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Taraknath Das: A Bengali-Indian Revolutionary lost in the pages of history

During the later phase of his life, Das spent six years in India and founded the Vivekananda Society in Calcutta

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Representational Image (old Kolkata). Image source: debasisbhuniya.weebly.com
  • Taraknath Das was an anti-British Bengali Indian revolutionary and an internationalist scholar
  • He started ‘The Free Hindusthan’, the publication that advocated political, social, and religious reforms for India
  • In 1935, he and his wife instituted the Taraknath Das Foundation at Columbia University to encourage educational and cultural exchange between the U.S. and Asia

Born on June 15, 1884, in Majhipara, a village near Kolkata, Taraknath Das was an anti-British Bengali Indian revolutionary and an international scholar. Das completed his primary education in the village and took up the job of a tutor to help fund his high school education.

Soon after his admission to the Calcutta University, his father passed away. Das then attempted to complete his higher education by attending three different satellite schools but couldn’t succeed.

Later, Das travelled from village to village, mobilising the masses against the miserable economic, educational, and political condition of India. It was during that time he engaged himself with the Bengali Anusilan Samiti,a radical anti-colonial organisation. He later formed its branch in Dacca in 1905.

He also established several village schools for the poor section of the society during this time.

Following his brief stay in Japan, Das went to the U.S. on June 18,1906. He took up various occupations like that of a labourer on the railroads, in hospitals as a laundry boy and janitor among others to save money to attend the University of California. As a student in the University, Das cleared the United States Civil Service examination for “Hindu interpreter” and was appointed to the U.S. Immigration Service in Vancouver, British Columbia on July 5, 1907.

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It was during his stay in Vancouver that his revolutionary instincts surfaced once again. He started ‘The Free Hindusthan’, the publication, which advocated political, social, and religious reforms for India, reports Saada.org.

After matriculating from Norwich University in Vermont, he intended to train himself for armed rebellion in India. However, after a while, Das was suspended from Norwich University because of his anti-British stance. After which, he returned to Seattle in 1909 and associated himself with the Gadar Party, led by Lala Har Dayal. During that time, Das published various articles that supported the idea of violent resistance for freedom.

Out of his many published works, his “Open Letter to Count Leo Tolstoy in Reply to His ‘Letter to a Hindoo’ ” is the most acclaimed one. Critical of Tolstoy’s non-violent stand, he wrote, “Non-violence is an absolute Dogma…violence and benevolence are measured by the relative value of the actions and motives underlying them.”

Taraknath Das. Image Source: Namespedia.com
Taraknath Das. Image Source: Namespedia.com

Das completed his graduation from the University of Washington in Political Science. From there he went on to get an M.A. degree and a teaching certification before becoming a naturalised citizen of the U.S. in 1914.

In the same year, he secured admission as a research fellow at the University of California at Berkeley. His first book ‘ Is Japan a Menace to Asia?’ was published in 1917, while he was still teaching in Japan.

Still in abroad, he received a warrant for arrest for anti-British activities in the U.S. Following Hindu-German conspiracy trial, he was sentenced to twenty-two months in Leavenworth Penitentiary on April 30, 1918.

Even his life in prison could not stifle his spirit for the political uprising. From prison, he published the first issue of The Independent Hindustan (the official organ of Gadar Party) in September 1920.

He believed that “India’s fight for independence [was] the fight for world freedom against world imperialism”, and that without power over India, the British Empire would fall apart.

When it happened, he projected that India, China, Russia, and the Middle East countries would become the most powerful coalition globally.

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Das’ struggle did not end with the culmination of this imprisonment period. His citizenship was called off when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled naturalised citizens from India were not “white.”

Shortly thereafter he earned his first Ph.D., and married his long-time friend Mary Keatinge Morse, who was also a founding member of the N.A.A.C.P. and the National Women’s Party. Together they went for Europe tour and established the India Institute in Munich to encourage Indian students to attend German universities.

In 1935, he and his wife instituted the Taraknath Das Foundation at Columbia University to encourage educational and cultural exchange between the U.S. and Asia.

After receiving his citizenship back in 1946, Das became friends with the Watumull family in Hawaii, who gave him the opportunity to return to India in 1952 as a visiting professor of their foundation.

During the later phase of his life, Das spent six years in India and founded the Vivekananda Society in Calcutta.

He continued to speak up for the cause of the country’s freedom till the very end. He passed away on December 22, 1958, at the age of 74, briefly after returning to the United States.

-This article is prepared by Bulbul Sharma, a staff-writer at NewsGram.

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Rash Behari Bose: The Unsung Hero of India’s Freedom Movement

The contribution of Rash Behari Bose in India’s struggle for freedom is a notable one

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Rash Behari Bose
Rash Behari Bose is one of the greatest hero of India's Freedom Movement

June 17, 2017: When we look through the pages of Indian history, we come across myriads of names of brave souls to whom we remain indebted till date, for freeing India from the control of the British Raj. We take pride in the names of those great revolutionaries of India who dedicated themselves to the sole purpose of overthrowing the British Raj. But the name of Rash Behari Bose slips through our mind and he remains one of the unsung heroes of the freedom struggle of India.

Rash Behari Bose
Rash Behari Bose. Wikimedia

The contribution of Rash Behari Bose in India’s struggle for freedom is a notable one. That makes him a legendary revolutionary and therefore snippets from his life and work, deserve a mention to rekindle the memory of “fiery” Behari in the fleeting mind of the Indians.

Childhood and Youth

Born on 25th May in Burdwan district of rural Bengal in the year 1886, Bose was brought up and completed his education in Chandannagar, the town that was under French rule during that period. Since his childhood, Bose had been a stubborn child with a bit of temper, which fuelled his revolutionary instincts at a tender age. Bose, still young, was implicated in Alipore Bomb Case around 1908; after which he went to Dehradun in North India and joined the Forest Research Institute as a head clerk. In spite of working for the British government, the fire of a revolutionist in him was alive and burning, which made him get in touch with the revolutionaries of the Jugantar movement secretly.

Failed Attempt of Assassination

The imperial capital of New Delhi was inaugurated in the year 1912. The celebrations were interrupted by an attempt of assassinating Lord Charles Hardinge- the then Viceroy of India. In an attempt to showcase his disapproval against the British, Bose had participated and actively involved himself in the bombing. After its failure, most of the revolutionaries were convicted and executed. Bose somehow managed to escape undamaged.

Life in Hiding and the episode of the Ghadar Uprising

After the failed attempt of assassination, Rash Behari had to remain hidden. He was even declared ‘wanted’ by the British Government. Later on, Bose participated in the Ghadar revolution around 1913-15 and became a prominent leader, attempting to incite a pan-India mutiny.

With the epic rise of the revolutionary activities, the British government launched a large-scale offensive with newer strategies. Many revolutionaries, nationalists, and national leaders were arrested and executed.

However, hunting down and capturing Bose was not a piece of cake due to his artful skills of concealing the master-bomber that he was. He went back to Dehradun to rejoin his position. But he had to come back to his hometown and remain underground for one year, fearing British captivity. Later, the Ghadar movement failed and the wrath of the British government led to the rise of inhuman British assault. Hiding in India became impossible and Bose sailed for Japan.

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Life in Japan and formation of IIL and Azad Hind Fauj

In Japan, Bose was able to establish strong contacts, ensuring his safety from the claws of the British. Later he got married to the daughter of the owner of Nakamuraya bakery and the couple birthed two children before the death of Bose’s wife.

After his wife’s demise, Bose devoted himself to active politics. He crafted the foundation of the IIL- Indian Independence League, with an objective to form the ‘Azad Hind Fauj.’ In the year 1943, on 5th July, Rash Behari handed over the remains of the IIL to Subhas Chandra Bose, making his younger namesake the President of the IIL and designating himself as the adviser.

Troops of the Indian National Army
Troops of the Indian National Army. Wikimedia

Honoring the legend

The government of Japan awarded Rash Behari the “Second Order of the Merit of the Rising Sun” before his demise on 21st January, 1945 in Tokyo. With great honor, the imperial coach was sent to carry his body. Long after the death of the legendary Rash Behari Bose, his remnants were brought to India by his daughter in 1959 and a tribute was paid to the noble son of our Nation by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, who was the president of India during that period.

We, the citizens of India, remain indebted to Rash Behari Bose and yet we allow the memory of his diversified contributions to our nation, slip through the mind and fade into oblivion. Such an honorable national icon deserves better and we must always pay the proper tributes to such a hero.

– by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC

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‘Times have changed, so have forms of protest’

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Prabir Roy, JU Professor at the rally

By Roshni Chakrabarty and Arnab Mitra

Kolkata: Twenty three organisations of the West Bengal cultural forum took part in the first protest on intolerance organized in Kolkata, on November 7, in front of the Academy of Fine Arts, also called the Ranu Chhaya Mancha.

Organisations such as the West Bengal Ganatantric Lekhak Shilpi Shongo, Bharatiya Gonoshonskriti Shongo, and eminent personalities including advocate Bharati Mutsuddi, artist Samir Aich, former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee, Prabir Roy, and noted poet Mandakranta Sen took part in the protest rally.

NewsGram asked Samir Aich on his opinion regarding Shah Rukh Khan being termed a national threat. He said that those calling the Bollywood star a terrorist were themselves so. He commended the move undertaken by so many writers and scholars all over India in returning their awards as a protest against the rising intolerance in the country.

“A person is entitled to his own language and form for the protest. If one believes that returning his or her award is the way to protest, then the person has every right to do so! Why is this being questioned in the first place? India is walking towards a grave direction. This is nothing less than what the country saw in 1984,” said Aich.

Prabir Roy, Bengali professor from Jadavpur University, said that the issue was being taken in to a different direction by citing ‘international conspiracy’ and ‘foreign hands’. “This slant that is being given to the intolerant situation is diverting the common people and distracting us from the real issue. Certain groups, certain sections of the society are endorsing an autocratic regime. The way religion is being promoted right now has to stop. Otherwise, the demise of this nation is imminent.”

“I have never seen such a thing in my entire political career,” said former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee. “I am afraid Kolkata might go back to the dark times of the 1945-46 riots.”

“India is a secular country and people of different communities have lived together here for years, even long before the British came to India,” said advocate Bharati Mutsuddi to NewsGram. “In this aspect, India is different from most other countries in the world. The Hindutva ideals being promoted by BJP and RSS which project the country as a Hindu nation, where people are being killed for eating beef, is dangerous to India’s basic essence and might even lead us to civil war.”

On being asked why no such initiative was taken during the dire situation of the 1984 Sikh riots or the Babri Masjid issue, she said that several protests were carried out during the time as well. “A bandh was even called by the then ruling Left front government in Bengal as a protest against the riots embroiling the nation. But the times have changed now, and so has the form of protest,” said the advocate citing the growing awareness of the population due to the advent of social media.

Mutsuddi also spoke out against the political colour given to these protests by the media. “Every protestor is not affiliated to a political party just because they are speaking against an issue and carrying out a protest. The media has taken it on themselves to label protests as a Congress Movement or a BJP one. This is what they have always done!”

She further elaborated that individuals such as historian Irfan Habib and writer Arundhati Roy were not involved in any party activities, but the fact that they were returning their awards to protest against the intolerance issue should show what condition our country was in.

“People need to realise that everyone is entitled to a political thought process, even though they are not necessarily affiliated to any political party,” added Mudshuddi.

Bharati Mudshuddi (centre) with others at the rally
Advocate Bharati Mutsuddi (centre) with others at the rally

 

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Essence of freedom: What independence means to women of India

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By Ridham Gambhir

Freedom and liberty are two expressions that come to mind when one thinks of the word independence. India’s struggle for freedom entails myriad men who starved, fought, argued and defeated the Britishers. But while all this was happening, where were the women? What were they doing?

Then..

The pre-independent India is notorious for its anti-women practices like Sati, Child marriage and the Purdah system. For men, women were either harbinger of offspring or a dutiful attendant to them and their family. However, though no kind of Feminism broke out in that epoch, yet many women took that one step that made a significant difference to the stature of women in India.

With Congress being initiated in 1885, women started participating in their sessions. While ten women attended the fourth session of Congress in Bombay in 1889, the count started escalating each time. Swarna Kumari became the first woman to speak from Congress’ platform, she was further joined by Pandita Ramabai, Manikjee Arbtejee and Shevanti Bai.

Not many know about Swarna kumari Devi, sister of Rabindranath Tagore who started the Ladies Theosophical

Swarna Kumar Devi
Swarna Kumar Devi

Society (a multi-religion association of women) in 1882 and later became a member of the INC. Her daughter, Sarla Devi was an active member of the nationalist militant struggle and started training women in lathi and sword in 1903.

In 1916, the Begum of Bhopal established the All India Muslim Women’s Conference with her primary aim being education of women. She also directed her attention to the eradication of the complex polygamy system.

Within the domestic precincts, women wove Khadi and other indigenous goods in order to boycott the foreign products and in the so-called ambit of men, they too made speeches and wrote articles to disseminate the freedom movement. Kumudini Mitter, a nationalist published revolutionary ideas through Suprabhat, a Bengali magazine. Sarla Devi opened Lakshmi Bhandar, a stall to popularise swadeshi goods.

Movements such as Bardoli Satyagrah and Civil Disobedience brought women from different parts of India together to fight the dominion of the English men. In fact, the civil disobedience movement in Punjab was launched by 5000 women.

sucheta-kriplani
Sucheta Kriplani

While Gandhi and other “men” are famous for going to jail while revolting, there was Sucheta Kriplani, in-charge of the women’s wing of All India Congress Committee since 1939 who got arrested in civil disobedience movement. Usha Mehta, in Bombay operated an underground radio station and broadcasted regular news about Congress from it. She was later arrested and imprisoned for 4 years.

At that time when Annie Besant was fighting on the front, women like Sarla Devi, Kamladevi Chattopadhyay and Usha Mehta were fighting in other ways possible to carve a niche for the natives and especially women.

Now..

With gender equality propagandas being portrayed though different advertisements, texts and real life incidents one cannot fail but mark the progress and emancipation that women have achieved for themselves today.

While school textbooks promulgated Kalpana Chawla, Sheila Dikshit and Sania Mirza as role models for the

Kalpana Chawla
Kalpana Chawla

upcoming generation, every household in India now has a hero, rather heroine in it.

It is not just self-motivation that fuelled the progress of women. With various amendment in the constitution laws and Acts being introduced, the stance of women ameliorated significantly. For instance, The Hindu Succession Act (1956) empowers a woman by making her an equal and a legitimate inheritor of the family property. The Equal Remuneration Act of 1976 states that there be no difference in the wages of men and women.

Chanda-Kochhar-3
Chanda Kocchar

A thorough patriarchal nation like India is getting a fresh taste of feminism. Ranging from matriarchal families to women like Chanda Kochhar who run affluent business, this nation is accelerating not just its GDP but its gender roles as well.

Women are not fighting men,they are fighting their supremacy which  has been established allegedly. While India got its independence 68 years back, a majority of women in India are still under the oppression of not Englishmen, but their own men.