After the sepoy mutiny, India saw the power of the Company replaced by the British crown and the country became a British colony by all definitions. The colonial powers suck too much and this cannot be tolerated by his subjects.
by Pradip Kumar Dutta
It is well known to all of us that the Indian subcontinent has been under the colonial rule of the British imperialists for almost two centuries. The first century was under the British East India Company, which had a mandate to do business of all kinds, including the slave trade, and at the same time maintain a private army to take control of the areas where they traded. trade and rule these areas as virtual colonies. The Company, by royal charter, maintained its army and other law enforcement agencies, collected revenues, administered judicial functions, and could penalize subjects up to capital punishment. This lasted from 1757 after the Battle of Plassey if not earlier.
In 1857, the Indian sepoys of the Company revolted for various reasons which go beyond the scope of the discussion of the present subject. Although liberation from the colonial struggle was not the main objective of Sepoy’s mutiny in 1857, it spread like wildfire and swept away the entire Indian population, preventing the British creeps from rise up against British society. Some enthusiastic rebels even persuaded the aging Mughal ruler Bahadur Shah Jafar (whose jurisdiction was then limited to the walled part of Delhi and who lived on a private purse authorized by the British) to claim sovereignty. The incapable, aged and reluctant descendant of the once powerful House of Mughals complied and consequently met a tragic end. This part also we will skip today. Even the great Karl Marx also called this Sepoy mutiny India’s first freedom struggle. Although many other historians have different opinions. One of the greatest Bengali historians, Professor RC Majumder, who taught and directed our prestigious University of Dhaka, strongly believed that the real impetus given to the freedom movement by British colonial rule had been given by the young revolutionaries disappointed by the too slow action of Indian politicians and the quarrel between them which led them to take up arms to fight the colonizers.
After the sepoy mutiny, India saw the power of the Company replaced by the British crown and the country became a British colony by all definitions. The colonial powers suck too much and this cannot be tolerated by his subjects. Political activities and resentment increased. Brutal power and bootlicker booty were the answers of the masters. The young revolutionaries of the subcontinent were not satisfied with their traditional politicians and they began to form their secret organizations which they believed to be the tools to drive out the oppressors by force. Examples: Alipore bomb case, Khudiram and Prafulla Chaki, Kakori case, Udhanm Singh and so on. They believed that their actions would energize the nation and ignite within them the flame of liberation from injustice and unite them in a fierce anti-colonial struggle that will rise like waves to drown oppressive foreigners. Throughout the world too, the 20th century was to see the end of colonialism and a new form of exploitation of the capitalism then developed was emerging.
In this context, the great revolutionary action of Chittagong youth led by the legendary Masterda SurjyoSen (Surya Sen) took place. This valiant action could keep Chittagong free from British occupation for four days from April 18, 1930 to April 22, 1930. In history, the heroic action is called Chittagong Youth Revolution or Chittagong Armory Raid. It was a blow to the British powers and they reacted to the action as brutally as they could. In their words, it was the looting of the Chittagong Armory. There has never been a shortage of Mirzafars in this country. These Bengalis, who were not very supportive of this action, also call it Chattogram Astragar Loonthon (loot from the Chittagong Armory). Some Bengali writers and publishers had also made this historic mistake. We view the colonialists, including the British, as exploiters and looters of our wealth. Even those weapons taken into possession by the revolutionary youth were bought with our wealth. Thus, we consider that the brave boys took over our own wealth by force from the British. It was the British and their cronies who invented the revolutionary youth as looters or dacoits. For us, the Bengalis and the people of the subcontinent, they were and always will be heroes of the first order. Our deepest respect for them will remain forever. Were it not for their exemplary and sacrificial armed attacks, the desperate attack by Netaji with his Azad Hind Fauz, the mutiny of the British Indian naval forces and other vital incidents, the independence of the subcontinent could not have -not to have taken place in 1947.
However, let us discuss in a bit more detail the 1930 Chittagong Armory Raid or the Chittagong Youth Revolution as the revolutionary leader Masterda himself called it.
During World War I, the tactful British proposed to Indian political leaders that if Indians supported and fought for the Allied forces in World War I, India’s demand for self-rule would be met. As a result, India’s top political leaders persuaded their people to join the British Indian Army. Indian semi-sovereign kingdoms and Nawab/Sultan ruled entities also fought for the allied forces. But as soon as the war against the Axis forces of Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Germany/Prussia was won, all promises were forgotten. Indian leaders were left with an empty bowl. Muslims were particularly frustrated with the dissolution of Othman’s Caliphate. In the early 20s of the 20th century, simultaneously Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement and the Moulana brothers’ Khilafat movement started in tandem. Although the movements could harness enough popular support, they did not possess the necessary steam to bring about the necessary explosion of the revolutionary movement to compel the leaders to be pushed against the wall. The movements slowly began to falter and slow down. This infuriated the young guards of freedom and revolution.
The then-Secretary of the Indian Congress of Chittagong District, Surjyo Sen, aka Masterda (he was actually an innocent-looking math teacher in a school), came up with his own curriculum. He had countless young supporters who were ready to sacrifice their own lives in the altar of the country’s freedom at any time. They were just waiting for orders from their leader.
Masterda set D-Day for April 18, 1930. He hatched a meticulous plan. In his plan we find a deep influence of the Irish revolutions of Sinn Fein. Ireland too was fighting against the British crown at this time. A group of 64 selected young people was divided into several groups. On the evening of that day, the rail link between Chittagong and the rest of British India was cut off near Feni. The telephone exchange was attacked and communication with the rest of the country was interrupted. Auxiliary forces armory has been taken over. The Chittagong Club attack was scrapped as it was closed due to Easter. The main target, the police line armory was attacked. The British defenders fled and the armory and police HQ were taken over. Masterda was given a full guard of honor as the Provisional Head of the IRA Government of Chittagong. The district is declared free. All the British left the city and took refuge in the ships at Karnafully and in the Bay of Bengal. Masterda knew that they could not hold this independence for long because the whole of India was unprepared. He wanted to create an example. Wanted to light the fire of the revolution. He withdrew his forces to the hills of Jalalabad where a fierce battle was fought between a handful of young revolutionaries and a huge contingent of British soldiers. 12 young freedom fighters embraced martyrdom as 80 of the enemies were reportedly killed. The British contingent left in the evening with its wounded. Masterda offered a 21-gun salute to the fallen heroes and decided to retreat to the villages for the next extended guerrilla session. It was already the early hours of April 22, 1930. This phase continued for more than 3 years. Eventually and gradually all the major leaders including Masterda were apprehended and the great Chittagong Youth Revolution died out in action but not in spirit. Their heroism is always acclaimed.
As we know, Masterda Surjyo Sen and his second in command Tarakeswar Dastidar were summarily tried and sentenced to death. Only a few days was allowed to hear the appeal at the High Court. It was a mock trial. Before being hanged, they were beaten and tortured beyond limits and simply hung almost dead bodies.
The British powers were so afraid of their popularity that corpses were not handed over to friends and relatives for the last rites. They carried the sacred bodies deep into the Bay of Bengal and sank the bodies with a heavy weight.
The immortal revolutionary ideas of Masterda Surjyo Sen will live forever!
Long live Masterda Surjyo Sen!
Chittagong Youth Revolution will remain as a beacon for all revolutionaries around the world for all times to come.
Pradip Kumar Dutta is a Masters in Engineering. He writes regularly in different newspapers in Bangladesh on history, heritage, culture, travel, nature, human rights, progressive ideas and environmental issues.