Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Bena Das, an Indian woman patriot and her abortive assassination attempt on Gov. Stanley Jackson (1932)

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, though freedom struggle across India  was the domain of men, there were countless women who proved their courage, perseverance  and indomitable spirit  as freedom fighters and earned a unique place for themselves  in the history of our freedom movement. They left the hearth and home in the comfort zone  for a purpose and sought the life of sacrifice, suffering and imprisonment to protest against the British and their despotic rule.  Many of them hogged the limelight, but some remained unsung and unnoticed till their death. On among them is Bena Das. Less than 21 years old, a student of an institution, Bena Das is a forgotten woman freedom fighter and revolutionary  from West Bengal, yet she has made a niche for herself in the history of Bengal.  

Beena Das, Freedom fighter. prashantb.wordpress.com

Bina Das (1911–1986) was one of the most daring women revolutionaries and nationalists of Bengal. Daughter of a well-known Brahmo teacher, Beni Madhab Das and a social worker, Sarala Devi, at  a very young age Bena Das was very much saddened by the painful freedom struggle going on across India against the  unjust and oppressive British rule. Since, the Colonial India had its capital in Calcutta (Kolkata), it is quite obvious that Bengal became a breeding ground of freedom well-known fighters such as Nataji, Sri Aurabindo, C.R.Das, et al (the list goes on). The suppression of freedom movements by the ruthless British administration who broke every law of human decency, the untold suffering and racial slurs and discrimination faced by the millions  of impoverished  Indians left a deep wound in the mind of Ms. Bena Das and impacted her psyche. Drawn  more by patriotism than by her studies and, further,   to have more involvement in the freedom struggle. she  joined the "Jugantar" revolutionary club ( it was one of the two main secret revolutionary organizations operating, in the guise of a fitness club in Bengal for Indian independence) to fight against the British. Besides, she was a member of Chhatri Sangha, a semi-revolutionary organization for women in Kolkata. The interesting aspect of this unique  young woman is  she  carried on her patriotic activities while she was a student of St. John's Diocesan Girls' Higher Secondary School, South Kolkata. Then she was not even 21 years old.  

In those days when freedom movement was going on vigorously,  a section of patriots, took to violence as a way to free India unlike Gandhian who preferred non-violence to achieve the same goal. Bena Das, being a gutsy woman, thought violence was one of the ways to get the attention of the higher ups in the government and the scoop-hungry media world over; in addition, it will instill fear among the British officials. Weighing the pros and cons, she decided to  assassinate a leading British official to get the global attention and other western countries  will come to know  more about the British misrule and how the Indian nationalists  are being hounded like dogs by the British using the brute force of the police.

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Alchetron
Stanley Jackson, Cricket player. Stanley Jackson © Getty Images

Above image:  Stanley Jackson:  He was  a conservative politician and the Governor of Bengal 1927–1932. Jackson was a great batsman with  15,901 First-Class runs at 33.83 and 31 centuries; he played  20 Tests  and scored 1,415 runs (average of 48.79).  He captained the English team five times. He spotted the cricket talents of Ranjitsinghi and was responsible for his inclusion in the  Cambridge First XI and the awarding of his Blue.. .........

On 6 February 1932, Bena Das, neither a trained assassin nor good at handling hand guns,  made an abortive attempt to assassinate the Bengal
Gov. of Bengal, Stanley Jackson,CricketCountry.com
Governor Stanley Jackson, in the Convocation Hall of the University of Calcutta. 
She walked to the dais with the revolver concealed under her gown, She pumped in five shots - two missed. In the meantime, the Vice-Chancellor, Hassan Suhrawardy, a trained military man trying to protect the Governor, in a 
jiffy, jumped towards Ms. Bena  to pin her down, not before three shots rang out from her gun, whizzing past dangerously. One bullet injured  Prof. Dineshchandra Sen. The Governor, who happened to be the all-England cricket captain,  had a close call. Fortunately,  no major mishap had happened. Ms. Bena Das faced the trial and during grueling interrogation, she never gave in  and refused to reveal  her accomplishes. She  was sentenced to nine years RI - rigorous imprisonment.

Photo: Article published on Reading Eagle,in1932www.inuth.com/i
hoto: Article published on Glasgow Herald in 1932InUth.com
 No sooner was she  released in 1939 from the prison, undaunted by her tough jail life, than she had joined the Congress party. Again, she went to jail - 1942 - 1945, this time  for her active participation (in 1942),  in the Quit India movement led by Gandhiji. Her  patriotism and her various constructive political activities gave her a strong base to serve the people of Bengal. She won the laurels from many quarters and consequently from 1946-47, she was a member of the Bengal Provincial Legislative Assembly. She married Chandra Bhaumik in 1947 who was an active member of he Jugantar.  She became a member of  the West Bengal Legislative Assembly. from 1947–51.Bina Das wrote two autobiographical works in Bengali: Shrinkhal Jhankar and Pitridhan.

 As ill-luck would have it, Bena Das' life in her last days was a poignant one, spent in loneliness and isolation in Rishikesh after her husband's death. Here, she died in obscurity on  26th December 1986  The most heartrending fact is this great woman patriot's body was recovered from the road side in a partly decomposed state and the passers-by had no idea who she was and her selfless  contribution to India's freedom. Her identity was established only after a month or so. In countless cases, neither the central or the state governments fail to recognize the contribution made by certain freedom fighters, not to speak of giving them a decent  and comfortable shelter and medical care till they die. Bena refused the dole offered by the government.  Many of these worthy patriots die  either unsung or unheard of and Bena Das is an unsung freedom fighter 

In the southern states like Tamil Nadu, because of the  prevalence of linguistic chauvinism, the contribution made by women freedom fighters like Bena Das from other states is not known.

Ref:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bina_Das

https://upclosed.com/people/bina-das/

https://www.inuth.com/india/women-freedom-fighters-of-india/how-bina-das-shot-bengals-british-governor-and-became-an-inspiration-for-freedom-fighters/