Rash Behari was born on May 25, 1886, in Palara-Bighati (Hoogly) village. His mother passed away in 1889 when Rash Behari was still a baby. He was brought up thereafter by his maternal aunt Vama Sundari.
Rash Behari’s was initially educated at Subaldaha under the supervision of his grandfather, Kalicharan, and later in Dupleix College at Chandernagore. At the time Chandernagore was under French rule thus, Rash Behari was influenced by both British and French culture. The French Revolution of 1789 had a deep impact on Rash Behari. Rash Behari was not a very attentive student. He was a day-dreamer, his mind preoccupied with revolutionary ideas. He was more interested in his physical prowess than his studies.
Rash Behari got hold of a well-known revolutionary novel called “Ananda Math (Abbey of Bliss)” written by noted Bengali novelist, poet and thinker, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. Rash Behari also read the famous Bengali poet, Navin Sen’s, Plasir Yudha, a collection of patriotic poems. In course of time he read other revolutionary books. He read nationalistic speeches by orator and revolutionary, Surendranath Banerjea, and Swami Vivekananda. In Chandernagore, his teacher Charu Chand, a man of radical ideas, inspired Rash Behari along revolutionary lines.
Rash Behari did not get a chance to complete college because his uncle got him a job at Fort William. From there he transferred to the Government press in Shimla on his father’s wish. He was appointed the copy-holder in the press and was able to master English and typewriting. After some time he moved to the Pasteur Institute in Kasauli. Rash Behari was not happy with these jobs.
On a colleague’s advice, Rash Behari went to Dehra Dun as a guardian tutor in the house of Pramantha Nath Tagore. He got a clerical post at the Dehra Dun Forest Research Institute where through hard work, Rash Behari became a head-clerk.
The partition of Bengal in 1905 and the events that followed in its wake drew Rash Behari headlong into revolutionary activities. Rash Behari concluded that the Government would not yield without revolutionary action on the part of the patriots. He started gearing up his revolutionary activities under the guidance of Jatin Banerjee, an eminent revolutionary leader. Rash Behari made Benaras one of his headquarters. Propaganda among the Indian soldiers was taken up with a view to including them in a rebellion all over northern India. Contacts were established with Indian soldiers from Dinapore to Jalandher cantonment. The plan was that on the night of February 21, 1915, the Indian sepoys would attack the English soldiers. At the same time telegraph wires would be cut, the treasury looted and prisoners released. Accomplishing this the revolutionaries would meet in Lahore. A spy, Kirpal Singh, secretly communicated the date to the police. As soon as this was known the date was changed to February 19. Kirpal Singh was under strict vigilance but he managed to send word of the change of plans to the police. The Government swooped down and arrested the suspects. Rash Behari managed to escape.
Rash Behari planned the attempt on Lord Harding’s life, Viceroy to India. On December 23, 1912, Lord Harding was to make his entry into Delhi in a procession. At 11.45am the procession reached Dhulya Katra in Chandni Chowk. A bomb ripped through the procession. The Viceroy escaped, but the man to his right in his howdah was killed and 20 spectators were injured. In the ensuing man-hunt Master Amir Chand, Avadh Behari and Bal Mukund were arrested and hanged in Delhi jail. The Maulana Azad Medical College is located at the site of the old jail. The portion where the hanging took place is preserved and every year people gather to pay homage to the martyrs. Basanta Viswas, who threw the bomb disguised as a lady, was hanged in Ambala jail. Rash Behari averted arrest owing to a clever disguise. The event, as observed by Sir Valentine Chirol, had a “tremendous effect on the subsequent revolutionary activities.”
Rash Behari remained on the move from Punjab to Uttar Pradesh to Bengal in different disguises. A police officer noted that Rash Behari could have been a “great stage actor” instead of a revolutionary if he so desired.
In the mean time Rash Behari came in contact with the Ghadar Party, and revolutionaries like Sachin Sanyal, Pingley and Satyen Sen and began planning an another armed uprising. The Ghadar Party was established in 1913 in U.S.A. by expatriate Indians who were sympathetic toward India’s struggle. Sachin Sanyal was Rash Behari’s right-hand man. He formed the Hindustan Republican Association and emerged as a great leader of the revolutionaries. The plan for the armed uprising was discovered. Sanyal was arrested and awarded transportation for life under the Benaras Conspiracy Case. Pingley, a Maharashtrian, was arrested with some bombs in 1915 and was executed. Rash Behari decided to leave India for Japan. He went to Benaras and stayed with Swami Vidyanand of Sandhya in a math.
Rash Behari left Calcutta on May 12, 1915. He went to Japan as Raja P.N.T. Tagore, a distant relative of Rabindranath Tagore. Some historians say that Rabindranath Tagore was aware of this impersonation. Rash Behari reached Singapore on May 22, 1915 and Tokyo in June. Between 1915 and 1918, Rash Behari lived almost like a fugitive, changing his residence 17 times. During this period he met Herambalal Gupta and Bhagwan Singh of the Ghadar Party. Japan was an ally of Britain’s in the First World War and tried to extradite Rash Behari and Herambalal from Japan. Herambalal escaped to U.S.A. and Rash Behari ended his hide and seek by becoming a Japanese citizen. He married Tosiko, daughter of the Soma family who were sympathetic toward Rash Behari’s efforts. The couple had two children, a boy, Masahide, and a girl, Tetaku. Tosiko died in March 1928 at the age of 28
Rash Behari learned Japanese and became a journalist and writer. He took part in many cultural activities and wrote many books in Japanese, explaining India’s viewpoints. It was due to Rash Behari’s efforts that a conference was help in Tokyo from March 28 to 30, 1942, for discussion on political issues. Another conference was held in Bangkok from June 15 to 23, 1942, where Rash Behari hoisted the Indian tri-color and inaugurated the Indian Independence League.
Rash Behari gained prominence during World War II. He, with the help of Captain Mohan Singh and Sardar Pritam Singh, formed the Indian National Army (I.N.A.) on September 1, 1942. Rash Behari was elected President and later gave Supreme Command of the I.N.A. to Subash Chandra Bose in 1943. Rash Behari expired before the end of World War II, on January 21, 1945.