Monday, February 11, 2008
Suniti Choudhury (later Suniti Ghose)
Suniti Choudhury (later Suniti Ghose) was one of the women participants in the armed revolutionary faction within India’s freedom struggle. She was born on 22nd May 1917 in Ibrahimpur village of East Bengal (now Bangladesh). While Suniti was growing up, she was imbued with the patriotic fervour of the time, as were many youth in Bengal (which was then the cradle of India’s freedom struggle and cultural renaissance). Her mother was a quiet pious lady and her brothers were members of revolutionary groups.
Bengal was full of revolutionary groups and service based nationalist groups which worked in many ways to oppose the British and serve the Indian people. Suniti was pulled towards revolutionary activities. It is said that her mind was deeply impressed by the stories of the exploits of the veteran revolutionary Ullaskar Dutta, who was a local hero in the district in which she resided.
She was recruited into the Jugantar Party by one of her classmates, Prafullanalini Brahma, and soon became the appointed leader of a group of female students. She became known amongst the revolutionaries of her district as a young tigress with startling ability. It was for this reason that she was one of the girls picked for armed training in the secret base nearby, where the use of a dagger, lathi and rifle were taught. Several girls underwent this training, but generally after their training, women revolutionaries continued working in the background for a service role in the movement, rather than direct action. Suniti however expressed a desire to be involved in fighting. Revolutionary leaders at the time also believed employing women to fight was a good idea because by this time many attacks had been carried out on British officials, and as a result, security had been greatly increased in Bengal. As it would be unexpected for women to be assailants, it would be easier for girls to duck security, as they would be less suspected.
On 14 December 1931, Suniti together with her friend Santi Ghose (her classmate) approached the notorious District Magistrate of the Comilla district of Bengal, Mr. Stevens, in his grand bungalow, with a petition for permission for a swimming club. When face to face with him, they fired. The first bullet from Suniti’s revolver shot Mr. Stevens dead. The girls, who were both 14 years of age at the time, were arrested and beaten very badly. They were remanded in custody and kept in very harsh conditions, yet they stayed cheerful the entire way through, always singing their hymns to the Motherland and laughing. It was expected that they would receive the death sentence, but on account of their tender age they received life sentences.
While she was in prison, she was kept in solitary confinement for large periods, and suffered greatly. Her old father’s pension was stopped and her two elder brothers were detained without trial. Hence her family was reduced to living on the brink of starvation. They bore their ordeal bravely, as children suffering on behalf of their captive Mother. Her younger brother even died from malnutrition.
After seven years, Suniti was released, as part of a deal where many political prisoners were released. With an undaunted spirit, she once again faced life full of struggle awaiting her in the outside world. She resumed he studies and became a doctor, carrying out an extensive private practice, including serving the poor who were unable to afford healthcare under normal circumstances. In 1947, the year of India’s independence and partition, she married Pradyot Kumar Shose, a well-known trade unionist.
We salute Suniti Choudhary – a fitting tribute to Hindu womanhood. It is sad that the land in which she was born, East Bengal, has now been separated from India and is now an Islamic state, and that the East Bengali Hindus, who have produced so many people who fought for INDIA’s freedom are now dwindling and persecuted in their ancestral homeland, by Islamic groups such as the Jamaat-i-Islaami. We appeal to Hindus who read this to take a greater interest in the plight of the Hindus who remain in Bangladesh.