Friday, February 4, 2011

The Unsung heroes of Chittagong

How many in India know about the Chittagong armoury raid that took place on 18th April 1930 or the young martyrs of Jalalabad? Little is known about the events that took place in Chittagong. People hardly know where Chittagong is? It is only a handful of people who recall the Chittagong armoury raid. Chittagong or Chattogram is currently located in Bangladesh; earlier a part of India during the British Raj. This was an important trade centre as it was easily accessible by the sea but it also was the birth of the revolutionary warriors who dedicated their lives to overthrow the two hundred year rule of the British Empire over India. 

Chittagong Revolutionaries
I read about this when I was in school in my history books though it is a shame that they had given just a miniscule detail about the famous raids that set the British government’s pulse rising throughout the country. After all these years I came upon it once again with Ashutosh Gowariker’s movie Khelein hum jee jaan se. Inspired by the book ‘Do and Die’ which was the motto of the Chittagong revolutionaries written by Manini Chatterjee, the movie was beautifully shot and was enacted brilliantly by the actors. Though the movie did not do well at the box office it did manage to carve a niche for itself in many a people’s heart. The movie moved me to tears which made me all the more determined to read Manini’s book. She is the daughter in law of Kalpana Dutta, one of the few women at that time who took part in the Chittagong uprising aggressively and who also set a great example for the rest of the women in the country. Manini Chatterjee, a well known political journalist has done a commendable job writing this book and has thrown light upon the forgotten uprising. She has given a riveting account of the dramatic events that unfolded over three years. Surjya Sen or Masterda (as fondly called by his comrades) was the master plan behind the armoury raids. This was carried out with rage as an answer for the Empire’s atrocious acts and for a free India. Though it did have some major flaws yet it sent a chill through the British raj. The raids took place at 4 places in one night and what really shook the British from the root was that teenage boys as young as 13 had taken part in these raids. As many as 40 or more young boys had challenged the might of the British Empire. With armoury raids facing a major setback, Masterda and his young comrades escaped to the Jalalabad hills. On the fateful day of 22 April, 1930 nearly 12 young boys were mercilessly murdered by the British armed forces. Their bodies were dumped together on the hills and burnt and later thrown into the sea. The bodies were not even rightfully sent to their home for a proper farewell but deceitfully thrown away. They were permanently branded as terrorists in all the police records and papers. As Manini puts it together ‘they may have not been the most skilled soldiers but to call them terrorists is a travesty of truth and desecration of their memory’
This is the time for preparation to embrace death as a friend and this is the time 
to recall lights of other days as well. At such a solemn moment what shall I leave behind for you? 
That is my dream, my golden dream – the dream of Free India. How auspicious
a moment it was when I first saw it! Throughout my life, most passionately and
untiringly I pursued it like a lunatic….. Onward my comrades, onward- never fall back.
The day of bondage is disappearing and the dawn of freedom is ushering in.
-          From Surjya Sen’s last message to his comrades.
Such was the courage and spirit of the revolutionaries that they embraced death happily for the sake of their Motherland. 

Don’t these young boys deserve immense respect for what they have done as to free India from the British’s clutches just so that the future generation spend a peaceful life? Don’t they even deserve to be remembered for their unwavering spirit and fearlessness to challenge the mighty British Empire? Yet I speak with great shame that people hardly know about this and fail to acknowledge it. It’s a great disgrace to these young martyrs’ memory. 

The history books should include such revolutionary moment’s and revolt’s detail to instil patriotism and pride in the today’s youth. People have long forgotten these vigorous young, zestful heroes filled with love for their mother land and have replaced them with the reel heroes. More people like Manini and Ashutosh ought to come up with forgotten Indian history to keep the patriotism spirit alive and all of us must take pride in remembering and hailing these great revolutionary heroes.  
Vande Mataram!