“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”
Until the British colonized the Indian subcontinent, India was merely an accumulation of numerous independent states, sans any definite identity and unity, in a chunk of land. It was only after 1857, the “first war” of independence, that the notion of a nation-state and universal brotherhood came into foray. However, this notion did not dawn on the people’s mind all of a sudden; it was a few people’s hard work and zeal that made the “Indians” realize the worth of being together and being free.
These people, the freedom fighters, came together irrespective of their caste, creed and society, and fought diligently against the massive British colonial power.
Although people from all modern Indian states came together to fight the war of independence, the Punjabi and Bengali freedom fighters particularly made a mark and left the British power utterly hopeless, irritated and distressed.
This post will cover a few known and unknown Bengali freedom fighters who took the Raj to task.
7. Khudiram Bose:
One of the youngest freedom fighters ever, Khudiram Bose became a martyr at the age of 18. Most youngsters of the day at this age can’t even tell the difference between January 26 and August 15.
Under the pseudonym of “Haren Sarkar”, Khudiram Bose worked for the Indian Independence Movement. He was only 16 years when he had created mayhem by planting bombs near police stations and other Government offices.
He is associated with the famous Muzaffarpur bombing.
Wondering why I took the names of these three persons together? Well, taking the name of any one of them without the other three would be nothing short of injustice.
Binoy Basu, Badal Gupta and Dinesh Gupta (More at Google Books) were three young friends from Bengal who shot the Inspector General of Prisons, General N.S. Simpson dead on the balcony of Writer’s Building situated at the then Dalhousie Square, the seat of British Empire in India.
After Independence, to commemorate their great deed and subsequent martyrdom, Dalhousie Square was renamed as B.B.D Bagh (where B.B.D stands for Binoy-Badal-Dinesh).
5. Matangini Hazra:
At a time when the women were restricted by the purdah, Matangini Hazra not only fought for the country’s independence but also became a martyr.
Although 71 years of age at the time of her death, age and gender didn’t stop her from being a revolutionary and fighting against the mighty British Empire.
She was one of the first women members of the Indian National Congress and actively participated in the Quit India Movement initiated by Mahatma Gandhi. Till date, she is famously and loving known as the Gandhi buri (Bengali for: Old Lady-Gandhi).
4. Bina Das:
She might not be one of the most renowned names among the long list of Bengali Nationalists; nevertheless, her contribution to the Indian Independence Movement wasn’t any way meager.
In spite of heralding from an upper middle class family and being a student of one of the top missionary schools in Calcutta, she dared to shoot the Bengal Governor Stanley Jackson, that too, at the Convocation Hall of University of Calcutta.
Although she didn’t fully succeed, she was sentenced to nine years of terrible imprisonment. Afterwards, she joined Quit India Movement, for which she was again sentenced for 3 years of imprisonment. In spite of enduring all these hardships, her zeal to fight for the country’s freedom was never lessened a bit.
3. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad:
One of the most influential and admirable freedom fighters, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s contribution to the Indian Independence Movement and the educational sector of the pre and post partitioned India is really commendable.
A journalist by profession, he was a stern follower of Gandhi and participated in almost all the movements initiated by M.K. Gandhi.
He was also a pioneer in spreading education, especially among the deprived sections of the society. One of the premier colleges in Kolkata, Maulana Azad College, has been named after him.
2. Chittaranjan Das:
A famous Bengali politician and the leader of Swaraj Movement in Bengal, Chittaranjan Das is, still now, famously referred to as Deshabandhu (“friend of the country” in Bengali).
He, too, was a stern follower of Gandhi and participated in all the movements initiated by Bapu.
He was a Barrister by profession (hence, educated in England) but a true patriot at heart and defended Aurobindo very tactically when the “Alipore Bomb Case” was at its peak.
1. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose:
Perhaps the most renowned name in the Indian Independence Movement, Subhash Chandra Bose became an early member of Indian National Congress. However, due to some differences with the Gandhian policies, he parted ways and went on to form a party of his own—the Forward Bloc.
He was an activist who thought that ahimsa wasn’t a way to tackle the British. In fact, with his policies, he invaded the North Eastern part of India as well. To achieve his ends, he travelled to Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia and even the imperial Japan.
However, he is said to have met a sad demise with a plane crash on 18th August 1945, though rumors about his death are still on air for his death body wasn’t found anywhere near the accident scenario.
Subhash Chandra Bose is still much loved and perhaps the one of the most respected personalities in India—to show this respect, he was bestowed with the title Netaji, which means the “Leader of the Mass” in Bengali.