Anandamath (Dawn over India)/Part 3/Chapter 1

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The New Year dawned happily. God smiled again on India. In Bengal it rained copiously. Crops became abundant. The living ones had enough to eat; but those who were sick and famished through starvation were unable to tolerate food and died. The famine-hit areas were devoid of population. In the villages, home after home became merely hunting grounds for ghosts and resting-places for cattle. Hundreds of farms remained fallow and soon became covered with jungle. On all sides the jungle grew. The smiling farms, the green pastures and the pleasure gardens of the young men and young women of the villages turned into dense forest.

Three years passed and still the jungle continued to grow. Places once inhabited by human beings now became infested with ferocious tigers; quarters that had once resounded with the music of the ornaments and with the lilt of the laughter of happy women, now became dens where bears reared their cubs; places where once children had laughed, sung and danced with joy were now the camping grounds of herds of wild elephants tearing at trunks of trees. Temples became homes for jackals and owls; and within the music rooms of the past, venomous snakes trapped frogs in bright daylight. Crops were plentiful, but there were not people enough to consume food; no customers to buy the grain.

The farmer could not pay his taxes to the landlord, and the British Raj began to confiscate the landlords' holdings. The owners of land became poor. People everywhere became poverty-stricken. Men lived by looting. Thieves and bandits were active again. Honest people protected themselves within their own homes.

The Children, however, were on the move once more and began a campaign of seizing rifles and revolvers.

'Comrades, if on the one hand,' Bhavan said to the Children, you find a room full of diamonds and rubies, pearls and sapphires, and on the other a broken rifle, lay aside the precious stones, but by all means return to our Mothers ashram with the rifle.'

The Children sent their agents to the villages to make converts and freely divided their spoils with the new disciples. Thus enticed, the number of Children in the villages grew by leaps and bounds. Each day hundreds, each month thousands of recruits added to the strength of the Children who swore allegiance to the Mother at the feet of Bhavan and Jiban. The Children were inspired with new courage. They began to attack British officials at sight; on occasion did not hesitate to kill them. They began to loot English treasuries whenever and wherever possible in order to enrich the Children's treasury.

The local British authorities became impatient and sent company after company of sepoys to punish the Children. But the Children were organised now into military companies, efficiently armed and proud of their prowess. The sepoys failed even to gain ground against them. In every encounter the superior forces of the Children defeated the sepoys amidst shouts of Bande Mataram. If by chance a company of Children was forced to yield before the sepoys, immediately another company appeared on the scene, vanquished the victors, and shouted Bande Mataram as they marched away.

At that time the notorious Warren Hastings was Governor-General of British India, but even he shook with fear at the Children's shouts of Bande Mataram. At first he tried to quell the rebellion with the help of local sepoys. But these were treated so roughly by the Children, that they ran for their lives if they heard the words Bande Mataram being uttered even by old women. Frustrated, Hastings was at last forced to send a company of sepoys of the East India Company under the leadership of a Captain Thomas to crush the Children.

Upon his arrival at the scene of the rebellion, Captain Thomas made elaborate arrangements for his campaign. He gathered together the local and the provincial sepoys, and mingled with them his own expert soldiers. He divided this mixed command into different companies, placing each company under an experienced and efficient officer. He marked out the territory into different sections; and ordered his captains to advance, each combing his section thoroughly for the rebels, with instructions to slaughter them at sight like rabbits. Some of the soldiers of the East India Company became drunk with rum; others became intoxicated with hemp; all, however, fixed their bayonets and were eager to kill the Children. But the Children were countless in number, and by this time invincible. Like a field of wheat before the farmers scythe, the soldiers of Captain Thomas were cut down. And shouts of Bande Mataram deafened the captains ears.