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Friday, October 12, 2012


                     Relive the armed revolution led by Master-da Surya Sen

In brief: In 1930, schoolmaster Surya Sen, affectionately known as Master-da, leads sixty-five boys to capture the armoury of Chittagong in erstwhile East Bengal and frees the town for three days. They hope to go down fighting, die a glorious death and set an example for the rest of the country. But destiny has a different plan for them, and the raid is followed by a four-year-long insurgency. Surya Sen is eventually caught and hanged–even though the British admit they have no incriminating evidence against him.

Chittagong: Summer of 1930, Part 1 brings to life the famous Chittagong Armoury Raid, led by Bengali revolutionary Surya Sen, through the memories of his young disciples and the British officers who were his contemporaries. Manoshi Bhattacharya draws upon historical records, government documents and personal reminiscences, tracing the life of the Bengalis and the British during the period. She creates a vivid picture of the armed revolution from 1900 to 1934, and brings to light one of the lesserknown yet vital episodes of India’s struggle for independence.

The History & The Story....

The Chittagong Armoury Raid and the Battle of Jalalabad that followed encompass the biggest, organized, armed uprising to be led by civilians in the history of India’s struggle for freedom. It was the next big event since The Uprising of 1857, or The Mutiny in British parlance, which had been led by trained soldiers. As a result the surprising successes enjoyed by a school master and his band of students resulted in intensive analysis and discussion not just amongst the officers of the British Indian Army but also in the Parliament in London. The incident caught the attention of the Empire (Australia and Canada) and of USA. News items related to the Chittagong rebellion were reported regularly in the Australian papers - The Canberra Times, The Argus, The Courier Mail and The New York Timesin USA.

Since Gandhi and Nehru choseAhimsa as their political strategy they, regardless of their
 personal beliefs, could not publicly applaud the contribution of the armed revolutionists. But it did provide them with a leveraging point when negotiating with the British. In the years following 1947, the new born nation was too caught up with moving forward to be able to celebrate its heroes. Sixty years on, the new generation of Indians born in Independent India look back with pride spurring the making of movies and the writing of books.

Chittagong: Summer of 1930 is an exhaustively researched book that tells the story from the perspective of twenty-seven people, both Bengali and British, reflecting diverse view points. Having been crafted from the writings of the participants and their British contemporaries, the writing preserves the regional styles and nuances. For example, a Bengali never says ‘goodbye’. If he is the one going away he will say ‘I’ll be back’. And when seeing somebody off he will say ‘esho’ which translates literally to ‘come’. The British of the Raj speak a mix of British English, translations of Bengali jargon and American jargon.

Chittagong: Summer of 1930 evokes an image of the Raj delving into the lives of the Bengalis and the British, their thinking and reasoning, the food they ate, the songs they sang and the stories they told. Manoshi Bhattacharya creates a vivid picture and brings to light one of the lesser known and yet vital episodes in India’s struggle for independence, one without which the tale of the Empire can never be complete.

The second part of the book, which is due to be published, will deal with the women’s movement and the highly publicized Chittagong Armoury Raid Trial in which the Indians more than prove themselves equal to their British rulers.

About the Author: Manoshi Bhattacharya

Manoshi Bhattacharya is a former Indian Navy physician. Having discovered her passion for history and storytelling, she has to her credit Charting the Deep: A History of the Indian Naval Hydrographic DepartmentThe Royal Rajputs: Strange Tales Stranger Truths published by Rupa & Co; Buro-Angla and other Stories published by Hachette India which is due this year. She currently works as a general physician in Gurgaon.

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