Amid more than 70 years of Indian National Congress-dictated education that brought up children of the nation with the notion that its independence was won ‘bina khadag, bina dhal‘ (without the use of swords and shields — as go the words from a famous Bollywood song written by Kavi Pradeep), the real heroes of India’s freedom struggle remain unsung. Batukeshwar Dutt was one of them.
Best known for having exploded a few bombs, along with Bhagat Singh, in the Central Legislative Assembly in New Delhi on 8 April 1929, Batukeshwar and Bhagat Singh, on being arrested and imprisoned, had initiated a historic hunger strike, protesting against the abusive treatment of Indian political prisoners. The heroes eventually secured some rights for the jail inmates. Dutt was a member of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA), too.
Also known as BK Dutt, Battu, and Mohan, this son of Goshtha Bihari Dutt was born on 18 November 1910 in Village Oari, Purba Bardhaman district, in what is now West Bengal. He graduated from PPN High School in Cawnpore (now Kanpur). He was a close associate of freedom fighters such as Chandrashekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh, the latter of whom he met in Cawnpore in 1924. He learned about bomb-making while working for the HSRA.
The Batukeshwar Dutt-Bhagat Singh plan
To subdue the rise of revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh, the British government decided to implement the Defence of India Act 1915, which gave the police a free hand. Influenced by a French anarchist who bombed the French Chamber of Deputies, Singh proposed to the HSRA his plan to explode a bomb inside the Central Legislative Assembly, which was agreed.
Initially, it was decided that Dutt and Sukhdev would plant the bomb while Singh would travel to the USSR. However, later the plan was changed and Dutt was entrusted with planting it alongside Singh.
On 8 April 1929, Singh and Dutt threw two bombs inside the assembly rushing from Visitor’s Gallery. The smoke from the bomb filled the Hall and they shouted slogans of “Inquilab Zindabad (Long Live the Revolution)!” and showered leaflets. The leaflet declared it was an act to oppose the Trade Disputes and the Public Safety Bill being presented in the Central Assembly and the death of Lala Lajpat Rai. A few sustained injuries in the explosion but there were no deaths; Singh and Dutt claimed that the act was intentional. Singh and Dutt were arrested, as they had planned.
The Tribune reported the incident thus:
When Mr Patel from India got up to give his ruling on the Public Safety Bill, two bombs were thrown from a gallery near the seat of George Schuster. The whole House was dispersed in the panic caused. George Schuster and B Dalal were injured while a few other members received minor injuries. Bhagat Singh and Dutta were arrested by the British.
Ten minutes later the Assembly got reassembled. The Chamber was filled with smoke. Mr Patel adjourned the House till next Thursday. A red pamphlet “Hindustan Socialist Republican Army” signed by Bal Raj, Hony. Chief, was thrown into the blazing fire.
The police locked the Council House and prevented the movement of the visitors. J Simon was also in the President’s Gallery when the bomb fell. Sir G Schuster, Sir B Dalal, Mr Raghavendra Rao and Mr Shanker Rao were among the injured.
Butukeswara Datta from Bengal and Bhagat Singh from Punjab were arrested.
Along with Singh and Sukhdev, Dutt was tried in the Central Assembly Bomb Case and was sentenced in 1929 to life imprisonment by the Sessions Judge of Delhi under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code & Section 4 of the Explosive Substances Act. He was deported to the Cellular Jail, Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
After his release from prison, Dutt contracted tuberculosis. He nonetheless participated in the Quit India Movement called by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He was again jailed for four years. He was lodged in Motihari Jail (in Champaran district of Bihar).
After India gained independence, he married Anjali in November 1947. Independent India did not accord him any recognition, and he spent his remaining life in poverty away from the political limelight. The later life of the freedom fighter was painful and tragic.
Being released from jail due to tuberculosis, Dutt was not valued in independent India where he grappled with destitution. He was forced into starting a transport business for livelihood.
Dutt outlived all his comrades and died on this day in 1965 in the AIIMS hospital in Delhi after a long illness. He was cremated in Hussainiwala near Ferozepur in Punjab where the bodies of his comrades Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev had been cremated many years ago.
The legacy of Dutt
Dutt was survived by his only daughter, Bharti Dutt Bagchi, in Patna where his house was situated in the Jakkanpur area.
The BK Dutt Colony in New Delhi, located on a prime location opposite Safdarjung Airport and adjacent to Jor Bagh, is named after Dutt. It is the nearest private residential colony near to AIIMS in the NDMC area.
Anil Verma wrote a book titled Batukeshwar Dutt: Bhagat Singh ke Sahyogi, which was released on the centenary of Dutt’s birth. The book was published by the Government of India’s publication service, the National Book Trust. It is the first book published on Dutt in any language.
In the recent times, two films were dedicated to the memory of Bhagat Singh: The Legend of Bhagat Singh starring Ajay Devgn and 23 March 1931: Shaheed. They contained just passing mentions of Batukeshwar Dutt.