In March 1887 a boy was born in the Bengal Presidency of British India in a Brahmin family as Narendra Nath Bhattacharjee. He would be christened in various names during his chequered International political journey necessitated for survival. Amongst all those names Manabendra Nath Roy (M N Roy) that he finally assumed has survived the test of time. Any student of politics or history specializing in socialistic developments in world politics knows him and about his contributions as a social thinker, philosopher, radical socialist, International Communist leader, and a great leftist theoretician in the International arena.
This great historical figure started his political career as s Freedom fighter in India against colonial British rule while he still was in his teens and at the far end of his long political life became a Humanist trying to strike a balance between Communism and Humanism. He along with another brilliant Indian left-leaning politician and thinker Birendranath Chattopaddhay(alias Chatto) spent considerable time of their political life in Russia after the Great October Revolution and USSR was formed.
They took an active part in the International Communist movement and as Comintern theoreticians, both were bracketed together with top Soviet leaders like Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky. However, both had to have differences of opinion with Stalin. Chatto disappeared and M N Roy had to finally return to India after fulfilling certain assignments in China.
First thing first, let us discuss Narendranath's involvement in the anti-British struggle of freeing his motherland when he was attracted to the politics of Agnijug. He was inspired by the writings of Bankimchandra and Swami Vivekananda to rise for the cause of establishing the rights of Indians to self-governance. He started getting involved with all possible anti-colonial movements.
In 1905 he joined the Banga Bhanga Andolon and was expelled from his school. Later he studied at Bengal Technical School in Shibpur where he learned Chemistry and Engineering that came to good use in his revolutionary life. Influenced by brothers Arabinda and Barin Ghosh he joined Anushilan Samity. He also was involved with Bagha Jatin in bombs, explosives, and arms training in the Sunderbans. He was implicated in the Howrah-Shibpur case against revolutionaries in 1910. Then he took an extensive tour in Western and Northern India in disguise of a pilgrim to organize revolutionary agitations in those areas.
During this period he worked closely with Bagha Jatin and Revolutionary Leader Rash Behari Bose. Together with Jatin, he planned to get German help to liberate India. They succeeded in meeting the Crown Prince of Germany during his visit to Calcutta and achieved his support. With Rash Behari Bose he started contacting freedom-loving Indians living abroad in the USA, Canada, Japan, China, England, and Germany.
Meantime, he was also working with the Jugantor faction of Anushilan Samity to abduct a good quantity of arms of Rodda Company which was supposed to be on transit in 1914 from Calcutta custom house to the company's godown. However, he finally walked out of the plan terming it as impractical, though the plan worked out fine albeit without his involvement. Finally, they settled with Bagha Jatin and Rash Behari Bose about a pan-Indian uprising in 1915 with German help.
Rash Behari Bose was a born revolutionary who while working in Dehradun Forest Research Institute came in close contact with Jatindra Nath Mukherjee alias Bagha Jatin and was further drawn towards armed means of getting freedom from the British colonizers. In those days of the early twentieth century, many Bengali youth revolutionaries relocated to different parts of upper India to be out of reach of the British authorities and their intelligence.
After the Alipore Bomb case and the Shibpur-Howrah case all Bangalee youth became suspected revolutionaries. Rash Behari was involved in the assassination attempt on Lord Hardinge at Delhi in 1913 but could manage to befool the Brits and stayed put in Dehradun from the next morning to avoid all suspicion. He then took an active part in the Ghadar movement which essentially meant organizing a military revolt in different cantonments simultaneously in 1915. It was funded by patriotic Indians living abroad.
The leaders thought that since most of the soldiers were sent out to fight the ongoing WW1, the balance deshi soldiers in different cantonments can be won over convincing them about Swaraj. But unfortunately, the plot failed. In 1915 Rash Behari fled to Japan. Meantime Bagha Jatin and Naren Bhattacharjee planned the uprising the same year 1915 with German help. As per the understanding of their meeting with the German Crown Prince in Calcutta, the consignment of arms was to arrive at Batavia (Indonesia) from Germany.
Then they were to be transhipped for unloading at Orissa coast. Jatin stayed back in Orissa to coordinate the landing, transportation, and distribution of the arms. Naren left for coordinating activities at Batavia's end. The plan had basic weaknesses and the Germans pulled out in the end. It failed to materialize. Naren Bhattacharjee was desperate to get arms for the impending revolutionary activities. So he started looking for potential allies. From Batavia, he proceeded to Japan. By that time Rash, Behari was already there.
Originally, Jatin and Naren had planned with the Germans (with the help of Indian Revolutionary youth working in Germany with German authorities) that German ships loaded with armaments will travel from Java to the Andamans. All the revolutionaries and inmates of cellular jail will be freed and armed and thence they will travel to the Orissa coast where Bagha Jatin will receive them to launch the revolution.
Meantime Gadar movement to agitate the Indian soldiers remaining in different cantonments (the bulk of them having already been transported to fight for British India in different theatres) will also be successfully launched and a revolution will take place in which the general mass will enthusiastically participate.
The Germans perhaps found out that these young revolutionaries though dedicated, committed and selfless, were not prepared enough to lead such a huge revolution of a massive country. They simply did not have enough numbers and had no political base though their target was noble. So, Naren could not make proper contact with the German Consul General.
The German was considerate but not committal. Naren had to look for arms and continued traveling east. In Japan, he met Rash Behari Bose and planned how to achieve their goal. China was a probable source. Great Chinese Nationalistic leader San Yat Sen was in exile in Japan at that time. Naren and Rash Behari made friends with him and discussed about the supply of arms to India via Chinese territory to Assam with German help and finance.
San Yat Sen did not find the proposal feasible. In the meantime, the Japanese police were aware of Naren's presence in Japan organizing the anti-British armed struggle. During a wartime situation, they did not want to displease the British and started deportation procedure. So, Naren Bhattacharjee fled to China via Korea in disguise and contacted the German Consul General in Peking. He in turn consulted with his headquarters and arranged to send the Indian Revolutionary to Germany via France and the USA.
Forged documentation for his travel had to be prepared. This was the fourth time he had to take a new name and this time he got the name M N Roy which he carried till the end of his life. In June 1916 he landed in the USA as M N Roy but his plan was leaked to the American police. America was a British ally and about to enter WW1 on the British side. So, M N Roy went immediately into hiding with the help of an Indian Professor in California. During this time he met his first love, Evelyn Trent. Soon the couple married. Evelyn became Shanti Devi and they started living in New York.
In New York, the newlyweds were hosted and supported by the famous Lala Lajpat Rai. For about one year M N Roy studied extensively on politics emphasizing Marxism and leftist thoughts. He did it so well that he became almost an authority on Socialism and the International leftist movement. Soon in 1917 USA joined the war. Many progressive Indians were rounded up and our couple was in danger. With difficulty, they were smuggled into Mexico where they were well accepted by Mexican President Carranza. With his knowledge, Roy became an advisor to the President on different International matters.
He soon became popular amongst socially established active and progressive Mexicans and together with them founded Mexican Socialist Party in 1918, which later became the Communist Party of Mexico, the second after Russia. By then M N Roy was a prominent personality being a prolific writer, speaker, and political contributor. His friends included intelligentsia, ministers, writers, scribes and he was accepted in high places. Thus he mediated the relationship of Mexico with the Soviets and was invited to the 2nd Communist International in Moscow. (To be continued...)
The writer is a travel enthusiast and history buff.
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