“Ideas, Bombs, and Bullets” is about a relatively unknown part of the history of India’s struggle for independence from the British. It concerns events centred on Edwardian London (mainly between 1905 and 1910). This is a true tale of bombs, guns, lawyers, patriots, philosophers, revolutionaries, and scholars.
A most unexpected building stands near the seaport of Mandvi in the Kutch district of the State of Gujarat in India. It is a large red brick house with white stone trimmings, typical of Victorian dwellings found in prosperous parts of London. It stands in a flat desert landscape. This structure, which looks brand new, is a replica of a late Victorian residence in the north London suburb of Highgate. Seeing this incongruous building near Mandvi made the author curious about the reason for its existence and led him to investigate its story.
Before India became independent, many young Indians came to England to be educated. Most of them intended to return to the Indian subcontinent where they could enrich themselves within the constraints imposed by the British, who dominated their country. This volume is about a few Indians, who came to Britain in the first decade of the 20th century, and then, unlike most of their visiting compatriots, risked sacrificing their freedom and prospects of wealth by becoming involved in India’s pursuit of freedom.
A tall, large Victorian house stands beside a tree lined residential street in the hilly north London suburb of Highgate. It is this residence that has been replicated in Kutch. Between 1905 and 1910, this house in Highgate, which was then known as ‘India House’, was a meeting place and hostel for Indian students, many of whom wished to help liberate India from centuries of oppressive British domination.
Many factors led to the end of British rule in India. Amongst these were growing anti-British sentiments amongst the Indians, which were fuelled by pro-independence nationalists and their leaders. History gives greatest prominence to the non-violent activities of MK Gandhi and his colleagues. However, there were others, some well-known such as Subhas Chandra Bose and many others lesser known, who advocated a variety of very different means to attain freedom from British rule.
Some Indian nationalist activists carried out their activities abroad, hoping that they would be safe from the prying eyes of the British authorities in India. They worked in places as far afield as Canada, the USA, Japan, France, Germany, and, surprisingly, in Great Britain, home of the imperialist oppressors. TR Sareen wrote in his book Indian Revolutionary Movement Abroad (1905-21):
“The efforts of the Indian revolutionaries to promote the cause of Indian independence from abroad occupies a unique place in the history of India’s struggle for freedom.”
Some of the Indians working in Edwardian Britain to liberate India from British domination occupy a relatively obscure, almost forgotten part of the history of India’s freedom struggle. This book focusses on their work for the country’s freedom by examining what occurred in India House in Highgate between the years 1905 and 1910.
The first part of this book discusses the aspirations of most Indian nationalists during the last half of the 19th century and the early years of the next century. Almost all of them had moderate views and hoped that Indians could achieve some degree of self-government within the British Empire.
This is followed by the story of an Indian, Shyamji Krishnavarma, who came at first to study in England, and then later encouraged a new approach to the future of his country. It was an approach, which contrasted dramatically with that of those who were already established leaders in the movements for reform in India. He and his colleagues desired complete independence of India, an existence outside the British Empire.
The text that follows the introductory chapters describes the Indian patriots, including (to name but a few) Madan Lal Dhingra, Madame Cama, VVS Aiyar, and VD Savarkar, who were associated with India House. Their often bold and exciting deeds involving books, bombs and bullets are detailed. They performed these, often risking their lives, with the aim of freeing India from the British Empire.
The book ends with the story of the replicated house in Mandvi.
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