Pritilata Waddedar
প্রীতিলতা ওয়াদ্দেদার
Original Archived photo of Pritilata Waddedar.jpg
Born(1911-05-05)5 May 1911
Died24 September 1932(1932-09-24) (aged 21)[1]
Chittagong, Bengal Presidency, British India
Cause of deathSuicide by consuming potassium cyanide
NationalityIndian (British India)
Other namesRani (nickname)
Alma materBethune College
OccupationSchool teacher
Known forPahartali European Club attack (1932)
Parents
  • Jagabandhu Waddedar (father)
  • Pratibha Devi (mother)
RelativesAsh Sarkar (great-great-niece)

Pritilata Waddedar (5 May 1911 – 24 September 1932)[1][2] was an Indian revolutionary nationalist from the Indian subcontinent who was influential in the Indian independence movement.[3][4] After completing her education in Chittagong and Dhaka, she attended Bethune College in Kolkata. She graduated in philosophy with distinction and became a school teacher. She is praised as "Bengal's first woman martyr".[5][6]

Pritilata joined a revolutionary group headed by Surya Sen. She is known for leading fifteen revolutionaries in the 1932 armed attack[7] on the Pahartali European Club,[8][9] during which one person was killed and eleven injured. The revolutionaries torched the club and were later caught by the colonial police. To escape arrest, Pritilata committed suicide by cyanide.[10]

Early life

Matriculation examination certificate of Pritilata
Matriculation examination certificate of Pritilata

Pritilata was born in a middle-class Vaidya Brahmin family on 5 May 1911[11][12] in Dhalghat village in Patiya upazila of Chittagong (now in Bangladesh).[13] Waddedar was a title conferred to an ancestor of the family who originally had the surname Dasgupta. Her father Jagabandhu Waddedar was a clerk in the Chittagong Municipality.[3] Her mother Pratibhamayi Devi was a housewife.[14] The couple had six children – Madhusduan, Pritilata, Kanaklata, Shantilata, Ashalata and Santosh. Pritilata was nicknamed Rani.[14] Jagabandhu tried to arrange the best possible education for their children.[15] He got Pritilata admitted in Dr. Khastagir Government Girls' School of Chittagong. Pritilata was a meritorious student.[16] A teacher in the school, whom students affectionately used called Usha Di, used stories of Rani Lakshmibai to inspire nationalism in her students. Kalpana Datta, a classmate of Pritilata, writes in the biography Chittagong Armoury Raiders– "We had no clear idea in our school days about our future. Then the Rani of Jhansi fired our imagination with her example. Sometimes we used to think of ourselves as fearless...".[17] Arts and literature were Pritilata's favourite subjects.[18] She passed out of Dr. Khastagir Government Girls' School in 1928 and in 1929, got admitted to the Eden College, Dhaka. In the Intermediate examinations, she stood first among all students who appeared in that year's examination from the Dhaka Board.[19][15] As a student in Eden College, she participated in various social activities. She joined the group Sree Sangha, headed by Leela Nag, under the banner Deepali Sangha (Dipali Sangha).[19]

In Calcutta

To pursue higher education, Pritilata went to Calcutta (now Kolkata) and got admitted to the Bethune College. Two years later, she graduated in Philosophy from the college with a distinction.[20] However, her degree was withheld by the Calcutta University administration. In 2012, she (and Bina Das) were conferred their certificates of merit posthumously.[4]

As a school teacher

After completing her education in Calcutta, Pritilata returned to Chittagong. In Chittagong, she took up the job of headmistress at a local English medium secondary school called Nandankanan Aparnacharan School.[19][15][21]

Revolutionary activities

Joining Surjo Sen's revolutionary group

"Pritilata was young and courageous. She would work with a lot of zeal and was determined to drive the British away."

Binod Bihari Chowdhury, a contemporary revolutionary[22]

Pritilata decided to join the Indian independence movement. Surjo Sen had heard about her and wanted her to join their revolutionary group.[22] On 13 June 1932, Pritilata met Surjo Sen and Nirmal Sen in their Dhalghat camp.[14] A contemporary revolutionary, Binod Bihari Chowdhury, objected that they did not allow women to join their group. However, Pritalata was allowed to join the group because the revolutionaries reasoned that women transporting weapons would not attract as much suspicion as men.[22]

Inspiration from Ramkrishna Biswas

Surjo Sen and his revolutionary group decided to kill Mr. Craig, Inspector General of Chittagong. Ramakrishna Biswas and Kalipada Chakravarty were assigned for this task. But they mistakenly killed SP of Chandpur and Tarini Mukherjee instead of Craig. Ramakrishna Biswas and Kalipada Chakravarty were arrested on 2 December 1930.[23] After the trial Biswas was ordered to be hanged till death and Chakravarty to be exiled to Cellular Jail.[24]

The family and friends lacked the amount of money required to travel to Chittagong to Alipore Jail of Calcutta. Since at that time Pritilata was staying in Kolkata, she was asked to go to Alipore Jail and meet Ramkrishna Biswas.[24]

Activities in Surjo Sen's group

Along with the revolutionary group of Surjo Sen, Pritilata took part in many raids like attacks on the Telephone & Telegraph offices[12] and the capture of the reserve police line. In the Jalalabad battle, she took the responsibility to supply explosives to the revolutionaries.[3]

Pahartali European Club attack (1932)

The Pahartali European Club (shown here in 2010) was torched by the group of revolutionaries
The Pahartali European Club (shown here in 2010) was torched by the group of revolutionaries

In 1932, Surjo Sen planned to attack the Pahartali European Club which had a signboard that read "Dogs and Indians not allowed".[25] Surjo Sen decided to appoint a woman leader for this mission. Kalpana Datta was arrested seven days before the event. Because of this, Pritilata was assigned the leadership of the attack. Pritilata went to Kotowali Sea Side for arms training and made the plan of their attack there.[15]

They decided to attack the club on 24[1] September 1932. The members of the group were given potassium cyanide and were told to swallow it if they were caught.[19]

On the day of the attack, Pritilata dressed herself as a Punjabi male. Her associates Kalishankar Dey, Bireshwar Roy, Prafulla Das, Shanti Chakraborty wore dhoti and shirt. Mahendra Chowdhury, Sushil Dey and Panna Sen wore lungi and shirt.[24]

They reached the club at around 10:45 PM and launched their attack. There were around 40 people inside the club then. The revolutionaries divided themselves into three separate groups for the attack; the building was set alight before they started shooting into it. In the club, a few police officers who had revolvers started shooting. Pritilata incurred a single bullet wound. According to the police report, in this attack, one woman with a surname of Sullivan died and four men and seven women were injured.[24]

Death

In this place Pritilata committed suicide. Now there is a plaque in her memory
In this place Pritilata committed suicide. Now there is a plaque in her memory

An injured Pritilata was trapped by the colonial police.[3] She swallowed cyanide to avoid getting arrested.[22] The next day, the police found her body and identified her. On searching her dead body, the police found a few leaflets, photograph of Ramkrishna Biswas, bullets, whistle and the draft of their plan of attack. During the post-mortem it was found that the bullet injury was not very serious and that cyanide poisoning was the cause of her death.[24]

The chief secretary of Bengal sent a report to British authorities in London. In the report it was written that Pritilata:[26]

had been closely associated with, if not actually the mistress of, the terrorist Biswas who was hanged for the murder of Inspector Tarini Mukherjee, and some reports indicate that she was the wife of Nirmal Sen who was killed while attempting to evade arrest at Dhalghat, where Captain Cameron fell.

Influence

A bust of Waddedar at Pritilata Waddedar primary school, Chittagong
A bust of Waddedar at Pritilata Waddedar primary school, Chittagong

Bangladeshi writer Selina Hossain calls Pritilata an ideal for every woman.[27] A trust named Birkannya Pritilata Trust (Brave lady Pritilata Trust) has been founded in her memory. Pritilata's birthday is celebrated by the trust in different places of Bangladesh and India every year. The trust considers her to be "a beacon of light for women".[28] The last end of Sahid Abdus Sabur Road to Mukunda Ram Hat of Boalkhali upazila in Chittagong has been named as Pritilata Waddedar Road.[29] In 2012, a bronze sculpture of Pritilata Waddedar was erected in front of the Pahartali Railway School, adjacent to the historical European Club.[30][31]

Waddedar's great-grand-niece is British journalist and activist, Ash Sarkar.[32]

Legacy

In popular media

Gallery

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Kalpana Dutt (1979). Chittagong Armoury raiders: reminiscences. Peoples' Pub. House. p. 53.
  2. ^ "Pritilata's 100th birthday today". The Daily Star. 5 May 2011. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d "Pritilata Waddedar (1911–1932)". News Today. Archived from the original on 26 January 2012. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  4. ^ a b "After 80 yrs, posthumous degrees for revolutionaries". The Times of India. 22 March 2012. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  5. ^ "8 Facts About Pritilata Waddedar - Bengal's First Woman Martyr". India Times. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  6. ^ "Pritilata Waddedar: Bengal's First Woman Martyr". Bangladesh Post. 25 April 2019. Retrieved 14 March 2022.
  7. ^ Geraldine Forbes (1999). Women in Modern India. The New Cambridge History of India. Vol. IV.2. Cambridge University Press. pp. 140–141. ISBN 978-0-521-65377-0.
  8. ^ "Remembering the Legendary Heroes of Chittagong". NIC. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
  9. ^ "Indian Independence" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 November 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  10. ^ Craig A. Lockard (1 January 2010). Societies, Networks, and Transitions: A Global History: Since 1750. Cengage Learning. pp. 699–. ISBN 978-1-4390-8534-9. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  11. ^ "8 Facts About Pritilata Waddedar - Bengal's First Woman Martyr". IndiaTimes. 13 February 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2022.
  12. ^ a b "A fearless female freedom-fighter". Rising Stars. The Daily Star. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  13. ^ "Pritilata's birth anniversary observed at CU". New Age. Archived from the original on 29 January 2013. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  14. ^ a b c "Agnijuger Agnikanya Pritilata". BDNews (in Bengali). 5 May 2011. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  15. ^ a b c d "The Fire-Brand Woman Of Indian Freedom Struggle". Towards Freedom. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  16. ^ Pritilata (in Bengali). Prometheus er pothe. 2008. p. 15.
  17. ^ Kalpana Dutt (1979). Chittagong Armoury raiders: reminiscences. Peoples' Pub. House. p. 46.
  18. ^ Manini Chatterjee (1999). Do and die: the Chittagong uprising, 1930–34. Penguin Books. p. 180. ISBN 978-0-14-029067-7.
  19. ^ a b c d Amin, Sonia (2012). "Waddedar, Pritilata". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  20. ^ S. S. Shashi (1996). Encyclopaedia Indica: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh. Anmol Publications. p. 135. ISBN 978-81-7041-859-7.
  21. ^ "CCC plans to house 2 girls' schools in commercial complex". The Daily Star. 31 January 2009. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  22. ^ a b c d "A Long Walk to Freedom". Star Weekend Magazine. The Daily Star. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  23. ^ Reva Chatterjee (2000). Netaji Subhas Bose. Ocean Books. pp. 2–. ISBN 978-81-87100-27-0.
  24. ^ a b c d e Pal, Rupamay (1986). Surjo Sener Sonali Swapno. Kolkata: Deepayan. p. 162.
  25. ^ "80th death anniversary of Pritilata observed". New Age. Archived from the original on 25 July 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  26. ^ Fortnightly Reports on Bengal, for the second half of September 1932, GOI Home Poll F. No. 18/1932 as quoted in Chatterjee, Manini (1999). Do and Die: the Chittagong uprising, 1930-34. Penguin Books. p. 284. ISBN 978-0-330-53629-5.
  27. ^ "Contribution of Pritilata recalled". The Daily Star. 1 June 2011. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  28. ^ "A beacon of light for women". The Daily Star. 26 September 2012. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  29. ^ "Road named after Pritilata in Ctg". The New Nation. 18 December 2012. Archived from the original on 3 February 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  30. ^ "Pritilata's bronze sculpture to be installed in port city". The Daily Star. 2 October 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  31. ^ "Pritilata's memorial sculpture unveiled in Ctg". The Daily Star. 3 October 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  32. ^ Sarkar, Ash (5 February 2018). "My great-great-aunt was a terrorist: women's politics went beyond the vote". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  33. ^ "Young rebels". Business Standard. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  34. ^ "The veer Konna of Chittagong". The Telegraph (Calcutta). Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  35. ^ "Manoj Bajpayee, back in the limelight". Screen India. Archived from the original on 10 September 2012. Retrieved 18 December 2012.

Further reading