Surya Sen of Chittagong2

Surya Sen was a great patriot, a great revolutionary and a great martyr. Far beyond human imagination were the number of hours he worked to liberate his Mother India. The people of Chittagong adored this great hero. His very name used to give them tremendous joy, tremendous inspiration, tremendous encouragement and a tremendous sense of fulfilment. They called him Master-da. Master means teacher; da is the elder brother. He was everybody’s elder brother; even people who weren’t much younger than he called him Master-da.

He was a teacher. To him belonged the duty of transforming the British schools into Indian national schools. He used to teach in one of these national schools, and he conquered his students’ hearts with his affection, love and concern.

He was not rich, nor handsome, nor striking in any way, but his inner strength was indomitable. His eyes used to shine brighter than the brightest. His inner personality conquered everybody’s heart. Bande Mataram — “Mother, I bow to Thee” — was his sole mantra.

On February 18, 1930, the revolutionaries of Chittagong, led by Surya Sen, broke into the British armoury and stole a large quantity of guns and ammunition. Chittagong was thrown into the vortex of revolution. Previously, the military used to torture any revolutionaries whom they caught. Torture is an understatement! But after the armoury was robbed, the British Government resolved to put an end to their problems by capturing Surya Sen. So they offered a 10,000-rupee reward to anyone who could tell them about Surya Sen. Whether he was brought to them alive or dead, the British Government would pay 10,000 rupees.

But who among the people would do this kind of thing? Everybody loved Surya Sen dearly and adored him highly. But alas, God’s creation is very peculiar. One of Surya Sen’s relatives became jealous of this great hero and reached the height of meanness and treachery. His name was Netra Sen.

Surya Sen was always in hiding, moving from one place to another. Sometimes he used to take a job as a workman; sometimes he would take a job as a farmer, or milkman, or priest, or houseworker. This is how he used to avoid being captured.

Either because of money, or out of jealousy, or because of both, Netra Sen told the British Government that Surya Sen was at his house. As a result, the police came and captured him. This is how India’s supreme hero was arrested. But before Netra Sen was able to get his 10,000-rupee reward, he was sent to God.

This is how it happened. Netra Sen’s wife was all for Surya Sen, and she was horrified by her husband’s deed. She felt mortified by her husband’s betrayal of Surya Sen. She couldn’t believe her eyes; she couldn’t believe her ears.

One evening she was serving her husband food when a great admirer of Surya Sen came into the house. He was carrying a very big knife, which is called a dal. With one stroke of the dal he chopped off the head of Netra Sen in the presence of his wife. Then slowly and stealthily he went away.

When the police arrived to investigate, they asked Netra Sen’s wife if she had seen who the murderer was. She said, “I saw with my own eyes, but my heart will not permit me to tell you his name. I am sorry. I feel miserable that I was the wife of such a treacherous man, such an undivine man as Netra Sen. My husband betrayed the greatest hero of Chittagong. My husband betrayed a great son of Mother India. My husband cast a slur on the face of India. Therefore, I cannot tell the name of the person who took his life. He has definitely done the right thing.

“You can do anything with me. You can punish me, you can even kill me, but I shall never tell the name of the person who killed my husband. Our Master-da will be hanged, I know, but his name will forever be synonymous with India’s immortal freedom-cry. Everybody loves him. Everybody adores him. I, too, love him and adore him, for he is the brightest sun in the firmament of Chittagong. Surya means sun and he is truly our sun.”

On 12 January 1934, before the sun rose, Chittagong’s sun, India’s sun, was hanged. Before he was hanged, this great lover of India, this supreme lover of India, uttered his heart’s mantra once: Bande Mataram — “Mother, I bow to Thee”.

GIM 82. 22 January 1979