Anandamath (Dawn over India)/Part 3/Chapter 10

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Singing Bande Mataram the Children lifted their spears and rushed at the English artillery. The enemy guns and rifles played havoc with them. They were cut to bits, torn to pieces, pierced through their bodies. Those who remained alive were exceedingly disorganised; and yet, not a Child turned back.

In the meantime, Captain Thomas ordered a group of sepoys with fixed bayonets to charge the Children to the right. The attack was sudden and fierce. Attacked from two directions the Children, even under the leadership of Bhavan, became distraught. Every minute hundreds of them were giving their lives fighting for the freedom of the Motherland.

'Bhavan, you were right,' Jiban said. 'There is no use continuing this slaughter any longer. Let us slowly retreat.'

'How can we retreat now?' Bhavan asked. 'That is impossible. Complete annihilation will follow retreat at this time.'

'We are being attacked from the front and the right. The left is open to us; so let us slowly turn left and retreat that way'

'How can we retreat that way. There lies the river. The water is high and its current strong. Do you mean to escape from English guns only to drown our soldiers in the river?'

'But there is a bridge across the river.'

'If we try to cross by that little bridge, destruction is ours, I am certain.'

'We may do this. The courage and generalship you have displayed in this battle are superhuman. Nothing is impossible with you. So you keep a handful of men to protect the vanguard. And under the cover of your soldiers, let me cross the bridge with the majority of them. Those who are left with you are sure to die, but those I am taking away from here might, yes, might survive to fight in the future.'

'A splendid idea indeed! Let me advance at once.'

So with two thousand warriors, Bhavan made a desperate dash towards the English artillery shouting Bande Mataram fervently. A ferocious battle ensued in this section. But how long could the Children withstand the onslaught? They were being mowed down mercilessly.

Jiban, on the other hand, turned slightly to the left and moved towards the bridge along the edge of the forest. But from a distance Lieutenant Watson of Captain Thomas' regiment noticed this clever move. So he rallied some local and provincial soldiers and followed Jiban's detachment.

Captain Thomas saw this and also saw that the majority of the rebel army was escaping. He shouted to Lieutenant Hay: 'With only a few hundred men I can kill these remaining rebels. You take the artillery and the rest of our men and follow the retreating rebel army. Lieutenant Watson is attacking from the left. You attack from the right. But see to it that you reach and block the way to the bridge first. Thus surrounded the rebels can be slaughtered like rats in a trap. They are quick footed Indian soldiers. Above all, they are expert in retreating. You may find it difficult to overtake them, so rush our cavalry to the gate of the bridge. If you do this, the day is ours.'

Lieutenant Hay carried out the orders of Captain Thomas scrupulously. Disgrace is the reward of arrogance. In his utter contempt for the rebel soldiers, Captain Thomas retained only a few hundred infantry to fight against Bhavan, sending all the guns and the rest of his men with Lieutenant Hay.

Clever Bhavan was quick to notice that all the cannons and most of the soldiers were removed from his sector. He knew he could easily crush the handful of men under Captain Thomas.

'Children,' Bhavan shouted joyously, 'we shall kill these few English soldiers immediately for I must rush to the aid of Jiban. So sing Bande Mataram.'

The Children sang Bande Mataram and fell upon the Captains detachment with such force that they were all killed. The Captain himself, however, fought to the last. Bhavan rushed to the Captain, caught him by the hair and said: 'Captain Thomas, I wont kill you. You are too despicable to be killed. But you are my captive.'

Captain Thomas tried to lift his rifle to kill his captor, but Bhavan seized him fiercely. The Englishman could not move an inch. He was utterly helpless.

'Tie this English rogue tight,' Bhavan said to his attendants. 'Then place him on a horse. Now we must rush to the help of Jiban. We'll take the captive English captain along with us.'

Captain Thomas was tied up securely and placed on a horse. And the handful of Children under the leadership of Bhavan, singing Bande Mataram, marched towards the contingent of Lieutenant Watson.

The distraught soldiers under Jiban had become further demoralised. They showed utmost anxiety to run away. Both Jiban and Dhiren had to use all their power of persuasion to keep them posted. And yet many Children escaped into the shelter of mango groves. Jiban and Dhiren led the rest of their soldiers to the mouth of the bridge. But there they were surrounded by the detachments of both Hay and Watson. All hope of escape then vanished. Ruin seemed to embrace them.