Died in vain

This is not really about Gujarat, but it concerns a part of London, where many Gujaratis live…

THE FOCAL POINT OF GOLDERS GREEN (in north west London) is where Finchley Road meets Golders Green Road and North End Road. Here, there stands a monument to those inhabitants of Golders Green who lost their lives in the two World Wars.

The monument’s basic design is typical of many British war memorials erected all over the British Empire during the 1920s. Standing on a square base, this type of memorial resembles a tall obelisk, truncated by not rising to a point. The monument, which doubles up as a clock tower, in Golders Green, was erected in 1923. It includes lists of the names of those who were killed during each of the two World Wars.

A similarly designed memorial (but without clocks) was erected in Bangalore in 1928. It stands on a triangular traffic island at the intersection of Residency and Brigade Roads. It commemorates members of various battalions and regiments of the Madras Pioneers, who fell in the following campaigns: East Africa 1914-18; Mesopotamia 1916-18; The Great War; and The North West Frontier 1915.

The monument in Bangalore bears no names, but only numbers. For example, in Mesopotamia the following fell: 1 British officer, 3 Indian Officers, and 69 “NCOs and Pioneers”. For each campaign the statistics are given in both English and Tamil scripts.

Most of those men of Golders Green, whose names appear on the memorial there, were most likely volunteers, who believed that the British Empire had to be defended. I wonder if the same could be said for the Indian soldiers who are commemorated on the monument close to one of the busy shopping streets in central Bangalore.

Many Indians sacrificed their lives for the British Empire during the two World Wars and other military campaigns designed to maintain British dominance in the world. Unlike the men of Golders Green, many of the Indian victims were fighting for a cause in which they had no interest and from which they could expect little or no benefit, especially during First World War.

A great tragedy, which accounts for much loss of Indian life during WW1, was the belief amongst many Indian leaders (including MK Gandhi during the last months of the War) that by helping Britain to fight they would be rewarded with reforms that would bring India closer to self government. Indians had been as good as promised increased freedoms in exchange for fighting in the First World War. Although, many Indian lives were lost in WW1, these sacrifices were not considered by the British to merit any loosening of their grip on India, the jewel in the crown. Indeed, the opposite occurred. One needs only remember the Jalianwalla Bagh massacre of 1919 to see what I mean.

I found it sad that whereas in Golders Green, the dead are remembered by their names, in Bangalore the monument only records statistics. In 1928, the individual Pioneers were, apparently, not important enough to be remembered as individuals, members of families like those in Golders Green.

From London to Gujarat

TWO YEARS AGO, we first visited Kranthi Teerth close to Mandvi in Kutch, once an independent kingdom and now a part of the Indian state of Gujarat. Kranthi Teerth is a memorial to Shyamji Krishnavarma (1857-1930) who was born in Mandvi. A brilliant Sanskrit scholar and a barrister, Shyamji became disillusioned with the British and by 1905 was advocating that India should become completely independent of the British Empire.

In 1905, Shyamji bought a large house in Highgate (North London). He converted this into a centre and hostel for Indians studying in London, a place where they could eat Indian food, meet fellow countrymen, and discuss affairs related to India. He called the place ‘India House’. The house still exists in Highgate but is now divided into flats.

Shyamji’s India House in Highate, not to be confused with the building with the same name in the Aldwych, rapidly became a centre for anti-British, anti-colonial activity until its demise by the end of 1909.

In 2009/10, a monument was created near Mandvi to commemorate the long forgotten pioneer of the Indian independence movement, Shyamji Krishnavarma. The monument includes a life size replica of the house in Highgate, which was once ‘India House’. The interior of the replica makes no attempt to copy whatever was inside India House back in the time of Shyamji. Instead, it contains portraits of numerous freedom fighters including some of those who either visited or lived in the house in Highgate when it existed as India House. There is also a collection of portraits of some of the heroes of the Great Rebellion, or First War of Indian Independence, that occurred between 1857 and ’58. One might question one or two omissions amongst the portraits (eg Jawaharlal Nehru and Gokhale), but there is a large selection of freedom fighters remembered here. Apart from the feisty Madame Bhikaiji Cama and Shyamji’s wife Bhanumati, there are no other ladies commemorated.

When I first saw the replica at Kranthi Teerth, which looks very incongruous standing tall in the flat sandy semi desert landscape, I became fascinated by its history. When we returned to London, I began researching the story of India House and its exciting contribution to the independence of India. Last year, I published a book about it: “Ideas, Bombs, and Bullets”. The title encapsulates what happened in India House: ideas were discussed; experiments in bomb making were undertaken; and guns were packed ready to be smuggled into British India.

It was interesting to revisit the portraits on display in the replica of India House after having researched my book. At our first visit, most of the persons portrayed meant nothing to me. However, seeing them again, having learnt about them while writing my book, felt rather like meeting old friends!

Yesterday, we revisited Kranthi Teerth and met Hriji Karali, whose ideas led to Narendra Modi’s encouragement of its construction. I presented the senior officials at Kranthi Teerth with a copy of my book. They appeared to be very pleased because until then they had not seen anything in English about Kranthi Teerth and the person it commemorates. My wife and I were given a warm welcome.

Apart from the replica of house in Highgate, there is a simple but spacious gallery where the irns carrying the ashes of Shyamji and his wife are reverentially displayed. These were brought to India from Geneva, where Mr and Mrs Krishnavarma died in the 1930s, by Narendra Modi in 2003 while he was Chief Minister of Gujarat.

I always enjoy visiting places more than once because each successive visit I discover more about them and thereby appreciate them with greater keenness. This was certainly true of our second visit to Kranthi Teerth.

Ideas, Bombs, and Bullets by Adam Yamey is available from:
Lulu.com
Pothi.com (best for purchasers in India)
Amazon
Bookdepository.com
Kindle

Picture shows setting of the replica of India House at Kranthi Teerth

Gandhi and Savarkar in north London

KRISHNAVARMA COVER BOOK BY HITESH BHANUSALI

 

MK (‘Mahatma’) Gandhi, born in Porbandar (Gujarat) visited London in 1906. He spent the first two days of his stay at India House, the hostel in Highgate founded in 1905 by Shyamji Krishnavarma (born in Kutch, now part of Gujarat).  Gandhi did not see eye to eye with Krishnavarma and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who was living in India House. These extracts from my book “IDEAS, BOMBS, and BULLETS” describes Gandhi’s meetings with Krishnavarma and Savarkar.

 

Extracts

During October 1906, India House received one of its most well-known guests. On the 20th of that month, MK Gandhi arrived at Waterloo Station, having recently disembarked from a ship that had carried him from South Africa. He was met by the father of Henry Polak (Gandhi’s South African associate), Lewis Ritch, and others of his followers. They travelled together to India House, where Gandhi spent two nights. After that, he moved to the now long-since closed luxurious Cecil Hotel, which used to stand in the Strand. During his stay in London, he attended at least three of the Sunday evening meetings held every week at India House. These meetings were to discuss matters connected with India, to celebrate Indian festivals, and to allow Indians in London to socialise…

… Savarkar was not friendly to Gandhi when he visited India House in 1906. He strongly disapproved of this visitor’s thoughts and actions throughout his life. It is said that on one of Gandhi’s visits to India House, Savarkar, who loved prawns, offered some to the vegetarian visitor, who politely refused them. Savarkar said to Gandhi:

Well, if you cannot eat with us, how on earth are you going to work with us? … this is just boiled fish … we want people who are ready to eat the Britishers alive…”

Incidentally, Shyamji Krishnavarma was, like Gandhi, a strict vegetarian. He preferred cooked food and had his favourite food, mung dal (a lentil preparation), sent from India. Also, he avoided onions and chillies. Regarding food at India House, especially as it reached its final year, Asaf Ali wrote:

Within a fortnight of our stay in India House, Rauf [Ali’s brother] and I decided to move out of it. For here food served there defied description. And here were Madrasis, Mahrattas, and Punjabis, each so far apart in tastes…”

Gandhi had not come to Highgate to discuss eating habits with the young revolutionary Savarkar. The future Mahatma, who had praised the work of Shyamji, wanted to confront and argue his case with Shyamji, who had been very critical of the assistance that he had offered the British during their war with the South African Boers.

On one of his visits to India House (Sunday 21st October), Gandhi spent the whole day there. During the day, he spent time talking to young Indians. In the evening, he spoke with Shyamji. One of the matters that particularly concerned Shyamji was the forthcoming election of the President of the Indian National Congress. BG Tilak, whom Shyamji admired, was one of the candidates. The ‘moderate’ Indian nationalists favoured Dadabhai Naoroji. Shyamji tried to persuade Gandhi to dissuade Naoroji from standing. However, Gandhi felt that Naoroji was the right man to be President. In November 1906, Shyamji wrote an article in Indian Sociologist, condemning Naoroji. He made comments such as:

We have ample evidence to show that Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji is ever ready to oblige his Anglo-Indian friends at the cost of his country … Mr. Dadabhai is allowing the great reputation he made in the past to damp down the aspirations of the Indians of today … How long does Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji expect that the Indian people will continue to be hoodwinked by him?

Three years later, Gandhi published a booklet called Hind Swaraj. It was, in part, a thinly veiled criticism of the extremists like Shyamji and Savarkar.

 

End of extracts

 

IDEAS, BOMBS, and BULLETS” by Adam Yamey may be bought here:

https://www.bookdepository.com/IDEAS-BOMBS-BULLETS-Adam-YAMEY/9780244203870

AND here:

https://www.amazon.com/IDEAS-BOMBS-BULLETS-Adam-YAMEY/dp/0244203873/

Also on KINDLE

And (in India only):

https://pothi.com/pothi/book/adam-yamey-ideas-bombs-and-bullets

 

Picture shows Krishnavarma on a book by Hitesh Bhansali

Veer Savarkar lived here briefly

140 small SINCLAIR

 

Number 140 Sinclair Road (illustrated above) in west London, not far from Shepherds Bush Green, looks like an ordinary Victorian terraced house, which it is. However, in the first decade of the twentieth century it was home to a few Indian freedom fighters. When the seventeen year old David Garnett, the writer and a future member of the Bloomsbury Group, visited the house in 1909, he met Bipin Chandra Pal (1858-1932) the Bengali nationalist and a father of the Swadeshi movement, which promoted Indian economic independence. He shared the house with his son Niranjan Pal (1889-1959), a young Indian freedom fighter who was to become a founder of the Bombay Talkies film company. Sukhsagar Dutt (1890-1967), a young Indian revolutionary and brother of Ullaskar Dutt who was involved in the use of bombs in Bengal and Bihar and tried at Alipore (Calcutta), also lived at number 140.

In mid to late 1909, VD (‘Veer’) Savarkar (1883-1966) also lived at 140 Sinclair Road as a lodger of Bipin Chandra Pal. Savarkar, who was studying law at the time, was deeply involved in activities aimed at attempting to cause the British to leave India in order that the country became a sovereign nation. Savarkar is now best known for his contributions to the encouragement of Hindu nationalism. His book “Essentials of Hindutva”, published in 1923, is considered a seminal work by promoters of Hindu nationalism.

Savarkar moved from India House in Highgate (founded in 1905 by the barrister Shyamji Krishnavarma from Kutch in Gujarat), a centre of revolutionary Indian independence activists, to 140 Sinclair Road sometime in 1909 before the assassination in London’s Kensington of a senior Indian administrative figure, Sir WH Curzon Wyllie, in July 1909. The victim was shot at close range by Madan Lal Dhingra, a close associate of Savarkar. Savarkar was suspected of having some involvement in the plotting of Curzon Wyllie’s demise. Savarkar’s host in Sinclair Road, Bipin Chandra Pal, was firmly against what Dhingra had done, but accommodated Savarkar, who was pleased that the assassination had been successful until, as I wrote in my book “Ideas, Bombs, and Bullets”:

“… an angry crowd gathered outside, the house, Pal had to tell them that apart from being a paying guest, Veer had no other association with him. Another resident at this address, Pal’s son Niranjan, was a close friend of Veer’s and a regular visitor to India House. Niranjan’s association with India House worried Bipin greatly…

Soon after this, Savarkar shifted his home in London to a flat above an Indian restaurant in a now non-existent alleyway in Holborn.

From what I have described, the seemingly ordinary terrace house at 140 Sinclair Road has played a small role in the history of India’s struggle for freedom from the British, which was eventually gained in August 1947.

For much more information about Indian patriots in Edwardian London, I invite you to read my recently published book, “Ideas, Bombs, and Bullets”, which focusses on the Indian patriots who congregated at India House in Highgate between 1905 and 1910.

 

A SMALL house cover

This publication is available at:

http://www.lulu.com/shop/adam-yamey/ideas-bombs-and-bullets/paperback/product-24198568.html

or:

https://www.bookdepository.com/IDEAS-BOMBS-BULLETS-Adam-YAMEY/9780244203870

(paperback)

and

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07W7CYKPG/

(Kindle – also on Amazon.in)

IDEAS, BOMBS, and BULLETS

A house cover

They were regarded as terrorists by the British police and as patriots by most Indians.

Adam Yamey’s latest book, IDEAS, BOMBS, and BULLETS, explores the activities of a group of Indian freedom fighters active in Edwardian London (1905-1910)

The book relates a true tale of bombs, guns, lawyers, patriots, philosophers, revolutionaries, and scholars. It concerns a little known part of the history of India’s long struggle for independence.

A large Victorian house stands in a residential street in the north London suburb of Highgate. Between 1905 and 1910, it was known as ‘India House’, and was a meeting place and hostel for Indian students, many of whom wished to help liberate India from centuries of British domination. India House was created by a genius from Kutch (now part of present day Gujarat).

In the 19th and 20th centuries before India’s independence, many young Indians came to England to be educated. This is the story of a few of them, who came to Britain in the early 20th century, and then risked sacrificing their freedom, prospects, and lives by becoming involved in India’s freedom struggle.

This book describes the true adventurous exploits of members of Highgate’s India House (including Shyamji Krishnavarma, VD Savarkar, Madan Lal Dhingra, and VVS Aiyar) and its history.

 

The book is available in paperback: 

http://www.lulu.com/shop/adam-yamey/ideas-bombs-and-bullets/paperback/product-24198568.html 

and as a KINDLE e-book:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07W7CYKPG/

From Mandvi to Highgate

Pandit Shyamji Krishnavarma (1857-1930) was born in Mandvi in Kutch. He earned his title of ‘Pandit’ because of his very great knowledge of Sanskrit. In the 1880s, he travelled to England where he became an assistant to Professor Monier Williams at the University of Oxford. Krishnavarma’s studies of Sanskrit at Oxford earned him great fame amongst the Indologists all over the world. He also became a barrister. On hisreturn to India, Krishnavarma served as ‘Diwan’ in various princely states, before returning to England in 1897.

FACE

By 1905, Krishnavarma had become deeply involved in the movement to free India from the grips of the British Empire. That year, he purchased a house in the north London suburb of Highgate. He named it ‘India House’ and it served as both a hostel for Indian students and a centre for plotting the liberation of India from the British.

Between 1905 and 1910, when India House was closed and sold, this place became known as a ‘centre of sedition’ and the ‘most dangerous organisation in the British Empire’. I have almost finished writing a book, to be called “IDEAS, BOMBS, and BULLETS” about Highgate’s India House and the people associated with it. 

Here is a brief introduction to my forthcoming book:

This is about a little known part of the history of India’s struggle for independence. It concerns events centred on a house in Edwardian London. It is a tale of bombs, guns, lawyers, patriots, philosophers, revolutionaries, and scholars.

A large Victorian house stands in a residential street in the north London suburb of Highgate. Between 1905 and 1910, it was known as ‘India House’, and was a meeting place and hostel for Indian students, many of whom wished to help liberate India from centuries of British domination.

In the 19th and 20th centuries before India’s independence, many young Indians came to England to be educated. This is the story of  a few of them, who came to Britain in the early 20th century, and then risked sacrificing their freedom, prospects, and lives by becoming involved in India’s freedom struggle. 

This book describes the true adventurous exploits of members of Highgate’s India House (including VD Savarkar, Madan Lal Dhingra, and VVS Aiyar) and its history.

I will give you more news about my book soon, I hope!

A freedom fighter from Kutch

VARMA HOUSE

Shyamji Krishna Varma (1857-1930) was born in Mandvi in Kutch (now part of Gujarat State). A Sanskrit scholar of world reknown and a barrister, he was also an important, but now not so well-known, activist in the fight for India’s Independence from the British. 

He settled in London in the late 1890s and lived there in the northern suburb of Highgate until he moved to France before 1910. This house, number 60 Muswell Hill Road, was his home between 1900 and 1907. A circular plaque commemorates his short stay here.