• 03-Jun-2023


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Surya Sen, more popularly known as Master Da, was born in Noapara, Chittagong, on 22 March 1894, to a school teacher named Ramaniranjan Sen. Chittagong (now in Bangladesh), was a part of undivided Bengal in the colonial times. For his undergraduate studies, Surya Sen went to Berhampore College in Murshidabad. This institution is now known as Krishnath College, after Raja Krishnath, the Zamindar of Cossimbazar, Murshidabad. It is said that in the early 1850s, Maharani Swarnamoyee, the Raja’s wife, had donated land and money for the construction of the college. In 1916, buoyed by the spirit of nationalism and inspired by his teacher in college, Sen joined the Anushilan Samiti. This was an early twentieth-century organisation of the youth, determined to oust the British from India. Sen was also closely involved with the Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-1922) and was arrested for his anti-colonial activities in the late 1920s.

The Non-Cooperation Movement had stirred the spirit of patriotism in Bengal, and its sudden withdrawal was a cause of disappointment for many. Numerous new groups with anti-colonial sentiments now emerged. These were mostly started by young activists who expected stronger action against the British as compared to what the existing organisations and the Indian National Congress were proposing. After his release from prison, Surya Sen headed one such band of activists: The Indian Revolutionary Army (IRA). The main aim of the IRA was to lead an organised struggle against the British and to challenge their authority. One of the most notable actions of the IRA was the Chittagong Armoury Raid of 1930.

Surya Sen, a teacher in Chittagong, mobilised and trained the youth there for the raid. On 18 April 1930, over sixty students, divided into groups, led by Surya Sen, Ganesh Ghosh, Pritilata Wadedar, and others, launched an attack on the colonial administration and machinery in Chittagong. The aim was to disrupt government communication lines to Chittagong, raid the police and the auxiliary forces armoury, and procure weapons. These confiscated weapons would be distributed among the activists, who could then launch an armed struggle against the British. While they successfully disrupted telegraph and railway lines and raided the armoury, they failed to find ammunition. Nevertheless, they declared Chittagong independent, claimed a provisional government there, and appealed to the youth to join them. Caught off guard, the British authorities were shaken by the developments and retreated briefly. However, they came back fortified and brutally suppressed the activists. Surya Sen and most of his associates went into hiding in the Jalalabad Hills. In the villages there, Sen received massive support from the people. From his hideout, he conducted guerrilla raids on colonial property and authorities. For three years Sen managed to evade the British until he was finally caught on 16 February 1933.

On 12 January 1934, Sen was hanged along with his associate, Tarakeswar Dastidar. According to reports, though Sen was brutally tortured just before his execution, it never broke his spirit. In his last letter to his comrades, some of the lines written by Surya were…

“Death is knocking at my door. My mind is flying away towards eternity … At such a pleasant, at such a grave, at such a solemn moment, what shall I leave behind for you? Only one thing, that is my dream, a golden dream- the dream of Free India …

Such was the man’s indomitable spirit and courage, that the thought of losing his life for the sake of the country’s freedom, never deterred him from challenging the British authorities.