Place of 'Arrest'

48, Grey Street, Calcutta

48, Grey Street, Calcutta

It was from 48, Grey Street that Sri Aurobindo was arrested in the early hours on 2nd May, 1908 to subsequently stand for trial in the Alipore Bomb Case.

The Arrest 

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I had gone to sleep in a peaceful state on Friday night. I woke up abruptly at about five in the morning when my niece anxiously rushed into the room and called me by name. The very next moment, armed policemen entered the room. The party comprised of Superintendent Cregan, Clark Saheb of 24-Parganas, Sriman Benod Kumar Gupta, who was well-known to us, several other Inspectors, "red-turbans", spies and 'search-witnesses'. They all came charging in, pistols in hand, as if an all-conquering army charging forward to overrun a secure fort with guns and cannon. I learnt that a heroic white man had pointed a pistol at my niece's breast, although I did not see this with my own eyes. As I sat up on my bed, not yet fully-awake, Cregan inquired, "Who is Aurobindo Ghose, is that you?" I answered, "Yes. I am Aurobindo Ghose." He immediately ordered a policeman to put me under arrest. This was followed by a brief but sharp verbal exchange between Cregan and myself caused by his utterance of an extremely offensive expression. I asked to be shown the search warrant. I read through it and then signed it. I gathered from the reference to bombs in the warrant that the sudden arrival of this army of policemen was connected to the 'Muzaffarpur Bomb-throwing incident'. However I could not understand their haste in arresting me, without first gathering any incriminating evidence and obtaining a body warrant on that basis. I desisted from raising any objections on this account though. I was handcuffed, as per Cregan's instructions, and a rope was tied around my waist. A North-Indian constable stood behind me holding the rope-end. At that point the police brought Shrijut Abinash Bhattacharya and Shrijut Sailen Bose upstairs to my room, similarly handcuffed and with ropes tied around their waists. About half an hour later, they removed the rope and the handcuffs - I do not know who gave the orders for this. Initially Cregan behaved as if he had entered a lair of some wild ferocious beast and we were uncivilized, violent, hardened criminals who deserved neither basic courtesy nor decency in speech. Subsequent to our verbal duel mentioned earlier, the sahib appeared to soften a little. Benod babu apparently provided some information about me to Cregan. Subsequently, Cregan asked me: "It seems you are a B. A. Yet you sleep on the floor of an unfurnished room. Are you not ashamed that despite your educational qualifications, you dwell in such conditions?". I said, "I am a poor man, and I live like one." Cregan immediately responded in a loud voice, "So have you worked up all this mischief with the aim of becoming rich?". It seemed impossible to me that this thick-headed Briton could be made to understand the import of patriotism, selflessness or a vow of poverty and hence I did not make any such attempt.

Extract from: Sri Aurobindo > Tales of Prison-life

The House-Search Know More 

The house-search had continued all this while. It had started at five-thirty and eventually ended at about eleven-thirty. The all-encompassing house-search had included exercise books, letters, documents, scraps of paper, poems, plays, prose, essays - nothing had been excluded. Mr. Rakshit, a search-witness, seemed ill-at-ease; later, bemoaning his lot, he informed me that the police had dragged him along, without any prior intimation that he would have to be a party to such a distasteful activity. He narrated, in a most pitiable manner, the story of his kidnapping. The attitude of the other witness, Samarnath, was quite the opposite; he played out his part in the house-search as a true loyalist with great enthusiasm, as if to the manner born. There was no other mention-worthy event during the course of the search. But I recollect Mr. Clark examining the lump of earth from Dakshineshwar, preserved in a small cardboard box, with great suspicion; he suspected it might be some new and powerful explosive. In one sense, Mr. Clark's suspicions were not unfounded. Eventually it was concluded that the specimen was no different from normal earth and hence there was no need to send it for chemical analysis. I did not participate in the search except to open a few boxes. No documents or letters were shown or read out to me, except for one letter from Alakdhari, which Mr. Cregan read aloud as if for his own entertainment. Our friend, Benod Gupta, went marching around, shaking the room with each gentle foot-fall; he would bring out a document or letter from a shelf or some other place, and from time to time, exclaim "Very important, very important" and make an offering of it to Cregan. I was not made aware of what these "important" documents were. Nor did I have any curiosity in this regard, since I knew that it was impossible for any kind of formula for the manufacture of explosives or documents relating to conspiracy to be found in my house.

After turning my room inside-out the police moved on to the adjoining room. Cregan opened a box belonging to my youngest aunt, and after glancing at a couple of letters, promptly concluded that there was no need of carrying away the women's correspondence. Then the police mahatmas descended to the ground floor. Cregan had his tea there. I had a cup of cocoa and toast. Cregan took this opportunity to impress his political views upon me along with supporting arguments - I remained unmoved and bore this mental torture without a word. Physical torture may be a long-standing police tradition, but may I ask if such inhuman mental torture too is within the ambit of its unwritten law? I hope our highly respectable well-wisher Srijut Jogeshchandra Ghose will take up this question in the Legislative Assembly.

After completing their search of the rooms on the ground floor and the office of "Navashakti", the police came up to the first floor again to open an iron safe belonging to "Navashakti". After struggling with the safe for half-an-hour, they decided to carry it away to the police station. At this point a police officer discovered a bicycle with a railway label bearing the name of "Kushtia". The police immediately jumped to the conclusion that the bicycle must belong to the man who had earlier shot a sahib at "Kushtia" and gleefully took it away as a critical piece of evidence.

Extract from: Sri Aurobindo > Tales of Prison-life

Views on House-Search as used in Bengal

While we are on the subject we may as well make explicit the rationale of our objection to house search as it is used in Bengal. No citizen can object to the legitimate and necessary use of house search as an aid to the detection of crime; it is only to its misuse that objection can be made. We say that it is misuse to harass a man and his family merely because the police have a suspicion against him which they cannot establish or find any ground of evidence for - on the remote chance of finding incriminating correspondence or arms in his possession. It is a misuse to take this step on the information of characterless paid informers whose advantage it is to invent false clues so as to justify their existence and earn their living. It is a misuse to farther harass the householder by carrying off from his house half his library and his whole family correspondence and every other article to which the police take a fancy and which are often returned to him after infinite trouble and in a hopelessly damaged condition. A house search is never undertaken in civilised countries except on information of the truth of which there is moral certainty or such a strong probability as to justify this extreme step. To find out the truth of an information without immediately turning a household upside down on the chance of its veracity is not an impossible feat for detective ability in countries where all statements are not taken for gospel truth merely because they issue from the sacred lips of a policeman, and where police perjury or forgery is sure of swift punishment. Where a detective force is put on its mettle by being expected to prove every statement and take the consequences of illegal methods, they do manage to detect crime very effectively, while the chances of the innocent suffering are greatly minimised. In other countries there are or have been Anarchist outrages, Terrorist propaganda, secret societies, but nowhere, except in Russia, are such methods used as are considered quite ordinary in India, nor, if used, would they be tolerated by the European citizen. If the police would confine themselves to legitimate detective activity, they would receive the full support of the public and the occasional trouble of a house search, caused by the existence of a suspected relative or dependent, would be patiently borne, - though it is absurd of the Statesman to expect a householder to be cheerful under such untoward circumstances. This is the rationale of our views in the matter, and we do not think there is anything in them either unreasonable, obstructive or inconsistent with civic duty.

Extract from: Sri Aurobindo > Tales of Prison-life

Commemorative Plaque

  • Commemorative Plaque at 48, Grey Street

    Commemorative Plaque

Inscription

On 2.May.1908, Sri Aurobindo was arrested from 48, Grey Street (New: 102, Sri Aurobindo Sarani). He spent one year in Alipore Presidency Jail as under-trial prisoner in the 'Alipore Bomb Case'.

Unveiled by Governor Saiyid Nurul Hasan on 2.May.1990

48, Grey Street

 Directions

Current Address

102, Sri Aurobindo Sarani,
Calcutta

Directions

  • A few metres from Hatibagan Crossing whilst travelling towards Chittaranjan Avenue
 


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