August 9th is a memorable date in India's revolutionary movement. On this day in 1897, Damodar Chaphekar was arrested, subsequently to become India's first martyr. On this date again in 1925, 10 intrepid young men stopped a running train in U.P and decamped with substantial cash. Again 9th August, 1942, saw the beginning of the Quit India Movement, the first in our long war of independence led by the Congress which swerved from non-violence and produced different types of leaders like Jai Prakash Narain (J.P) and Aruna Asaf Ali.
The short history of about thirty years (1897 to 1925) saw Ups and Downs in our Nationalist Movement, particularly of the revolutionary school. Though the Government tried to detain some top leaders like Jogesh Chatterji and Sachin Sanyal under the Defence of India Rules more and more paucity was felt for funds to carry on revolutionary activities.
After the earlier dacoity by boat (June 2, 1908) came the one on 9th August 1925; Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaque Ullah were in over-all charge of the operation. All the members assumed new names to avoid any easy identification. This was a common practice among the members of the Secret Societies. Ram Prasad had four such names and Ashfaque Ullah assumed the Hindu name of Kumarji. Actually, he looked like a Prince and became India's first Muslim martyr in the first decade of the 20th Century.
Ram Prasad was born in 1897 (also the year of martyrdom of Chaphekar Brothers, and the birth year of Subhas Chandra Bose) in Saharanpur (U.P). He was once implicated in Mainpur Conspiracy Case (1914). The next was the Kakori Train Dacoity (1925), the subject of today. He was also a literary person and a linguist. He knew English, Bengali, Hindu and Urdu very well. While face to face with death he composed a few lines which were on the lips of every Indian young man of the time. They are:
Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna Ab Hamare Dil Mein Hai,
Dekhana Hai Zor Kitna Bazuea Katil Mein Hai.
At about 7.30 in the evening of the fateful day, (9th August 1925) when the passenger train between Kakori and Alamnagar, 14 miles from Lucknow, four young men who had already entered the Guard's Room, asked him to stop the train on the plea that some of their belongings were left behind at the previous station. The guard did not oblige. Two more comrades entered the scene and threatened him. He was forced to pull the chain. When the train slowed down, a train appeared as though from nowhere. It was the Dehradun Express. At the very moment the young men with the iron chest containing the cash jumped down and found their way with the cash which was passed on to various revolutionary groups in U.P. The police took a month and a half to shoot on all the suspected spots in U.P. On 25th September they sent up everyone for trial. The total was 45 men with three absconders, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Ashfaque Ullah and Satindra Nath Bakshi. They could avoid arrest for a year. With their petitions for mercy having been turned down by the Privy Council, the inevitable kiss of the hangman's rope was quite close.
Rajendra Lahiri, a post-graduate from Benaras and an accused was executed on the 17th December 1927 in Gonda Jail, Ram Prasad in Naini Jail at Allahabad. They came from Saharanpur. All of them showed outstanding courage and composure throughout their proceedings. But some were more equal than others. Ashfaque Ullah gained six pounds of weight. When his relatives came to have an interview on the eve of the execution, he implored them not to sob but to rejoice. He was proud of being the first Muslim in modern times to be a martyr. He died with the Holy Quran on his shoulder. Ram Prasad had a different story about his interview with parents. There were tears in the eyes of all but for different reasons. The son thought that the mother would be sad and naturally have tears while the mother was sad because of the tears in the eyes of the son. But he was wrong. She was actually happy and proud to be the mother of the hero of the historic dacoity.