‘A Forgotten Chapter’

Chittagong Uprising

Chaman Lal

[ A Teenager's eye witness account of Chittagong Uprising 1930 : Armed Rebellion and Indian Freedom Struggle ]

The Last Of The Rebels: Ananda And His Masterda
Bilingual (English and Bengali)
By Piyul Mukherjee and Nivedita Patnaik, Pages 142 (English)+,
Price : Rs. 399, Ed 2016,
Bushfire Publishers,
Mumbai and Kolkata

Chittagong revolt of 1930 has been one of most important revolutionary movements during freedom struggle. It exploded on 18 April 1930 and by 1934 it gave many martyrs for the country, the last one being the leader of the movement Master Surya Sen, who was executed in January 1934. But scores of the revolutionaries lived around and had long lives as the Ghadarite Babas of 1915. Incidentally both got together in Andaman's and other jails for long incarcerations and both movements survivors joined Communist Party mostly and a few Congress Party, but none joined the so-called 'nationalist' RSS!

Many survivors of the movement wrote their memoirs while helping historians to analyse the movement with authentic documentation. Anant Singh, Kalpana Dutt and few more had memoirs, though some remained untransla-ted from Bengali, such as Anant Singh's memoirs, but some like Kalpana Dutt’s memoirs got translated into English and in some other languages further. Two films "Chittagong" and "Khelenge Ji Jaan Se" were made on the basis of these memoirs and other books.

Ananda Gupta's memoir is the latest addition in the series to memoirs on Chittagong uprising. Ananda Gupta who joined the movement as teenager like many more, had lived abroad mostly in UK to get treatment for the illness resulted from prolonged jail term, had spoken to his family members, who gave these memoirs a shape in bilingual book—English and Bengali in one volume—a rarity in publication world. It is co-authored by mother-daughter duo of Nivedita Patnaik and Piyul Mukherjee. Mother doing Bengali text and daughter—the trained sociologist Dr Piyul Mukherjee doing the English text and editing job.

Foreword of this memoir is written by Subrata Bose, nephew of Netaji Subhas Bose, who carried forward Netaji ideas of Forward Bloc as part of it and remained member of Parliament from the party. Subrato Bose's father Sarat Chandra Bose as an eminent Lawyer and socialist to the core and had rendered all help to Chittagong revolutionary movement and its prisoners in jail later. Subrata Bose in his brief foreword has quoted British Secretary of State for India between 1931-35 Sir Samuel Hoare—'In the battle for India's freedom, the Chittagong uprising of 1930 turned the tide, and brought in its wake a rising and a clamour for immediate independence'.

Subrata Bose has appreciated Chittagong revolutionaries as "youthful revolutionaries, who in their love for the freedom of their nation, allowed their own lives to be put at stake, facing the most vindictive torture imaginable without complaint. Their sacrifice has just no parallel anywhere. They are the unvanquished children of Mother India".

Subrata Bose appreciated the bilingual publication of the book as to reach more readers.

Subrata Bose wrote perhaps the last public text of his life in this foreward, as after writing this on 11th January 2016, he passed away on 20th January after just nine days.

In the Preface to English part of the book (this reviewer can't read Bengali), one of the authors Piyul Mukherjee has introduced Ananda Gupta as one of 'clutch of teenagers', who participated in the Chittagong armoury raid in 1930. Chittagong is called Chattogram in Bengali and is now in Bangladesh. Ananda Gupta was caught in an action after few months of rebellion in French territory of Chandannagar by the notorious police commissioner Charles Tegart with the mature leaders of the movement Ganesh Ghosh and Loknath Bal, while one of their youngest activist and Anand's closest friend Jeebon Ghoshal lost his life to British bullets. Ananda was sentenced to transportations for life to Andamans after two years in 1932, though he was not even adult then. Anand Gupta spent total of sixteen years in jail and was released just a year prior to independence in 1946. His body was wrecked inside jail by asthma. He had to go to England for treatment as Indian doctors were unable to treat him. Ananda had no money and was supported by his wife and author Piyul's aunty (Meshi), sister of her mother and co-author of the book 'Nivedita'. She had laboured hard in England to get treatment for her husband, who also joined to work after he recovered from his serious ailments.

Ananda Gupta was born on 26th September 1916 and was just fourteen years of age when he joined with many more of his age lads to Masterda Surjyo Sen's army for Indian freedom, he passed away in December 2005. This volume has been brought out as Ananda Gupta's birth centenary year dedication to him. Kolkata's Shaheed Surjya Sen Bhavan and Biplab Teertha Chattogram Smriti Sansthan have been associated with the publication of this volume. The book originally is in Bengali and Nivedita Patnaik has reproduced Ananda Gupta's memoirs of Chittagong days faithfully told in Bengali language. Piyul Mukherje has done its English version. The book is dedicated to Banimashi Sunanda Gupta, Ananda Gupta's wife. Anjan Gupta, the only child of Ananda Gupta has also remained involved with the book as told by Piyul in her introduction.

Book is divided into ten chapters including Preface and afterword added by six appendices. In introductions authors give brief account of Chittagong revolt as 'A Forgotten Chapter' and describe Ananda Gupta as disciple of Masterda, as he was popularly called— Surya Sen or Surjyo Sen in Bengali. Introduction also refers to Anada Gupta's journey to Andamans in 1997, fifty years after the independence at the invitation of then President K R Narayanan, only second time in his life—first as prisoner and now as 'honoured prisoner"! Authors tell about the reminiscence of their beloved Ananda Gupta.

Chapter one begins with Ananda Gupta's memoirs in his own words and first one is his meeting with Masterda. He was interviewed by Surya Sen after his recruitment to revolutionary group in 1929, at the age of 13 years! Surya Sen explained the 'jubok biplobi'—young rebel the world vision of revolution, inspired by Irish nationalists and Easter uprising.

In second chapter he recounts the details of 18th April 1930, the day of Chittagong armoury raid. Ananda was assigned the job of driving revolutionaries to the target. They destroyed the telegraph machine led by Ambikada. Ganesh Ghosh was designated as 'Field Marshal'. Four days later was the famous Jalalabad battle. Both were historic in Masterda's life. Most touching is the description of young revolutionaries' martyrdom, falling first was Hargopal (Tegra) Bal, then the youngest martyr Nirmal Lala, his young voice calling Vande Matram before falling. Many more fell.

In third chapter "Feni Encounter" is recounted and how Ganesh Ghosh escaped by posing rural folk—'dehati log' from police.

Fourth chapter is description of savage killings at Chandernagar, where Ananda and others had taken refuge in French territory, though close to Calcutta. Those four—Ganesh Ghosh, Ananda, Lokenath Bal and Jeebon Ghoshal, the last fell to bullets, while three were arrested on 1st September 1930 by Charles Tegart in illegal attack in a foreign territory. Fifth Chapter describes the life in incarceration, how Ganesh Ghosh and Anant Singh and others went through brutal tortures, but did not break in spirits. How at such young age Ananda refused to eat good food given by authorities in jail, unless all other prisoners were having the same has been described both by Ananda in his memoirs and Anant Singh in his own memoirs. He narrates the corruption inside jails as well. Ananda Gupta gives break up of his jail incarcerations as—Five years in Andamans, two years during trial at Chittagong, six years in various other jails-Hooghly, Lal Bazar, Dhaka, Chittagong, Midnapore and Alipore, three years under 'house arrest' at Siuri—total of 16 years. Andamans cell of jail was 13'×7' in size with a small window at ten feet height. Due to rigorous imprisonment, they were made to do hard labour—from morning till evening, they were served a tasteless coarse meal. In this long chapter Ananda mentions 1933 hunger strike by prisoners, (in which many like Mahavir Prasad, Bhagat Singh's close aide died-not mentioned by Ananda), conditions changed for the better after the strike. How Karl Marx's The Capital reached the prisoners inside jail that is also narrated in humorous mood. The shocking news of Masterda's hanging in 1934, made them stunned with sadness, the humanist behaviour of Irish doctor Colonel Fischer is also underlined, the same doctor sent him to England after his release, as he had set up private practice in Calcutta after he left Andamans.

Sixth chapter of the memoirs focuses upon Shri Sarat Bose and His Patriotic Love, overwhelming personality of Netaji Subhas Bose has somewhat overshadowed his elder brother Sarat Chandra Bose's role in freedom struggle, who was stronger than his younger brother in many respects and more committed socialist in ideas. It was Sarat Chandra Bose who defended Chittagong revolutionaries in courts, not only he defended them, he helped them in various other ways, by liberally funding them, even offering to help in escape from prison etc. Sarat Chandra Bose was a member of Bengal legislative assembly at the time of partition and he stood for united Bengal along with the then Chief minister of Bengal Suhrawardi, their resolution of United Bengal was defeated by Congress and Communist party at the time which voted for division of Bengal on communal lines, a most unfortunate division against the principles of language and culture based unity of people of Bengal. In fact Jinnah was prepared to accept Bengal and Punjab as unified independent nations, as in Punjab assembly also then chief minister Khizar Hyat Khan Tiwana and Congress leader Gopi Chand Bhargav were in favour of United Punjab, as independent nation like as Bengal could have been. Had these two nations come into being at that time with big population, the whole political scene in South Asia would have been different! The massacre of one million people and cross migration of ten million people in Punjab and countless migration in Bengal would not have occurred and kind of communal cauldron South Asia is going through today, may not have occurred.

Seventh chapter is focused on an interesting meeting with Charlie Chaplin, who had met Gandhi in London and Ananda was so much impressed by him that he made a special meeting arrangement with Charlie during one of his journeys and the meeting proved to be pleasant and much longer than fixed five minutes, as Charlie Chaplin was keen to listen to the Indian revolutionary!

Eighth chapter is description of release from jail and after life, in which Ananda joins Jyoti Basu and others in prisoner release movement. Then Ananda feels his wish fulfilled of visiting Andamans in 1997 at President Narayanan's invitation. He was honoured by President on 30th December 1997 and passed away on 8th December 2005, after eight years. Masterda's flame remained alight all his life and at the age of 81 years, he told, given the chance, he would do it again and never regretted despite failure of Chittagong armed rebellion.

Vol. 49, No.17, Oct 30 - Nov 5, 2016