Author, Burning for Freedom

Author, Burning for Freedom
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Thursday, August 30, 2012

What's this . . . ?

Hi, Everyone! It is a documented fact that Hotilal Varma secretly wrote a letter and got it smuggled out of Andaman to Surendranath Bannerji, Editor of Bengalee, Calcutta, in end of August 1911. He signed the letter and put his cell number on it.

Hotilal Varma received great credit for it from others, and is lauded for his courage.

There is one significant point to note here (which will be clear later): why did Hotilal sign his name and give his cell number? Surely there was great danger of repercussion from the Andaman authorities? Was it not unnecessarily foolhardy? The publicity would have been just as effective without the name—so I think.

As I read Ramcharan Lal’s account of his Andaman experiences, I jerked straight up in my seat. On page 42, quite unambiguously he devotes a page plus to how he wrote and smuggled that first letter out to Calcutta . . . ! I read it over and over, not believing my eyes, thinking that my feeble Hindi was playing tricks on  me. But no. I was not mistaken.

 His account is very elaborate and there is no mention of Hoti Lal. How very odd.

Well, I could hardly leave such a stupendous mystery alone! I worried at it, like a dog going at a bone. Finally, I came up with what is my conjecture, my guess. It is not a confirmed or verified fact.

I just feel it explains the mystery:

It is obvious from reading Ramcharan’s book that there was some animosity between Hoti Lal and Ramcharan. Hoti Lal had let out a secret of Ramcharan’s in the Cellular Jail (even though Ramcharan had requested him to keep it to himself).

Would it be a possibility, I thought, that Ramcharan had written the letter (his account is so comprehensive), but to get revenge, out of mischief, perhaps, wrote Hoti Lal’s name and cell number on it instead of his own?

Surely, he was aware that once that name was published, that writer would be in deep, deep trouble with the authorities?

Is that what happened?

Unfortunately (if that is what he did indeed do) for Ramcharan, whatever trouble Hoti Lal got into for ‘writing’ that letter, it raised his credit immensely amongst his peers. He was praised and lauded! If Ramcharan intended mischief, it back-fired.

And so, was he now trying to set the record straight and get credit for himself for his brave act?

If there is someone who can shed more light on this, I wish they would, for I don’t like unsolved mysteries, really.

It is a small miracle that Ramcharan’s book saw the light of the day. Ramcharan had handed over his precious manuscript to Dr. Yudhveer Singh for safekeeping that the British police would not discover it. Dr. Singh could not even remember who it was that had given the manuscript to him! One day, he unearthed the forgotten manuscript from his bookshelf, and the book has now been published.


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