The Alipore Bomb Trial Judgment: A Review by Dr. Larry Seidlitz

‘The Alipore Bomb Trial Judgment’: Editor: Anurag Banerjee. Publisher: Overman Foundation. Number of pages: 144. Price: Rs. 190.

This book presents the full verdict in the Alipore Bomb case that was delivered on 6 May 1909 by C.P. Beachcroft. It runs 137 pages in length, but this was no ordinary trial. It was exceedingly complex, and it was the first State trial of such a magnitude in British India involving a conspiracy to wage war against the British Crown. Verdicts were delivered for 36 persons in this document. During the course of the proceedings which started 19 October 1908, 206 witnesses were called, about 4000 documents were filed, and about 5000 exhibits were produced.  According to Banerjee in his preface, Barindra Kumar Ghose (Sri Aurobindo’s brother) and Ullaskar Dutt were sentenced to be hanged, ten others were sentenced to prison for 10 years, three of the accused were sentenced to prison for seven years, and one boy of 16 was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for one year due to his age. The other accused, including Sri Aurobindo, were acquitted. Beachcroft’s verdict is interesting in that it weighs all the evidence concerning all the various accused. As such, the reader learns quite a bit about the actual details of the activities of these revolutionaries who were led by Sri Aurobindo’s brother Barindra. I was struck by what appeared to be a reasonable and dispassionate assessment of the evidence. In Sri Aurobindo’s case, the judge ruled that there was only weak and insufficient evidence linking him to the conspiracy, including some brief notes which may have planted by government spies. The judge also notes that Sri Aurobindo’s writings did not advocate violence, sometimes repudiated violent revolution, and typically advocated nonviolent means. He indicated that if Sri Aurobindo were involved in the conspiracy, it would be a contradiction of his own writings on political action. The book presents a document of significant historical interest. 

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About the Reviewer: Dr. Larry Seidlitz received his doctoral degree in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1993. He was an Assistant Professor and researcher in psychiatry and psychology at The University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York, U.S.A. He is currently a faculty member of Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advanced Research (Pondicherry). He is also the editor of the journal ‘Collaboration’ published by Sri Aurobindo Association of California and author of many articles on Integral Yoga.

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