This page features an excerpt from a book written by Adam Yamey. From time to time, the book chosen and the excerpt will be changed. So, watch this space!
An excerpt from:
INDIAN FREEDOM FIGHTERS IN LONDON (1905-1910)
PREFACE: My wife is from Gujarat, in Western India. We are fascinated by the diversity of India, and every year we travel from London to explore different parts of the country. This book was inspired by one of our visits to the great Indian subcontinent.
In spring 2018, we stayed with my wife’s cousin who lives near Mandvi in Kutch (a part of Gujarat). It was our first visit to the area and he arranged for his driver, Jay, to take us to see the local places of interest. Jay would take us to various destinations in the district, without telling us in advance where we were heading and what we were about to see. Every day, we went somewhere that was new to us.
One morning, we crossed the River Rukmavati and Jay drove us through an arid landscape, passing the luxurious Serena Beach Resort, to reach the place that was to intrigue me most. It was something I had least expected to see in Kutch, or anywhere else in Gujarat. We arrived at a full-size replica of a large Victorian residential building such as can be seen in many of London’s suburbs. Standing in its sandy, almost tree-less desert setting, it looks as unlikely as the train emerging from a fireplace in one of the paintings by the Belgian surrealist artist Rene Magritte.
However, it is not an illusion. The building is part of a memorial dedicated to the memory of Shyamji Krishnavarma, an almost forgotten fighter for India’s independence from the British Empire. Amongst all the sights that Jay showed us, the ‘Victorian’ edifice standing in the desert captured my imagination and stimulated my curiosity most. When I discovered that the building is a copy of one still standing very close to where I went to school in Highgate (north London), my urge to find out as much as possible about its background story increased.
In 2019, I wrote about the extraordinary events that centred around Shyamji Krishnavarma and the house in Highgate, and published a book with the title Ideas, Bombs, and Bullets. Since then, I have revisited Mandvi and the memorial to Krishnavarma, spoken to many people, and uncovered much more information. As a consequence, I have expanded and considerably revised my account of Krishnavarma and the story of an important, but largely forgotten episode in the history of the Indian fight for independence that was centred on the house in Highgate.
This book, which has its origin in an unplanned, chance visit to the memorial in Mandvi, presents the story of a group of Indians determined to free their country from domination by an imperial power long before ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi became involved in this endeavour.
DEATHS IN KENSINGTON: At about 2 pm on the 1st of July1909, Madan Lal Dhingra left his room and made his way to the Fairyland shooting range in Tottenham Court Road. It was here that he had been visiting two or three times a week to practice shooting with his Browning Colt automatic pistol. On that day, Madan Lal was in good form. At 5.30 pm, he fired twelve shots at a target eighteen feet away and hit it eleven times...
… At about 11 pm, Madan Lal engaged Sir William Curzon Wyllie in conversation. Soon after beginning to speak, Madan Lal raised his arm and fired four shots into Curzon Wyllie’s face, neck, and eyes. He fired two more shots, one of them killing a bystander, an Indian man in evening dress, a physician, who fell backwards and died later at the nearby St Georges Hospital. Then, Madan Lal put his revolver to his temple and squeezed the trigger…
Sir William Curzon Wyllie had been an important colonial official in India and then the aide-de-camp to Lord George Hamilton, who was Secretary of State for India from 1895 to 1903. The assassination of such an important British imperial official in July 1909 marked the start of the downfall of a group of Indian independence fighters in London …
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