Today (12 January) is the martyrdom day of one of the greatest freedom fighters India has ever produced, ‘Masterda’ Surya Sen, (22 March 1894 – 12 January 1934) best known for leading the 1930 Chittagong armoury raid.
Sen was a school teacher by profession and was popularly known as Master Da (“da” is an honorific suffix in Bengali language). He was influenced by the nationalist ideals in 1916 while he was a student of B.A. in Behrampore College. In 1918, he was selected as president of the Indian National Congress’s Chittagong branch.
Sen was known for recruiting a group of young and passionate revolutionaries known as the Chittagong group including Ananta Singh, Ganesh Ghosh and Lokenath Bal, who fought against the British stationed in Chittagong.
He was an active participant in the Non-co-operation movement and was later arrested and imprisoned for 2 years from 1926 to 1928 for his revolutionary activities. A brilliant and inspirational organiser, Sen was fond of saying “Humanism is a special virtue of the revolutionary.”
After the Chittagong raid in 1930 and a fierce battle where over 80 British troops and 12 revolutionaries were killed, Sen and other surviving revolutionaries dispersed into small groups and hid in neighbouring villages, launching raids on government personnel and property. Sen was arrested on 16 April 1933, tried and was hanged on 12 January 1934. Many of his fellow revolutionaries were also caught and sentenced to long periods of imprisonment.
His last letter was written to his friends and said: “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 you? Only one thing, that is my dream, a golden dream – the dream of free India. Never forget the date, 18th of April, 1930, the day of the eastern Rebellion in Chittagong. Write in red letters in the core of your hearts the names of the patriots who have sacrificed their lives at the altar of India’s freedom.”