In July, 1937, ‘United Press’ reported that Sri Krishna Sinha, Prime Minister of Bihar Province, had decided to revoke the ‘Criminal Tribes Act’ applied at Jogendra Shukul (Yogendra Shukla) ‘gang’ (around fifty persons). For any student of history, it is interesting to know that the Colonial British Government invoked the ‘Criminal Tribes Act’, meant for the tribal groups with ‘tendencies of theft or notoriety’, against groups of people, not classified as a tribe, also. Now, the question arises, who was Yogendra Shukla, against whose ‘gang’ the British had to apply this racial act.
A study of the contemporary CID and Police records reveals that the British government considered him the most prominent leader of the Indian revolutionaries in Bihar. Police believed that Shukla trained Batukeshwar Dutta, who threw smoke bombs inside the Central Legislative Assembly along with Bhagat Singh.
In 1929, he led several political dacoities in Champaran and Darbhanga to fund the activities of the revolutionary party. Police arrested him on 11 June, 1930. In 1931, Shukla was sentenced for ten years after what was known as Tirhut Conspiracy Case.
This was not the end. Organization formed by Shukla had many brave hearts. On 9 November, 1932, Baikuntha Shukla and Chandrama Singh killed Phanindra Nath Ghosh, who had turned approver in Lahore Conspiracy Case, in Bettiah. Before being a comrade, Baikuntha Shukla was a nephew of Yogendra Shukla. Baikuntha was caught and hanged at Gaya jail on 14 April, 1934. He was only 28.
Yogendra Shukla’s organization was classified as a Criminal Tribe. Yogendra Shukla was kept in iron fetters at Bhagalpur, where he started a hunger strike against the inhuman treatment. After eighteen days of hunger strike, he was shifted to Hazaribagh jail and then to Alipore jail. For two years he was kept in fetters before being transported to Anadamans.
In Andamans, Shukla again went on a hunger strike which stirred the nation. Along with many other revolutionaries, in 1938, he was shifted back to Hazaribagh jail. Same year, in June after being released, Shukla joined the anti colonial labour movement without any delay. On 23 July, 1938, he was again under the arrest of the British for leading workers’ strike at Harinagar (Champaran) Sugar Mills.
In June 1940, Shukla replaced Swami Sahajananda into the Central Committee of All India Kisan Sabha. It was a matter of a few weeks that the British again arrested him for leading the peasants against the colonial government. He was sent to Hazaribagh jail.
It was Diwali, 9 November, 1942, the nation was already up against the British after the call of Quit India Movement by Mahatma Gandhi when Yogendra Shukla along with Jayprakash Narayan, Ramanandan Mishra, Suraj Narayan Singh, Gulab Chand Gupt and Shaligram Singh jumped the prison walls and escaped.
Shukla was a seasoned revolutionary but Jayprakash was not. Jayparakash injured himself. For the next 45 hours, when they ran, Jayprakash was carried on their shoulders by Shukla and Shaligram, as he couldn’t walk.
This heroic escape is recorded into the annals of the history of Indian Freedom Movement as a golden chapter.
The British announced Rs. 5000 /- award on Shukla’s head. On 4 December, four revolutionaries escaped Muzaffarpur jail. Police report says that Shukla was in Muzaffarpur and engineered the escape.
On 7 December, 1942 the police again arrested him. Yogendra Shukla was sent to Buxar jail, where he lost his eyesight because of years of torture in different prisons. Shukla spent almost seventeen years of his life in British prisons and carries a distinction of leading a revolutionary group which was classified as a ‘Criminal Tribe.’
(Author is a well known historian)