REMEMBERING THE LEGENDARY HEROES OF CHITTAGONG
 
 
Goutam Neogi
 
 
    The history of India"s struggle for freedom is replete with memorable movements, glorious self- sacrifices and instances of heroic fights. This article pays tributes to Surya Sen and his associates for their heroic role in Chattagram, in undivided Bengal. The Chittagong Armoury Raid case had given a new inspiration to the anti-imperialist struggle in the 30s. Similarly, many national leaders had become the symbol of impeccable courage and nation"s aspiration for Independence. The most ordinary looking apparently innocuous, simple school teacher grew into a legendary hero during his own life time.

    Suryakumar Sen, more endearingly known as Masterda who typified such an uncommon legendary hero, was unpretentious, soft spoken and proved to be a colossus in the fight for freedom. The contribution that the group of national revolutionaries, under his leadership made in Chittagong (now in Bangladesh), was unique in many ways. It was not only in their gallant armed confrontation against the highly trained British action but an effort for the emancipation of the Motherland.
 

Revival of Terrorism

    When the Indian National Congress launched the Non Cooperation Movement in 1921, many revolutionary terrorists suspended their activities to give a chance to the Gandhian mass movement. But the abrupt suspension of the Non Coperation Movement, owing to the Chauri-Chaura incident in Gorakhpur (UP), shattered the high hopes of many young men, raised earlier.

    In Bengal, the revolutionary terrorists began to reorganise and develop their underground activities. The most active and famous among these was the Chittagong group led by Surya Sen who were closely associated with the Congress work in Chittagong. Surya Sen, a brilliant and inspiring organiser, possessed immense personal courage. He was a great admirer of Rabindra Nath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam.
 

Armoury Raid

    The year 1930 witnessed a major revival of revolutionary activity and its momentum carried over to 1932. The strategy, chalked out by Masterda and his band of revolutionary youths, was to capture the two main armouries in Chittagong, to destroy the telegraph and telephone office, to massacre members of the Europeans" Club, to capture gun shops and to disrupt railway lines. The Chittagong group included, apart from Masterda, Ganesh Ghosh, Lokenath Baul, Nirmal Sen, Ambika Chakraborty, Naresh Roy, Sasanka Datta, Ardhendu Dastidar, Harigopal Baul, Tarakeswar Dastidar, Ananta Singh, Jiban Ghoshal, Anand Gupta, Pritilata Waddekar and Kalpana Dutta.

    According to the plan, armouries of the police and the Auxiliary Force were attacked and the revolutionaries were able to capture a large quantity of arms and ammunition on April 18, 1930. A few days later, they were surrounded by several thousand troops while taking shelter in Jalalabad hills on the outskirts of Chittagong town. Twelve of the revolutionaries laid down their lives, after putting up a heroic fight. The others managed to escape and a few of the rebels came over to Calcutta. Some rebels were later arrested in Chittagong. On September 24, 1932, eight heroic young rebels led by Pritilata Waddedar attacked the European Club and terrorised the minds of the ruling class. During 1930-32 , 22 officials and 220 non- officials were killed.

    The first Armoury Raid case was concluded by the end of January 1932 and judgement was delivered on March 1, 1932. Out of 32 persons on trial, 12 were deported for life, two were given three years" imprisonment and the rest were acquitted. Chittagong was described by the Intelligence Department as "the mainland of Bengal revolutionary activities" in 1934.
 

Masterda Hanged

    The greatest setback to the revolutionaries took place on February 16, 1932 when Masterda was arrested from a village. Masterda and Tarakeswar Dastidar were hanged on January 12, 1934. On the evening of January 9, three days before their death, the traitor (an Indian) who had helped the police to arrest Masterda,was killed by an unidentified person.

    A remarkable aspect of this phase of terrorist movement in Bengal was the participation of young women. The Chittagong uprising could not immediately liberate India but it supplied fresh inspiration to the anti-imperialist struggle. As Surya Sen told Anand Gupta, "A dedicated band of youth must show the path of organised armed struggle in place of individual terrorism. Most of us will have to die in the process, but our sacrifice for such a noble cause will not go in vain".