rosselli as “a high-minded Scout-type movement dedicated to the cult of past Bengali glories, sports, and folk arts.”184 Although the ostensible purpose was a revival of Bengali folk traditions, like many colonial institutions, Bratachari blended “Indian” and Western influences.185 The movement’s founder, ICS officer G. S. Dutt, later wrote that the inspiration for Bratachari came to him while in England in 1929, where he attended the All-England Folk Dance festival at the Royal Albert Hall. He was struck by the similarity between English folk dances and “the simple village dances of rural Bengal in which I had participated in my childhood.” Dutt began to work to preserve the traditional folk dance forms of Bengal and incorporate them into an educational program.186 The Bratachari movement was formally established in 1934, with Dutt as its first president. In 1940, Ramananda Chatterji, the editor of the Modern Review of Calcutta, estimated that seventeen of the twenty-seven Bengal districts had established Bratachari samitis with over 100,000 total members.187
The movement in part responded to Bengali concerns about the loss of “martial” prowess among her sons under colonial rule. In a 1934 collection of songs, Dutt set two songs to the tune of “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” partly “on the grounds that it was good for marching … and had been sung by soldiers under fire.”188 Among the dances practiced by Bratacharis was one known as “Raibenshe,” which Dutt claimed to have “discovered among the descendants of the old fighting castes in the districts of Western Bengal,” and which he described as “one of the manliest and most vigorous folk dances extant in any country in the world.” Rabindranath Tagore also praised the “manly” Raibenshe dance and expressed confidence that it would “remove the feebleness of spirit of our country.”189
The movement was appealing for a number of reasons to colonial authorities seeking an outlet for the energies of Bengali youth other than terrorism or nationalist politics. Although Dutt described the movement as “a national movement for an ideal and practice of the citizenship of Bengal,” its focus was cultural synthesis rather than opposition between Indian and western culture. According to Dutt, while Bratachari was “based primarily on the national culture of Bengal from which it seeks its basic inspiration, it does not inculcate a narrow nationalism which can see no good in other people’s culture. On the other hand, it is willing to assimilate all that is best in other people’s culture.” The “traditional” games and dances of the movement were a far cry from the martial lathi and dagger play of the revolutionary samitis. “Unlike modern sports and games,” Dutt observed, “which tend to encourage the combative and competitive spirit, the Bratachari exercises and dances actively develop the spirit of harmony and co-operation.”190
In 1935, Anderson expressed the belief that the Bratachari movement would “prove of real value in correcting undesirable tendencies in the youth of Bengal,” and it was granted an initial annual subsidy of 2400 rupees. ICS officer S. Basu wrote that Bratachari would direct the energies of young Bengalis “to channels of social service and healthy forms of sports…. By granting it subsidy Government will be able to exercise strict control and supervision over the movement and thus they will be able to direct it on [the] right lines.”191 At a Bratachari rally in January 1937, Anderson was struck by “the excellent physique of those who took part in the Bratachari display.”192 The headmaster of one high school praised the “chastening influence” of the Bratachari movement on his students, a description similar to those voiced by colonial officials who hoped to influence teenage Bengali boys who might otherwise have been interested in terrorist recruiters:
The deployment of military forces and the use of special legislation allowing widespread detention without trial enabled the Government of Bengal to disrupt the revolutionary offensive in the 1930s. In the blunt words of John Anderson’s biographer, “There was to be no more ‘cat and mouse’ treatment. They meant to crush terrorism permanently.”194 Yet colonial authorities also redoubled efforts to “reform” revolutionaries through vocational training, sport, scouting, and cultural movements which they hoped would transform “Bengali terrorists” into loyal imperial subjects.
A pupil, who, before joining the Bratachari movement, unruly and hot-tempered and in many respects very ill-equipped for life, has proved himself worthy of the highest admiration since he has become initiated in the noble principles of this movement. The movement is unequaled in molding character. My own son, a lad of fifteen, is a remarkable instance. Eight months ago, before the movement came into operation, the boy was mischievous, wayward and most irregular in habits. But now, as Headmaster and father of the boy, I feel proud to say that since becoming a Bratachari he has set an example for others to emulate; he is not only methodical and earnest, but always wears a smile on his face and has been doing constructive work.193
After the Chittagong Armoury Raid widened the field of activity for Bengali revolutionaries and presented new challenges to colonial authority in Bengal, the colonial state was forced to find new means of suppressing the revolutionary movement as it entered its third decade. A new Bengal Criminal Law Amendment Act again gave Bengal authorities to power to institute the mass detention without trial of revolutionary suspects. The Bengal Suppression of Terrorist Outrages Act of 1932 further targeted districts of the province where the Bengal revolutionaries’ campaign was most intense. In addition to allowing the levying of collective fines, this legislation also targeted Hindu bhadralok youth, who made up the majority of the ranks of revolutionaries. In Midnapore and Chittagong Districts, Hindu boys and men between the ages of twelve and thirty had to carry identity cards, were placed under dusk to dawn curfews, and prohibited from using bicycles.195 A network of detention camps was created to house the detainees. The Bengal Police Intelligence Branch made efforts to bolster its ranks in Calcutta and the districts, and place the search for the “absconders” in Chittagong under the direct supervision of senior police officers.
Yet colonial authorities found that a cadre of British and Indian intelligence officers and legislation allowing wide latitude to detain suspects were no longer adequate to prevent the revolutionary movement from not only sustaining itself but also growing even more powerful and attracting a new generation of recruits. While the campaign against the revolutionaries had been conducted as a police matter for over two decades, the military played a prominent role not only in reasserting colonial power but also in the generation of intelligence that formed the basis of hundreds of search operations directed at the revolutionaries. The militarization of the anti-revolutionary campaign, and the ways that the coercive actions of police, military, and special legislation together accentuated the repressive apparatus of the colonial state, is perhaps the most striking feature of the anti-terrorist campaign in Bengal during these years.
As military-civil anti-terrorist operations began to reassert colonial control and built a renewed, if fragile, sense of confidence among the British-Indian community, a range of measures were deployed to alter what colonial authorities viewed as the mindsets behind “Bengali terrorism.” While colonial officials made many optimistic statements regarding the success of the military-civil campaign and efforts to reform and rehabilitate bhadralok youth, the revival of the terrorist campaign remained an obsession with colonial authorities—and a fear of the British-Indian population—until the end of the colonial rule. Both colonial officials and members of the British-Indian community feared the transfer of the police to provincial ministries under the 1935 Government of India Act. Many strongly argued that the Intelligence Branch, because of its importance in the continuing surveillance of “Bengali terrorists,” ought to be separated from the ordinary police and retained under British control.196 Anxieties about the potential for terrorist violence thus remained considerable, in spite of the weight of colonial power that was brought to bear upon the revolutionaries.
By the 1930s, colonial authorities in Bengal were also deeply concerned about the influence of revolutionaries outside of India and efforts to import arms to revolutionaries in the province. The activities of some of the most prominent Bengali revolutionaries overseas and their efforts to import arms and otherwise assist their colleagues in Bengal, and the actions of imperial intelligence agencies in London, New Delhi, and Calcutta to neutralize such activities form the subject of the next two chapters.
Abbreviations Used in the Endnotes
- APAC BL
Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections, British Library, London
Centre of South Asian Studies Archive, Cambridge University
Deputy Inspector General
Eastern Bengal and Assam
Government of Bengal
Government of Eastern Bengal and Assam
Government of India
Intelligence Branch, Bengal Police
- NA UK
National Archives of the United Kingdom, Kew, London
National Archives of India, New Delhi
- Pol (Conf.)
Political Confidential file
Superintendent of Police
- Tegart memoir
K. F. Tegart, “Charles Tegart of the Indian Police,” MSS Eur. C 235, APAC BL
A. K. Samanta, ed., Terrorism in Bengal: A Collection of Documents, 6 vols. (Calcutta: Government of West Bengal, 1995)
West Bengal State Archives, Kolkata
Michele L. Louro and Carolien Stolte, “The Meerut Conspiracy Case in Comparative and International Perspective,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 33: 3 (2013), 310–315.
Kama Maclean, “The History of a Legend: Accounting for Popular Histories of Revolutionary Nationalism in India,” Modern Asian Studies 46: 6 (2012), 1540–1571.
H. W. Hale, Terrorism in India 1917–1936 (1937; Reprint: Delhi: Deep, 1974).
Extracts from Weekly Report of Director, Intelligence Bureau, GOI, 14 December 1930, L/P&J/12/389, APAC BL.
Another group of insurgents, who had planned to shoot Britons at the local European Club, were frustrated in their attempt. The club was empty, except for an Indian bearer, due to the fact that the raid took place late on the evening of Good Friday. The account of the Armoury Raid here is, unless otherwise noted, based on information in Manini Chatterjee, Do and Die: The Chittagong Uprising 1930–34 (Delhi: Penguin, 1999); and R. E. A. Ray, “Report on the Activities of Terrorists in Bengal during the Period April to December 1930,” (1931) in TIB I: 593–758.
The revolutionaries who took control of the police armory also neglected to send reinforcements to the group who had seized the Auxiliary Force armory, which contained rifles and Lewis guns. In addition, revolutionaries who could have taken over other key locales in the town wasted hours at the police armory until, lacking other orders, they retreated to the hills around Chittagong.
“Report of the Adjutant, A. B. Railways. Report of the Raid on the night 18th/19th April 1930,” in I. Mallikarjuna Sharma, ed., Easter Rebellion in India: The Chittagong Uprising (Hyderabad: Marxist Study Forum, 1993), 391.
R. E. A. Ray, “Report on the Activities of Terrorists in Bengal during the Period April to December 1930,” (1931) in TIB I: 601.
R. E. A. Ray, “Report on the Activities of Terrorists in Bengal during the Period April to December 1930,” (1931) in TIB I: 657.
R. E. A. Ray, “Note on the Policy of the Terrorist Parties in Bengal,” (1932) in TIB I: 745.
Robert Reid, Years of Change in Bengal and Assam (London: Ernest Benn, 1966), 53.
Kama Maclean, A Revolutionary History of Interwar India: Violence, Image, Voice and Text (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).
Mark Condos, The Insecurity State: Punjab and the Making of Colonial Power in British India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017).
Report on the Political Situation in Bengal, First Half of May 1930, L/P&J/12/13, APAC BL.
Hale, Terrorism in India, 34.
Extracts from the Weekly Report of the Director, Intelligence Bureau, GOI, 17 December 1931, L/P&J/12/391, APAC BL. For the perspectives of female revolutionaries, see Durba Ghosh, “Revolutionary Women and Nationalist Heroes in Bengal, 1930 to the 1980s,” Gender & History 25: 2 (2013), 355–375.
“Addenda to the List of Outrages,” in TIB VI: 667–701.
Charles Tegart was again the target of the Writers’ Building attack. For details, see TIB VI: 667–701.
L. G. Pinnell, “Political and Administrative,” Pinnell Papers, MSS Eur. D 911/21, APAC BL.
The colonial debates surrounding and the application of the Bengal Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance of 1924 and the Bengal Criminal Law Amendment Acts of 1925 and 1930 are analyzed in Durba Ghosh, Gentlemanly Terrorists: Political Violence and the Colonial State in India, 1919–1947 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 107–134 and 145–160. The focus here will be on the intersection between police intelligence and preventive detention.
In 1926, the Governor of Bengal wrote to the Viceroy that Calcutta Police Commissioner Charles Tegart “urged very strongly the moral effect of a permanent measure.” Three years later the police again conveyed the view that the legislation ought to remain permanent. Hugh Stephenson, Acting Governor of Bengal, to Viceroy, 9 August 1926, L/PO/6/25 APAC BL; and “Memorandum on the History of Terrorism in Bengal 1905–1933,” (1933) in TIB I: 813.
The GOB estimated that “75 per cent. of the men arrested had at one stage or another given their full story.” Hugh Stephenson, Acting Governor of Bengal, to Viceroy, 9 August 1926, L/PO/6/25 APAC BL.
Hugh Stephenson, Acting Governor of Bengal, to Viceroy, 9 August 1926, L/PO/6/25 APAC BL.
“Terrorist Conspiracy in Bengal from the 1st January to 30th June 1926” (1926), “Terrorist Conspiracy in Bengal from the 1st July to 31st December 1926,” (1927), and “Terrorist Conspiracy in Bengal from the 1st January to 30th June 1927,” (1928) in TIB I: 477–592.
Calcutta Police Commissioner Charles Tegart regarded Chittagong and Dacca as the two districts which posed the greatest threat of terrorist violence. Lord Irwin, Viceroy, to Lord Birkenhead, Sec. of State for India, Private, 16 June 1927, L/PO/6/25, APAC BL.
H. J. Twynam and R. E. A. Ray, Enquiry into Temporary Establishments of the Central and District Intelligence Branches of the Bengal Police (1936), 31; and Rajat Kanta Ray, Social Conflict and Political Unrest in Bengal, 1875–1927 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1984), 298–299 and 301.
“Activities of the Revolutionaries in Bengal from 1st September 1924 to the 31st March 1925,” (1925) in TIB I: 375.
Chatterjee, Do and Die, 62–63.
R. E. A. Ray, “Report on the Activities of Terrorists in Bengal during the Period April to December 1930,” (1931) in TIB I: 603.
Cited in Chatterjee, Do and Die, 64.
“Judgment in Armoury Raid Case No. 1 of 1930. Chittagong. In the Court of the Commissioner of Special Tribunal. The Emperor v. Subodh Bose and others,” 12–13, 1 March 1932, GOI Home (Pol) 7/4 of 1932, NAI.
Chatterjee, Do and Die, 64.
“Judgment in Emperor v. Surjya Kumar Sen, alias Masterda; Tarakeswar Dastidar; Kalpana Datta,” p. 19, 14 August 1933, Sharpe Papers, CSAS.
Douglas Gordon, “Memoirs of Life as a Police Officer in India from 1907–59,” 111, Gordon Papers, CSAS.
“The watchers,” as Manini Chatterjee observes, “were no skillful detectives, stalking their quarry in shadowy silence. They openly hung about the listed ‘haunts,’ making no effort to conceal that they were on duty.” Chatterjee, Do and Die, 64.
Chatterjee, Do and Die, 65–67.
Cited in Chatterjee, Do and Die, 159.
Extract from diaries of W. D. R. Prentice, 13 and 15 May 1930, and note by Prentice, 16 May 1930, GOB Home (Pol) Conf. No. 580 of 1930, WBSA.
J. C. Farmer, DIG, Backergunge Range, to F. Lowman, IG, 6 May 1930, GOI Home (Poll) No. 335 of 1930, NAI.
Sugata Bose, Agrarian Bengal: Economy, Social Structure and Politics 1919–1947 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 199.
Sumit Sarkar, Modern India 1885–1947 (Delhi: Macmillan, 1983), 301–302.
“List of Outrages Committed in Pursuance of the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930,” in TIB VI: 701–714.
J. R. Johnson, SP Chittagong, to A. H. Kemm, DM Chittagong, 24 August 1931, GOB Home (Pol) Conf. No. 296 (76–80) of 1931, WBSA.
H. R Wilkinson, DM Chittagong, to GOB, 30 July 1930, GOB Home (Pol) Conf. No. 670 of 1930, WBSA.
Commander, Presidency and Assam District, to CS to GOB, 16 May 1930, in Sharma, ed., Easter Rebellion in India, 430–433.
Dallas Smith to Lowman, 4 May 1930, GOI Home (Pol) Conf. No. 335 of 1930, NAI.
Dallas Smith requested a plane, “bomber for choice,” which he believed would be invaluable E. Dallas Smith, Commanding Special Duty Detachment, Eastern Frontier Rifles, to Commandant, EFR, 21 April 1930, in Sharma, ed., Easter Rebellion in India, 396–397.
Report on the Political Situation in Bengal, Second Half of April 1930, L/P&J/12/13, APAC BL; and Lt.-Col. E. Dallas Smith, Assam Rifles, to Lowman, IG Police; and J. R. Johnson to Lowman; IG Police, Home (Pol) Conf. No. 335 of 1930, NAI.
E. Dallas Smith to Lowman, 6 May 1930; and J. C. Farmer to Lowman, 6 May 1930; GOI Home (Pol) No. 335 of 1930, NAI.
Tanika Sarkar, Bengal 1928–1934: The Politics of Protest (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987), 150 and 152–153.
Farmer to Lowman, 6 May 1930, GOI Home (Pol) 335 of 1930, NAI; and Santimoy Roy, The Revolutionary Nationalist Movement: Its Contribution to India’s Freedom Struggle (Calcutta: Antaranga Prakashana, 1993), 175–176.
J. R. Johnson, SP Chittagong, to Farmer, IG, 9 April 1931; and A. H. Kemm, DM, to Commissioner, Chittagong Division, 14 April 1931; GOB Home (Pol) Conf. No. 296 of 1931, WBSA.
H. W. Emerson, “Note on Discussion with Bengal Government,” 5 November 1931, P&J No. 5172 of 1931, L/P&J/7/242, APAC BL.
G. C. B. Buckland, Lt.-Col., Commanding at Chittagong, to O/C Presidency & Assam District, 8 May 1931, GOB Home (Pol) Conf. No. 296 of 1931, WBSA.
Emphasis in original. J. R. Johnson, SP, Chittagong, to T. J. A. Craig, IG, 25 August 1931, GOB Home (Pol) Conf. No. 296 of 1931, WBSA.
Fortnightly Report for the Second Half of August 1931, L/P&J/12/25, APAC BL.
See Chap. 3.
R. N. Reid, CS GOB, to Sec. GOI Home, 2 October 1931; A. H. Kemm, DM Chittagong, to Commissioner, Chittagong Division, 1 September 1931; Reid to Sec. to GOI, Home, 2 October 1931; and W. H. Nelson, Report on the Disturbances in Chittagong on August 30th, 1931 and Following Days (1931), 19. P&J No. 4741 of 1931, L/P&J/7/220, APAC BL.
Suranjan Das, Communal Riots in Bengal, 1905–1947 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1992), 133–141.
Report of the Non-official Enquiry Committee on Recent Disturbances in Chittagong (September, 1931), 10. P&J No. 4741 of 1931, L/P&J/7/220, APAC BL.
Report on the Disturbances in Chittagong, 3–4; Report of the Non-official Enquiry Committee on Recent Disturbances in Chittagong (September, 1931), 2; J. R. Johnson, SP, Chittagong, to T. J. A. Craig, IG, 25 August 1931, GOB Home (Pol) Conf. No. 296 of 1931, WBSA. Emphasis in original. Johnson concluded that “every young Bengali at the moment is a potential murderer and only requires the necessary amount of the serum propagated by PANCHAJANYA to go to Surjya Sen and get the plan for murder.”
Report on the Disturbances in Chittagong, 28.
CS to GOB to GOI, Home, 23 January 1932, P&J No. 4741 of 1931, L/P&J/7/220, APAC BL.
CS to GOB to GOI, Home, 23 January 1932, and “Extracts from Note” attached to the above letter, P&J No. 4741 of 1931, L/P&J/7/220, APAC BL.
ICS officer John Younie reported that Shooter’s home leave had been abruptly cancelled shortly before his suicide. Dorothy Younie, “In Chittagong Fifty Years Ago,” Aberdeen University Review No. 169 (1983), 35–36.
David Campion, “Authority, Accountability and Representation: The United Provinces Police and the Dilemmas of the Colonial Policeman in British India, 1902–39,” Historical Research 76: 192 (2003), 221; and telegram from GOI Home to Sec. of State, 20 March 1932, P&J No. 4741 of 1931, L/P&J/7/220, APAC BL.
In March 1932 the troops were replaced by a single battalion of Gurkha Rifles. Major A. F. Rawson Lumby, Assistant Sec. to GOI, to Chief of General Staff, 15 August 1932, GOI Home (Pol) No. 33/9 of 1932, NAI.
Reid to CS to GOB, 14 December 1931, L/P&J/7/242, APAC BL.
Reid to CS to GOB, 14 December 1931, L/P&J/7/242, APAC BL.
A. S. Hands, “Report on the Operations of Chitforce from the 1st December to 7th March 1932,” L/P&J/7/242, APAC BL.
Holman recalled that “In due course sensible strategy brought some results. By sensible strategy I mean the old method of, for instance, combing all parts of a given area thoroughly save one. We then went over the deliberately neglected areas in the hope that its apparent immunity from searches had lured in some absconders. It was to work at least once, taking time and many men. In case it all sounds a very expensive way of capturing a few frightened young men it should be mentioned that it was considered essential to recover every one of the stolen arms.” T. G. H. Holman memoirs, 178–179, Holman Papers, MSS Eur. D 884, APAC BL.
Minute by R. Peel, IO, 11 March 1932, P&J No. 4741 of 1931, L/P&J/7/242, APAC BL.
E. N. Blandy, Commissioner, Chittagong Division, to Officer Commanding, 7th (Dehra Dun) Infantry Brigade, Dacca, 16 May 1934, GOB Home (Pol) Conf. No. 277 of 1934, WBSA. An estimated one thousand searches were carried out between May 1932 and February 1933 alone. IO Judicial & Public Minute, 18 May 1933, L/P&J/7/242, APAC BL. The Chitforce operation claimed credit for the arrest of a “minor absconder” in Dacca in December 1931, due to the pressure that was being brought to bear by revolutionaries in Chittagong. Reid to CS to GOB, 21 December 1931, Weekly Report for Week Ending 19 December 1931, L/P&J/7/242, APAC BL.
A. S. Hands, “Report on the Operations against Absconders and Terrorists in the Chittagong District from the 9th March 1932 to 31st March 1933,” p. 3, P&J No. 4741 of 1931, L/P&J/7/242, APAC BL. For the Dhalghat raid, see Chatterjee, Do and Die, 211–215.
Chatterjee, Do and Die, 216–224.
Extracts from the Weekly Report of the Director, Intelligence Bureau, GOI, 6 October 1932, L/P&J/12/391, APAC BL.
Chatterjee, Do and Die, 218.
Maria Misra, Business, Race, and Politics in British India c. 1850–1960 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), 164.
Ray, Social Conflict, 25.
David Washbrook, “Avatars of Identity: The British Community in India,” in Robert Bickers, ed., Settlers and Expatriates: Britons Over the Seas. The Oxford History of the British Empire Companion Series (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 203.
Kim A. Wagner, “’Treading Upon Fires’: The ‘Mutiny’ Motif and Colonial Anxieties in British India,” Past and Present No. 218 (2013), 159–197.
In 1908, following a series of assassination attempts, the British-Indian community demanded legislation enabling the colonial government to deal with “revolutionary crime” outside the courts system. Ray, Social Conflict, 181.
R. E. A. Ray, “Report on the Activities of Terrorists in Bengal during the period April to December 1930,” (1931) in TIB I: 604.
As Mrinalini Sinha argues, the clubs of colonial India were not metropolitan imports, but evolved and functioned in response to the exigencies of the colonial world. “Britishness, Clubability and the Colonial Public Sphere: The Genealogy of an Imperial Institution in Colonial India,” Journal of British Studies 40: 4 (2001), 489–521.
“Memorandum on the History of Terrorism in Bengal 1905–1933,” (1933) in TIB I: 821.
Kama Maclean, “The Art of Panicking Quietly: British-Indian Responses to ‘Outrages,’ 1928–1933,” in Harald Fischer-Tiné, ed., Anxieties, Fear and Panic in Colonial Settings: Empires on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 140.
Harald Fischer-Tiné and Christina Whyte, “Introduction: Empires and Emotions,” in Fischer-Tiné, ed., Anxieties, Fear and Panic, 1.
A. S. Hands, Bengal Emergency Powers Ordinance Weekly Report No. 13, for week ending 27 February 1932, 28 February 1932, L/P&J/7/242, APAC BL.
Amy Bell, “Landscapes of Fear: Wartime London, 1939–1945,” Journal of British Studies 48: 1 (2009), 154.
Wagner, “’Treading Upon Fires,’” 159–197. For recurrent British fears of a repeat of 1857, see Chap. 2.
R. E. A. Ray, “Note on the Policy of the Terrorist Parties in Bengal,” (1932) in TIB I: 745.
Younie, “In Chittagong,” 27.
David M. Laushey, Bengal Terrorism and the Marxist Left: Aspects of Regional Nationalism in India, 1905–1942 (Calcutta: Firma KLM, 1975), 79.
Alfred Watson, “Terror in Bengal,” in Wilfred Hindle, ed., We Were There: By 12 Foreign Correspondents (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1939), 236.
H. Quinton, “Terrorism in Bengal – A Memory,” Quinton Collection, CSAS.
Coralie Taylor to her parents, 11 September 1933 and 7 November 1933, S. G. Taylor Collection, CSAS.
Simon Ball, “The Assassination Culture of Imperial Britain, 1909–1979,” Historical Journal 56: 1 (2013), 233–234 and 255–256.
Statesman, 1 August 1931, quoted in Reginald Reynolds, The White Sahibs in India (1937; reprint Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1970), 249.
H. W. Emerson, “Notes on Discussion with the Bengal Government,” 5 November 1931, L/P&J/7/242, APAC BL.
The Times, 15 December 1931.
Andrew Thompson, “The Languages of Loyalism in Southern Africa, c. 1870–1939,” English Historical Review 118: 477 (2003), 617–650.
“The Royalists. We stand for the King against the King’s Enemies,” , Mullock Collection, CSAS.
“The Royalists. We stand for the King against the King’s Enemies,” , Mullock Collection, CSAS.
The Times, 15 December 1931. Mullock, along with two other members of the Royalists, had in fact been present at the assassination attempt on Villiers. Garlick had been part of the Special Tribunal which had tried and sentenced Dinesh Gupta to death for the murder of the IG of Jails during the attack on the Writers’ Building.
Extract from the Weekly Report of Director, Intelligence Bureau, GOI, 29 October 1931, L/P&J/12/390, APAC BL.
Royalist manifesto, 28 October 1931, Mullock Collection, CSAS.
Report on the Disturbances in Chittagong, 5. The Indian National Congress’ Report of the Non-official Enquiry Committee also noted the participation of Auxiliary Force members in the destruction of the press. L/P&J/7/242, APAC BL.
Untitled memorandum to Government of Bengal from European officials in Dacca , S. G. Taylor Collection, CSAS.
Reflecting the fears of assassination by revolutionaries, the authors contended that “In the peculiar condition of Hindu joint family life, it is practically impossible for parents and relatives to be unaware of the revolutionary activities of members of their household, particularly in those cases where revolvers have been kept in the house.” Untitled memorandum to Government of Bengal from European officials in Dacca , S. G. Taylor Collection, CSAS.
Mark Condos, “License to Kill: The Murderous Outrages Act and the Rule of Law in Colonial India, 1867–1925,” Modern Asian Studies 50: 2 (2016), 480–481. For other efforts to apply the Murderous Outrages Act to Bengal, see Chap. 2.
R. N. Reid, untitled memo, 24 March 1932; and Reid to Prentice, 24 March 1932, Anderson Collection, MSS Eur. F 207/12, APAC BL.
Reid to Prentice, 24 March 1932, Anderson Collection, MSS Eur. F 207/12, APAC BL.
John Lonsdale, “Kenya: Home County and African Frontier,” in Bickers, ed., Settlers and Expatriates, 104. For the responses of the “extremist” segments of the European community to Mau Mau, see Dane Kennedy, “Constructing the Colonial Myth of Mau Mau,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 25: 2 (1992), 245–247.
The Statesman of Calcutta strongly criticized a town hall meeting in which Europeans threatened “to take the law into their own hands.” Statesman, 30 July 1931, cited in Maclean, “The Art of Panicking Quietly,” 154.
Alexander Burnett, “Experiences in Chittagong Riots – April 1930,” Alexander Burnett Papers, MSS Eur. C 806, APAC BL.
In 1926, for example, infantry, cavalry, and armored cars traveled through Calcutta in the wake of Hindu-Muslim riots “‘as a show of strength to the inhabitants who were unsettled owing to communal riots.’” David Omissi, The Sepoy and the Raj: The Indian Army, 1860–1940 (Basingstoke and London: Macmillan, 1994), 214–215.
Omissi, Sepoy and the Raj, 215.
David Arnold, “The Armed Police and Colonial Rule in South India, 1914–1947,” Modern Asian Studies 11: 1 (1977), 105–106.
Huw Bennett, Fighting the Mau Mau: The British Army and Counter-insurgency in the Kenyan Emergency (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 83–107.
Omissi, Sepoy and the Raj, 192–231; and Srinath Raghaven, “Protecting the Raj: The Army in India and Internal Security, c. 1919–1939,” Small Wars and Insurgencies 16: 3 (2005), 253–279.
Major General Bethell told the GOB that he believed a force of Assam Rifles with two British officers would be adequate for garrison duties in Chittagong. Major J. H. Woods, Presidency and Assam District, to CS to GOB, 18 April 1931; R. M. Wright to T. G. A. Craig, IG, 23 April 1931; and “Note of a discussion on the situation in Chittagong … on May 1, 1931,” GOB Home (Pol) Conf. No. 296 of 1931, WBSA.
H. W. Emerson, “Note on Discussion with the Bengal Government,” 5 November 1931, L/P&J/7/242, APAC BL.
Reid, Years of Change, 63.
Michael Silvestri, Ireland and India: Nationalism, Empire and Memory (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 68–73.
H. G. Haig, Viceroy’s Council, to John Anderson, 19 November 1932, Anderson Collection, MSS Eur. F 207/3, APAC BL.
Proceedings of the Civil and Military Conference held in Government House, Calcutta, on the 3rd and 4th July 1934, p. 5. L/P&J/12/400, APAC BL.
One British, one Garwhali, one Jat, and four Gurkha battalions were initially deployed in the province. Omissi, Sepoy and the Raj, 224.
“Instructions regarding the collection of information against terrorists,” 18 November 1932, GOB Home (Pol) Conf. No. 1046 (1–5) of 1932, WBSA.
Col. R. B. Deedes, Officiating Brigadier at Kharagpur, to L. B. Burrows, Commissioner, Burdwan Division, 27 April 1934, L/P&J/12/399, APAC BL.
“Note prepared for the Army Commander’s visit, dated 28th November 1933,” L/P&J/12/399, APAC BL.
Sarkar, Bengal 1928–1934, 137.
P. J. Griffiths, DM, Midnapore, to Brigade Commander, 8th (Bareilly) Infantry Brigade, Kharagpur, 14 October 1933, L/P&J/12/399, APAC BL.
“Instructions regarding the collection of information against terrorists,” 18 November 1932, Home (Pol) Conf. No. 1046 (1–5) of 1932, WBSA.
R. E. A. Ray noted that troops’ activities such as flag marches and even cordoning during searches only made an “indirect” contribution to intelligence-gathering. R. E. A. Ray, “Appreciation of the Terrorist Situation in Bengal, prepared by the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Intelligence Branch, C.I.D., for the Conference that is to be held in July, 1934,” p. 12, 28 June 1934, L/P&J/12/399, APAC BL.
Proceedings of the Civil and Military Conference held in Government House, Calcutta, on the 3rd and 4th July 1934, pp. 5–6. L/P&J/12/400, APAC BL.
Major General George Lindsay, commander of the Presidency and Assam District from 1935 to 1939, subsequently selected officers for appointment as MIOs. “Political and Administrative,” Pinnell Papers, MSS Eur. D 911, APAC BL.
In 1936, for example, eight of the twelve Military Intelligence Officers stationed in Bengal had some intelligence background. Two officers’ experience was limited to a British or Indian Army course in intelligence while six had practical experience in army intelligence work in India or Burma. Note by Major J. W. Young, 3 February 1936, GOB Home (Pol) Conf. No. 600 of 1934, WBSA.
Proceedings of the Civil and Military Conference held in Government House, Calcutta, on the 3rd and 4th July 1934, p. 22. L/P&J/12/400, APAC BL.
Note by E. N. Blandy, Commissioner, Chittagong Division, nd, in “Agenda for discussion at the Civil and Military Conference to be held … on the 3rd July 1934,” p. 43, L/P&J/12/399, APAC BL.
Taylor’s wife Coralie wrote that Leonard “is exceptionally good, and has taken a lot of work off Bob’s [Taylor’s] shoulders.” Taylor unsuccessfully tried to persuade Leonard to transfer permanently to the Bengal Police once his term of service ended in 1936. “He is first-class at D.I.B. work, and he is just the type of man we want. But he is too keen on his own job in the Army.” S. G. Taylor, “Note on the anti-terrorist campaign in Mymensingh and the employment of troops in relation thereto,” 21 April 1934, GOB Home (Pol) Conf. No. 277 of 1934, WBSA; Twynam and Ray, Central and District Intelligence Branches, 24; Coralie Taylor to her family, 22 August 1933; and S. G. Taylor to his family, 2 April 1935, Taylor Papers, CSAS.
Finney noted, however, that the list only dated back to 1935, when the MIO began compiling history sheets.
P. E. S. Finney, “Inspection remarks … on the District Intelligence Branch office, on the 15th, 16th, and 17th Sept, 1936,” p. 5. Finney Papers, CSAS.
General Police Arrangements in Connection with the Visit of His Excellency the Governor of Bengal to Rangpur, 31st October to 2nd November, 1936. Finney Papers, CSAS.
Chatterjee, Do and Die, 247.
John Hunt, Life is Meeting (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1978) 18, 21 and 23.
C. A. Bayly, “Knowing the Country: Empire and Information in India,” Modern Asian Studies 27: 1 (1993), 3.
Hunt wrote that he “grew to know and love Bengal,” and in his memoir described rural scenes such as “the fishermen casting their circular nets over a flooded paddy field.” Hunt, Life is Meeting, 25–26.
Hunt, Life is Meeting, 18.
Proceedings of the Civil and Military Conference held in Government House, Calcutta, on the 3rd and 4th July 1934, p. 23. L/P&J/12/400, APAC BL.
In spite of the frequent assassination attempts on British and Indian police officers at this time, no attempt seems to have been made on the lives of any army officer attached to the Bengal Police, probably because of fear of reprisals by British or Indian Army troops.
B. C. Prance, DM, Dacca to H. Graham, Commissioner, Dacca Division, 23 April 1934, GOB Home (Pol) Conf. No. 277 of 1934, WBSA.
Under the Bengal Emergency Powers Ordinance of 1932, a terrorist was defined as not merely a member of a terrorist organization, but anyone who “has done or is doing any act to assist the operations of any such association,” which included any indirect contact with a terrorist suspect. Calcutta Gazette, 10 June 1932, P&J No. 5172 of 1931, L/P&J/7/242, APAC BL.
Hands wrote, “This incident illustrates well the ease with which absconders and active terrorists can move and obtain shelter in the Hindu villages in the Boalkhali and Patiya thanas” near Chittagong town. A. S. Hands, “Report on the operations against Absconders and Terrorists in the Chittagong District from the 9th March 1932 to 31st March 1933,” Parts I–III, 13 April 1933, P&J No. 5172 of 1931, L/P&J/7/242, APAC BL.
Hunt, Life is Meeting, 21–22.
A. J. Dash, “Report on the operations against Absconders and Terrorists in the Chittagong District from the 9th March 1932 to 31st March 1933,” Part IV, 13 April 1933, P&J No. 5172 of 1931, L/P&J/7/242, APAC BL.
Anderson wrote to Sir Samuel Hoare that “I have my work cut out to smooth the badly ruffled feathers of my police.” Anderson to Hoare, 22 July 1933 and 28 August 1933, Templewood Collection, MSS Eur. E 240, APAC BL.
Sir Henry Twynam, “Golden Years and Times of Stress,” 132, Twynam Papers, CSAS.
Ghosh, Gentlemanly Terrorists, 16.
Charles Tegart, “Terrorism in Bengal,” (1932) in TIB III: xxxvi–xxxvii.
David Petrie, quoted in Tegart memoir, 46.
Tegart memoir, 57.
John W. Wheeler-Bennett, John Anderson, Viscount Waverley (London: Macmillan, 1962), 143–145 and 161–162. For details of the assassination attempt on Anderson, see “List of Outrages, 1934. Part A,” in TIB VI: 1173–1177.
The ex-detenu’s supervisor, R. O. Raha, wrote of the goal of “Establishing confidence permanently in a healthy quarter to which one may turn for advice and help in the long future.” Report by R. O. Raha on YMCA training scheme for ex-detenus [nd], enclosure to letter from W. R. Gourlay, Private Sec. to GOB, to Hignell, GOI, 28 August 1920, Chelmsford Papers, MSS Eur. E 264/6, APAC BL. Unless otherwise stated, all information about the training scheme for ex-detenus in this and the following two paragraphs is taken from this report.
“Note on the Policy and Activities of the Terrorist Parties in Bengal from 1937 to August 1939,” (1940) in TIB I: 766.
Ghosh, Gentlemanly Terrorists, 199–200.
“Note on the Policy and Activities of the Terrorist Parties in Bengal from 1937 to August 1939,” (1940) in TIB I: 766; and Ghosh, Gentlemanly Terrorists, 178–179. More than 400 Bengali men had passed through the training scheme by the end of 1937. Ghosh, Gentlemanly Terrorists, 200.
“Political and Administrative,” pp. 6–7, Pinnell Papers, MSS Eur. D 911, APAC BL. Anderson’s biographer repeated Pinnell’s words verbatim in the text of his book. Wheeler-Bennett, John Anderson, 138.
Patrick F. McDevitt, May the Best Man Win: Sport, Masculinity and Nationalism in Great Britain and the Empire, 1880–1935 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 7.
Partha Chatterjee, The Black Hole of Empire: History of a Global Practice of Power (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 292. Widespread public celebrations greeted the victory of the Bengali team Mohun Bagan over the East Yorkshire Regiment in the final of the 1911 Indian Football Association Shield. See Chatterjee, Black Hole, 295–298; and Tony Mason, “Football on the Maidan: Cultural Imperialism in Calcutta,” in J. A. Mangan, ed., The Cultural Bond: Sport, Empire, Society (London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 1992), 142–153.
Brian Griffin, “Sporting Policemen: Sports and Police in Victorian and Edwardian Ireland,” Éire-Ireland 48: 1&2 (2013), 54–78. For the sporting ethos of colonial police forces more generally, see Charles Jeffries, The Colonial Police (London: Max Parrish, 1952), 37.
P. E. S. Finney, “Notes for the Additional Superintendent Headquarters. Mymensingh. March, 1936,” p. 8, Finney Papers, CSAS.
Finney recalled that “I was particularly anxious that although I might take action against people who were acting against the law throughout my sub-division over the non-cooperation movement it didn’t stop me being friendly with them on the football field.” He also noted with pride that a police team won the first shield competition. Finney memoirs, Chap. 8, p. 33, MSS Eur. D 1014/4, APAC BL.
Hunt, Life is Meeting, 25.
According to Hunt, ICS officer Percival Griffiths organized a similar scheme in Mymensingh District. Hunt, Life is Meeting, 25; and L. G. Pinnell, “John Anderson in Bengal: Political and Administrative” (1959), Anderson Collection, MSS Eur. F 207, APAC BL.
S. K. Ghosh to F. W. Robertson, Commissioner, Rajshahi Division, 1 November 1935 and 18 November 1935, GOB Home (Pol) Conf. No. 919 of 1935, WBSA.
Circular letter of Major M. Young, HQ, Presidency and Assam District, 18 September 1935; and S. K. Ghosh to F. W. Robertson, 18 November 1935, GOB Home (Pol) Conf. No. 919 of 1935, WBSA.
Undated note by Charles Tegart [March-April 1937], in P. N. Chopra, ed., Towards Freedom 1937–47. Volume I: Experiment with Provincial Autonomy 1 January-31 December 1937 (New Delhi: Indian Council of Historical Research, 1985), 1326. For a contemporary appreciation, see Ladislav Jandásek, “The Sokol Movement in Czechoslovakia,” Slavonic and Eastern European Review 11: 31 (1932), 65–80.
Hardinge added, “You may remember that only a few years ago there was a sort of semi-military movement amongst the Bengali boys designed purposely to facilitate agitation and its possible developments.” Hardinge to Crewe, 6 June 1912, Hardinge Papers, 118/2/25, Cambridge University Library.
According to Allen Warren, “The emergence of the All-India Council was the occasion for an almost complete turn about in the attitude of the government of India towards native Scouting. Previously regarding it as potentially subversive, it now saw the Scouting philosophy as a potential ally in the continuing battle between imperial control and the rising tide of nationalism.” Allen Warren, “Citizens of the Empire: Baden-Powell, Scouts and Guides and an Imperial Ideal, 1900–1940,” in John M. Mackenzie, ed., Imperialism and Popular Culture (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986), 249. See also Carey A. Watt, “The Promise of ‘Character’ and the Spectre of Sedition: The Boy Scout Movement and Colonial Consternation in India, 1908–1921,” South Asia 12: 2 (1999), 37–62.
Carey Watt, “’No Showy Muscles’: The Boy Scouts and the Global Dimensions of Physical Culture and Bodily Health in Britain and Colonial India,” in Nelson R. Block and Tammy M. Proctor, eds., Scouting Frontiers: Youth and the Scout Movement’s First Century (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009), 135.
H. D. Craik, GOB, to Lord Baden-Powell, 30 March 1937, and Baden-Powell to Lord Brabourne, Governor of Bengal, 18 April 1937, in Chopra, ed., Towards Freedom 1937–47, 295–296 and 402–403.
Coralie Taylor to her parents, 18 December 1934, S. G. Taylor Papers, CSAS. In the same year, the Commissioner of Burdwan Division wrote to the Government of Bengal that he encouraged “the Boy Scout, Folk-dancing and Bratachari movements as affording healthy diversions during leisure hours.” L. B. Burrows, Commissioner, Burdwan Division, to CS to GOB, 30 May 1934, L/P&J/12/399, APAC BL.
Fortnightly Report on the Political Situation in Bengal, First Half of May 1938, R/3/2/7, APAC BL.
John Rosselli, “The Self-Image of Effeteness: Physical Education and Nationalism in Nineteenth-century Bengal,” Past and Present No. 86 (1980), 141.
Sayantani Adhikary, “The Bratachari Movement and the Invention of a ‘Folk Tradition,’” South Asia 38: 4 (2015), 656–670; and Frank J. Korom, “Gurusaday Dutt, Vernacular Nationalism and the Folk Culture Revival in Colonial Bengal,” in Firoz Mahmud and Sharani Zaman, eds., Folklore in Context: Essays in Honor of Shamsuzzaman Khan (Dhaka: The University Press, 2010), 257–273.
G. S. Dutt, The Bratachari Synthesis (1937; Reprint Calcutta: Bengal Bratachari Society, 1981), 21.
Ramananda Chatterji, The Bratachari Movement (Calcutta: Bengal Bratachari Society, 1940), 23.
Rosselli, “Self-Image of Effeteness,” 141.
Dutt, Bratachari Synthesis, 23 and 58.
Dutt, Bratachari Synthesis, 6 and 10.
Anderson to Lord Zetland, Sec. of State for India, 31 October 1935, Anderson Collection, MSS Eur. F. 207/6, APAC BL; and Note by S. Basu, 25 June 1935, GOB Home (Pol) Conf. No. 664 of 1935, WBSA.
Cited in Dutt, Bratachari Synthesis, 7.
Dutt, Bratachari Synthesis, 15.
Wheeler-Bennett, John Anderson, 135.
Ghosh, Gentlemanly Terrorists, 160–169.
Government of Bengal officials, however, argued that in spite of concerns about the security of police intelligence under an Indian ministry, “without the effective cooperation of the ordinary Police,” the IB would be “pretty helpless,” and would have a “false perspective” on political issues. John Anderson to Sir Samuel Hoare, Sec. of State, 28 August 1933 and 2 January 1934, Templewood Collection, MSS Eur. E 240/9, APAC BL. Additional Sec. S. N. Roy of the GOB further emphasized the role of the ordinary police in monitoring detenus and conducting searches. Note by S. N. Roy, 31 January 1934, enclosure to Anderson to Hoare, 14 February 1934, in Ibid.