Documents in the Life of Sri Aurobindo
THE ASSASSINATION OF NARENDRANATH GOSWAMI
Bengal Government File on the Assassination
No 1876-C. dated 31st August, 1908
The Chief Secretary to the Government of Bengal, Calcutta.
I have the honour to report that this morning at about 7 a.m. an under-trial prisoner named Norendra Nath Goswami, who had turned approver in the prosecution of some 34 persons now pending trial before the Sessions Judge of Alipore on charges under Sections 121. 121.A, I. P. C. etc., was shot by two co-undertrial prisoners named Kanai Lal Dutt and Satyendra Nath Bose in the Jail Hospital of the Alipore Central Jail.
It appears that the prisoner Norendra Nath Goswami who had been intentionally kept separate from the other prisoners confined in the European Ward was brought, from that ward, to the Jail Hospital by a European Convict Overseer named Highens. Norendra Nath had apparently previously arranged to meet, at that time, in the Hospital, two fellow prisoners, who were already patients in the Jail Hospital, named Kanai Lal Dutt and Satyendra Nath Bose. He had apparently been approached by the second of these prisoners, who had pretended that he also wished to make a statement; and his visit was really in order to get this statement. Evidently it was however part of a plot to get Norendra Nath within striking distance for it appears that almost immediately on Narendra Naths arrival on the landing, at the head of the staircase leading to the second story of the Hospital, these two prisoners opened fire on him with two revolvers which they had secreted on their persons. Highens the Convict Overseer attempted to arrest one of them and was shot through the wrist.
Norendra Nath although shot in several places was not mortally hit and fled down the stairs, out of the Hospital Compound and along an alley way towards the gate.
The prisoner Kanai Lal Dutt pursued him and shot him fatally through the back. He was then secured by a Eurasian Prisoner named Linton.
The District Magistrate, Mr. Marr immediately commenced a judicial enquiry in the case.
A Police investigation has been started but the accused have not as yet been questioned by the Police as to how they came into possession of the weapons.
The accused Kanai Lal Dutt is a native of Jantipara Serampore, Hooghly and Satyendra Nath Bose is a native of Midnapore where he was head of the National Volunteers.
A telegram has been sent to the Director, Criminal Intelligence, Simla, and a copy of this letter has also been sent to him.
A further report will be submitted.
I have the honour to be,
Magistrates Order: Re: Murder of Norendra Nath Goswami
[Newspaper report included in the file]
THE COMMITMENT ORDER.
The following is the Magistrates commitment order, describing the crime in full detail. It substantially confirms the version which has been already supplied by our reporters:
The charge against the accused is that they murdered Narendro Nath Gossain in the Alipore Central Jail, on 31st August, 1908, by shooting him with revolvers.
Narendro Nath Gossain was the approver in what is known as the Alipore Bomb or Anarchists Case, and was in custody in the jail. The present accused were accused in that case and were under trial.
The evidence recorded is to the effect that Satyendra Nath Bose on Saturday, the 29th, managed to send for Narendro Nath Gossain to the jail hospital, where he was a patient, and informed him that he, too, wanted to turn Kings Evidence. On the morning of the 31st Satyendra again sent for Narendro. Narendro along with a European prisoner named Higgins went to the hospital at about 7 or 7-15 a.m. in the hope of obtaining some statement or confession from Satyendra. They entered the dispensary, which is on the upper floor, and there Kanai Lal Dutt and Satyendra appeared and had some conversation with Narendro, first, apparently, in the dispensary and then in the verandah outside the room. Suddenly the two accused produced revolvers and apparently began to shoot at Narendro. There was a struggle in the verandah and in the dispensary, and the European prisoner Higgins in attempting to protect Narendro was shot through the wrist by Kanai Lal Dutt. The senior Hospital Assistant and one or two other prisoners apparently also rushed up and tried to intervene, but were threatened and fired at by Kanai with his revolver, and finally ran away to the jail gate to inform the jailer and other officials.
THE ESCAPE FROM THE DISPENSARY.
In the confusion Narendro and Higgins managed to escape from the dispensary and ran down the stairs and out of the hospital gate and tried to make their way to the jail gate. There is a passage running east from the hospital gate along the south end of the weaving shed. At the S.E. corner of the weaving shed another passage meets it at right angles and runs north between two portions of the factory to the open space near which are the jail gate and the offices. It was along these passages that Narendro and Higgins were making their way. They were followed first by Kanai and then by Satyendra, both revolver in hand, and more shots apparently were fired. In the meantime another European prisoner named Linton, along with the jailor and certain of his assistants and warders, were coming up from the jail gate. The two parties met near the S.E. corner of the weaving mill. Narendro and Higgins were staggering along apparently supported by one or two men, and the two accused were running up behind. The accused threatened the would-be rescuers with their revolvers, and though it is not clear what exactly happened, as far as I can see the persons trying to help Narendro and Higgins along all ran, and the rescuers gave way for a moment so that the pursuers1 and pursued passed them.
THE FINAL SHOT.
The European prisoner Linton, however, grappled with Satyendra, either from the front or from behind, but while struggling with him was startled by a shot close to his ear, and on looking up to see who had fired saw Narendro as if spinning round. Satyendra seized the opportunity to fire a shot which, according to Linton, hit Narendro, and he fell into the drain by the side of the pathway2 along which they were proceeding. At the same moment Linton wrested the revolver from Satyendra and threw it away. Kanai in the meantime, according to Linton, had levelled his revolver at the jailer. Linton sprang forward and seized Kanai, who then pushed the muzzle of his revolver against Lintons forehead, causing a triangular cut in the forehead. Linton ducked and twisted himself behind Kanai and tried to master him, but before he could do so Kanai fired another shot at Narendro. Linton then succeeded in getting the revolver away and both the accused were overpowered and taken to the cells. Narendro was found to be insensible and apparently dying. He was carried to the hospital, where the Civil Hospital Assistant tried some remedies, but he expired in a few minutes.
The whole occurrence could have taken only a few minutes, and every one was so confused and horror struck with the result that none of the witnesses have told exactly the same story, and some have made statements which appear to me to be clearly untrue and invented on the spur of the moment to account for the real fact that they were afraid and were thinking much more of getting out of the way than of seizing the accused or rescuing the deceased. That this should be so is only natural, since the sight of two prisoners suddenly brandishing revolvers and firing shots in a jail would be enough to shake the presence of mind of most people.
THE MAIN FACTS CLEAR.
The fact, too, that I began recording evidence at 7.55 a.m., that is to say less than an hour after the actual occurrence when people were still probably confused and excited, rendered it difficult to get very coherent statements. The discrepancies in detail are, however, to my mind, completely accounted for by the suddenness and unexpectedness of the occurrence, its short duration, the confusion of mind created by its unprecedented nature, and the natural desire of each witness to paint his own conduct in as favourable a colour as possible. The main facts, however, are clearly established, that is to say, that the two accused having managed to get Narendro up to the dispensary on the second floor of the hospital, where there was no one but the Civil Hospital Assistant and his free, or convict, assistants and the sick prisoners in their wards, proceeded to shoot him with revolvers, wounding Higgins, who tried to protect him, and when he managed to break away and escape down the stairs and along the passage, pursued him and fired more than once until finally Narendro fell dying into the drain.
NINE SHOTS FIRED.
The two revolvers were brought into the office and examined and the smaller one (Exhibit I) was found to have in the chambers four discharged cartridges while the larger (Exhibit II) had five discharged cartridges and one loaded cartridge. Thus we may assume that in all nine shots were fired. Four bullets were found two inside the dispensary, one just outside the dispensary, and one was extracted from the dead body of Norendra. From the medical evidence it appears that this was the bullet which caused Norendras death. It entered fairly high up in the back and severed the spinal cord and almost completely penetrated the breast in front but spent its force before doing so and lay imbedded under the skin of the breast. Exhibit VII is this bullet (contained in a glass bottle sealed by Captain Daley). An examination of this bullet shows that it was fired from the larger of the two revolvers (Exhibit II). The evidence of Linton shows that the revolver was the one used by Kanai Lall Dutt. Thus the fatal shot was fired by Kanai Lall Dutt. Probably it was the shot which Linton describes as having heard when he first seized Satyendra and which made him look up to see Norendra as if spinning round. This, however, one cannot be certain of, since no witness has been able to give an absolutely clear account of what happened in the passage.
I do not think it necessary to analyse in detail the evidence of the witnesses examined. The evidence of Higgins, Linton, the Senior Civil Hospital Assistant, convicts Budhu Bhusan Chatterjee and Gopal Chandra Mainti, and the jailor, is the most important, and proves the various stages of the occurrence with sufficient reliability and clearness. The other witnesses corroborate on various points. The discrepancies I have already discussed in general terms. They are not really material, but proceed from the peculiar circumstances of the case. The evidence leaves no doubt in my mind that Kanai and Satyendra both procured revolvers and fired at Norendra with the intention of killing him and that a shot fired by Kanai finally did kill him and that during this struggle Kanai shot Higgins through the wrist.
Kanai when examined by me admitted having killed Norendra. The other accused reserved his statement. Both accused appear to me to be equally guilty of murder. They both acted with the intention of killing and under Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code they are equally liable for the act committed. I have therefore charged them both with murder under Section 302, Indian Penal Code, and commit them for trial by the Court of Sessions.
10th September 1908.
The Commissioner of Police, Calcutta,
The Chief Secretary to the Government of Bengal, Calcutta.
In continuation of this office letter No.: 1908-C dated the 2nd September 1908, regarding the Alipore Jail Murder Case, I have the honour to report, that the trial at the Alipore Sessions was concluded yesterday. The Jury returned an unanimous verdict of guilty on all the charges against accused No. 1, Kanai Lal Dutt and the Judge agreeing with the verdict convicted and sentenced the accused Kanai Lal Dutt to death, subject to confirmation by the High Court.
The Jury by a majority of three to two acquitted the second accused Satyendra Nath Bose of the charges of murder and abetment of murder. The Sessions Judge disagreeing with the verdict of the majority announced his intention of referring the case to the High Court.
The Jury were composed of three Bengalis and two Europeans.
I have the honour to be,
Confidential No. 2271-C
To the Chief Secretary to the Government of Bengal,
Calcutta, the 22nd. October 1908.
In continuation of my letter No: 1965-C dated the 10th. September 1908, I have the honour to report for the information of Government, that the two Accused named Kanai Lal Dutt and Satyendra Nath Bose in the Alipore Jail Murder Case, were yesterday sentenced to death by the Honble High Court, Calcutta.
I have the honour to be,
Government of Bengal, Political Department, Confidential File No. 160 (1-16) of 1908.
Satyendra Nath Bose and His Family
(Special to the Bengalee)
Satyendra Nath Bose whose case is now pending before the High Court of Calcutta in connection with the murder of Narendra Nath Gossain, claims his descent from the well-known Bose Family of Boral, 24 Parganas District, from which the late Babu Raj Narayan Bose was descended.3 The father of Babu Raj Narayan Bose, Babu Nanda Kishore Bose, was a follower of Raja Ram Mohan Roy and was the first of his family to be initiated into Brahmoism. Babu Nanda Kishore had three sons, the eldest of whom was Babu Raj Narayan. The reputation of Babu Raj Narayan as a man of piety and letters was widespread. Besides, he was a distinguished member of the Adi Brahmo Samaj and was a Senior Scholar of the then Hindu College. His two younger brothers were Babus Madan Mohan and Abhaya Charan, the former of whom is still living. In the year 1850 or thereabout, Babu Raj Narayan, with his two younger brothers just named, left his ancestral village and settled at Midnapur where he was appointed Head Master of the Zillah School. In 1867, he retired from Government service and came down to Calcutta where he lived for some time. In 1880 he finally settled with his family at Deoghur and died in the year 1899.
Babu Madan Mohan Bose, served for some time at the Metropolitan Institution and settled in Calcutta. He is now enjoying a retired life.
Babu Abhaya Charan Bose, father of Satyendra Nath, was educated in Calcutta. He served for about 30 years as a Professor in the Midnapur College and died in the year 1898. He settled at Midnapur which is the present residence of Satyendras family. Babu Abhaya Charan left five sons Jnanendra Nath, Satyendra Nath (or Bhu), Bhupendra Nath, Subodh Kumar and a boy who is now 13 years of age. Satyendra was born at Midnapore in the early eighties. Having successfully passed the Entrance and F.A. Examinations he studied up to the B.A. standard of the Calcutta University but did not go up for the B.A. Examination. He left College some 4 or 5 years ago and served for about a year at the Midnapur Collectorate. He was prosecuted at Midnapur for being in possession of a gun, for which his elder brother held a license. It may be remembered that in that case he was convicted and sentenced to two months rigorous imprisonment. Before he could serve out his term of imprisonment, he was hauled up before Mr. Birley on having participated in the alleged Maniktolla Bomb conspiracy, when he was placed on his trial along with Kanai Lal Dutt for the murder of Narendra Gossain, when he had already served out his term of imprisonment in the Midnapur Arms Acts case.
Satyendra is unmarried and has, besides the four brothers mentioned above, three sisters and a widowed mother. One of his brothers is now in America.
Article in the Bengalee (Calcutta) 19 September 1908.
1 This reading taken from another text (National Archives Private Papers I 30/2); the main text has prisoners.
2 This reading taken from the other text; the main text has bathroom (printed), bath cancelled in favour of something illegible.
3 Raj Narayan Bose was Sri Aurobindos maternal grandfather; Satyendra Nath Bose was the son of one of Raj Narayans younger brothers. Thus Satyendra was Sri Aurobindos maternal uncle (māmā), although he was some ten years younger than him.