Tasked by Yugantar Party to kill Douglas Kingsford, former Chief Presidency Magistrate of Calcutta

Last updated: 10 October 2017 From the section Khudiram Basu

Douglas Kingsford, the Magistrate who hated freedom fighters

During this period, the Chief Presidency Magistrate of Calcutta was Douglas H. Kingsford. He was infamous for handing out strong and harsh punishment to freedom fighters and young political workers and became a particular target for the revolutionaries "because of his very inhuman, unjustified and vindictive judgements against the Swadeshi and anti-Partition activists". Not only the people of Calcutta, but also of the other towns feared his cruelty and ruthlessness. Kingsford liked only those people who were loyal to the British government. He was irritated with the newspapers like Yugantar, Vandemataram, Sandhya aur Shakti published from Calcutta because they were full of news relating to the cruelty, exploitation and high-handedness of the British Government.

In one instance, Kingsford was the judge in a case against Aurobindo Ghosh, editor of Vandemataram and its publisher Bipin Chandra Pal. When a 15-year-old youngster Sushil Sen opposed the cruelty of the policemen who were beating up revolutionaries assembled before the court, Kingsford ordered Sushil 15 lashes. After every lash Sushil Sen shouted 'Vande mataram'. This news was widely published in every newspaper of Bengal. When the revolutionaries read this news, they could not control their anger. Kingsford's acts created a spirit of revenge and retaliation in their minds. They began planning to murder the cruel Kingsford to take revenge against his misdeeds and for inflicting corporal punishments.

The British Government got the news of the plan. They were worried about the security of Kingsford because he was an efficient officer in the eyes of the government. So the British Government transferred him to the town of Muzaffarpur in northern part of present-day Bihar, hoping that the anger of the revolutionaries would subside after Kingsford goes away from Calcutta.

The revolutionaries came to know about the transfer of Douglas Kingsford. They hatched a plan to murder him at Muzaffarpur. A task of this magnitude required an assassin who could be trusted fully. The Yugantar Party decided to assign this to Prafulla Kumar Chaki. Initially only he was to execute this task. But, Hemchandra Das Kanungo, an experienced revolutionary, insisted on not sending him alone. Khudiram was then called for accompanying Prafulla in this expedition. This was a good opportunity for both of them to sacrifice themselves for the nation. Both young men were happy to comply.

Khudiram was told to reach Hemchandra Kanungo's residence at Maniktala. Thus, Prafulla Chaki and Khudiram Bose moved out of Calcutta to commit the first distinctly political murder in Bengal as members of Barindrakumar Ghosh's group with the blessings of Barindrakumar Ghosh and Hemchandra. Apparently Aurobindo had blessed Khudiram and Prafulla by touching their heads on the eve of their journey to Muzaffarpur. It is said that Khudiram and Prafulla were not familiar with each other before this journey. Khudiram was told that his collaborator's name was 'Dinesh Chandra Ray' and Prafulla was told that his friend's name was 'Durga Das Sen'.


As the Chief Magistrate of Calcutta Presidency, Kingston had become unpopular for passing harsh and cruel sentences on young political activists. He was also noted for inflicting corporal punishments on them and due his deeds, he was loathed by the locals. Soon after his transfer to Muzaffarpur, a plan was hatched to murder him. Chaki and Khudiram were chosen and sent to Muzaffarpur to execute this task.


Spying mission

The two young revolutionaries reached Muzaffarpur in the third week of April 1908 with some weapons and adopted the code names 'Haren Sarkar' and 'Dinesh Roy' respectively. They decided to spy on their prey before striking. They needed to find out when was a suitable opportunity to attack Kingsford. But first they needed somewhere to stay.

In Motijheel area of Muzaffarpur there was a Dharmashala (free, charitable inn) of a Bihari zamindar Parmeshwar Narayan Mahato. In that Dharmashala a Bengali Head Clerk, Kishori Mohan Bandopadhay, was so influential that it was known as Kishori Babu's Dharmashala. Khudiram and Prafulla decided to stay there as two Bengalis staying in a Bengali's Dharmashala was not likely to be taken much notice of. They were further helped by some local people.

From here they started gathering information about Kingsford's daily activities. They followed their target's movement daily for few days before executing their plan. They kept a close eye on the colour of the horse-cart of Kingsford and took notes of the time when he went to court, when he returned, when he went to the European Station Club and when he returned to his bungalow from the club. Kingsford usually did not go anywhere else other than the court. Ultimately, they came to know that Kingsford used to leave the club for his home at 8.30pm in the evening after playing bridge. This seemed suitable for them as this would give them opportunity of leaving the place of action in the darkness of night.

Thus, having closely observed the magistrate's daily routine and activities for nearly a week, the duo decided to throw a bomb at Kingsford when he was on his way from the European Station Club to his home at night.

Though they wanted Kingsford dead, they did not want the bloodshed of innocent people accumulated around a court during the daytime. Therefore they decided to shoot him when he was on his way from the European Club to his home or vice versa.


There are some indications that these revolutionaries (i.e. Khudiram and Prafulla) had got some sympathy and support from the people of that region. Prafulla Chaki had visited Bankipur, Dhaniapahari, Deoghar and some other places. They stayed in Muzaffarpur for more than three weeks. Even after the bomb episode Prafulla was given shelter by Triguna Charan Ghosh, a railway employee of Samastipur.

A historian had noted that "The CID officer who had followed Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki from Calcutta to Muzaffarpur returned from there with a letter from Armstrong, Superintendent of Police, that the two revolutionaries had not arrived at Muzaffarpur, although the ocurrence took place only six hours after his departure. All this suggest that the revolutionaries had succeeded to some extent in securing local sympathy."


This date, 30 April 1908, was going to be a red letter day in the history of militant revolutionary history of India.


Khudiram throws bomb at carriage

There are minor variation on the exact location of the historic event that took place in the evening of 30 April 1908. Some historian believe that Khudiram and Prafulla reached the European Station Club with the bomb and lay ambushed under the shade of a tree in front of the club gate. They waited for Kingsford's arrival. When Kingsford arrived, both of them began whispering to each other. Kingsford went inside the club. Other historians state that Khudiram and Prafulla had in fact waited ambushed in front of Kingsford's house, not the European Station Club, where Kingsford and his wife were playing bridge with Mr and Mrs Kennedy.

On 30 April 1908 Khudiram and Prafulla Chaki reached a place in front of Kingsford's house and kept waiting under a tree. While they were roaming in that area in the evening a security guard saw them. They were told to leave the place but as both of them were quite young and seemed harmless young men the guard did not take any action against them.


However, everyone agrees that sometimes later, around 8.30 pm, the carriage of Kingsford was seen going out of the club/house. Khudiram and Prafulla became alert. By then it had turned dusk.

As soon as Kingsford's horse carriage approached close-by, Khudiram hurled the bomb on it. There was a big bang and two shrieking voices were heard. The hit was a success and the carriage blew up and started burning. Khudiram and Prafulla now began to run away thinking that their task was complete and disappeared in the dark. While running away in a hurry, Khudiram's shoes fell down and were left behind.

Kennedys and Kingsfords left the place in similar looking carriages. As one of these two cars approached Khudiram and Prafulla sprang out from the shadow of one of the tall trees that lined the broad thoroughfare separating the residential buildings from the maidan. According to a source, Khudiram and Prafulla had in their possession three revolvers and one bomb. They had kept revolvers which was to be used if the bomb would have failed to explode for killing their target. When the car reached them, Khudiram ran towards the carriage and threw the bomb with full force at the carriage.


Attack carried out in Amabasya night and on the first day of Hindu new year

The 30th April 1908 had a special significance. It was the Amabasya night, an auspicious night for Hindus. It was also the first day of the Hindu new year. And though it may have been just a coincidence that this daring act took place during those special occasions and the revolutionaries might have only thought about the benefits of darkness and nothing else but, there can not be any doubt that this day ushered in a new phase of Indian national movement.

The bomb which was thrown by Khudiram in the Amabasya night, which is considered auspicious night for the worship of Kali. Kali is the principal goddess worshipped by Saktas, a prominent sect among Bengali Hindus. It was also the first day of the new Hindu year and the revolutionaries probably waited for it "in order that the murder usher in the year".

The Administration of Bengal Under Sir Andrew Fraser (1903 - 08),

The evening of 30 April 1908 at Muzaffarpur, Bihar, was an important date in the history of Indian national movement. On this day Khudiram threw a bomb into a carriage with the motive of killing D. H. Kingsford.


Identical carriage mistakenly blown-up instead and two innocent female killed

However, the carriage Khudiram and Prafulla targeted was not occupied by Kingsford. The duo had mistaken an identical looking carriage for Kingsford's and hurled a bomb at it, killing a British lady and her daughter. Both drove to the Station Club every evening in identical green carriages drawn by white horses. The female turned out to be the wife and daughter of barrister Pringle Kennedy, a leading pleader of Muzaffar Bar.

The daughter, Grace Kennedy, died of her injuries within an hour. Mrs Kennedy survived till the morning of the 2 May 1908, when she also died of the injuries which she had sustained. The syce (carriage driver) who had been standing on the footboard at the back of the carriage was picked up near the eastern gate insensible and wounded https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1765978/.

On the 30th April 1908 at, 8-30 P.M., Mrs. and Miss Kennedy left the Station Club in Mozufferpur to drive home in a single-horsed carriage. Their carriage is similar in appearance to that which the District Judge, Mr. Kingsford, was then using. On their way home the ladies had to take the road turning to the right or west after leaving the Club grounds and to pass in front of the compound of the house occupied by Mr. Kingsford.

The night was dark. As the carriage reached the eastern gate of Mr. Kingsford's compound, two men ran towards it from the opposite or southren side of the road where they had been concealed under the trees, and one of them threw a bomb or both threw bombs into the carriage. Aloud explosion followed and the horse bolted with the carriage It was stopped after a short distance and taken back to Mr. Kingsford's house. The body of the carriage was then found to have been shattered and the two ladies to have sustained terrible injuries.

Extract from the case of the opposition during the trial in Calcutta High Court

Having escaped the scene, after a safe distance together Khudiram and Prafulla split up and ran away in their own directions. Prafulla headed towards Samastipur and Khudiram decided to follow the railway line towards Calcutta.

The night escape of Khudiram was similar to that of his earlier escape to Medinipur after snatching a dak. But, this time he was in an area which was unknown to him and he did not know the local language properly. So, his escape was a leap into dark. He had no real plan of escape to Calcutta.