The tyranny of W. C. Rand and how Chapekar Brothers avenged the insult

The atrocities during the British rule cover up most of the pages of dark history of India under their rule. They subjected the people of India to a never ending atrocities and persecution. Many a times they purposely hurt our religious sentiments. They did not spare the people in miseries too increasing their sorrow a hundred folds more.

When Pune was hit by a bubonic plague epidemic, in the name of action committee to control plague, the British unleashed barbaric and insulting raids on houses, Snatching away the dignity, and whatever valuable found at the place.

Three brothers decided to avenge this act.

Damodar, Balkrishna and Vasudev chapekar were born to a conservative family. Their family was once quite wealthy. But in due time they lost all their money and sank into poverty. They left home at an early age in search of education and livelihood.

They suffered poverty So much, that they could not attend the funeral of their parents because the journey would be too expensive.

Plague struck Pune in late 1896, and by January 1897, it reached epidemic proportions.

Colonial government sources report that, the people preferred to have plague than go to a government hospital. In 26 days of February, 657 deaths occurred due to plague.

To suppress the epidemic and prevent its spread, British raj decided to take drastic action, accordingly a Special Plague Committee  was appointed under the Chairmanship of Walter Charles Rand, Indian Civil Services, on 8 March 1897.

The governor’s direction clearly stated that no Muslim and Hindu women to be examined and officers are not allowed to enter the quarters. people should be educated that the measures are being taken were for their own good. When necessary the women should be examined only by a female officer. Orders stated to respect caste and religious practices of the people.

On 12 March 1897, 893 officers and men – both British and native were placed on plague duty rather than doctors. The measures employed were both brutal and tyrannical. They forced their entry into private houses, they forcefully stripped the women in the name of medical examination, they dragged people to hospitals and segregation camps, removing and destroying personal possessions.  This soon paved the way for more brutal atrocities which ripped the dignity of the affected families, and ignite the fire of anger among the minds like the Chapekar brothers.

It was made compulsory to report all the deaths in the family and Funerals were declared unlawful until the deaths were registered. Disobedience of the orders would subject the offender to criminal prosecution.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak, wrote: “Her Majesty the Queen, the Secretary of State and his Council, should not have issued the orders for practising tyranny upon the people of India. The government should not have entrusted the execution of this order to a suspicious, sullen and tyrannical officer like Rand.

There were reliable reports regarding the atrocities on women and rape of two women, one of whom committed suicide rather than live with shame.

The three brothers were heavily inspired by conservative ideologies, Inspired by the strong language that Balgangadhar Tilak used in his newspaper “Kesari” they decided to take action and bring down Rand who had ashamed hundreds of families in Pune.

Regular harassments like these had prompted the Chapekar brothers and other members of the revolutionary “Chapekar Club” to take action against the person who started it all—the commissioner. And they decided to avenge his tyranny my executing him.

On 22 June 1897, the Diamond Jubilee of the coronation of Queen Victoria was celebrated in Pune. The brothers Damodar Hari and Balkrishna Hari selected a spot of Ganeshkhind road(now Senapati Bapat Road), to shoot at Rand. Each armed with a sword and a pistol. Balkrishna in addition carried a hatchet.

As planned, Damodar Hari waited at the gate of the Government House, and as Rand’s carriage emerged, ran 10 – 15 paces behind it. As the carriage reached the yellow bungalow, Damodar called out “Gondya ala re”, a predetermined signal for Balkrishna to take action. Damodar Hari undid the flap of the carriage, raised it and fired from a distance.

It was originally planned that both would shoot at Rand, so as to ensure that Rand would not live, however Balkrishna Hari lagged behind and Rand’s carriage rolled on, Balkrishna Hari meanwhile on the suspicion that the occupants of the following carriage were whispering to each other, fired at the head of one of them from behind.

Lieutenant Ayerst, Rand’s military escorted who was riding in the following carriage died on the spot, Rand was taken to Sassoon Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries 3 July 1897.

Damoder Hari was arrested in connection with the above, on the basis of information given by the Dravid brothers. In his statement, recorded on 8 October 1897, Damodar Hari, said that atrocities like the pollution of sacred places and the breaking of idols were committed by European soldiers at the time of house searches in Pune, during the plague.

Chapekar tells that they wanted to take revenge of this. His statement was treated as a confession and he was charged under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, tried and hanged, on 18 April 1898. Balkrishna Hari absconded, but a friend betrayed him and he was arrested in January 1899. Police informants, the Dravid brothers, were killed by Vasudeo Hari, Mahadev Vinayak Ranade and Khando Vishnu Sathe.   The Chapekar brothers Balkrishna Hari, Vasudeo Hari, and Ranade were sentenced to death and executed.

A New York Times report on the plague in Pune, published in June 1897 quoted a missionary, who said,

“Two kinds of the disease, and both deadly—Natives dying by Hundreds of Hunger—Overseers stealing the supplies.”

Dr Sindhu Prashanth