Book sheds new light on revolutionary women in Bengal

The British convicted more than 200 of them and another 900 suspects were under surveillance, according to author Madhurima Sen

The British convicted more than 200 of them and another 900 suspects were under surveillance, according to author Madhurima Sen

The first files on female revolutionaries in Bengal appeared in the intelligence branch of British India around 1919. And in 1947, more than 200 cases of conviction and conviction of women were recorded in these records.

Along with these convictions and convictions, the records of the Bengal intelligence branch contained a long list of female revolutionaries or suspects – around 900. Along with the records, the West Bengal state archives also have history sheets on the revolutionaries and thousands of glass and film negatives that record the details of their surveillance. All of these interesting details about revolutionary women are contained in a recent publication titled Women in the Freedom War Unveiled, Bengal 1919-1947: Archive Insight.

Madhurima Sen, the author of the book, highlights several interesting facts about the Indian freedom struggle from the operation of the British Intelligence Branch in Bengal, which monitored the revolutionaries by maintaining a “blue list” and a ” red”. ‘. The book also highlights the role of certain periodicals, especially newspapers contributed by women, and the custody details of female revolutionaries.

Ms Sen, Archivist at the State Archives of West Bengal, also obtained information from her Photo Archive wing to which many did not have access to it. The West Bengal State Archives Branch, which is one of the largest repositories of documents from the colonial period in this part of the country, has a collection of approximately 50,000 glass and film negatives, including photographic prints, all of which are related to “revolutionary activities” in the 20th century.

“Most of the women mentioned in the IB records were from the Hindu upper and middle classes, who could break out of isolation and develop a life within and outside their families and identify with social and political causes. . We however find the names of Halima Khatun and Razia Khatun from Mymensingh district, Jobeda Khatun and Jayanab Rahim who were linked to the revolutionary/nationalist organizations of their time,” the publication says referring to the socio-political situation in India. pre-independent. , especially Bengal.

Ms Sen said the trend of regional women’s participation in the revolutionary movement suggests that “the condemnation of women in the eastern part of Bengal was far higher than in the western part.” The largest number of defendants came from Chittagong,” the book states, adding that the number may have increased after the Chittagong Armory Raid (1930).

In the western part of Bengal, the publication says that female revolutionaries were active in Kolkata and neighboring areas of 24 Parganas (north and south), Howrah, Hooghly, Bankura and Midnapore. “The Women’s Wings have become active among college students in Kolkata. Bethune College had become a center of radical feminist agitation,” she said.

The publication draws attention to certain journals of the pre-independence period which played a crucial role in mobilizing women for “revolutionary activities”. A special mention is of jayasreea journal published by women whose title page from February 1939 is contained in the book.

Although the post brought to light several little-known facts about revolutionary women, there are a number of aspects that need more study and research. Mrs. Sen refers to one of these revolutionaries, Sudhangshubala Sircar, whose name is mentioned in the famous case of the Alipore bomb (1908). The publication contains a four-page “history sheet” on it prepared in 1909 by the Intelligence Branch. “Although she is of such importance, there is no reference to her after 1908-09 and we are looking for more material on her,” Ms Sen said. She also pointed out that in a number of cases there are photographs but no supporting information about the women.

From Dukhoribala Devi, the first woman to be convicted of revolutionary activities, to Lila Nag, the first woman to be recruited as a member of a revolutionary organization (Dhaka Shree Sangha) in 1924, the publication also contains a detailed transcript of the statement of Bina Das, arrested for attempting the life of Governor Stanley Jackson. Besides the names of well-known women revolutionaries – Kalpana Dutta, Bina Das, Pritilata Wadder/Waddedar, Santi and Suniti – the publication contains the names of several little-known women revolutionaries who have made “unforgettable contributions to the growth of militant nationalism in India. “. ”.

Jayasree, a newspaper published by women in British India.

jayasreea newspaper published by women in British India.

Thelma J. Longworth