The Kakori Train Action was a train robbery that took place at Kakori, a village near Lucknow, on 9 August 1925, during the Indian independence movement against the British rule in India. It was organized by the Indian revolutionaries of Hindustan Republican Association (HRA).
The robbery was conceived by Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqullah Khan who were members of HRA, which later became the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. This organisation was established to carry out revolutionary activities against the suppression of British Empire with the objective of achieving independence. Since the organisation needed money for the purchase of weaponry, Bismil and his party made a plan to rob a train on the Saharanpur Railway lines. The robbery plan was executed by Bismil, Khan, Rajendra Lahiri, Chandrashekhar Azad, Sachindra Bakshi, Keshab Chakravarty, Manmathnath Gupta, Mukundi Lal, Murari Lal Gupta and Banwari Lal. One passenger was killed unintentionally.
On 9 August 1925, the Number 8 Down Train was travelling from Shahjahanpur to Lucknow. When it passed Kakori, one of the revolutionary, Rajendra Lahiri pulled the emergency chain to stop the train and subsequently, the other revolutionaries overpowered the guard. It is believed that they looted that specific train because it was carrying the money bags (taxes) which belonged to the Indians and was being transferred to the British government treasury. They looted only these bags (which were present in the guards' cabin and contained about ₹ 4600) and escaped to Lucknow. The objectives of this robbery were to:
One lawyer, Ahmad Ali, who was a passenger, had got down to see his wife in the ladies compartment and was killed in an unintentional discharge by Manmathnath Gupta, but this made it a manslaughter case. Following the incident, the British administration started an intense manhunt and arrested several of the revolutionaries who were members or part of the HRA. Their leader, Ram Prasad Bismil was arrested at Shahjahanpur on 26 October 1925 and Ashfaqullah Khan was arrested on 7 December 1926 at Delhi.
Forty people were arrested from all over India. Their names (with the place and date of arrest) are:
Arrested later —
Of the above, Sachindranath Sanyal, Rajendra Lahiri, and Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee had already been arrested in Bengal. Lahiri was prosecuted in a Dakshineshwar bombing case, while Ashfaqullah Khan and Sachindranath Bakshi were arrested later when the main Kakori action case was over. A supplementary case was filed against these two and they were prosecuted in the same manner.
Bismil and some others were charged with various offences, including robbery and murder. Fourteen people were released due to a lack of evidence. Two of the accused – Ashfaqullah Khan and Sachindranath Bakshi were captured after the trial. Chandrashekhar Azad reorganized the HRA in 1928 and operated it until his death on 27 February 1931.
Charges pressed against further three men were dropped. Damodar Swarup Seth was discharged due to illness, while Veer Bhadra Tiwari and Jyoti Shankar Dixit were suspected of providing information to the authorities. Two other individuals – Banarsi Lal and Indubhushan Mitra came to be approvers in return for a lenient sentence.
Charges against 19 of the accused were withdrawn (2 had become approvers while 17 people had been released). The trial against the remaining 21 began on 1 May 1926 at the Special Sessions Court of Justice Archibald Hamilton. Abbas Salim Khan, Banwari Lal Bhargava, Gyan Chatterjee, and Mohammad Ayuf were the assessors of the case. Of the 21 accused, two people namely Sachindranath Biswas and Lala Hargovind were released due to lack of evidence, while Gopi Mohan became an approver.
The court had appointed Jagat Narayan Mulla as public prosecutor knowingly; he had a prejudice against Ram Prasad Bismil since 1916, when Bismil led the grand procession of Bal Gangadhar Tilak at Lucknow. He had also been the public prosecutor in the Mainpuri conspiracy case of 1918.
The government officers had also bribed many of the accused to become approvers. The trials were mainly based on the statements given by Banwari Lal who had met the revolutionaries and was also involved in the planning the robbery activities taken up by the group at Bamrauli (25 December 1924), Bichpuri (9 March 1925) and Dwarikapur (25 May 1925). So, his statement was used as the main evidence to prove the HRA members guilty.
The judgement of the case trials of Sessions Court was pronounced on 6 April 1927 as follows —
Ram Prasad Bismil, Roshan Singh and Rajendra Nath Lahiri were sentenced to death. Sachindranath Sanyal was given life imprisonment. Manmathnath Gupta was sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment. Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee, Govind Charan Kar, Raj Kumar Sinha, Ram Krishna Khatri and Mukundi Lal were sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment, while Suresh Chandra Bhattacharya and Vishnu Sharan Dublish were given 7 years' imprisonment. Bhupendra Nath Sanyal, Ram Dulare Trivedi, Prem Krishna Khanna and Pranawesh Chatterjee were sentenced to imprisonment for 5 years' and the least punishment (3 years' imprisonment) was given to Ram Nath Pandey and Banwari Lal.
Following the arrest of Ashfaqullah Khan, the police interrogated him to try to gain supplementary evidence against his accomplices but he refused. Another supplementary case was filed against Ashfaqulla Khan and Sachindranath Bakshi in the court of Special Sessions Judge John Reginald William Bennett. An appeal was filed in the then Chief Court of Oudh (now Allahabad High Court – Lucknow Bench) on 18 July 1927. The case trials started the next day. The judgement of the trial was pronounced a month later on 11 August.
The punishments were given as follows:
After the court gave the judgement of the main Kakori Action Case on 6 April 1927, a group photograph was taken and all the accused were sent to the different jails of the United Provinces. In the prisons, they were asked to wear jail uniforms like the other prisoners which lead to immediate protests and hunger strikes. The revolutionaries argued that since they had been charged with crimes against the British rule (and supposedly overturning the British Raj), they should be treated as political prisoners and thus should possess the rights and amenities provided to political prisoners.
The details of their hunger strike are listed below:
|Name of the prisoner||Name of the Jail||Days of hunger strike|
|Ram Prasad Bismil||Gorakhpur Central Jail||4 days (from 7 April 1927 to 11 April 1927)|
|Roshan Singh||Allahabad Jail||6 days (from 7 April 1927 to 13 April 1927)|
|Ram Nath Pandey||Raibareli District Jail||11 days (from 7 April 1927 to 18 April 1927)|
|Prem Krishna Khanna||Dehradun District Jail||16 days (from 7 April 1927 to 23 April 1927)|
|Suresh Chandra Bhattacharya||Agra Central Jail||19 days (from 7 April 1927 to 26 April 1927)|
|Ram Krishna Khatri||Agra Central Jail||32 days (from 7 April 1927 to 9 May 1927)|
|Mukundi Lal||Bareilly Central Jail||32 days (from 7 April 1927 t0 9 May 1927)|
|Raj Kumar Sinha||Bareilly Central Jail||38 days (from 7 April 1927 to 15 May 1927)|
|Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee||Fatehgarh Jail||41 days (from 7 April 1927 to 18 May 1927)|
|Ram Dulare Trivedi||Fatehgarh Jail||41 days (from 7 April 1927 to 18 May 1927)|
|Govind Charan Kar||Fatehgarh Jail||41 days (from 7 April 1927 to 18 May 1927)|
|Manmath Nath Gupta||Naini Allahabad Jail||45 days (from 7 April 1927 to 22 May 1927)|
|Vishnu Sharan Dublish||Naini Allahabad Jail||45 days (from 7 April 1927 to 22 May 1927)|
The legal defence for the arrested revolutionaries was provided by Govind Ballabh Pant, Mohan Lal Saxena, Chandra Bhanu Gupta, Ajit Prasad Jain, Gopi Nath Srivastava, R. M. Bahadurji, B. K. Chaudhury and Kripa Shankar Hajela.
Pandit Jagat Narayan Mulla, a leading advocate from Lucknow and uncle-in-law of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru refused to defend the arrested revolutionaries. He was appointed as public prosecutor by the law of court.
Among the political figures who came out in support of those arrested for the Kakori train robbery were: Motilal Nehru, Madan Mohan Malaviya, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Lala Lajpat Rai, Jawaharlal Nehru , Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, Shiv Prasad Gupta, Shri Prakash and Acharya Narendra Dev.
There were widespread protests against the court's decision all over the country. Members of the Central Legislature even petitioned the Viceroy of India to commute the death sentences given to the four men to life sentences. Appeals were also sent to the Privy Council. However, these requests were turned down and the men were finally executed. Appeals were claimed to have been also made by Mahatma Gandhi, despite his lack of executive authority.
On 11 August 1927, the Chief Court endorsed the original judgement with an exception of one (7 yrs) punishment from the judgement of 6 April. A mercy appeal was filed in due course before the Provincial Governor of U.P. by the members of the legislative council which was dismissed. Ram Prasad Bismil wrote a letter to Madan Mohan Malaviya on 9 September 1927 from Gorakhpur Jail. Malviya sent a memorandum to the then Viceroy and Governor-General of India Irwin with the signatures of 78 Members of Central Legislature, which was also turned down.
On 16 September 1927, the final mercy appeal was forwarded to Privy Council at London and to the King-Emperor through a famous lawyer of England, Henry S. L. Polak, but the British Government, who had already decided to hang them, sent their final decision to the India office of Viceroy that all the four condemned prisoners were to be hanged till death by 19 December 1927 positively.