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)

Movement of 1932

The Civil Disobedience movement of 1930 had stopped for a few months and it started again in 1932. Along with the 1930 movement, the armed revolution had also commenced in Bengal. The nation was stunned by the news that the Chittagong Armoury had been raided by only hundred young Bengali rebels. With a few revolvers they had attacked the guards and robbed the armoury. They had cut the telephone and telegraph lines and had isolated Chittagong from the rest of the British Empire , at least for a few days. English women and children had escaped from the country in boats and stayed away from the land. Chittagong was in the hand s of the rebels until the arrival of British troops from outside. Then the rebels fought the soldiers from the hilltops of Chittagong , until their last bullet was exhausted. Many rebels laid their lives in this encounter The rebellion was to have extended from district to district , but the British forces proved too strong for the rebels , and political workers were arrested throughout the country.

Absconding workers from Chattagram were being picked up by the police , and their trial started. Lokenath Babu and others had taken shelter in Chandernagore. My friend Suhasini, in the garb of a housewife was taking care of them. Tegart went there to arrest them , and there he shot a rebel and kicked Suhasini with his heavy military boots. Suhasini had brought charges of cruelty against Tegart , but had to withdraw the case for want of money.

Shanti , and Suniti were arrested for the killing of a magistrate of Comilla. Bina was caught when she tried to shoot the Governor of Bengal at the University convocation. Kalpana moved underground in Chattagram with absconding leaders Surya Sen and others, and was arrested and transported for life to the Andamans. Ujjala was arrested for the Lebong murder case in Darjeeling , and was sent to prison for fourteen years. Preeti Wadedar was shot and killed for attacking a British club. Kalpana , after her arrest was taken round the city with a rope around her waist. Shanti and others were beaten up by a government orderly. Liladi and Renu in Dacca, and Kamala and Suhasini in Calcutta , were taken to Hijli as political prisoners. Bimal Protiva Debi was arrested for robbery , but was later kept locked up as a political prisoner. Her home was searched and many pictures of the heroes of Chattagram were confiscated , and taken away.

In 1929 Bhagat Singh , Rajguru, and Sukhdeo were condemned to death by hanging , for participating in the Lahore Conspiracy case in the Punjab. Inspite of country-wide protest , the government did not withdraw the punishment by hanging. Jatin Das, Batukeshwar Datta and others were transported for life to the Andamans. Kalipada was hanged in Dacca, and Haripada Bhattacharya was arrested in Chattagram for the murder of Amanulla. His house was burnt down and his old father was beaten. He was also beaten up so badly that he lost one of his eyes.

All around people were being arrested tortured and hanged. There was not a single house in villages or towns where some one had not been picked up by the police. In Chattagram alone, twenty-two thousand men and women were kept in confinement. Eighteen year old Pradyot Kumar was hanged.

When the Round Table Conference failed in England , civil disobedience movement started once again. I went to jail at the beginning of the movement. If I had worked from outside , it would have been difficult to save myself from the Bengal Criminal Amendment Act. It was better to stay with the satyagrahis in jail. I came to know many of the satyagrahis , and tried to find out the seeds of rebellion in their hearts. I tried to break the laws of the government by holding a meeting on Hazra Park As we could not enter the park ,we held the meeting on the road. Immediately the police arrested us and took us to the Bhavanipur police station. After keeping us there for a few days they transferred us to Lalbazar, and from there we were sent to the Presidency jail. We were condemned to eight months in jail.

Moving from prison to prison and gathering much experience on the way , I was released in 1932 , when I returned home. Suddenly one day we heard that Dinesh Majumdar , Sushil Das Gupta. And Sachin Kar had escaped from Medinipur jail breaching its high walls. They had come out to fan up the flagging spirit of the movement , that had weakened in the absence of leaders. We all tried our best to give them protection. As a group of absconding men would arouse suspicion , so girls volunteered to stay with them as sisters and sisters-in-law. After staying sometime in Purulia , they set up their permanent establishment in Chandannagore. They set up routes of contact from Chandannagore , and advised workers on their future course of action. Secret meetings were held at night in different homes of the town.

Sometimes the girls would guess that these men were absconding revolutionaries , but they never expressed their curiosity. With a mother's love , or a sister's affection ,they took care of them and tried to give them some comfort. We put on many different disguises when we accompanied them from one hiding place to another. Our sari is a wonderful means of protection , and as we covered our heads and faces , we could also cover up many other things.

After some time they left Chandannagore and came to Calcutta. One day in Chandannagore they were in a relaxed mood playing at testing each other's strength , when one of them spied a group of policemen in the distance. He called out , "Let us see now if we are stronger than the police." They would not give up without a fight. They ran out shooting their guns. Dinesh Babu told us that while running he had turned round to find one of their comrades on the ground. His love for his friend prompted him to go back and take care of him. But he knew he could not do that , for his primary duty was to the revolution; he must stay outside and help the movement onwards, for that was why they had escaped from the iron walls of jail.

His comrades were picked up one by one . Dinesh Babu had to hide in a stable for three or four days , when he survived on only dry oats and water. After much difficulty he reached Calcutta. A political worker and his wife rented a house and kept Dinesh Babu in hiding over there. At this time there was acute shortage of money. No one wanted to help in any way. House owners refused to rent out rooms. Everyone was terror-stricken. Dinesh Babu's brother came to Calcutta to look after his brother, but finding no place to stay he had to return. I and some of my friends started tutoring students for raising some money. But we were turned out as soon as they realized who we were.

A few days later Sunil Babu was arrested and sent up for life imprisonment. At this time we found out that Dinesh Babu was suffering from slow fever.His temperature rose every evening , when he often fell unconscious. He was so tired and exhausted that he could not even sit up and eat. We arranged for a little milk for his diet but he refused to take the milk. He asked us ,"Can you give milk to all the others?"

He told us not to fight his case , if and when he got caught , for as an escaped prisoner charged with transportation for life , there was no way we could save him. He would fight to the last and die before he got caught. In spite of his sickness he would attend secret meetings at night, Civil Disobedience movement had stopped and the political parties had lost their spirit for most of the leaders and workers were in jail or internment. The few who were outside were scattered , and every moment were in fear of arrest. The political atmosphere was dark and depressing.

In this condition it was difficult to unite the workers. Night long we would sit up and discuss how to rouse the spirit of work. When we asked Dinesh Babu to rest , he would say the final day of rest would soon arrive. So with death as comrade he went on working, always with a smile on his face , in spite of all physical pain. We all knew he was on his way to death; the day's end was near. We never called any physician to help him , for we could trust no body. The heart of a rebel is soft like a flower , and also hard as a thunder-bolt.

With my ailing parents we had gone to the sea-side for a month. There we came to know from the papers that Dinesh Babu was arrested after a gun fight in a house in Cornwallis street. The gun fight lasted for almost an hour ,when Dinesh Babu had to accept defeat as he ran out of bullets. With him Nalini babu and Jagananda Babu were also arrested. Jagadananda Babu was later transported for life to the Andamans.

Father was in tears. We had often heard him complain that it was for Dinesh that his daughters had chosen the path of revolution. But he was shedding tears for the man who had led his daughters away from him. On our return to Calcutta we found all the girls and friends who had given him shelter , shedding endless tears. His real sisters could not weep more. This love and affection of strangers is a political worker's greatest reward , the greatest blessing he can receive. For few have the good fortune of reaching the final glorious end.

I was in jail when Dinesh Babu was arrested , and we could do nothing to help him during his trial. His elder brother tried his best to help him. His mother pleaded for his life , and appealed to the Privy Council, but capital punishment could not be averted. The C. I. D. office had decided that ,"This time he has to die."

At Hijli jail we had no touch with the outer world. We had heard that he was marked for capital punishment. One day Bina , Kamala, Suhasini and I were sitting in jail when a jail officer gave us the news , "This morning Dinesh Majumdar was hanged. It was to have taken place earlier, but his ailment had worsened in jail , so he could be hanged only after he recovered. "