Archives contain hidden stories of revolutionary women from Bengal


The black and white images of these little-known revolutionary women come from the glass negatives that stood at the IB office on Lord Sinha Road in Kolkata.

No history book mentions Sunitibala Sengupta alias Ma (mother), alias Mashimaa (aunt), arrested in January 1934 after police found dynamite in her custody. Born in Dhaka, she was 43 when she was arrested and then held in several prisons, including the infamous Hizli Detention Camp (in Kharagpur, West Bengal), before being released.

However, Sunitibala is one of some 900 women recorded in IB File No. 223/19, titled “Recruitment of Women for the Formation of the Women’s Branch of the Revolutions,” who were under the direct control of the Secret Service. British. Between 1919 and 1947, IB records documented the conviction of approximately 200 cases.

The black and white images of these little-known revolutionary women come from the glass negatives that stood at the IB office on Lord Sinha Road in Kolkata. It was in the early 90s that the glass negatives were brought to the State Archives office.

There are also other names, such as the two young girls Shanti Ghosh and Suniti Chaudhury from Comilla, who killed a magistrate in 1931. Thesis by D.

“IB records regarding the Bengal presidency show that Pritilata Waddar, Kalpana Datta or Bina Das did not represent isolated and misguided attempts to risk a specific nature of involvement in politics that could lead to conviction and death. ‘imprisonment,’ Simonti Sen, director of the State Archives said.

Madhurima Sen, archivist of the West Bengal State Archives, said the records reveal that the main organizations that participated in revolutionary activities were the Anushilan and Jugantar groups with their district branches, Mukti Sangha or Bengal Volunteers, Chittagong Revolutionary Party and Stree Sangha.

Not mentioned by name

Interestingly, earlier records did not mention the names of women, but simply mentioned them as the daughter, wife or sister of a particular person. However, in the last pages of the files, the names of the women begin to appear. “This may imply that previously the police thought that by putting pressure on the men, the women could be arrested. In addition, many of the family members of these revolutionary women were government employees, ”Ms. Sen said.

The director of the state archives points out that the sentencing of women in eastern Bengal was much higher than those in western part and that most of the women mentioned in the files were from upper-class Hindu families. Secret documents also reveal that in the 1940s, recruitment into the Jhansi Rani Regiment of Subhas Chandra Bose and Mahila Atmaraksha Samiti, the female wing of the left, was common.


Thelma J. Longworth

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