The Anti-Hindi Riot of Pondicherry by Togo Mukherjee

Dear Friends,

On 11 February 1965, a big infuriated mob under the pretext of anti-Hindi demonstration had attacked Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Since this attack—which lasted for a few hours—was absolutely unexpected no help was available. There was only one person—a true hero—who defended the Ashram almost single-handedly and kept the attackers at bay till he was critically injured. This gentleman was Shri Dhritindranath Mukherjee better known as ‘Togo’ in the Aurobindonian community.

 

 

Shri Togo Mukherjee or Togo-da, as we lovingly address him, is the grandson of the illustrious revolutionary Jatindranath Mukherjee alias Bagha Jatin. He is a professional therapist with special expertise in Exercise, Yoga, Acupuncture, Auriculotherapie, Reflexology, Lymphatic Drainage, Magnetisme, Hypnotherapy and Bioenergy. Along with his brothers Rothindranath and Prithwindranath and mother Usha, he joined Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1948 (his father Tejendranath joined the family at Sri Aurobindo Ashram a year later). After his studies in the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education he joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Hand Made Paper Department in December 1959. Soon the entire responsibility of the department was assigned to him and he remained its Incharge till 1967. In 1964 he was selected by the National Productivity Council for a prestigious French scholarship to study management in recognition for his outstanding achievement in the Hand Made Paper Department. He shifted to France in 1967 where he worked as a professional therapist for twenty seven years till his return to India in 1994. He had also represented India, along with his eldest brother Rothindranath, at the 10th session of the International Olympic Association held inGreecein August 1970. 

Dr. Prithwindranath Mukherjee, Togo-da’s elder brother, writes about his name: “Admiral Togo  Heihachiro (1848-1934) was known all over the world as “Nelson of the East”. He was especially appreciated for his leadership in the Russo-Japanese war (1904-05): Indian nationalists looked up on him as the Asian Hero who proved his superiority by defeating a European power. Okakura had come to Kolkata in 1902 with the message of a Pan-Asiatic unity; Nivedita introduced him to the founders of the Anushilan Samiti; he was received with due enthusiasm by Indian nationalists. Japan occupied a privileged place in their heart. Three years after the Admiral’s death, my brother Togo was born in 1937; he looked like a Japanese baby. Out of love for Japan, Swami Satyananda (Bhavabhushan Mitra, a disciple of my grandfather) proposed to name him Togo. My grandmother was still alive and she willingly accepted it. In the Ashram school, though he was enrolled as Dhritindra, the Mother – fond of Japan, too – preferred to call him Togo.”

Today on the occasion of the 47th anniversary of the attack on Sri Aurobindo Ashram, we are publishing an article written by Shri Togo Mukherjee in which he has described the events of that horrifying day.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

                                                    *

                        The Anti-Hindi Riot of Pondicherry

                                                                                         Togo Mukherjee

 

Thursday, 11th February 1965, was a placid day. The Sri Aurobindo Ashram Hand Made Paper Department functioned smoothly, round the clock, in three shifts and full capacity. I left the factory at 6.30 P. M., went home, had my usual evening bath, and contently proceeded for the Playground meditation. Someone on the Ashram footpath stopped me and informed that rioters had ransacked the Railway Station, set it on fire and were heading towards the Ashram. The whole southern sky was aglow. I went to the Playground, informed at the gate about the imminent attack. Once inside, it struck me that all the Ashramites were gathering there for the Meditation, unaware of the storm brewing outside. The Mother had stopped coming to the Playground, so I went to find out how the situation was inside the Ashram main building. There I found only the gate-keepers. I stood near the Samadhi. After a while, there was a lot of shouting on the road, followed by stones falling near the Samadhi and even upstairs in the Mother’s room. The Ashram Post Office was soon set on fire.

For me it seemed to be the end of the civilised world. As if the devils on earth had been let loose. I could never have imagined such a Tandava dance, especially against the Ashram. It shook me to the core. It was intolerable. Something had to be done. Without any opposition, there would be no end to the destruction of Ashram properties. The rioters had to be resisted. I wanted to go out, but all the gates were closed. I pleaded and insisted to be let out, but the gate-keepers said, “Nothing doing.” Luckily, I found a young man whom I brought to the Rosary gate at the south-east side of the Ashram main building, climbed on his shoulders, and scaled the eleven foot high wall. By this time, the mob had disappeared.

This was an organised mob attack on the Ashram. No one had the slightest idea that such barbaric violence could occur against the Ashram. It struck like a tornado. The Indian Government adopted Hindi as a National Language much against the wish of some South Indians. We later learnt that all the Pondicherry Political Parties of that time exploited this Anti-Hindi sentiment to the full extent. Each party sent its hired gangs to destroy the Government properties which were soon protected by the Armed Police. The easy target then was the unprotected Ashram properties.

I rushed to the Playground. The main gate was still open. I dashed straight to the Store room, and picked up a bundle of lathis (sticks). I was about to leave when Prithwin (my brother) intercepted me near the gate, and tried hard to dissuade me from going out. Nevertheless, I left the Playground.

In front of the Ashram Post Office, I was glad to find a few young men to whom I distributed the lathis. Next, I went to see Vishnuji, who lived on the first floor of the Post Office. I got three buckets from him and requested the volunteers to douse the fire. Just then, I noticed a new wave of rioters over a hundred on Chetty Street, coming from the west of the canal and heading towards the Ashram. With a lathi tucked under my arm, I ran towards them, on the way filling my hands with brickbats. I wanted to stop them before they could cross the canal and reach the Ashram. As soon as they were within range, I hurled the stones at them at random, sure that I would hit someone in the mob. Totally unprepared for such an attack, the front rows of rioters got destabilized. My ammunition was exhausted, but I charged them with my lathi and beat some of them up ruthlessly. Now there was chaos in their group. But I found them all around me, so I ran back to a safe distance, collected more stones and attacked them again.

By this time, I received some reinforcements; two or three brave Ashramites joined me. We continued our attack mercilessly until they ran away. I was amused to see someone carrying a small wooden almirah as a shield.

After some time, another gang came from the Paper Factory side. We were now five or six persons and we intercepted them near the Volley Ball ground. We could again destabilize them and scare them away. Their number was always over one or two hundred.

We continued patrolling the riot affected area. At Debassyns de Richemont Street we could again repel the aggressors. There Barun Tagore was seen wearing a bucket as a helmet. After a lull, I heard faint rumblings coming from the Distillery side (presently Taluk office). When I reached the corner of La Clinique (Dr. Sanyal’s dispensary), I found another mob near Dojo and faced them all alone, standing at the intersection of Debassyns de Richemont and Rue Saint Louis with my lathi and hands full of stones, intending to use the same strategy I had used earlier. I also pretended that I was not alone and had reinforcements behind the corner, waiting for the opportune moment to pounce on them. Hesitatingly, they advanced up to Rue Lally Tollendal and then halted. I held them at bay for some time. They were still beyond the range of my stones. I detected 5 metre on my left Vishwabandhu’s head bobbing behind the La Clinque’s compound wall. Another person was along the Clinique’s foothpath and Kiran Vyas approached me from Rue Debassyns de Richemont. And then… Then I found myself on a hospital bed wrapped up in bandages.

Recently Pratik Ghosh related to me that when he and Ratan Ghosh had gone to confront the rioters coming from the Dojo side, they accidentally found me lying in a pool of blood with a badly shattered skull. About 3 centimetres in diameter my skull on the left frontal tuber had caved in. The lethal weapon, a steel lever used to prise open car tyres, was found nearby.

Pratik and Ratan carried me until they found an abandoned hand-drawn rickshaw, put me on it and took it to the General Hospital. Rothin, my eldest brother, hearing that I was seriously injured, searched for me in all probable places. Finally, at midnight, he went to the General Hospital. With the help of the duty doctors who were his friends, he looked for me in all the wards and eventually found me lying unattended in a verandah. He heard me mumble the Mother’s name in my unconscious state. He left me in the care of his doctor friends and hurried to inform the Mother.

An old Ashramite, 35 years of age, mocked, “Togois a fool to have faced the rioters. After the H. E. C. Soda Factory was ransacked and the mob had left we went to the street and had a lot of fun. We feasted on the delicious bottled drinks.”

The Mother narrates Her experience of that night and gives a vivid picture of the destruction—

“On the evening of the attack, on the 11th, a little after seven in the evening, I had for the first time, in a concrete, total way, the physical—physical—earth consciousness… At that moment, all the fires were starting, then hundreds of brickbats (not stones: brickbats) were bombarding all the windows and doors (all our windows, all the doors have been smashed in) which means infernal din: a pack of several hundred people, all drunk, bellowing, and shouts all over the place. So that bombardment of stones and those flames leaping up to the sky—the whole sky was red—it was all seen…

“The experience began a little after 7, 7:10, and it lasted till 1 in the morning.

“At 1 in the morning, I had to do another work, because one of our boys, T. [Togo] (that boy has the makings of a hero), almost single-handedly saved the clinic, but it cost him a fractured skull. At the time, they thought he was done for. They brought me the news, and when the news came I saw, I felt all of a sudden the other experience recede, and then that I was becoming the universal Mother with all the power of the universal Mother. And then, that T. became quite small, like this (gesture of something tiny in the hollow of the hand), and I held him in my hands—but he was all luminous, all luminous—I rocked him in my hands, telling him, “My child, my little child, my dear child…,” like this, and for several hours.

“That’s what saved him, I think. Because his skull was fractured, it had caved in; it had stopped just short of damaging the brain—the caved-in piece was inside, they had to operate, cut open, and remove it. It had stopped just short of the brain. So he will pull through. And I know that that’s what saved him.”

                                                   (Mother’s Agenda 1965, Vol. 6, pp. 30-32)

 

Dr. Satyabrata Sen, chief surgeon of Pondicherry General Hospital, and his team operated on me. Satya-da, a close friend of Rothin, confessed to him that, contrary to hospital rules, he had kept in his pocket a blessing packet given by the Mother for the operation. He felt guided by the Mother and was confident in succeeding in this delicate operation.

By the Mother’s Grace, Arun Chandra Guha, M. P. and Chairman of the Parliamentary Estimates Committee, ex-minister in Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet, came to know about the attack on the Ashram on the 11th of February. That very night, he sent a telegram to Prithwin, asking for further information. Using Navajata’s phone in his room in the Ashram, Prithwin briefed Mr. Guha on 12th morning. The latter was stunned to know about the prejudice of the local people against the Ashram, and was shocked to hear that I was mortally injured. Immediately, he requested the Home Minister, Shri Guljarilal Nanda, for police protection. Promptly, an airborne detachment of the Central Reserve Police Force reached Pondicherry.

On 12th February, early in the morning, before visiting me in the hospital, Rothin along with my mother (Ma) went to the Mother to get her blessings. The Mother told Ma, “Togo is under my protection. He will be well.” Then She took Rothin’s hands and told him, “Rothin, you have saved my Atelier. Without you, there would have been a great calamity.” Then the Mother gave him Her gold-wrist watch. Ma was all surprised. She knew nothing about it. Rothin told her he did not want to overburden her with another story, as she already had to bear the tragedy of Togo.

Rothin was Abhay Singh-da’s assistant. On 11th February evening when he was busy in his office, a mob entered the Atelier which housed the Ashram’s cars and generator. A lot of inflammable material was there. One match stick would have been sufficient to blow it up. Rothin came out. One man lifted a chair over him in order to hit him on the head. Just then, another man restrained him shouting, “Stop. What are you doing? It is our Rothin ayya!” Rothin was a top ranking sportsman, excelling at many games. He was very popular in Pondicherry among all classes of the public, and, because of his amiable nature, he had made many friends. A dialogue then ensued and Rothin eventually persuaded them to leave the place without causing any damage.

Asoke De was also badly beaten up by the rioters. But he does not remember much. He said that, after the Playground Meditation was over at 8-15 P.M., Borda (my father, Tejen Mukherjee) came and recruited about 30 volunteers to protect the Ashram. He posted them in groups in all the vulnerable places.

Ratan sums up our spirit in the following words—“firm in the absolute conviction that, come what may, the Mother’s Institution had to be protected from all harm.”

A few months after this incident directed by the Mother Sanyal-da (Dr. Prabhat Sanyal) personally took me to Asia’s top Neurosurgeon Dr. Ramamoorthy at Madras for treatment.

The intensity of that moment of history will always remain in my memory even though 47  long years have effaced many names and details of the story.

                                                 *

                                          ADDENDUM

 

Shri Robi Gupta, noted poet and the youngest son of Nolini Kanta Gupta, had written a poem on Shri Togo Mukherjee. Titled ‘Togo’, this poem was published in the May 1965 issue of ‘Mother India’, the monthly journal published from Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. For the benefit of our readers we are republishing it in the forum of Overman Foundation.

 

                                       TOGO

 

Bagha Jatin is but a legend to me.

For I have not witnessed his undaunted valour.

But to-night I am surprised to watch that boundless courage being displayed—

A firm stand against a hundred infuriated assailants.

 

He has proved well that the same blood runs in his veins!

The day was done and the night was unrolling the mantle of peace everywhere.

Slowly the pole-star shone out shedding lustre.

The Ashramites were all seated in deep meditation.

 

Opportunity golden indeed for the Devils to attack!

To force equality by death and devastation—what an ideal of perversity!

The enraged mob rushed close—hostile-instruments all athirst for blood!

The glasses clanged and the doors and hinges banged and fell broken!

 

The houses stood in fire and in a moment the dark sky turned red!

Deep in the heart man has blindly fostered the Devil to this day.

The messenger of heaven was burnt alive—the son of God crucified!

Ignorant minds cannot bear the pressure of the descending Light.

 

They mock and sneer seeking even to assail

As did the disturbing Rakshasas in the forests of the ancient Rishis.

Conscience seemed to be devoured by the Demon-head and Truth totally eclipsed!

Their motto: Better rule in hell than serve in heaven.

 

The powers of the earth, self-proud, fear the reign of gods.

The night saw not a sentry on duty, not a guard on his round.

They were all fast asleep with the magic spell cast by Demons.

How the phantoms of hell delight in destruction and laugh!

 

Ferocity incarnate, danger housed in human frames,

Freely they plundered, rained stones, none to stay their march.

“I will give them their due if God has given me the chance.”

An icon of youth and courage he shot out to oppose them and made them retreat.

 

A few reeled, a few fell flat on the ground.

Most ran helter-skelter for life.

Yet quite a band surrounded him and he fought his hardest.

Through the enemy array on the eastern front an Abhimanyu forged ahead.

 

But alas someone from behind armed with an iron-bar hit him right on the head.

He tumbled, tottered, vision failing.

A fatal stroke indeed, but Providence chose otherwise

At the healing touch of the Divine Mother he opens his eyes and smiles again.

 

To me Bagha Jatin is a legend.

But to-night I have watched, to my surprise, action that is bright with bravery.

                         [Translated by the author from the original Bengali]

                                                                       Courtesy: Mother India

 

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12 Comments

  1. Anurag Banerjee said,

    February 11, 2012 at 6:13 am

    On 16 February 1965 the Mother issued the following declaration on the occasion of the events of 11 February:

    “We do not fight against any creed, any religion. We do not fight against any form of government. We do not fight against any caste, any social class. We do not fight against any nation or civilisation. We are fighting division, unconsciousness, ignorance, inertia and falsehood. We are endeavouring to establish upon earth union, knowledge, consciousness, truth; and we fight whatever opposes the advent of this new creation of Light, Peace, Truth and Love.”

    During a conversation with Satprem on 27 February the Mother adds the following comment to the aforesaid declaration:

    ‘That makes our outer position clear. Many people think we are trying to establish a “new religion” or that we are against this or that religion; there are many ideas like that everywhere. But that doesn’t interest us at all! Those are all the human activities in every form – they are approximations.

    ‘All human hopes are approximations, all human realizations are approximations: it’s something that tries, that tries to express what isn’t expressible yet – we don’t have the means to express it. And it’s precisely in order to create those means that we are endeavoring to enlighten consciousnesses.

    ‘The possibility is inside, very deep inside, but it’s still asleep.’

  2. Anurag Banerjee said,

    February 11, 2012 at 6:14 am

    On 19 February 1965, the Mother informs Satprem about her experience three days before the riot:

    “Three days earlier, Kali was in a fury because things weren’t as they ought to be on the earth, and especially among the people whose mission it is to prepare the new world. She was… she really was in a fury. She saw all the blunders everywhere, and it made such a powerful vibration in the atmosphere, as though she wanted to begin her Dance; as for me, I kept telling her, “Calm down, calm down….” On the morning of the 11th, she was here and she kept going on about this, that, about the blunders in the government, in the town, in the Ashram, in this and that – she saw everything. I tried to calm her down, but really without success. Finally, when I saw there was no way, I said to the Lord, “Look after her and do what needs to be done, I beg You” – I handed over the responsibility to Him. And then, the same evening the attack started, and I saw it was her dancing. So I thought, “We really had something to learn!” And I saw, I had that experience and I KNOW now (I know it in a certain, absolute and unforgettable way) which is the vibration of Truth in the Physical, in which state the Physical must be so as to respond to the Truth – so as to BE the Truth. Now I know. So that I, too, have learned my lesson. But everyone has learned something, and I hope it won’t be forgotten…

    “And this morning (this is rather interesting), I received a letter from R. telling me, “That evening I had an extraordinary experience, but now it’s beginning to appear like an impossibility, like something unreal….” The exact moment when the experience came over me (of course, when he received the news of the attack, his first reaction was that of human fear, with the hands becoming cold and so on, but he sat down, he braced himself, he called me), and then he felt a Peace come down from above, something he had never felt before, which swept through his whole being, took hold of him entirely and lasted for… I don’t know, I think he said till eleven at night – it lasted a long time. He had experienced a little bit of it from time to time, but it had never been like that: it came down into him, it seized hold of him entirely. And he says, “I could move about: it was THERE, it didn’t budge, it was inside me.” So I thought, “At last someone who felt! There has been at least one who felt.”

    “But at the time, I saw so clearly in which people the vibration responded to the vibrations of Falsehood: that sort of movement which is like a tremor in Matter. So I know the people. But I must say there is around me someone, one person who had the true physical vibration (I had known it for a long time, but now I’ve had concrete proof: it’s P.), and no one can understand, no one can know it, but I knew it: physically, not a single response, like this (immutable gesture). So I told him to look after the defense and organize everything.

    “No one can know it, the mind cannot understand those things (while I had known it for so many years), because people see only outer things, the outer form, outer movements and reactions, but they don’t see the inner possibility. Well, anyway, I immediately told him to look after the defense (besides, he hadn’t asked me, he had started looking after it), and I told everybody, “Do what he tells you to do.” He organized everything. You know, it’s something which is like this (gesture with closed fists, unshakable), which PHYSICALLY DOES NOT BUDGE. Mentally, it’s nothing, it’s easy.

    “It is like a physical magnet for the true physical vibrations. It doesn’t go through the mind or through intelligence or even through the vital: it’s physically a sort of magnet that attracts physical Truth.”

  3. Anurag Banerjee said,

    February 11, 2012 at 6:15 am

    On 24 February 1965 the Mother further tells Satprem about the experience of the vibration of Truth in the physical world in the evening of 11 February:

    “…I could see the whole difference between this Vibration that had no contact with the formation of Falsehood and violence, and then the inner tremor, which naturally made contact automatically and allowed that manifestation of Falsehood to have an action.

    “It was Kali’s force that came. But that’s all right, that’s what she wanted; she found we were nodding off!”

  4. February 12, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Reblogged this on The Mother’s Lasso.

  5. alok said,

    February 12, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Beautiful. Many thanks for this piece……would anyone be able to put up the statements issued by the Mother (other than the above ones) nd by Nolini da about the riot and the Ashram?

  6. Deepali Gupta said,

    February 12, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Truely amazing! the incident and the Mother’s words have a lot to teach us.

  7. Kanishka said,

    February 13, 2012 at 4:01 am

    A great piece of information brother.Hats off to Togo, we knew so little of him ,like grandfather like grandson!Well the Mother had also mentioned somewhere that the fanatic Christians,the communal Communists (for that’s how you can describe them) ,along with some local vandals had joined the violent mob in a concerted effort,under the veneer of anti Hindi agitation, to cause damage to the ashram.She had also pointed out that Kali destroys only those elements that have not been divinised,She never causes harm to those things and persons under divine influence.That is to say Her destruction points out what are the things that are undivine as yet.Sri Aurobindo had mentioned somewhere that Kali has pity even in Her wrath and that she saves through destruction!It was the Mother’s Kali force that some sadhaks couldnt afford to bear and had to leave the ashram.So brethren beware we never know when she will strike!

  8. Rajesh Kumar Mishra said,

    February 13, 2012 at 6:19 am

    Reading about this incidence along with mother’s words, is truly a rare learning experience.

  9. Mia said,

    February 14, 2012 at 5:43 am

    Thank you so much for the post, it was interesting reading.

  10. Koustav Chatterjee said,

    December 15, 2012 at 7:20 am

    Togo Mukherjee is not with us any more, may his sole rest in peace. We’ll miss you…

  11. June 19, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Thanks for this great article……I have already shared this article in Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/auroaditi/

  12. Tamil Rocks said,

    November 20, 2013 at 8:29 am

    This new novel on the anti-Hindi agitation and Dravida might interest you.
    https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/361834

    The youtube promotion is here:


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