“This great soil has produced many great men, but there have been some, who have been truly exceptional. For them, no words are enough and neither is this humble ode, for they will live on forever through their everlasting legacy.”
13th September is a day which, unfortunately, not many of us would remember, as whatever little history we have been taught as children in Bharat has done little justice to the great man who I am about to mention.
It was on this fateful day that we lost one of our bravest sons and a true patriot, who sacrificed his life for the motherland knowing that he could have easily opted to live on further. There is a reason for opening this article with the above quote, which by the way, is written by yours truly while merely thinking about this extraordinary young man named Jatin Das.
That itself should tell us how inspiring this man has been when, in his brief but amazingly significant tryst with our freedom struggle, he left an indelible mark on his comrades and generations to come.
But it go t me thinking on whether our history books or if any book for that matter has done justice to the sacrifice of this great man? One can rarely come across any book, article or a piece in the media about Jatin Das and even if it is there, it’s not enough to do justice to this great soul.
When was the last time when on Independence Day, someone from the mainstream media talked extensively about him? This is where we as a nation have gone so wrong and this is what bugs me a lot! We just do not know how to preserve our heritage and treat our heroes, both who are living as well as the ones who have left us for the humble abode!
While this small article would never do justice to the great Jatin Da, as people who love him would refer to him, it is still important that we at least make the attempt to remember him, his eternal sacrifice and celebrate his legacy.
Jatin Da was born on 27th October, 1904 to Shri Bankim Bihari Das (father) and Smt. Suhashini Das (mother) in Kolkata. He was an intelligent student as he had cleared the Matriculation & Intermediate exams in First division. At a tender age, he started participating in our nation’s freedom struggle and was jailed for 6 months after participating in the Mahatma Gandhi led Non-cooperation movement.
Like other revolutionaries of that time, he too was said to be heartbroken when Gandhiji had withdrawn the movement after the Chauri Chaura incident and he realized that freedom could not be only achieved by peaceful means. While pursuing his B.A. from Bangabasi College (Calcutta) in 1925, he was imprisoned in Mymensingh Central Jail owing to his political activities.
During the jail time, he reportedly went on a hunger strike as a mark of protest against the ridiculous treatment being meted out to the political prisoners. He fasted for 20 long days and seeing his resolve, the Jail Superintendent apologized after which he gave up the fast.
He soon drew attention from revolutionaries in different parts of Bharat and he later on came in contact with Sachindra Nath Sanyal, who was the founder of Hindustan Republican Association, which later on in 1928 became the Hindustan Republican Socialist Association. Sachindra Nath Sanyal reportedly taught him how to make bombs and he agreed to be roped in as part of the bomb making process for Bhagat Singh & his comrades.
Due to his revolutionary activities, he was arrested on 14th June, 1929 and was imprisoned in the Lahore Jail to face trial as part of the supplementary Lahore Conspiracy Case. During the jail time, at first, Bhagat Singh had complained to the jail authorities about the inhumane treatment being given to the Bharatiya political prisoners.
They were not given clean clothes to wear, rats & cockroaches would roam freely in the area where their food was cooked & served and they were never given any newspapers to read or any material to write. Compared to this, all such facilities were being provided to the British prisoners which did not sit right with the revolutionaries.
Seeing that the authorities won’t budge on their legitimate demands, Bhagat Singh asked Jatin Da to join a hunger strike with him & other comrades in jail as a mark of agitation against this ill treatment. This was truly a defining moment for the great man as he told Bhagat Singh that he would join only on one condition – which was that once he takes up the fast, he will only break it when the Britishers agree to all of their demands or else he will give up his life and not eat anything till his last breath!
He started his fast on 13th July 1929 during which the Britishers tried all sorts of methods to break him mentally by sometimes placing sweets in his cell and also bringing his younger brother into the jail to look after him so that he could persuade him to give up his fast. Instead, Jatin Da made it vehemently clear to his brother that the only thing he should be looking after is not his health & well-being, but his resolve of keeping the fast until all the demands are met by the Brits.
During the initial days of the fast, Jatin Da would survive only on water and would not eat anything. Seeing this, the jail authorities tried mixing some energy potions into his water so that he does not face any health issues during the fast and that he could be persuaded to give it up.
However, as soon as he came to know of this, he even sacrificed drinking water and this resulted in the authorities trying to force feed milk to him through tubes but he didn’t give an inch to them and persisted with his fast. To everyone’s astonishment, he continued fasting for 63 long days and after this long struggle of being tortured, beaten up and deprived of food, he sacrificed his life to the greatest cause that one could ever die for!
The nation lost a great revolutionary that day and thousands joined in his funeral procession which went from Lahore to Calcutta by train. The great Subhash Chandra Bose received his coffin at the Howrah railway station and described Jatin Das as the “young Dadhichi of India” which was a reference to Rishi Dadhichi from Hindu history, who had sacrificed his life for the sake of killing a demon who was troubling the entire village.
The contribution of Jatin Das and his defining fast of 63 days remains a pivotal moment in our history as that gave the freedom movement a new direction and also emboldened the resistance against illegal detentions being carried out by the Britishers.
One can only amaze at the valour of this great young man during our fight for freedom, and can only imagine that only at the age of 24 years old this brave soul had seen it all, done it all and had developed an iron clad mental resolve, which only legends can boast about! Even after such amazing feats, his name still remains only on the fringes when our struggle for independence is mentioned and it pains me to see that how spoilt we have become as Bharatiyas, to not even remember the very people who gave their blood, sweat and life for us to enjoy this very spoilt life.
There needs to be a strong urge in every Bharatiya to start revisiting our true heroes and share as many stories about them as possible, so that we can take inspiration from them to create a nation which people like Jatin Das and other great men in our rich history dreamt of. This would also help in honouring their ultimate sacrifice in the most fitting way possible, so that both our present and future generations never forget that it has taken years of painstaking struggle, blood and sweat to get us our present day independence!
Do you think that as a Bharatiya, the story of someone like Jatin Das needs to be told in great detail?
Do you think his life should be a matter of research & study for our students?
Do you think more recognition needs to come this great man’s way and that he be placed as one of the iconic figures in Bharat’s freedom struggle in history books?
Would all these points be attended to by those concerned? Remains to be seen.
-by Prasan Shirdhonkaar (Engineer who also holds a Post graduate diploma in Sports management. Hold passion for nation, sports and arts.)
Did you find this article useful? We’re a non-profit. Make a donation and help pay for our journalism.