Recollections and reflections

Reminiscences, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai

I first came in contact with Subhas Bose in 1923 at Delhi when the Congress was divided into two groups over the question of what was known as 'Council Entry.'...Subhas Babu, as the favourite lieutenant of Deshabandhu, was playing a prominent part in the controversy. more>>



Translated from the original Bengali JEEBON ADHYAYAN, by Dhira Dhar. Reproduced with permission of Jay Bhattacharjee (son of Kalyani Bhattacharjee)

Women's satyagraha committee

At this time the women workers of Bengal organized themselves and formed a 'satyagraha' committee. Bimaldi, Shantidi and others were leaders of the movement. Everyday meetings and processions were organized on the roads of the city , which the police would try to stop by beating up the men volunteers. Usually women were not attacked, but we shivered as we watched the men being beaten mercilessly. The police force would stop processions on the way and arrest the leaders. Jyotirmoyeedi, Mohini Devi and others were arrested. One day as we were picketing at a foreign goods store in Borrobazar, a volunteer came and told us that Sri Dinesh Chandra Majumdar ,and Sri Anuja Sen Gupta were rounded up as they tried to shoot at Tegart at Dalhousie Square. They had failed in their attempt on Tegart's life. Anuja Babu was killed on the spot.

I remembered how we had lived in the same building with Dinesh Babu and his family. They lived on the second floor and we lived on the first. This was in 1920 when the Simon Commission had come to Kolkata and we were urging people to boycott it. The students staying in the Bethune College hostel were being forced to join classes. At this time we came very close to Dinesh Babu's family.

During the Simon Commission boycott Bina and others were at the leadership of the movement. Anuja Babu came to us on behalf of "Ananda Bazar Patrika" to get all the latest news about the movement. Dinesh Babu introduced him to us. From the serious and grave expression on their faces , we realized how deeply they were inspired by their ideal. That was the last time we had seen Anuja Babu. A few days ago Dinesh Babu had paid us a visit. Maybe he wanted to tell us something , but had departed without a word. For a revolutionary much remains unsaid. There are secrets you cannot impart even to your closest comrade. There is no place for sentiments or demands of friendship. Only harsh duty prevails.

It was our responsibility to bring women into the folds of the non-co-operation movement. Women had to play their part whole-heartedly in this struggle for freedom.We went about from one locality to another organizing meetings and enlisting names of women 'satyagrahis'. One day my friend , Sovarani came and told us that for our arduous task Subhas Babu had offered us the use of his car, for moving about from place to place. We were tired and exhausted as we went around on foot , so it would be a great relief for us to have the car at our disposal. It was difficult to find a driver , for he would be at a risk too. But soon we found a student volunteer who knew how to drive , and he promised to take us around.

The first day we went around in the car , I stopped at my home to look up my parents. My mother was very pleased to see me and we talked for some time. Father accompanied us to the car, and wanted to know who had lent it to us. I told him that Subhas Babu had asked us to use his car. I thought he would be happy to know it for Subhas Babu was his favorite pupil. Father's comment was , "When other workers are going around on their feet , you should also do the same. You will feel superior to others if you use the car. Don't let this happen to you. You better return the car." I could not look at my father , I was so ashamed of myself.

I remembered another incident. I had just arrived at the Ballygunge station after a long day's work, hoping to rest at home. Then I would go out with my mother, for I had promised to accompany her to a prayer meeting to be held for her departed brother. But my father had heard me tell another person that I would go with him to an important assignment this evening. My father was waiting at the station , and he wanted to know if I had already met him , or if I had sent him a message. I told father that I would have to miss that appointment for I had promised to accompany mother and she would be hurt if I failed her.. Father asked me to go back immediately to keep my appointment with the gentleman. He would explain everything to my mother , after all she was my mother and she would understand. I returned without any rest to keep my appointment.When I returned at night he sat by my side , caressing me tenderly , and commented, "Your father has been too hard on you. But it is also a father's duty to see that his daughter does not fail in her duties." On another occasion he had said ,"Work with your comrades. Do not think of yourself as superior to others." I should have known that my father would not approve of our using the car.

For some time I was suffering from slow fever and a severe headache. My physician brother , and brother-in-law , advised rest for a month or two , at my sister's home in Secundrabad. I left for the station with my father. In the meantime the police had got the information that I had brought absconding prisoner , Sri Manoranjan Gupta into my home and had given him shelter there. Police Commissioner , Tegart, ruthlessly followed the activities of Bengali revolutionaries and so Anuja Babu , Dinesh Babu , Sudhir Babu and others had laid their lives in trying to kill him. Mr. Tegart came to our house with a truckload of sergeants and policemen , and surrounded it. When Mr. Tegart tried to enter our house ,Bina and my sister-in-law stopped him on his way. He said he had come to arrest Kalyani Das , and he would also search the house. Bina told him that I was not at home , and as father had gone with me she could not allow him to search the house in his absence. Further, she wanted to see the search warrant. Tegart said that as he was the Police Commissioner he did not require a search warrant. Bina said how was she to know that he was the Police Commissioner. Tegart had to wait outside our house until my father returned. When he left our house after the search , he commented to my father, "Mr. Das , I must congratulate you for your brave daughter and educated daughter-in-law."