Benod Behari Choudhury

Chittagong hero

Print edition : May 17, 2013

Benod Behari Choudhury

THE passing away of Benod Behari Choudhury, 102, on April 10 in Kolkata closes one of the most celebrated chapters of India’s freedom struggle. He was the last surviving member of the group of revolutionaries who had taken part in the Chittagong Armed Uprising led by the legendary ‘Masterda’ Surya Sen in 1930. Choudhury lived in Chittagong in Bangladesh, and was in Kolkata for treatment of respiratory problems.

On April 18, 1930, ‘Masterda’ and his loyal band of 65 followers attacked simultaneously the two main armouries and the post and telegraph offices in Chittagong with a few firearms. Their immediate aim was to liberate Chittagong from the rest of British India; the long-term objective was to revive the spirits of the masses who were largely despondent after the withdrawal of the Non-cooperation Movement by Mahatma Gandhi in 1922.

The Chittagong Uprising was apparently inspired by the Easter Rising in Ireland in 1916, in which the Irish Republicans attempted to overthrow British rule in Ireland.

After the raid, ‘Masterda’ and his followers hoisted the Indian flag in the armoury premises and fled to the neighbouring hills to wage guerilla warfare on the British troops. Choudhury, who was just 19 then, was seriously wounded in the gunfight between the revolutionaries and the police in the Jalalabad hills four days after the raid. He was later caught and imprisoned. Surya Sen was arrested in 1933 and, following a trial, hanged on January 12, 1934.

Choudhury was against the use of the term “Chittagong Armoury Raid” (as the uprising is referred to in history textbooks), and insisted that it be called a “youth revolt”.

Born on January 10, 1911, to Kamini Kumar Choudhury, a lawyer, and Roma Rani, a homemaker, in Boalkhali in Chittagong district (now in Bangladesh), Choudhury chose to stay on in his place of birth after Partition. He played a crucial role in the prolonged “bhasha andolan” (Movement for the rights of the Bengali-speaking people of the erstwhile East Pakistan) and the Bangladesh Liberation War (1971). The government of Bangladesh conferred on him the Independence Day Award, the highest award in the country, and in death he was honoured with a state funeral.

Though he stayed away from politics in Bangladesh, he never turned his back on political activism and was vociferous in his protest against the oppression of minorities.

He received his primary education in Rangamatia Board School in Chittagong, and later went to Calcutta University. He got his Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in 1934, and Master's degree in 1936, while serving his prison sentence for his role in the Chittagong Uprising.

Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay