– By Priyanka Deb Barman
AGARTALA, August 15, 2017: Hoisting national flags, singing patriotic songs and recalling great national leaders – Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Kshudiram Bose and Mahatma Gandhi etc., who had laid down their lives to get India free from shackles of British colonial rule. But what about the role of freedom fighters from this part of the country, more so Tripura. TNT- The Northeast Today brings to you the often ignored tales of patriotic freedom fighters from this part of the world whose contributions cannot be ignored. Though their contributions were not mentioned in the pages of history, their descendants still carry their memoirs and vow to pass the same to their every generation.
TNT- The Northeast Today got in touch with families of freedom-fighters who residing in Tripura to recollect history of their rebellion against the British rule. Two brothers of a same family – Shanti Bhushan Nag and Phani Bhushan Nag marked their name in freedom movement when they were teens and were sentenced to jail imprisonment.
Shanti Bhushan was inspired by Surya Sen, popularly known as ‘Mastarda’ one of the most noticeable freedom fighters who was the mastermind of Chittagong Armoury Movement in 1930. Mastarda formed a rebel group to raid the weapon store of the British. Shanti Bhushan was one among the rebel.
“My father was a school student when he joined Mastarda’s rebel group. He took an active part in the Armoury movement. During the fight, one bullet stuck his forehead without harming him. The injury mark was in his forehead till his last day. We had never been able to witness him during his movement but the mark itself was a sign of his bravery,” said Swapan Kumar Nag, now in his seventies.
Shanti Bhushan served ten years jail imprisonment from 1930 and during that time, he had completed his BA.
“He was in his death-bed in GBP Hospital when the then Chief Minister Sukhomoy Sengupta handed over the Tamra Patra in 1972,” he said.
Born in Comilla District (now Bangladesh), Phani Bhushan joined the freedom struggle when he was still in school. He was jailed later in Comilla jail after being arrested. He later returned to Agartala and formed his own family.
“Our father was a freedom fighter and we are his sons. This is our pride which we shall pass on to our next generation. His grandchildren know that they belong to a freedom-fighter’s race,” said Badal Nag, son of Phani Bhushan.
UMESH LAL SINGH
During his early years, Umesh Lal Singh, another freedom fighter, was involved in stealing guns from the Kings’ armory in Chittagong. He was caught and jailed. His brother Sachindra Lal Singha, first Chief Minister of Tripura also was involved in freedom struggle with him.
Umesh Singh later became a member in the First Electoral College in 1952 after Tripura joined with the Indian Union. He was elected as member of the Legislative Assembly in 1967. That same year, he became the pro-term speaker of the second Legislative Assembly.
“He also headed Congress in Tripura and chaired Khadi Gramodyog and Village Industries for many years”, said his grandson Siddhartha Singh.
Khagendra Bhadra was an active participant in the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930 when he was just 15 years old. Bhadra was the father-in-law of Swapan Kumar Nag.
“He was only a teenager when he joined the Civil Disobedience Movement. Later, he continued his education and became the headmaster of Akabpur High School in erstwhile East Pakistan. He also taught in a government school in Agartala,” Nag said.
PRAMOD RANJAN BANERJEE
Like Shanti Bhushan Nag, Master Surya Sen’s Armoury movement got another young fighter – Pramod Ranjan Banerjee. Follower of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Pramod pledged to dedicate his whole life in the name of freedom struggle.
“My father was jailed in Dhaka Central Jail after being caught in connection with Armory Movement. He was then shifted to Dumdum Central Jail and Andaman Central jail. He was heard to have served imprisonment with Subhash Chandra Bose once. He got inspired from Subhash Chandra Bose from that time and followed his ideals till his last breath. He later founded a school after Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose in Agartala, now one of the leading schools,” said Partha Banerjee, son of the freedom-fighter showing a photo of Subhash Bose in his home.
Recalling his father’s contribution, Partha said that Pramod, despite being born in a rich family of a zamindar, left home when he was only 12 years old. He had contributed in the freedom struggle among which Armory Movement was remarkable. He also accompanied Mahatma Gandhi in his Quit India movement in 1942.
“My grandmother somehow got my father’s whereabouts after 20 years. He was then 32 years old. She brought him back home and got him married. Unless our grandmother took the step, we would not have been born even,” said Partha with a smile on his face.
Pramod got a job in railways at Jabalpur but left it at the age of 22 and involved himself in the freedom movement. During his service, he spent his salary to aid his co-freedom strugglers, especially buying them arms to fight with the British. Amidst his struggling life, he had completed his M.Sc during his imprisonment in Dhaka Central Jail. He was also well-versed in 23 different languages.
Pramod was in Delhi when Indira Gandhi first made an announcement to honor the freedom fighters with a ‘Tamrapatra.’ Partha and his mother took the honour in Agartala on behalf of him.
His wife Manorama Banerjee also rebelled against one British administration when she was only a Class 9 student at Brahmanbariya in erstwhile East Pakistan. Inspired by Sarojini Naidu, Manorama protested against the British’s anti-Khadi slogan and she, accompanied by two of her female co-mates fired the British Magistrate.
“My mother brought the pistol hiding in her blouse and gave it to her friend Anwara Begum to open fire at the magistrate. One more friend accompanied them. They were arrested on charges of murder and were jailed in Comilla Women Cell for six months,” said Priti Banerjee Singha, daughter of Pramod and Manorama.
They came to Agartala in 1950. The freedom-fighter couple is survived by two daughters and one son and their grandchildren. Anwara Begum’s descendants are now settled in West Bengal.
“My parents did not take the pension which they were given for their contribution in India’s struggle movement freedom fighters. They both donated the whole pension to a blind school. They believed in not taking any gratitude for their movement. Their movements were priceless. We are proud that their blood is running in our veins,” said a beaming Partha.
Partha’s grandfather and grandmother’s in- laws – Dr. Durga Kumar Bhattacharya and Hemlata Debi were also part of India’s freedom movement.
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org