Anatomy of a 100 year old arms heist

One of the several unique guns that was looted 100 years ago
50 such unique guns were part of an arms heist which took place about 100 years ago.
Image Courtesy:


Whenever there is a discussion on the pre-independence arms robbery by Indian revolutionaries, the Chittagong Armoury Raid of 1930 takes the forefront. There has been lots of discussion on this robbery over the years. Even three films have been made over of this armoury raid. However, there is one arms raid which took place in broad daylight in our city of Kolkata about 100 years back, which very few people even in this city remember till date. In recent times a social media group of Kolkata Police posted some information on the public domain for the awareness of general people. Also in a recently published book on Lalbazar, a very brief description of this robbery is mentioned. The day of the raid comes and goes in silence without any iota of enthusiasm in the city. There is a memorial of the event with statues of some revolutionaries who played a prominent part in the raid erected by a local club which is hardly known to the residents of the city. On the day of the raid, a lone descendant of one of the revolutionaries honors them with garlands and flowers. In rare cases, some descendants of other revolutionaries visit the memorial. No Government initiative is involved in it. General masses are unaware of it. In fact, in a Radio show, the audience was asked to spot the memorial of this incident. Although it is on a busy road in the heart of the city, only two persons could spot it.

The Rodda Heist Memorial remains oblivious to the masses in general

The Robbery whose detailed blueprint I am going to narrate here is known in the history as the “Rodda Arms Heist” or which was termed by the newspaper Statesman as “The greatest Daylight Robbery”. The planning and execution was nothing less than a Fredrick Forsythe story. I had my first clue when my veteran friend Kamal Banerjee mentioned me a book named “Malangar Habu o Rodda Company r Astralunthan” from where I got my first detailed information about this heist.

Need of arms by Indian Revolutionaries

During the beginning of  World War I (1914-1918), the Indian revolutionaries decided to do something daring which would result in procuring a sufficient number of firearms for their cause of struggle for Indian Independence. Already the scenario of protest against the British Rule had increased to an extreme after the 1905 partition of Bengal. It started with sedition case against the ‘Bande Matram’ newspaper charging leaders like Aurobindo Ghosh and Bipin Bihari Ganguly to prove their involvement in promoting protests against the Government. Bipin Bihari Ganguly was imprisoned for 6 months. In the proceedings, he said “I have (a) conscientious objection about taking part in a prosecution which I believe unjust and injurious to the cause of popular freedom and interests of the public. I have an objection to swear(ing) in these proceedings. I refuse to answer any question in connection with this case.”

( L to R) Bandematram Newspaper, Aurobindo Ghosh & Bipin Bihari Ganguly ( Wikimedia Commons & Ministry of Information & Cultural Affairs, West Bengal)

These revolutionaries were in no mood to negotiate with the British Government although a majority of the mass still believed in non-violence policy. They believed in driving away the British from their homeland in India by force. There was an assassination attempt on Presidency Magistrate Douglas Kingsford in March 1908 who earned notoriety among nationalists for giving whipping order to an young boy named Sushil Sen. This followed with murder of approver Naren Goswami related to Alipore Bomb case in 1908 by Kanailal Datta and Satyen Basu, the killing of Public prosecutor Ashutosh Biswas by Charu Chandra Basu in 1909 and Deputy Superintendent Shamshul Alam by Birendra Nath Dutta Gupta in 1910. Last three assassinations were done in broad daylight. It may be worth mentioning here that Charu Chandra Basu’s right hand was devoid of a palm or fingers since childhood. He had tied the revolver to his right arm and shot Ashutosh Biswas with the fingers of his left hand which gives an idea of the determination of the revolutionaries.

There were more daring acts like the killing of William Wyllie, an official of the British Indian Government by a student named Madan Lal Dhingra in 1909. Bengal was reunited by Lord Hardinge in 1911, but that did not change the mood of the revolutionaries. In 1912, there was a bomb attack to assassinate the then Viceroy of India, Lord Hardinge, To sum it up the situation was an ideal time for an armed revolution.

Kanailal Dutt and Satyen Basu arrested after murder of Naren Goswami.( Image Courtesy : Wikimedia Commons)
The assassination attempt against Lord Hardinge, Viceroy of India. Image courtesy:

Among the several revolutionaries during the struggle of Independence, Rash Behari Bose was considered the most dangerous revolutionary.  He had gone into hiding after the December 1912 attempt on Hardinge. It was he who planned the attack and the act was executed by Basanta Biswas. Towards the end of 1913, Rash Behari Bose visited Benaras accompanying another equally famous revolutionary Jatindra Nath Mukhopadhyay alias Bagha Jatin outlining the prospects of a pan-Indian revolution with his comrades at Jugantar party.

One of the major problems faced by Revolutionaries during the struggle for Indian independence from the British was an inadequate supply of arms. Usually, they procured such arms by seizing them from individuals or by theft. There were some dealers for supply of arms but one needed to purchase arms from them. Some rich businessmen used to patronize these freedom fighters and imported firearms in their own name which ultimately passed to the hand of these revolutionaries. However, these were not sufficient in numbers for the purpose of a wide array of revolutionary activities like a pan-Indian revolution. Bagha Jatin was planning for obtaining three ships full of arms from Germany. In later years his Jugantar party planned to import German arms & ammunition via Narendra Nath Bhattacharya who was later known as Manabendra Nath Roy. History refers to it as ‘German Plot’. However, before that a plan of obtaining a large number of arms by robbery developed in the heart of Calcutta.

(L to R) Rash Behari Basu, Bagha Jatin and Narendra Nath Bhattacharya. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Every plan needs a mastermind. There were several masterminds of the daring arms heist which I am going to narrate here. However, it always needs a catalyst to get a job done. The catalyst behind the plan to procure firearms was a gentleman named Shrish Chandra Paul. It would not be irrelevant to give a detailed background of Shrish Paul here. Born in 1886 at Dacca, he was an active member of Mukti Sangha at Dacca, Bangladesh which was later known as Bengal volunteers. Initially, like such a revolutionary organization, it started as a gymnasium in 1902 led by Hem Chandra Ghosh and Ullaskar Datta. Shrish Paul came to Calcutta in 1907 and took shelter at the house of one Harish Sikdar at 1, Nitaibabu Lane which was the part of a slum opposite Lady Dufferin Hospital.

Shrish Chandra Paul was sent to Kolkata with a specific purpose. His alias was Naren. In Calcutta, there was a similar organization named “Attomnnati Samiti”. It was initially concerned with the physical and mental culture of Bengali Youths. In 1907, the organization formed an inner circle. The inner group was involved in revolutionary activities unknown to many members of the outer group. It had several branches over Bengal. The branch which had its base at Malanga lane (at present near Hind Cinema) concentrated on the collection of arms and carrying on extremist activities. The main members of this branch were Anukul Mukherjee, Girin Banerjee, Kalidas Basu, and many others. In the background of all the branches, the central figure was Bipin Bihari Ganguly. He was hardly present in any on the meetings but took a vital role in taking the major decisions. Shrish Chandra Paul had his connection to Attomnnati Samiti though Harish Sikdar.

(L to R) Anukul Mukherjee, Girindra Banerjee and Kalidas Basu
(L to R) Anukul Mukherjee, Girindra Banerjee and Kalidas Basu (Taken from the book Habu Of Malanga and Rodda Arms Heist )

Along with Khudiram Bose, Prafulla Chaki was involved in the assassination attempt on Kingsford. After Khudiram was arrested, Nanda Lal Banerjee, an officer of the Calcutta police department was after Prafulla Chaki. When cornered by the police at Mokamah station, Prafulla Chaki committed suicide by literally blowing up his brains with his own revolver. Since Chaki was known by his alias Dinesh Ray, it was difficult for police to identify him. Thus his head was then severed from his body and sent to Calcutta for identification. The Attomnnati Samiti decided to take revenge on Nanda Lal Banerjee. Under instruction from Hem Chandra Ghosh, Shrish Chandra Paul was chosen for the job along with Ranen Ganguli who was also a member of the Samiti. At that time Ranen Ganguli was staying at his maternal uncle’s house at Huzurimal Lane. Not far from Huzurimal Lane, near St. James Square (Now Santosh Mitra Square) Nanda Lal Banerjee stayed in his relative’s house at Serpentine Lane. On the evening of 9th November 1908, the duo of Ranen Ganguli and Shrish Chandra Paul waited patiently behind an old Siva temple. Around 7 p.m. as Nanda Lal came out of his house, the duo attacked him near the southwest corner of St. James Park. It was Shrish Chandra Paul’s bullets which killed Nanda Lal Banerjee. Ranen Ganguli later shot him twice to make sure that Banerjee was actually dead. As seen in films, the duo escaped without leaving any trace. Like a professional, Shrish Chandra Paul went back and surrendered his arms to Harish Sikdar and vanished into blue for a certain period of time. Police had no clue about the murderers and thus no name was mentioned in the report.

Shrish paul(L) and Ranen Ganguly (in a senior age). (Taken from the book Habu Of Malanga and Rodda Arms Heist )

This incident resulted in a tie-up of the Mukti Sangha with the Attomnnati Samiti in the future. In between March-May 1914, main collaborators of the two parties in unison – Hem Ghose, Shrish Pal, Harish Sikdar and Anukul Mukherjee planned to murder of O’ Brien, an engineer of Alexandra Jute mill at Jagaddal. The engineer had kicked to death a clerk of the Mill. O’ Brien was penalized only with a fine of Rs 50. Haridas Datta and Khagen Das of Mukti Sangha were assigned to avenge the death of the clerk. However, the plan did not work out in the last moment which made them revolutionaries more determined for their next step. Shrish Pal was acting a liaison between the two parties.

Creating the backstory of the Robbery

As mentioned before Bipin Bihari Ganguly was the back end force of Attomnnati Samiti. Born in 1887, Bipin Bihari Ganguly at Bagandah in Hooghly district. He did his schooling at Halisahar and later came to Kolkata for higher studies and joined Ripon College. After joining Ripon College he came under influence of Sri Aurobindo and many other revolutionaries. He was also closely associated with famous revolutionaries Jatindra Nath Mukhopadhyay alias Bagha Jatin, Jadugopal Mukherjee, and Anukul Mukherjee. As per P.T. Nair’s book of Streets of Calcutta, Bipin Bihari Ganguly lived at 55 Serpentine Lane near the present day Santosh Mitra Square. I located the house while leading a walking tour about a month ago only to find that there is a demolition order of the house as it has been considered dangerous by Kolkata Municipality Corporation and a multistoried is supposed to be built up there. There is a possibility that at present the house does not exist anymore.

Residence of B.B. Ganguly at 55 Serpentine Lane as per P.T. Nair

Keeping in mind the growing need of arms for a large scale revolt, Bipin Bihari Ganguly was assigned with a task in a secret meeting of the committee. At that time one of his close friends Kalidas Mukherjee was employed at R.B. Rodda & Co which was a prominent British gun-store with its office in Dalhousie Square (Now B.B.D. Bagh) area . Kalidas Mukherjee stayed at his official quarter which was adjoining to the godown. Bipin Bihari Ganguly was to take help from Kalidas Mukherjee by using the latter’s connection by getting a youth employed in that organization. The youth needed to be bold, daring and dedicated towards the cause of struggle of Independence of India.

R.B. Rodda & Co was originally listed as Brown and Cooper around 1805.  Richard Burrows Rodda joined in 1830. The organization was a gun retailer catering to colonial British and Indian society of the Victorian era. Brown and Cooper left the organization in 1846 and 1847 respectively, so Rodda became sole proprietor and renamed the company as R.B. Rodda and Company with a  office  at Piccadilly, London. After three years they opened an office at Kolkata.  Rodda died in 1857,and William Henry Taylor became the owner  who was the brother of Rodda’s brother in law. The London office was later shifted to Birmingham in 1903.

In 1885 F. W. Prike took over as manager at the Calcutta Office and two new assistants joined the firm. One of the assistants was J Lyon, He appears to be the James Lyon who, in 1896, established the firm of Lyon & Lyon at Calcutta. Later F.W. Prike left for England in 1904, and in 1910 his son F. B. Prike and his wife moved to live at 2 Vansittart Row. F. B. Prike had a significant role in the story of the Rodda arms heist, but we shall get there in due course.

The former godown of R.B. Rodda & Co is located near the present day Standard Assurance building in the Dalhousie Square alias B.B.D. Bagh at Kolkata also at the same address of 2 Vansittart Row. The former office of R.B. Rodda & Co was at 2 Wellesley Place ( Now Red Cross Place). The signboard of Rodda & Co at this entrance has vanished long back and the company does not exist here anymore. However, the artificial canons still adorn the doorway reminding us of the existence of the company once upon a time at this place.

2 Wellesly PLace, Once Rodda and Company had their office here
2 Wellesly PLace, Once Rodda and Company had their office here
Rodda and Company Catalogue with 2, Wellesley Place as the address
Rodda and Company Catalogue with 2, Wellesley Place as the address

As mentioned earlier Anukul Chandra Mukherjee was one of the main members of the branch of Attomnoti Samiti at Malanga Lane. He resided at his family residence at 39, Malanga Lane, which is parallel to Ganesh Chandra Avenue near present-day Hind Cinema. Anukul Chandra had expertise in the collection of arms and getting young cadres for Attomnnati Samiti. He was referred to as ‘Gurudev’ by other members. For this very purpose, he had already thought of an individual. His name was Shrish Mitra.

House of Niyogi family, maternal grandfather of Shrish Mitra where he used to stay at Kolkata
House of Anukul Mukherjee at Malanga Lane

Shrish Mitra alias Habu was born in 1890 in a wealthy family of Raspur village in Howrah district. His father Sarat Chandra was married to Sarojini Devi belonging to the reputed Niyogi family of Amta. Out of their five children, Shrish was the eldest. From his childhood, he was very daring and adventurous. Sarat Chandra later came to Calcutta and stayed at a rented house at 1/1 Abhay Haldar Lane in Bowbazar lane. His father in law also had a house in Bowbazar at 14 Das Lane (and not Srinath Das lane as mentioned in many places. 1915 Street Directory clearly shows 14 Das Lane to be resident of Niyogi family.). Habu usually used to stay at his maternal grandfather’s house. Sarat Chandra died an untimely death sometime in 1902. His father in law then took care of Sarojini and her other children. Then Sarat Chandra’s bereaved mother came to Calcutta at stayed at 1/1 Abhay Haldar Lane with Habu. Habu used to skip around from one house to the other house. he mainly stayed at 14 Das Lane. Habu was very dear to his paternal grandmother who used to pamper him a lot. This turned Habu into a pampered and daring child. He abandoned his studies and was busy loitering with his friends and developed air and arrogance by the time he was in his 20s.

Out of several branches of Attomnoti Samiti, one was at 23 Madan Baral Lane. It was primarily a club for practicing wrestling, but many secret meetings of the Samiti were being held there. Anukul Chandra Mukherjee had previously developed a rapport with Habu. He convinced and persuaded Habu to join the club thinking him to be a prospective cadre of the Samiti. He was given training in wrestling by Narendra Banerjee, a relative of Girindra Nath Banerjee who was another prime member of the Samiti. Girindra and Narendra resided at 4/3 Malanga Lane. Girindra was excellent at developing strategy and was referred to as “Chanakya” of the Samiti. Finally, Bipin Bihari Ganguly trained Habu in boxing and other combat warfare. Also, Bipin Bihari and his associate Kalidas Basu gave him basic education. Ultimately around 1913, Shrish Mitra alias Habu got a job as a storekeeper at J.F. Madan and company at a salary of Rs 40.

On August 1914, Bipin Bihari Ganguly had asked Anukul Mukherjee to look for a candidate for joining Rodda and Company. By now Habu was matured and intelligent enough from the arrogant kid what he used to be. Anukul Mukherjee decided to choose him for the role of the applicant of a job at Rodda and company. At the interview, Shrish Mitra gave a favorable impression to Mr. F. B. Prike of Rodd and company. When he was asked why he was willing to join at a salary of Rs 35, Shrish Mitra replied that he understands a job in a European company will be more prospective.He was employed as Custom’s Sircar of the organization. The die was cast. Shrish Mitra joined Rodda and Company. It is my guesswork that initially he was not given any specific instructions but just to be alert and pass on whatever information he gets on the supply of arms.

House of Girindra Banerjee at Malanga Lane
House of Girindra Banerjee at Malanga Lane

Shrish Mitra continued his work in Rodda & company so dedicatedly that he was promoted to the post of “Jetty Clearing Clerk”. From  August 1913 to August 1914, he successfully delivered materials of the company from the customs to their warehouse around 40 times. Initially, he was belligerent. Once during clearance of Goods at the Customs office, he had an altercation with a customs officer. Habu ultimately delivered him some quick blows. That night he came to Anukul Mukherjee and Bipin Bihari Ganguly and sought permission to shoot the officer. The duo asked him to calm down and explained that to plan an attack on the enemy sometimes it is necessary to tolerate them. At a nascent stage, one should not go for assault. Slowly this belligerence went out of Habu and within one year he developed a rapport with all his senior colleagues. In fact, Mr. Prike never doubted his intention. Taking advantage of this trust among his colleagues, Habu managed to smuggle two boxes of the cartridge which he delivered to Bipin Bihari Ganguly’s house. These were sent to Chandannagar for future use. If Bipin Bihari was impressed with this act, he did not show it. Instead, he said in a stern manner “What good are cartridges without pistols?”

The insight of valuable arms consignment

Just before World War I the condition of the war scenario was getting complicated. The British were worried about the way the scenario as tensions had been brewing throughout Europe for a long time. To keep things at peace in India where revolutionaries were getting daring, the British Government decided to place an order of 50 Mauser C96 semi-automatic pistols and 46,000 7.63×25mm Mauser cartridges with Rodda & Co somewhere around the beginning of June 1914. The Mauser C96 had been offered to the German Imperial Army in 1896. However, it was rejected in 1908 and Luger P08 was chosen. Despite the rejection, Mauser C-96 eventually saw service in the WWI, since Lugers were in short supply. Several thousand numbers of guns were ordered shortly after the outbreak of the war. Mauser C96 was a very popular weapon during the Boer War, World War I, the Russian Civil War, the Spanish Civil War, the Chinese Civil War, and even World War II. British army officer Thomas Edward Lawrence, a.k.a Lawrence of Arabia and then a British war correspondent for Morning post, Winston Churchill used this gun.

In 1914, the situation was tense too at the Tibet China border. Ivan Chen representing China and Lonchen Shatra representing Tibet argued the pros and cons of proposals by A.H. McMahon British India Foreign secretary which stressed recent Chinese excesses and asserted Tibet’s independence. Meanwhile, Chinese and Tibetan troops fought one another on the eastern-Tibet border. Thus, out of the 50 Mauser C96 ordered by the Government, 35 was to be deported to Tsarong Dazang Dramdul, the Commander in Chief of Tibet.

Mauser C96 is a German weapon which was manufactured by brothers Peter Paul Mauser and Wilhelm. C96, which stands for “Construktion 96,” the short-form year of its first manufacture 1896. Germans seeing it for the first time nicknamed it the “kuhfusspistole” because they thought it was as ugly as a cow’s foot. The partnership of Mauser Brothers and Company was formed between the Württemberg Vereinsbank of Stuttgart and Paul and Wilhelm Mauser on February 5, 1874. Wilhelm Mauser died on 13 January 1882. The partnership became a stock company with the name of Waffenfabrik Mauser on 1 April 1884. Hence the phrase ‘Waffenfabrik Mauser’ can be seen imprinted on the right side of the German Mauser C96. Waffenfabrik in German means factory of arms. There is also another phrase printed just under ‘Waffenfabrik Mauser’ which says “Oberndorf A Neckar”. This is because Peter Paul Mauser was born in Oberndorf am Neckar, Württemberg at Germany. Note that the A. NECKAR is important – there are several Oberndorfs in Germany and Austria, but only one Oberndorf am Neckar, on the river Neckar. On the top portion of the gun, the same phrase is mentioned in short form as ‘Waffenfabrik Mauser A/N’.

Marking on Mauser C96 Pre War Commercial
Marking on Mauser C96 Pre War Commercial
German Officer With Mauser C96
German Officer With Mauser C96

Initially manufactured for only German armed forces, Mauser designs were also exported and licensed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to a large number of countries which adopted them as military and a civilian sporting firearm. The design of the Mauser C96 was very innovative. It was a long barrel gun with the box magazine located in front of the trigger with a round wooden handle along with a wooden shoulder stock. The shoulder stock provided the pistol with the stability of a short barreled rifle. The shoulder stock also served as a case. The gun was kept inside the stock like a wooden case. When needed to be in use, it was taken out from the case and attached to the shoulder stock. The wooden handle gave it a unique grip like the handle of a broom. The Mauser C96 earned the name “broomhandle” because of its unique grip. Mauser C96 had several makes and several variants made in other countries. The consignment of Rodda & Company the revolutionaries looted consisted of pre-war Commercial Mauser C96. Standard pre-war commercial models fall roughly in the serial 39000 – 274000 range. It used 7.63×25mm Mauser cartridges as its ammunition. The 7.63×25mm Mauser cartridges were manufactured by the ammunition manufacturer Kynoch, based in Witton, Birmingham. It was the original cartridge for the Mauser C96. The Police Museum at Maniktala at Kolkata has two samples of this pistol, one is in perfect condition and the other is damaged. The one in perfect condition has identifying features of a Pre War Commercial Mauser C96. The following image gives a good idea about Pre War Commercial Mauser C96.

Mauser C96 Pre War Commercial Right Side
Mauser C96 Pre War Commercial Right Side
Mauser C96 Pre War Commercial Left Side
Mauser C96 Pre War Commercial Left Side
Mauser C96 Broomhandle Pre War Commercial with Shoulder Stock
Mauser C96 Broomhandle Pre War Commercial with Shoulder Stock
The shoulder of C96 Mauser could be used as its case
The shoulder stock of C96 Mauser could be used as its case

Pre War Commercials almost look like War Commercial Models of Mauser C96. There are only two small differences.

1. The back of hammer has intertwined NS monogram
2. There is no hole through safety knob

There is another difference between The Pre War Commercial and the War Commercial which however is applicable most of the time. The Pre War Commercial usually had the 900 marks in the 50-1000 meter sight, which was missing in the War Commercial. However in some later manufactured Pre War Commercial, the 900 marks did not exist. The clip with 7.63×25mm Mauser cartridges is loaded into the Mauser C96 by pressing them with the thumb into the magazine. When the clip is removed, the bolt strips the top cartridges in line and pushes it into the chamber. Basically, the C96 is automatically chambered when it is loaded. Once the safety knob, located to the left of the hammer, is disengaged you are ready to shoot. To unload the pistol, each cartridge must be manually ejected by cycling the bolt.

Sight and Gun number on Mauser C96
Sight and Gun number on Mauser C96 (The 50 Mark is not visible in the photograph)
Mauser C96 Broomhandle Cross Section
Mauser C96 Broomhandle Cross Section
Top Loading Mechanism of Mauser C96 broomhandle
Top Loading Mechanism of Mauser C96 broomhandle
Mauser 7.63 x 25 cartridges
Mauser 7.63 x 25 cartridges

Planning of the Robbery

The day the indent of order the Mauser C96 Pistols and 7.63×25mm Mauser cartridges were received by Shrish Mitra, he promptly paid a visit to Anukul Chandra Mukherjee at his house at 39, Malanga Lane. Anukul Chandra immediately took Habu to Girindra Nath’s house at 4/3 Malanga Lane on the same night to have a primary discussion on the matter. As mentioned earlier that the catalyst of the conspiracy was Shrish Chandra Paul. He along with Haridas Datta and Khagen Das of Mukti Sangha had developed strong collaboration with Anukul Mukherjee, Harish Sikdar, Bipin Bihari Ganguly, Gririndra Nath Banerjee and Shrish Mitra alias Habu of Attommnnati Samiti. After his successful assassination of Nanda Lal Banerjee in 1908, he had again returned to Calcutta. He stayed at the same residence of Harish Sikdar at 1, Nitai Babu Lane and was involved in a business of selling fish as an eye-wash.

Next day morning there was another meeting at the house of Harish Sikdar. This time it included Shrish Paul along with Harish Sikdar, Anukul Chandra Mukherjee and Girindra Nath Banerjee among others. It is almost impossible to say what was the original plan, but I suspect while many thoughts of getting some pistols and bullets stolen Srish Mitra had thought from the beginning that the robbery needs to be planned to clear out the entire stock. There were further meetings on around 17th June in the gymnasium at 23 Madan Baral Lane followed by another meeting at 15th July at 4/3 Malanga Lane.

The pistol and cartridges were to be released from customs on behalf of Rodda and Company on 26th August. A few days before that the final decisive meeting took place at a very narrow lane named Chhatawala Gali behind Lalbazar between 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. Other than members of Attommnnati Samiti and Mukti Sangha, there were members from another similar revolutionary group. There is a difference in the opinion where exactly the meeting took place as per the books I have read till now. It may have been a small room inside a rundown house or inside a small park, which cannot be located on today’s date.

The members who participated in this meeting were as follows:-
1. Narendra Nath Bhattacharya of Jugantar Party
2. Naren Ghosh Chowdhury and Suresh Chakraborty of Barisal party,
3. Shrish Pal, Haridas Datta and Khagen Das of Mukti Sangha
4. Anukul Mukherjee, Shrish Mitra alias Habu, Biman Ghosh, Jagatpati Gupta and Ashutosh Roy of Attommnnati Samiti.

It was time for a showdown of the final plan. Shrish Pal placed the proposal. He said to the present members that as per information of Shrish Mitra (alias Habu) a large consignment of arms will be shortly arriving at the customs house at Calcutta. Among these arms, there is a consignment of 50 Mauser pistols with extra spring and 50 shoulder stock which helps the pistol to be used as a carbine. Also, 46000 cartridges compatible with such pistols are included in the consignment. This consignment is meant to be delivered to Tibet at a future date. From the news obtained so far, it is understood that the consignment has been unloaded from the ship and are awaiting permission for release from the customs department. Soon after its release, these arms will be transported to the godown of Rodda & Company at Vansittart Row. This is a golden chance for the revolutionaries. He proposed that if a team intercepts the total consignment on the way to its delivery to the godown, this huge lot of arms can be used for revolutionary activities.

Instantly Narendra Nath Bhattacharya said “In my opinion, this is nothing but an insane proposal. In broad daylight, a robbery of such a great level that too in an area like Dalhousie Square would be very risky.”

Shrish Pal replied with a smile “I agree. Till the time we do not achieve success in this mission, anybody will consider this as insanity.”

“Well, gentlemen you go on with this lunacy. I do not wish to be a part of it.” Finishing his sentence Narendra Nath Bhattacharya stood up and left the meeting. Following him, Naren Ghosh Chowdhury also refused to be a part of the plan and left the meeting.

Narendra Nath Bhattacharya was a prominent revolutionary at that period and very close to Jatindra Nath Mukhopadhyay alias Bagha Jatin. He had later taken the name Manabendra Nath Roy to escape British intelligence. His disapproval of the plan was a setback to the revolutionaries. However, the rest of the team agreed to go ahead with the plan and asked Shrish Pal to chalk down the final blueprint of the show.

To begin with, four persons were entrusted to keep watch over the I.B. personnel near Dalhousie square. They were Suresh Chakrabarty, Jagatpati Gupta, Biman Ghose, and Ashutosh Roy. The trio who would be part of the final robbery was Shrish Pal himself, Haridas Datta and Khagen Das. Habu alias Shrish Dutta would join them later. Ashutosh Roy was good at singing. If his other comrades spotted any trouble from I.B. personnel’s they would immediately pass the news to Ashutosh Roy who would communicate the trio by singing. After the meeting was dispersed, Shrish Pal, Anukul Mukherjee, Khagen Das, and Haridas Datta assembled at the house of Shrish Mitra’s at 14 Das Lane. Here Shrish Pal decided that Anukul Mukherjee was to arrange a cart driven by a stout upcountry bullock. The reason behind it was that the arms were to put up in six bullock carts from Custom house and delivered to the godown of Rodda and Company at 2 Vansittart Row. The seventh bullock cart was to tag along behind the rest as if it was a part of the rest carts. Shrish Mitra was to upload the entire consignment of Mauser pistols, shoulder stock and cartridges on this seventh bullock cart.

Entrance of Vansittart Row
The entrance of Vansittart Row with Standard Assurance Building in the forefront. At the end of the row was the former godown of Rodda and Company.

Anukul Mukherjee was specially assigned for this task as he had a good rapport with the Garwan alias cart-driver community. Haridas Datta assuming the role of an innocent Non-Bengali Garwan (locally still referred to as Hindusthani Garwan) was assigned to drive the seventh bullock cart. Here there is a version conflict between the authors who have written books on the Rodda Arms heist. Most of the authors including Uma Mukherjee (Author of the Book “Two great Indian revolutionaries”) have mentioned that it was Haridas Datta who led the Bullock cart all by himself to the customs house and parked the cart behind other six bullock carts. However, Satyendra Nath Gangopadhyay has mentioned in his book “Malangar Habu O Rodda Company r Astralunthan” that the seventh bullock cart has driven by a Garwan named Dosad. He was drugged heavily beforehand. Haridas Datta assumed the name “Atul” and reached the godown in the disguise of a coolie and sat in the bullock cart beside Dosad and led the cart out of the Godown all by himself as Dosad dozed off beside him.

Haridas Datta (L) and PrabhuDayal HimmatSinghka (Taken from the book Habu Of Malanga and Rodda Arms Heist )

Whatever be the actual case, the fact remains that Haridas Datta was to guide the bullock cart to Malanga Lane from Custom office. Shrish Pal and Khagen Das were to walk beside the cart guarding him. A young revolutionary named Prabhu Dayal Himmatsingka was assigned to job to give Haridas Datta give the makeover of a Hindusthani Garwan overnight. At that time Himmatsingka was a student who stayed at the Marwari hostel. Haridas Datta stayed in the hostel during that night whilst Himmatsingka applied his handiwork on his appearance. Prabhu Dayal Himmatsingka in later part of career joined Congress and became an M.P.

Rodda Arms Heist

On 26th August at about 9 a.m., Anukul Chandra Mukherjee, Shrish Pal, Shrish Mitra (alias Habu), Haridas Datta and Khagen Das met at Malanga Lane near Anukul Chandra’s house. They had last minute talk and each of Shrish Pal, Haridas Datta and Khagen Das were provided with a loaded revolver. The Bullock Cart was brought at Malanga Lane. In case of any attack on the road, Shrish Pal and Khagen Das were to start firing, Shrish Mitra alias Habu left soon after the meeting to join duty.

The job description of Shrish Mitra alias Habu at Rodda and company can be described now in details. As per requirement, he was to issue indent for ordering arms from England. After receiving the challan, he was to obtain the necessary documents from his superior along with the required amount of cash and visit Mr Barnett who was the officer in charge at the customs office in order to release the materials. Afterward, once the materials were released from the jetty, he was in charge of transportation of the arms to the godown of Rodda and company at Vansittart row.

On 26th August 1914, Shrish Mitra reported to Mr. Prike at his usual hours of 10 am. Mr. Prike handed him all the necessary documents and explained to him his job in details. In that time, such a huge number of consignment used to come once a year. Smaller consignments used to be delivered at least twice a month. This time the consignment of arms was loaded in a ship named Tactician. Mr. Prike himself went to the Police Commissioner Sir Fredrick Halliday to obtain import license for importing the arms. As per reports of Amrita Bazar Patrika, Mr. Prike later mentioned that Shrish Mitra took thirty rupees from the cashier for the purpose of Jetty charge, cartage and coolie hiring charges. He also provided him two cheques drawn on Bank of Bengal amounting to Rs 1211 and the other of Rs One hundred eight annas and two pies. Habu came out of the office at around 11 am. He was in his usual official attire wearing a half shirt and trousers and boots. Shrish Mitra also carried his service revolver with him. He had a grown a well-grown moustache in the last few months, perhaps to bring more authority in his appearance. On the other side, his team walked up to Dalhousie square from Malanga Lane. The seventh cart was to arrive late at around 12:00 at the custom house.

So far I have mentioned the word Customs house several times but where was it located? It was located in the southeastern corner of Lal Dighi at Dalhousie square, exactly the same place where at present the Reserve Bank of India stands. It was a two-storied house whose foundation stone was laid on 9 February 1819 by Governor General Hastings (1st Marquess of Hastings, In office 1813-1823). It ceased to function in that capacity after a New Custom-house was built in 1942. The office of Income Tax also operated from the old customs house for sometimes. Post-independence the building was demolished to accommodate the new building of Reserve Bank of India.

Old Customs House from where the Mauser Pistols and bullets were loaded in the bullock Car. Photo courtesy: Bourne and Shepherd.
Old Customs House from where the Mauser Pistols and bullets were loaded in the bullock Car. Photo courtesy: Bourne and Shepherd

As planned beforehand, the seventh cart arrived around 12:00 at the Customs House, just when the goods were about to be loaded in the bullock carts. As mentioned earlier there is a version conflict as to who actually brought the cart to the customs house. It may have been a Hindusthani Garwan named Dosad who was fixed beforehand by Shrish Mitra or it may be Haridas Datta himself. It may be mentioned here that Haridas Datta himself was an expert in driving bullock carts. Also after I interviewed one of the descendants of one of the revolutionary involved in this robbery, I was told that there indeed was a cart driver with Haridas Datta who was drugged allowing the latter to take control of the cart after leaving customs house. I will go into the details of this interview in the later part of the narration.

Whoever may have brought the cart to customs house Shrish Mitra alias Habu enacted a drama with the Garwan by shouting at him for coming late, so that people around should get the impression that the cart was booked by Shrish Mitra himself and it was not an intruder in the scene. Haridas Datta has dressed like a Hindusthani Garwan thanks to the handiwork of Prabhudayal Himmatsinghka. Shrish Mitra referred him at the scenario with the name of Atul. Shrish Mitra on the pretext of inspecting the goods checked that the right boxes are being loaded in the seventh bullock cart. In those days arms manufacturers used to send 500 false bullets with the consignment. Habu opened the boxes, disposed the false bullets and got the boxes repacked by fixing nails to the boxes. He got the clearing order signed by the customs authority and now the consignment was ready to go. As the goods were being loaded in the bullock carts, Habu loaded the total consignment of the Mauser Pistols, their shoulder stocks and the cartridges on the seventh bullock cart.

The description of goods as per report of deputy commissioner Charles Tegart consisted of “8 cases of Kynoch’s Mauser cartridges marked RBR, Nos 396-403, each box containing 5,000 cartridges; 1case marked RBR, containing 6000 cartridges and 1 case marked RBR 828, containing 50 Mauser pistols, large size”. Please note that Charles Tegart does not mention the model of the pistol in his report. In this context, I would like to mention that no book mentions the exact Model of the Mauser Pistols. Even the Sedition Report only mentions .300 bore pistols. If I would not have studied on the Mauser C96 and visited the Maniktala Police Muesuem, then it was impossible to arrive at the conclusion as to what was the make of the stolen pistols. Another distinctive proof that the stolen Mausers were C96 Pre War commercials were the numbers of some of the pistols as mentioned in the Sedition Report of 1918. Every Mauser pistol had a distinctive number as mentioned earlier. The pistols numbers mentioned in the report are mostly of 176000 series and 175000 series. As mentioned earlier, standard pre-war commercial models fall in the 39000 – 274000 range.

Habu then instructed to Dosad in a low voice that all other six carts were to go Vansittart row godown, but he has to deliver his consignment to a different address. He then introduced Haridas Datta as a coolie named Atul who will guide him to the destination. Dosad had been drugged heavily beforehand so he could not apply any logical thought into this instruction. All he could say is “Ji Hujur” (Yes Sir) and allowed ‘Atul’ to take the reins of the bullock cart while he busied himself fixing Khaini, a form of chewable tobacco. The bullock carts left the customs house. That day the sky was cloudy. In between, there were brief showers. As Haridas Datta drove the bullock cart like an expert Garowan on the streets of Dalhousie Square, Shrish Pal and Khagen Das came silently from their designated waiting spot and started walking on both sides of the cart, pretending to be employees of Rodda and Company. It is said in one version that already had one gun each in their possession as I mentioned earlier. Another version says that Haridas Dutta opened one case and handed them each a Mauser C96 each. Someway, I feel the second version is bit farfetched and in all probabilities is incorrect.

It is unimaginable for anybody in the 21st century to think that such a large consignment of arms was stolen in broad daylight from a place like Dalhousie Square in a bullock cart. No fancy cars, no fast bikes, the greatest daylight robbery of arms in the pre-independence era took place using a mode of transportation like a mere bullock cart.

At the entry of Vansittart Row, the six bullock cart went inside the lane towards the Godown of Rodda & Co. Shrish Mitra accompanied the carts towards the Godown. The seventh cart driven by Haridas Datta did not turn the cart right into Vansittart row. Instead, he drove the vehicle straight. The cart proceeded through Mission Row (Now R.N. Mukherjee Road), Bentinck Street Crossing, Mangoe Lane, British India Street (Now Abdul Hamid Street), Market area of Chandni Chowk till it reached Wellington Square crossing Bidhan Chandra Roy’s house. From Wellington Square, the cart took progressed on Wellington Street (Now Nirmal Chandra Street) and crossed the pumping station which no more exists at present. At that time Ganesh Chandra Avenue did not exist. There were open areas, small houses, and bylanes. The bullock cart stopped in front of the Ironyard Of Kanti Mukherjee which was close to Malanga Lane but was on Wellington Street (Now Nirmal Chandra Street). The packing boxes were unloaded in front of Kanti Mukherjee’s Ironyard adjacent to his Shop. Kanti Mukherjee’s son Lal Behari Mukherjee was in good terms with Anukul Mukherjee. Thus it was planned to unload the boxes in front of the Ironyard.

Now the question is where exactly was this shop or Ironyard? Initially, I had thought the Ironyard was opposite to Anukul Mukherjee’s house at Malanga Lane, where the Rodda Memorial exists at present. However, after reading all the official reports and the reliable books, I found that they all mention that the Ironyard was on Wellington Street. Now the basic question is was the Ironyard at the junction of Malanga Lane and Wellington Street or was it located at some distance from Malanga Lane? Even Haridas Datta who wrote a rather non- descriptive version of the heist in his old age, only mentions that there was an Ironyard close to Anukul Mukherjee’s house.

In 1914, there were not many houses in this area. The name Malanga Lane is derived name from the word Malangi, i.e. Salt labours. The area was full of makeshift shanties of such labours. The townscape was entirely different from what we see now. However, Satyendranath Gangopadhyay in his 1978 published book mentions that The Kanti Mukherjee’s shop existed on Wellington Street in the mid-1970s too. Taking a cue from this point I checked the Street directory of 1915 and found that on Wellington Street near Malanga Lane, there was only one shop belonging to a Mukherjee family. This was K.C. Mookherjee and Sons. They owned both the premises of 27 & 27/1 Nirmal Chandra Street. I visited the shop and to my delight found that the actual owner of the shop was Kanti Mookherjee, whose grandson was indeed Lal Behari Mookherjee. The family did not have any present descendant living at present. They sold off the shop to a distant relative whose descendants now run the shop. The present owner confirmed me all the family details and also confirmed that adjacent to the shop, there used to be an Ironyard. However, he had no idea about the Rodda Arms heist and was very excited to know all about it.

In short, the famed Ironyard where the wooden boxes of the arms consignment were unloaded on the day of the heist was actually around 90 meters from the entrance of Malanga Lane and over 200 meters from the house of Anukul Mukherjee at 39 Malanga Lane.

Shop of Kanti Mookerjee, present condition. The consignment of arms were first unloaded in front of the Ironyard adjacent to this shop.
Shop of Kanti Mookerjee, present condition. The consignment of arms was first unloaded in front of the Ironyard adjacent to this shop.
Bhuban Lal Mukherjee, present owner of K . C. Mookherjee and Sons. The consignment of arms were first unloaded in front of the Ironyard adjacent to this shop.
Bhuban Lal Mukherjee, the present owner of K. C. Mookherjee and Sons.

Going back to 26th August 1914, It was three in the afternoon when the Bullock cart reached the Ironyard. The sky was dark with clouds and it was raining now. Due to the rain, the visibility was apparently less and there were relatively fewer people on the road. The wooden boxes were unloaded in front of the Ironyard. Anukul Chandra Mukherjee, Bipin Bihari Ganguly and other members of Atmonnoti Samiti were waiting eagerly over there. Dosad was paid his fare after he unloaded the goods. Silently, he left the scene. Haridas Datta too fled the scene. His name was no more Atul. From that moment his name was changed to ‘Kunja’.

Meanwhile, Shrish Mitra rushed back to Malanga lane from his office on the pretext of locating the seventh cart which he claimed to have lost its way to the godown keepers of Rodda and Company. He reached at 4/3 Malanga Lane, the house of Girindra Nath Banerjee. Quickly he changed his attire. By this time Shrish Pal also reached this house. They immediately left for Rangpur by the Darjeeling mail departing at 17:06 hours. Each of them was handed one Mauser pistol along with some cartridges. Shrish Mitra was to be kept at the house of Dr. Surendra Nath Bardhan at Nageshawri village. His name was changed to Sudhir Coomar Mitra. The reason this particular name was given because he had a tattoo in his hand with the letters S.C.M. Exit the prime suspect from the crime scene.

It was planned beforehand that the moment the consignment would reach Malanga lane, some steel trunks would be purchased and send to the house Bhujanga Bhushan Dhar’s house at 3, Jeliapara Lane (a bye lane inside Hidaram Banerjee Lane at Bowbazar). The consignment boxes would be then loaded in the car of Kalidas Basu (who gave basic education to Shrish Mitra) and taken to the house of Bhujanga Bhushan Dhar and then transported to different places after segregating them in steel trunks.

Everything was going until this point as per plan. However, a twist happened in the tail. The car of Kalidas Basu did not arrive on time. This is because the car had gone to pick up the father of Kalidas Basu from his office. He was the assessor of Calcutta Corporation. Probably due to rain the car did not come back on time.

House of Bhujanga Bhusan Dhar
House of Bhujanga Bhusan Dhur

Time was running out. By this time the senior Coolie Sardar Raghu Maharana of Ironyard noticed the packing boxes lying in front of the godown. He was furious and demanded an explanation as to why these boxes were lying there. Anukul Mukherjee somehow pacified him. Bipin Bihari then asked one of the members of the Samiti named Kali Dutta to get two hackney carriages. Bipin Bihari himself was not very happy with this idea, but it was raining heavily and there were no other options. Someway two hackney carriage drivers named Noor Muhammad and Sheikh Abdul agreed to deliver the boxes to Jelia Para Lane at a high rate of eight annas each. By now the Samiti volunteers had opened some of the main packing boxes and taken out the smaller ones. One each box were loaded on the top of the carriage and rest were put inside. Some sources say that one box was for the time being transferred to a house at Abhay Haldar Lane. Kalidas Basu himself stayed at 7, Abhay Haldar Lane. Kalidas Basu sat inside one of the carriages and Bhujanga Dhar sat inside on the carriages and then they set off towards Jelia Para Lane in that torrential rain. Anukul Chandra and Bipin Bihari Ganguly accompanied them on foot. Once they entered the narrow Hidaram Banerjee lane, the carriage was stopped just near Jeliapara Lane. The carriage drivers were paid their fares. After they left, three members of the Samiti – Satis de, Jagat Gupta and Basanta Das dragged the cartons inside the house of Bhujanga Bhusan Dhar. By this time it was evening and daylight had faded out.

Bhujanga Bhusan Dhur passed B.Sc in 1913 from Presidency University (then college) and enrolled for studying M.Sc in the same college in 1914. His fellow college mates included Dr. Meghnad Saha, the famous astrophysicist. His family was widely respected in the area. The arms were unloaded in the light of oil lamps. The parents of Bhujanga Bhusan, Banku Bihari and Jogmaya Devi were in all support of this act.

Each of the Steel trunks was being filled up with 1000 cartridges and three Mauser pistols, which was to be handed over to different groups of revolutionaries. The empty wooden boxes and packing papers were burned overnight as they knew that Police would definitely raid their house the very next day as a series of the clue has been left by them inadvertently. The British Police came, but not the next day.

Distribution of Arms

Switching back to the day of the robbery, it was time to allocate the arms to the different revolutionary group. Although the robbery was conducted by two revolutionary groups, the arms were equally distributed among the different revolutionary groups including the members of Anushilan Samiti who did not participate in the robbery. Next morning the trunks were distributed from Bhujanga Dhur’s house to different groups. It is not possible to give exact details of distribution after over 100 years of the incident, but I will try to give an outline based on books and documents which I have read describing the robbery.

It may be noted that before disbursement of the arms to different revolutionary groups, they were temporary kept at places like Hindu hostel, Law College and significant consignments were distributed temporarily to office and godown of various Marwaris. The last information is barely highlighted while describing Rodda Arm’s Heist as Marwaris at that time were considered to be apolitical in nature, extremely loyal to the Government and never been implicated in any sort of crimes. As per the book “Gita Press and the making of Hindu India” by Akshaya Mukul, Hanuman Prasad Poddar, a member of Marwari Sahayak Samiti which worked in the lines of Anushilan Samiti helped to remove some boxes in Burrabazar area which included the gaddi (business establishment) of Banarsi Prasad Jhunjhunwala on Chitpur Road, two boxes to Omkarmal Sarafs house at Sutapatti. Prabhudayal Himmatsingka helped transfer two boxes to Poddar’s business establishment from Saraf’s house. A cache of arms was kept at the house of famous businessman G.D. Birla. These were kept temporarily before the revolutionaries transferred them to destined places.

As per Rowlatt’s report “44 of these pistols were almost at once distributed to 9 different revolutionary groups of Bengal” (Page 56). The revolutionary groups have been described as “The persons in whose possession the Mausers were found must also be noted. These include members of the Madaripur party, Jatin Mukharji of Western Bengal, Members of the group headed by Satish Chakrabarti in Western Bengal, of the Chandannagore group, of Bepin Ganguli’s party, and of the Mymensingh, Barisal, North Bengal, and Dacca parties.” (Page 103) It is to be noted that Dacca Party implies Mukti Sangha here.

As per information gathered from the book “Two Great revolutionaries” by Uma Mukherjee and “Malangar Habu O Rodda Company r Astralunthan” by Satyendra Nath Gangopadhyay, the allocation of arms was done in the following manner:-

1. Jadugopal Mukherjee removed one trunk containing a number of Mausers (20 in numbers as per book “Biplabi Jiboner Smriti” by Mukherjee) the next night in a hackney carriage to the house of Nirjharini Sarkar at Shymabazar Street from where some of it was to be delivered to Narendra Nath Bhattacharya of Anushilan Samiti. It may be mentioned here three of these Mausers were used by Jatindra Nath Mukherjee and his associates in his last battle at Chasa-Khand on the banks of Buri Balam.

2. Naren Ghose, Leader of Barisal party secured a portion of Rodda’ stolen arms and ammunition. Most probably it was not more than 3 pistols and some cartridges.

3. Ranen Ganguli (One of the prime assassin of Nanda Lal Banerjee) transported quite a number of them to his own workshop by Car. These arms were with one of student member Ashutosh Lahiri at Hindu Hostel. When Police started searching the city for the arms, these were transferred to Ranen Ganguly’s place at 64 Bishweshwar Banerjee Lane. Ranen Ganguli later transported the arms to Nibaran Ghatak and his aunt Dukari Bala Devi at Nalhati, Birbhum.

4. Moti Lal Ray who was related to Chandan Nagar Party in consultation with Shrish Chandra Ghosh (who was closely associated with Rash Bihari Ghosh) of the same party, sent two of his associates to receive a portion of Rodda’s consignment from a godown at Cotton Street. Accompanied by another associate from Kolkata, the guns and cartridges were transferred in three trunks to Chandannagar via Ghugudanga and Shyamnagar. Out of these Rash Behari Bose carried one such pistol for his defensive purpose till he left for Japan.

5. Bipin Bihari Ganguly kept one pistol at his own disposal. Twelve Mauser pistols were transferred to Baranagar at the disposal of his brother Khagendranath.

6. Haridas Datta transferred 5 Mauser Pistols and 1000 cartridges in a trunk under the instructions of Bipin Bihari Ganguly’s to the house of one of his relative (Kripanath Ghosh) near Beleghata Canal. Later when Dr. Bardhan came to Calcutta from Rangpur he was handed over the arms to be given to Hem Chandra Ghosh at Dacca.

7. One Box of the cartridge was transferred to Sirajganj via another revolutionary Upendanath Ray

8. Harish Sikdar was employed in an European Merchant office. With the help of coolies, he kept one pack of cartridges in his office godown.

9. Bipin Bihari Ganguly went to a hideout the very next day of the heist along with Haridas Datta. With a new name Suresh Ganguly, he resided at Darmahata area in a three-storied house with Haridas Datta assuming the name “Kunja”. Then he went to a hideout in the Burrabazar area. Here he kept one box filled with 960 cartridges along with some empty boxes in a house owned by a Marwari at 6 Kanulal Lane. The rest 21,200 cartridges were kept in a box in the godown of a Marwari woman at 34 Shiv Thakur Lane. Although the verdict of the Rodda Arms case mentions the house to be of 34 Sikdar Para Lane, I think the first address is correct. This is because Haridas Datta was alive when the two books were written and gave interviews. Secondly, I found no house number 34 at Sikdar Para Lane which is a bye lane of Sikdar Para Street. Sikdar Para Street does have a no 34, but when I went through the Calcutta street directory of 1915, reprinted in 2017 by P.M. Bagchi, I found that in 34, a new house was under construction. If I assume that by mistake in the judgment, it was mistakenly written Sikdar Para Lane instead of Sikdar Para Street then I assume that there was no house or house under construction at that place. I located the house at 34, Shiv Thakur lane, although the present residing members have no idea of a robbery committed over 100 years ago.

The aftermath of the Robbery

Shrish Mitra had gained so much trust among his employers of Rodda and Company that nobody suspected anything on Wednesday, 26th August 1914 when he went in search of the seventh bullock cart and did not return.

It was not till 29th August Saturday Mr Prike discovered that Shrish Mitra has been absent in the office for three days. He sensed that something was wrong. Shrish was never absent from office for such a long period without prior intimation. Immediately he rang customs office when he was informed that Shrish Mitra had cleared the goods from customs office on Wednesday itself. Mr. Prike was stunned. He could not believe at first that Shrish had actually absconded with the consignment of Mauser Pistols and cartridges. Then he immediately informed the police about the theft. A manhunt was immediately launched. The theft of so many Mauser C96 Pistols was a major cause of worry to the Police department of Kolkata as they were aware of the capacity of these guns and the havoc they can create.

A painting of Sir Charles Augustus Tegart by Frank S. Eastman. Photo Credit : National Army Museum;

Sir Fredrick Halliday was appointed the commissioner of police in 1906. He had introduced the system of running a Control Room and created the Special Branch in 1909. The person who controlled the Special Branch was none other than the head of the Detective Department, Sir Charles Augustus Tegart. Born an Irishman, Tegart was made Deputy Commissioner of Police in 1913. He had survived as many as six assassination attempt on him. On receiving the report of the robbery, Tegart was immediately given the charge to solve the case as in British colonial eyes, Charles Tegat was considered to be highly effective  in crushing “unrest” and “terrorism.” Charles Tegart had reorganized the Calcutta police
force. He had  created a flexible structure that allowed small battalion of the force to act as offensive mobile units during times of “unrest.” His ambitious plan to move police stations from shabby rented buildings into permanent and purposeful
police stations gave good results.

Charles Tegart immediately summoned his team. It is said that one of the key reason behind the success of Tegart was his elaborate spy network in the city. It seldom failed him. This time it gave him a headstart too.

On the next day, The Statesman published the news with the headline “The Greatest Daylight Robbery”. Police raided the whole area in a methodical manner. They searched the house of Anukul Mukherjee and Girindra Banerjee at 39 Malanga Lane and 4/3 Malanga Lane. The house of Kalidas Basu at 7 Haldar Basu was searched too. Now one may question how the British police managed to track them down?

The answer is that the police had already searched their houses earlier that year on 17th May. It was mentioned in the final verdict of the Rodda Arms heist in the case Kali Das Basu And Ors. vs Emperor on 30 August 1915 that:-

“On 17th May Kalidas’ house, 7 Haldar’s Lane, was searched. On his bed was found a copy of Anarchy and Anarchists by Michael, J. Sehack with marginal notes in violet pencil, which however have not been shown to be in Kalidas’ handwriting. In his room were found copies of the Karmajogin and Desher Katha a prescribed work, a copy of the trial of Balgobind Ganga-dhar Tilak, and the Book of High Explosives by Alfred Nobel. There was also found correspondence which showed that Kalidas was an intimate acquaintance of Narendra and Girindra….. It is in evidence in this connection that when 4-3 Malanga Lane was searched, also on 17th May 1914, Girindra threw from a window a packet containing proscribed leaflets. This was picked up by a constable and given to Mr. Tegart. One of, the papers in this packet was the Jugantar leaflet, Exhibit 40 (2), which is a highly inflammatory and seditious document.”

This means police already had their suspicion on these people. Anukul Mukherjee was already a suspect being the main organizer of the group. The fact that Shrish Mitra alias Habu was connected to them was surely not unknown to the police.

If the car of Kalidas Basu had reached in time on the day of theft then it would have been very difficult to trace the weapons. But unfortunately for the revolutionaries, they employed hackney carriages to transport the packing boxes. Someway Police had the news that the revolutionaries changed vehicle. On 30th of August itself the thana officers were directed to depute Head Constables to visit all the stables and stands in their jurisdiction and make careful enquiries and find out from the coachmen who were said to have carried 10 packages contained in 10 wooden packing cases on the evening of Wednesday the 26th August from adjoining area of Malanga Lane accompanied by four Bengali youths. They knew one person was driving the cart and two persons accompanied the cart by foot. The fourth would be the hero of the show – Shrish Mitra.

Horse-drawn hackney carriages from a 1860 photograph of Calcutta. Such two carriages were used to transport arms to Bhujanga Dhar's house. Image courtesy : Wikimedia Commons
Horse-drawn hackney carriages from an 1860 photograph of Calcutta. Such two carriages were used to transport arms to Bhujanga Dhar’s house. Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The police got their first breakthrough through these drivers. One of the constables of the Colootola thana – Mahadeo Singh visited the stables at 60 Eden Hospital Road where Mohammed Ismail kept several hackney carriages alias gharries.  After Inspector Shevlin had a discussion with hackney carriage drivers, two drivers named Nur Mohammad and Shaikh Abdul came out with the fact that they transported big packing boxes to Hidaram Banerjee Lane at the exorbitant price of eight annas. The drivers also informed that the boxes were unloaded in the middle of the road and dragged away by some more people to a nearby by lane. Nur Mohammad mistakenly identified Narendra as the person who fetched him and also wrongly identified Kalidas Basu as Kali Dutta as the man who went to fetch Shaikh Abdul. Narendra, brother of Girin Banerjee who was nowhere in sight on the day of the robbery, was arrested on 30th August itself along with Kalidas Basu.

As regarding Bhujanga Dhar, the verdict of the case Kali Das Basu And Ors. vs Emperor on 30 August 1915 mentions

“Inspector Shevlin took the drivers to Superintendent Aldridge. Communication was then made to Mr. Tegart and M. McClure, and Mr. Tegart with a number of Police Officers and the two coachmen went to 3 Jeliapara Lane in the early hours of the morning of 1st September. On arrival at No. 3 Jeliapara Lane, the inhabitants were aroused and told to come down. Bhujanga came down the stairs with another Babu apparently his father and was immediately identified by both the coachmen Nur Mahomed and Sheikh Abdul. He was at once arrested and the house was searched but nothing incriminating was found there.”

On 3rd September 1914, many newspapers published the news with moderate importance. The only newspaper I could get hold of that date of that after searching many libraries was “The Bengalee” published by Surendra Nath Banerjee. The report had many factual and name errors, but as a first report of the crime that may be excused.

Bengalee Newspaper with Rodda Arms heist News on 03.09.1914
Bengalee Newspaper with Rodda Arms heist News on 03.09.1914

Coming to the present day I personally visited the house of Bhujanga Bhusan Dhur’s house at 3 Jelia Para Lane and found that members of the family still live there. Bhujanga Bhusan Dhur had four brothers. He had four sons and five daughters. My visit was not futile as his nephew Barendra Kumar Dhur (Son of Bhujanga Dhur’s brother Santosh Kumar Dhur) who was still alive at the age of 87. He provided me with much information about the incident and provided me with many documents. Later I met Bhujanga Bhusan Dhur’s son Purna Chandra Dhur who was of 89 years.

In an amused manner, they said that whatever he had heard from their ancestors was that when police conducted the raid they had missed a major clue. When the packing boxes were open, it was observed that the nails used to pack the boxes were of superior quality than the typical local nails found that time in India. Although the remaining evidence was burnt off, these nails were kept near a window in a careless manner for future use. When police raided the house, they searched the house upside down. They even checked the toilet and water tanks so that even if a single bullet was found that would be sufficient.

Badan Chandra Dhur (L) and Purna Chandra Dhur at their residence
Badan Chandra Dhur (L) and Purna Chandra Dhur at their residence

“The Deputy Police commissioner Charles Tegart wanted at least one bullet. That would put my father for a long period of imprisonment. But they found nothing. We had earlier burned of the wooden boxes piece by piece on the pretext of doing Yagna. ” Said a very enthusiastic Purna Chandra Dhur. Later he showed me the courtyard, where the arms were unloaded.

Since the nails were kept near a dark corner of the wall, the police overlooked it and missed a vital clue. Barendra Kumar Dhur and Purna Chandra Dhur also supported the theory that there was indeed a Garowan named Abdul Dosad who was intoxicated allowing Haridas Datta to take control of the cart. Anukul Chandra Mookerjee, Girindra Nath Bannerjee, and Prabhu Dayal HimmatSingka were charged for the theft along with many other persons but were acquitted later. Anukul Chandra and Girindra Nath were released on the ground of benefit of the doubt. P.D. Himmatsingka was one of the first to be arrested and externed for two years from Bengal in March 1916 under the stringent Defence of India Act. The case against Prabhu Dayal HimmatSinghka was finally dismissed. Kalidas Basu and Narendra Nath Banerjee each were sentenced to two years imprisonment.

The hackney carriage drivers identified Bhujanga Dhar along with a Bengali resident of the area named Chuni Lal who claims to have seen big wooden boxes being dragged into the house. Bhujanga was imprisoned for two years. Bhujanga Dhar was kept in the precarious condition in jail and his father felt sick after viewing him in that state. Yet he never disclosed the name of his accomplices.

34 Shiv Thakur Lane. Here Haridas Datta kept 21200 cartridges hidden in wooden box.
34 Shiv Thakur Lane. Here Haridas Datta kept 21200 cartridges hidden in a wooden box.

As regards Haridas Datta, he was arrested within a few days. He had first kept 960 cartridges in the godown of Marwari women at 6, Kanulal Lane in a packing box with many other empty boxes, which was later absconded by the son of the landlady, a Marwari lad named Gopal Das. The big box of 21,200 cartridges was transferred in a big wooden box in the godown of another Marwari lady at 6, Shiv Thakur Lane, near the hostel where Prabhudayal Himmatsinghka used to say. The consignment as explained did not go directly to the address. However, at that time Police had already announced to keep a watch on new tenants. The nervous wife of the watchman of this building blurted to police that a new tenant has hired the godown a few days back. They appointed an Inspector named  Ali Hossain to keep a watch on the house.

Shrish Paul observed that police was taking interest in the consignment and asked Haridas Datta (alias Kunja) to inform the landlady that they wish to clear off the godown. When Haridas Datta arrived at the house he informed the watchman Shukdeo his intention to visit the landlady. Shukdeo went inside. When he did not return for some time, Haridas Datta smelled a rat. He instantly decided to leave the place as he decided that Shukdeo was a police spy. He was late to react. As he came out of the house he confronted with Ali Hossain face to face. Shukdeo shouted from another side “Mil Gaya. Yeh to Babu Aa Gaye”. Ali Hossain challenged Haridas Datta. Haridas Datta on the pretext of tieing his shoelaces threw some dust on the eyes of Ali Hossain and ran off.  Haridas Datta managed to drop into the drain the key of the padlock with which the godown had been secured, thus depriving his captors of any evidence that might directly connect him with the goods stowed inside the room. However, Ali Hossain raised an alarm shouting “Daku Bhagta Hain”. In the end, with the help of the general public, he managed to get hold of Haridas Datta.  As he was brought to Police headquarters at Lalbazar, Charles Tegart addressed him saying “Hallo, Royal Bengal Tiger! Now you are bagged.” Initially, he was imprisoned like others for two years, but Haridas Datta was finally imprisoned for four years.

Shrish Pal was not arrested till 1916. He was shifted to several jails and finally shifted to Hazaribagh Jail. He was finally released from Jail in 1919 when he was extremely sick. Though he was the catalyst to make the Rodda Arms heist a successful venture and a landmark event in India’s armed revolution, he is hardly remembered regarding his prime role in the robbery. Khagen Das was arrested under Defence of India act and kept in detention at different places of Comilla (now at Bangladesh).

On 21 July 1916, the Marwari community at Burrbazar was rudely awakened and shocked as Indian inspector and seven or eight policemen raided the house of Ghanshyam Das Birla. G.D. Birla was not found in the house but within a few hours, Hanuman Prasad Poddar and his friends Phoolchand Choudhury, Jwala Prasad Kanodia and Omkarmal Saraf were arrested. No case was filed against G.D. Birla, but he was immediately packed off by the family to Mukundgarh in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. Poddar and his friends were kept for a fortnight in Dullanda House, a former mental asylum. Presently at the location of this Dullanda House stands today’s police training school situated at the Lower circular road, near SSKM Hospital. Saraf was the first to be let off on 3 August 1916 for lack of evidence. The Marwari community was shocked. They emphasized the apolitical nature of the community. It was described how they had been extremely loyal to the government and had never been found to be implicated in any crimes, let alone political ones. The newspapers like Calcutta Samachar and Marwari emphasized these points.

G.D. Birla (L) and Hanuman Prasad Poddar. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
G.D. Birla (L) and Hanuman Prasad Poddar. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

In the book “Gita Press and the making of New Hindu” Akshaya Mukul mentions ” After a fortnight in Dullanda House, Poddar, Choudhury and Kanodia were sent to Alipur Jail. Poddar said they were not tortured there, but Choudhury was sent to his native Punjab where he suffered at the hands of the local police. Their arrest under the Defence of India Act allowed the British government to keep them in jail without trial. By an order of 21 August 1916, Poddar was interned in Simlapal, a nondescript village 38 kilometers from Bankura town.”

The Marwari community shunned these revolutionaries from their community. The Marwari world of Burrabazar, led by the elders, became busy distancing from these people. In a meeting of Marwari Association, outgoing president Rai Bissesar Lall Halwasya Bahadur said “Marwari community is deeply attached to the government and we, therefore, hope that the arrested young men will be fully able to vindicate their character.

Dukari Bala Devi (Dr. Surendra Bardhan ( (Taken from the book Habu Of Malanga and Rodda Arms Heist )
Dukari Bala Devi (Taken from the book Habu Of Malanga and Rodda Arms Heist )

Lastly, it would be unfair if I do not mention about Dukari Bala Devi of Nalhati, Birbhum. She was the first women revolutionary trained under Bipin Bihari Ganguly to be arrested by the British Government in relation to Rodda Arms Heist. She was arrested from a clue derived by the police from a letter written by his teacher Professor Jyotish Chandra Ghosh. 7 Mausers, 1100 old rounds of cartridges and seditious literature was seized from her house. When she came back from her prison term her husband separated from her. She was left alone to up bring her kids. Mausers were also recovered from other revolutionaries like Jogendra Nath Bhattacharya, Debendra Nath Choudhury, Bhupendra Kumar Dutta, and Dr. Surendra Bardhan

According to the Sedition report of 1918 In total Police could recover around 31 of the stolen 46 Mauser C96 Pistols by 1918. Stolen ammunition recovered was around 27000 ( Official figure 26.808) around the same time.  So by and large still 15 Mauser C96 Pistols and at around at least 15000 cartridges (assuming 4000 cartridges were used by the revolutionaries) at the end of 1917 were with the revolutionaries and police had no clue about their whereabouts. The Police were always feeling uneasy considering the fact that a huge number of extremist activities have been committed by the revolutionaries in these two years using German Mauser C96 Broomhandle.

Use of arms received from Rodda Arms Heist

The significance of Rodda Arms Heist can be understood from a statement made in the report of 1918 by the President of Sedition Committee S.A.T. Rowlatt. In Page 56 of the report, he mentions “It may indeed be safely said that few if any revolutionary outrage has taken place in Bengal since August 1914 in which Mauser Pistols stolen from Rodda & Co. have not been used.”

The following comments of Mr Huges Buller, the I. G. of Police, Calcutta, which he made in his report dated February 18, 1915, gives an idea of the helplessness of British Police after the Rodda Arms heist. “We have every reason to believe therefore that these Mauser pistols have been distributed among the anarchists throughout the Province, and as they now possess 20,000 rounds of ammunition, {the rest having been captured by the police or used by the revolutionaries) it is difficult to exaggerate the danger to which officials, police and the public are exposed. A Mauser pistol is sighted up to 500 3rarcls and if held straight, is a very formidable weapon”.

Rash Bihari Basu carried one such gun with him which he gave to Sachindra Nath Sanyal before leaving India on 1915. As per the Sedition report of 1918, from the site of at least 39 cases of robbery, dacoity and murder ammunition of Mauser Pistols were recovered. There were 10 other cases there was other evidence to show that Mauser was used.

As per Folio No 757/17 and 1847/17 in the I. B. Records of the Government of India, details of 27 successful cases of murder and robbery using these Mauser Pistols post-1914 August till June 1918 is recorded. Significant mentions among these are the gunfight of Jyotin Mukherjee and his team at Chasakhand on September 9, 1915, Murder of Deputy Superintendent Basanata Chatterjee on 20th June 1916 and gunfight of Tarini Majumdar and Nalini Bagchi at Kalta Bazar at Dacca Town on June 15, 1918.

Uma Mukherjee made a compilation of the details of there 27 successful cases of murder and robbery until 1918 using Mauser Pistols from the IB Reports. Here is the list as extracted from the book “Two Great Revolutionaries” By Uma Mukherjee.

Details of successful cases of murder and robbery till 1918 using Mauser Pistols
Details of successful cases of murder and robbery till 1918 using Mauser Pistols

Later at least one German-made C96 Mauser Pistol was used during Chittagong arms heist.
This is mentioned in the book Habu Of Malanga and Rodda Arms Heist (মলঙ্গার হাবু ও রডা কোম্পানীর অস্ত্র লুঠ) By Satyendranath Gangopadhyay. Also Ananta Singh mentions in his description of the Chittagong arms robbery that Anukul Mukherjee – the kingpin of Rodda Arms heist helped him in getting the required guns and bullets for Chittagong arms heist.  Though many of these were outsourced from other persons known to Anukul Mukherjee, it can be safely assumed that at least one came from Mukherjee’s own collection.

Many Newspaper reports and books mentions that Four German made Mausers was used by Hindustan Republican Association (Also known as Hindustan Socialist Republican Army and previously known as Hindustan Republic Association alias HRA) which involved Chandrasekhar Azad, Ram Prasad Bismail, Ashfaqullah Khan, Sachindra Nath Sanyal, Rajendra Nath Lahiri, and many others to commit the Kakori train robbery in 1925. Bhagat Singh joined this group around 1926 and he is supposed to have been handed over a Mauser C96 Broomhandle during one of his two visits to Calcutta, the last being in 1928.

Chinese copies of C96 which was nicknamed the "box cannon"
Chinese copies of C96 which was nicknamed the “box cannon”

It will not be irrelevant to mention here that these revolutionaries also used smuggled Chinese copies of C96 which was nicknamed the “box cannon” because it was holstered in a wooden box as well as for its unique external magazine. Some domestic copies even displayed serial numbers of original Mauser-manufactured pistols. The  reports of Kakori conspiracy mentions German made C96 Mauser Pistols being used in the robbery.  Bismil used one such Mauser belonging to his friend Premkishore Khanna who had a license for it. Using this licence , cartridges of the weapon were procurred ( History of Indian Revolotionary Movement By Manmathnath Gupta,  Page 117 ). However  it can be safely assumed that at least one of these were part of Rodda Arms Heist.  This is because Sachindra Nath Sanyal who was one of the founder members of the HRA had in his possession one of the Mauser C96 from the Rodda Arms heist. This was given to him by Rashbihari Basu when he left for Japan on May 1915. Originally Rashbihari had four guns from the Rodda Arms heist. Out of these one of was given to Vishnu Ganesh Pingle  who played a pivotal role in planning the Ghadar conspiracy. Pingle was arrested in March 1915. The second was given to one of Rashbihari’s trusted followers to kill a traitor Vinayak Rao Kaple, who was murdered in an unfrequented lane in Lucknow 3 years later in 1918.  Of the remaining two , one was handed over by Rashbihari to Nagendra Nath Datta alias Girija Babu, of Eastern Bengal, a veteran associate of the Dacca Anusilan Samiti and the last one to Sachindra Nath Sanyal. ( Aami Rashbihari ke Dekhechi by Narayan Sanyal, Page 179).

In the book “They Lived Dangerously” it is mentioned by Manmathanath Gupta as to how Azad almost shot him accidentally while learning to use a Mauser Pistol.

One thing I would like to mention here. Bhagat Singh and Chandra Sekhar Azad came in possession of German Mauser C 96 guns, but both of had Colt pistols at their disposal in their last days. .Chandrasekhar Azad fought his last battle with a Colt and not a Mauser, However many films and books may have dramatically tried to prove that it was a Mauser.

What happened to Shrish Mitra?

Dr. Surendra Bardhan (Taken from the book Habu Of Malanga and Rodda Arms Heist)
Dr Surendra Bardhan (Taken from the book Habu Of Malanga and Rodda Arms Heist)

If you look at the Rodda Arms Heist scenario, it was one of the most successful arms heists of colonial India, considering the facts that the guns and the bullets were successfully stolen and a majority of them were used for revolutionary activities. Not a single bullet was fired to take over the arms, none of the revolutionaries received the death penalty or life imprisonment. Everything was picture perfect. Only one fact distorts the picture a bit, which was that nobody knew what happened to Shrish Mitra at the end. From letters written to Bhupendra Kishore Rakhsit Roy by Dr. Surendra Bardhan, it is known that initially, Shrish Mitra stayed at Dr. Bardhan’s house at Rangpur. However, after the arrest of Haridas Datta, he was instructed to be immediately shifted to a different location. Besides Nageswari Police station had started keeping a watch on Shrish Mitra. He was shifted to “Rava” Tribal area at Goyalapara district of Assam accompanied by Jamini Kumar Dutta, brother of Haridas Datta. Next day Police came to search his house. Dr. Surendra Bardhan described Habu as his cousin who came here for a job. He explained that due to the fact Habu did not get any employment, he has left his place.

Then Surendra Bardhan was arrested in 1915. After around 2 years of imprisonment, he came back to the tribal village, to know that Shrish Mitra with one his Rava tribal friend has been missing since long. Nobody knows what destination he left for. Some say he tried to cross China Border and was shot by Chinese Soldiers. Some say he was devoured by wild animals. Even some go with the theory that he became a Sadhu at the end.

No Photograph of Shrish Mita has been found till date.

Lest We Forget

Sumanta Mukherjee, the present generation descendant of Anukul Mukherjee
Santanu Mukherjee, the present generation descendant of Anukul Mukherjee’s family

There are many books highlighting Rodda Arms conspiracy, mostly out of print. One or two new rapid reading style books have been published in recent times with numerous erroneous facts. However, I am yet to find a book which covers all aspects, so I decided to write a blogpost on this lost chapter of India’s armed struggle for Independence. I fail to understand why this aspect of India’s freedom movement remains unsung. Recently I conducted a walking tour with my friend Sohail retracing the total route of the heist. It gave me immense satisfaction to do so and I was surprised to find that maximum citizens of this city are not aware of this chapter of Indian history. Even the mainstream media is not at all bothered to highlight our own ‘Italian Job.’ As a reminder of the Rodda Aram Heist, Gopal Mukherjee (popularly known as Gopal Pantha) who was the nephew of Anukul Mukherjee erected a memorial on Ganesh Chandra Avenue on behalf of a local committee “Jatio Artotran Samitee”. Here four busts of Bipin Bihari Ganguly, Anukul Mukherjee, Girindra Nath Banerjee and Haridas Datta stands till date. An artwork of Mauser C96 gun with its wooden shoulder stock exists at the Memorial with an iconic artwork of Shrish Mitra walking towards oblivion. Out of all the persons who were involved in The Rodda Arms heist, only Anukul Mukherjee’s residence has a plaque written in Bengali which describes his role in the heist. Gopal Mukherjee’s grandson Santanu Mukherjee takes care of the memorial.

Three films made on Chittagong armed robbery but not a single TV series has been made on Rodda Arms heist till date. I wonder why? Maybe because there was not enough drama to make it a film as our mainstream Indian audience love exaggerated drama than real facts. After all, there were no gunshots, no killings, no bloodshed.

The plaque in front of Anukul Mukherjee's house
The plaque in front of Anukul Mukherjee’s house
The statues at Rodda Memorial with garlands on 26.08.18
The statues at Rodda Memorial with garlands on 26.08.18

On 26th August, hardly anybody visits the Rodda Memorial. Last year when I visited the Memorial on the date of the robbery, I felt sad to see only Santanu Mukherjee, putting garlands and flowers on the statue. He had earlier mentioned that the money to erect the memorial was accumulated personally by his Grandfather. The State Government had only given permission to build the memorial. He said the son of Haridas Datta used to visit the memorial on 26th August at least some few years back. Now he has lost touch with him. The Dhur family said they were not interested to build a memorial for Bhujanga Bhusan Dhar. “Those interested will come and visit us. Like you have visited our house on your own.” said Barendra Kumar Dhur.

I hope I will be able to create awareness through my blog post about this forgotten chapter of Indian history so that in the next anniversary of the Rodda Arms heist I will see more visitors at the memorial to pay their tribute. I plan to add more information to the blogpost as and when I get more information. Any input, suggestion or critique to this post is welcome.

Special Thanks

1. Barendra Kumar Dhur
2. Purna Chandra Dhur
3. Santanu Mukherjee
4. Sumit Surai and Aritra Biswas for helping me to locate the house at 34, Shiv Thakur Lane
5. Those who participated in the walk “The great Arms Robbery Trail”
6. The Kolkata Police Museum, Maniktala
7. National Library
8. West Bengal State Archive


1. Habu Of Malanga and Rodda Arms Heist (মলঙ্গার হাবু ও রডা কোম্পানীর অস্ত্র লুঠ) By Satyendranath Gangopadhyay. Publisher: Gopal Chandra Mukhopadhyay, 1978
2. Two Great Revolutionaries, Chapter: The theft of Rodda Arms by Uma Mukherjee, Dey’s Publication, 2004 ( first published by Firma K.L.M in 1968)
3. Sedition Committee 1918, Report, Calcutta, From the Hon’ble Mr. Justice S. A. T. ROWLATT, President, Sedition Committee, Superintendent Government Printing, India (1918)
4. Annual Report on the Police administration of the town of Calcutta and its suburbs for the year 1914 by R. Clarke, The Bengal Secretariat Book Depot, 1915
5. Report on the Administration of Bengal, 1914-15, Bengal Secretariat Book Depot, 1916
6. India Wrests Freedom by S.C. Sengupta. Sahitya Sansad, Kolkata, 1922
7. India’s armed revolution (ভারতে সশস্ত্র বিপ্লব) by Bhupendra Kishore Rakhsit Roy. Published by Rabindra Nath Biswas, 1960
8. The judgment of the case Kali Das Basu And Ors. vs Emperor on 30 August 1915 (
9. Terrorism in Bengal: Chronological records of terrorist violence in Bengal Presidency from 1907 to 1939, Amiya K. Samanta, Government of West Bengal, 1995
10.  Agnijuger Chithi by Subhendu Majumder, published by Radical Impression, 2018
11 Subhash did not return to his abode (সুভাষ ঘরে ফেরে নাই) by Shyamal Basu, Reflect Publication, 1973
12. They Lived Dangerously by Manmatha Nath Gupta, People’s Publishing House, 1956
13 Small Firearms in Police Domain & Days of ‘Anarchists’ in Bengal, 1905-1915 by Anasua Dutta, Vidyasagar University Journal of History, Volume IV, 2015-2016, Pages: 101-116
14. Gita Press and the making of New Hindu by Akshaya Mukul, HarperCollins Publishers India, 2015.
15. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Handguns by A.B. Zhuk, Greenhill Books, 1995
16. Mauser Rifles and Pistols by W. H. B. Smith, The Military Service Publishing Company, 1946
17. The Mauser C96 Explained by Gurad Henrotin, G. Henrotin & H & L Publishing (Belgium), 2002



  1. Its a real hardwork to find out the various links and the reference behind all the news. Hope it will provide us the strength to uncover our hidden history, thanks for this

  2. So informative and a lot of hard work has been put on to create this research based article. Its probably the most authentic and through report on Rodda Arms Heist. Yes the pistol were actually C96 Broomhandle chambered for 7.63×25 which is .30 bore. sedation report were incorrectly mentioned it as .300 bore which is not correct. A superb read and hats of to your effort for putting such intricate details.

  3. Respected Sir,

    I have the article you have written about “Rodda Arms Heist”. I really liked. It is we who are not at all aware of our heritage, our culture and our tradition. During the British Rule in India, there were so many Bengali Revolutionary leader and worker, whose ultimate sacrifice had lead India to be free from the 200 years British Rule. My office is near Malanga Lane, I used to pass the “The Rodda Heist Memorial” every day. While passing the memorial I used to stop for a while everyday and read the marble plaques thoroughly everyday. It is our habit of ignorance which will led us to wash away everything from our mind. I have come across the incident of “The Rodda Arms Heist” in the year 2018 or 2019 during the telecast of the Bengali Serial named “Netaji”. What a bravery had been shown by the group of revolutionary leaders who planned such a perfect movement and executed the same. After that I have read your article recently.

    Really it was making and feeling me so proud about being a Bengali. Thank you so much for sharing such an article related to the great Bengali Revolutionary Leaders of all time.

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