Spies, Sailors, and Revolutionaries: Bengal Revolutionaries, Indian Political Intelligence, and International Arms Smuggling
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This chapter focuses on the issue of arms smuggling, a primary objective of the Bengal revolutionaries and a continual source of anxiety to the Government of Bengal throughout the history of the revolutionary movement. While revolutionaries’ attempts to import large-scale arms shipments repeatedly failed, they were able to accumulate an arsenal of imported firearms through numerous, small-scale instances of arms smuggling. Bengali revolutionaries relied primarily on networks of maritime workers, which included not only European sailors but also Indian seamen known as lascars. This chapter explores the motivations of lascars and their relationships with Indian revolutionary movements, and the efforts of imperial authorities in London, New Delhi, Calcutta, and elsewhere in the British Empire to prevent the flow of arms to Bengali revolutionaries. These efforts involved coordination and conflict between Indian Political Intelligence in London, the Intelligence Bureau in New Delhi, and intelligence officers in Bengal and other Indian provinces. Imperial authorities also attempted to utilize both colonial legislation designed to control Indian criminality and the efforts of the League of Nations to craft international treaties on terrorism.