Remembering Kalpana Datta
We read about a revolutionary named ‘Kalpana Datta’ in our history book, but rarely cared to know who she really was. Neither our teachers were interested to explain more about sacrifices of patriots nor were we keen to enquire about it.
History text books have always been biased on revolutionaries. Very less was mentioned about the Indian revolutionaries whose martyrdom got hardly any space in hearts of Indians. As students, we mugged the history chapters only to qualify in exams. We read about a revolutionary named ‘Kalpana Datta’ in our history book, but rarely cared to know who she really was. Neither our teachers were interested to explain more about sacrifices of patriots nor were we keen to enquire about it.
Kalpana Datta was the surviving member of Surya Sen’s group who knew every intimate details of bloody battle of Chittagong Uprising. This great patriot breathed her last on 8th February 1995. Prior to her death, Kalpana Datta had narrated every minute detail of Chittagong Uprising to her daughter-in-law Manini Chatterjee.
This narration became an inspiration for Manini to write a non-fiction novel – Do and Die: The Chattagram Uprising (1930-34). This book is not just a reminder of Chittagong Uprising, but also on the struggle of teenagers and their brave leader Surya Sen who single handedly defied the mighty British Empire. Very few comrades survived in this uprising including Kalpana Datta. May be Kalpana survived so that she can re-tell the sacrifice behind the Chittagong revolt.
After qualifying in matriculation exam, Kalpana enrolled at Bethune College for Science stream. Like every patriotic Indian, Kalpana too had a desire to fight for independence. She actively joined Chhatri Sangha, a small revolutionary group which gave her an opportunity to plunge herself in freedom struggle. Here in this group she bonded with Pritilata Waddedar and Bina Das.
It was Pritilata who introduced Kalpana to the great freedom fighter of Chittagong – Surya Sen. Fondly known as ‘Masterda’ , Surya Sen was calm by nature, but had a tactical mind like a spy. Initially Surya Sen was reluctant to accept Kalpana in his group, but Kalpana’s die-hard patriotism impressed him and thus Kalpana became an active member of his group. Her tasks involved transportation of explosive materials and other supplies. She was also expert in making gun cotton.
Surya Sen’s strategic attack on British’s armory, telegraph office and railway lines cut off Chittagong from the rest of India. This attack was a blow on the British supremacy. This revolt was popularly known as Chittagong Uprising. But Surya Sen’s army couldn’t face the large battalion of British at Jalalabad hills. Several innocent teenagers were shot down by British soldiers.
To avenge the death of Jalalabad encounter, Kalpana Datta and Pritilata were chosen to attack the European Club. But unfortunately before the execution of this action, Kalpana was arrested. Thus Pritilata took the task of attacking the European club which later ended with tragic death of Pritilata. (To avoid being arrested, Pritilata swallowed cyanide).
The news was a tragic blow for Surya Sen and his group. Kalpana had lost a great friend in Pritilata in whom she confided her feelings. Very less is written about Kalpana’s feelings for her mentor Surya Sen. She had an unspoken soft corner for the widower ‘Masterda’. Though she had expressed her affection to Surya Sen, Surya Sen never approved of her affection.
For Surya Sen, his love for nation was greater than any affection. Sadly, there is no mention of this tender story in any article. On 17th February 1933, the hideout of Surya Sen was revealed to British Officials by one of the members in Surya Sen’s group. Though Kalpana and other fellow members managed to escape, but Surya Sen was arrested. Surya Sen was later tortured severely and hanged to death on 12th January 1934.