On 29 July 1897 the Government of Bombay sent
a report to the Secretary of State on the murder
of their special officer on plague duty at Poona,
Mr. Rand: The most generally accepted
theory so far is that Rand was selected as the
target of the crime due to the desire for revenge
for supposed wrongs inflicted in the course
of plague operations at Poona. But it
did not fail to add that with the motive
was probably coupled a wish to create a startling
political sensation in harmony with the aims
of the chief political agitators.
It was inspired by the peculiarly violent writing
of the Poona papers regarding plague administration;
others see in the choice of time and place a
political plot emanating from a section of the
Poona Brahmins who have for some years past
set themselves to embarrass the Government and
are believed to have been engaged in exciting
disaffection throughout the Presidency.
As suspected by the Government, the motive for
the act was a mixed one. The Chapekar brothers
had nothing personal against the plague officer;
to them he was the embodiment of foreign rule
that was trampling under heel some of the cherished
beliefs and customs of the Indian people, and
he had to go.
The Chapekars are Chitpavan Brahmins coming
from Konkan. The family came over to the Desh
country and settled at Chinchawad near Poona
where the three brothers, Damodar, Balkrishna
and Wasudeo, were born about 1870, 1873 and
1879 respectively. The father Haripant followed
the priestly profession repeating Kirtans or
mythological stores in prose and verse at different
houses, in Poona and Bombay.
The sons did not receive much formal education,
they learnt reading and writing and began helping
their father in his Kirtans as they grew. Their
profession insisted on the performance of the
daily Brahmanical rites, and in the general
atmosphere of orthodoxy of Poona the brothers
developed a strong conservative attitude, intolerant
of the social reform movement.
As the Chapekars grew, Poona became the storm-centre
of several controversies over the Age of Consent
Bill, the Sharadashram of Pandita Ramabai, a
Christian convert, and the Hindu-Muslim riots.
The Kesar and other local papers were championing
the cause of orthodoxy, and in this atmosphere
the Chapekars began to feel that a deliberate
attempt was being made to humiliate their religion
by the reformers and Muslims, at the instigation
of the British government. They felt they had
to do something for their faith.
They organized an association for physical and
military training which they called the
society for the removal of obstacles to the
Hindu Religion. Their activities took
the form of attacking leading social reformers
in the dark, putting tar on the Queens
statue near the Esplanade in Bombay and burning
the examination pandal. They became active members
of the Ganapati melas the lustily sang songs
praising Shivaji for his daring deeds
and exhorting the audience
to risk their life on the battlefield in a
national war to shed upon the earth the lifeblood
of the enemies who destroyed their religion.
About the end of 1896 plague assumed an epidemic
form in Bombay presidency and the British mercantile
community panicked lest it might reach the shores
of the British isles and affect their commerce.
The government of India was asked to pursue
strong measures to stamp out the epidemic. A
law was passed and special officers were appointed
in plague-affected areas to fight the disease.
Rand was posted to the city of Poona in February
1897 and lost no time in establishing a plague
hospital and segregation or quarantine camps
and starting a campaign to disinfect the affected
British soldiers were used to implement the
programme strictly. This caused no little harassment
to the public when their houses were searched,
their family worship-places desecrated, their
household goods scattered or destroyed and their
womenfolk very roughly handled. The plague officer
Rand showed little deference for public opinion
and his high-handed conduct came in for strong
criticism from the local press. The Kesar and
other papers asked the people not to suffer
quietly the oppression of Rands rule.
The Chapekars could not remain immune to the
propagandas. In revenge they determined to kill
Rand, the chief source of all the harassment.
They procured weapons and watched Rands
movements for a few days. On 22 June 1897 there
were celebrations at the Government House in
Ganesh Khind on account of the Queens
diamond jubilee. Fireworks were let off from
the nearby hills which attracted large crowds
from the city in which the Chapekars easily
mingled. As Rands carriage came out of
the Government House at midnight, Damodar jumped
on the back seat and fired his gun at Rand at
The officer collapsed immediately, as also Lt.
Ayerst who was in the carriage in front and
who was fired upon by his brother Balkrishna.
In October, the police, working on information
received from one Dravid, arrested Damodar in
Bombay. By threat and cajoling they obtained
his confession bringing out his part in the
murder and put him on trial in February 1898.
The sentence of death was confirmed by the High
Court and Damodar died on the gallows on 18
Balkrishna, who had escaped in Nizams
territory, was traced. He made a voluntary confession,
was found guilty and was hanged on 12 May 1899.
In the meanwhile the third brother Wasudeo came
to know of the treachery of Ganesh Shankar Dravid
and gunned him in the evening of 9 February
1899. After a short trial he was sentenced to
death and was hanged on 8 May. All the three
brothers felt they were dying for a lofty cause
and showed no signs of fear or remorse when
mounting the gallows. They were all married
but left no issues.