Biography of some famous Freedom Fighters
A friend in Sore Need.
16th October, 1942. All hell were let loose. Rain and storm played havoc. The cyclone-driven sea-waves rose twenty feet high, caused breaches in the dyke and swallowed up a large part of Kanthi Sub-division. More than ten thousand people were swept away. Those who were swept away suffered less. The people, availing themselves of tree-branches, house-tops or narrow strips of highland, escaped immediate death, just keeping body and soul together, suffered intolerably. When the cyclone abated and the flood-water subsided, the land, mostly covered with thick mud, littered with corpses and carcasses, surrounded by dirty and stinking water, was hardly a place to live in. The woes of people with no shelter worth the name, scraps of food and no fresh drinking water were full to the brim.
A famine followed the flood on its heel. People lost their stores of food. Crops were totally damaged. The local administration was not only apathetic but it resolved to teach the disobedient revolting people of Kanthi a lesson. It imposed a ban on the local newspapers, seized bicycles and boats and made every attempt to sweep the news of the harrowing misery of people under the carpet so that the outside world might not realize the gravity of the situation and come to the rescue. According to a bulletin, secretly published, the cases of pilfering and snatching increased remarkably. In one case, a woman, not belonging to the riff-raff, was found stealing a small ground for her two children who at once started biting at it.
In this dire distress, Shyamaprasad Mukhopadhyay, the then Finance Minister of the Fajlul Hoque Ministry of Bengal, stood by the Kanthi people. Being apprised of the flood-situation by Trailokyanath Pradhan, twice he came to Medinipur and Kanthi, saw the state with his own eyes and raised a storm over it. On 16.12.’42, he tendered his resignation from the ministry. One of the reasons of his resignation was the repression in Medinipur carried on by the British authority. The repression, in his words, “resembles the activities of the Germans in occupied territories as advertised by the British agencies.” In this letter he refers to the reaction of the local administration to the flood-affected people – “The reports which I have received about the callousness and indifferences of some officers even after the cyclone perhaps find no parallel in the annals of civilized administration. The suppression of news of havoc by Government, and even of appeal to help, for more than a fortnight was criminal.”
During a visit of the flood-ravaged areas of kanthi, the Principal of Kanthi P.K.College and Prabodh Chandra Basu, who later made his mark in juvenile literature in his pen-name, ‘Prabuddha’, were the companions of Shyamaprasad. Prabodh Chandra was then a student of the P.K.College. According to his statement, he seized the opportutinity to appeal to Mr. Mukherjee, who was the Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University, for introducing the Honours course in Bengali in the college, and Mr. Mukherjee reacted favourably and took steps to do so. According to Mr. Basu, Kanthi students were like ‘blue- eyed boys to Shyamaprasad Mukhopadhyay.
Sudhir Chandra Das
Twentieth century was then seven years old. The Kanthi town was still young, sparely populated. Darua Maidan (ground) was a large sandy tract of land, full of ups and downs, covered with woods. It was still about fifty years away from the time when the the buildings of the Darua hospital complex would raise their heads. The village of Darua, with its scattered population, lay to the north of the present Hospital Road. Here at this time was born a child who was destined, with some others, to carry forward the good work initiated by Birendra Nath Sasmal,whom Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy called ‘The uncrowned king of Medinipur’.
The atmosphere :
November 16, 1907. Sudhir Chandra Das was born in a middle class well-to- do family of Darua. His father was Kedar Chandra Das and mother Sorojni Devi. The atmosphere of Bengal, specially of Medinipur, was emotionally charged. On 19th July, 1905, the resolution, regarding the partition of Bengal, was taken and the whole Bengal seemed to rise up in protest against it. In 1907, Sushil Chandra Sen, a mere boy, was sentenced, by Magistrate Kingsford, to fifteen stripes allegedly for assaulting a police sergeant. Two youths, Kshudiram basu and Prafulla Chaki, were sent to carry out the death-sentence, on this Kingsford, given by the revolutionaries. The attempt was miscarried, Prafulla killed himself on 2nd May, 1908, and Kshudiram was hanged to death on 11th August of the same year. This was the situation in which Sudhir Chandra was born and brought up.
Sudhir’s education began in the village elementary school. On completion of that stage, he got admission to the Model Institution of Kanthi, but, when Kanthi National School was founded on 7th March, 1921, Sudhir, then a student of class viii, got admission to it, leaving the Govt-aided Institution. In that year, ‘Union Board Boycott’ and ‘no-Tax’ movements started in Medinipur under the leardership of Birendra Nath Sasmal, and quite naturally Sudhir Chandra joined them. In 1924, he passed the Final Examination from Goudiya Sarba Bidyayatan of Kolkata founded by Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das.
Different roles he played in the movements :
Sudhir Chandra Das was a continious service. In all the movements –the Non-Co-operation Movement (1920-22), the Salt Satyagraha (1930-31), Civil Disobedience Movement (1932-34), The Quit India Movement (1942-44)-, he was always in the vanguard. When Gandhiji first came to Kanthi on 5th July, 1925, and addressed a huge gathering on the Darua ground, Sudhir was one of the organizers. During the 2nd phase of the Civil Disobedience movement, including that of refusing to pay tax and that of boycotting narotics, Sudhir Chandra, as the Secretary of the Kanthi P.S. Congress Committee, played an important part. When, in protest against the arrest of the political leaders including Gandhiji, the students of the Kanthi P.K.College and the High Schools boycotted their classes, and the town observed ‘Haratal’ ( no-work) on 20.o8.’42, Sudhir Chandra had a remarkable role in it.
His roles in politics cum social service :
During the second visit of Gandhiji on 30th January, 1945, he was the leader of the Volunteers’ Squad and also the Joint Secretary of the reception committee. Later the Volunteers’ Squad came to be known as the Azad hind birendra Force, and, under his dynamic leadership, it rendered great service to the political movement as well as to the distressed people. In order to boost up the morale of the people, who were subject to inhumar torture and, therefore, had reason to be cowered down, the Squad made route-march throughout the sub-division, specially throughout the sub-division, specially through places like Pitchhaboni, Sarishaberiya and Bhaintgarh, where some people fell victim to police-firing, raising altars to the martyrs, and paying homage to them. Whenever an epidemic like cholera broke out, the Squad was there to serve the ailing people.
His roles in social service cum politics :
In his student life, Sudhir Chandra was a member of the Malaria Prevention Committee which organized cleaning campaign in the locality, dug ditches to drain out the stagnant water and restored ponds full of water-weeds like hyacinth. As a reward of this social service, he got a never-to-forget prize- a copy of Gandhiji’s autobiography, My Experiment with Truth. For two years, from 1927 to 1929, he served the National School of Kanthi as a volunteer-teacher. In 1926, in memory of Gandhiji’s visit to kanthi, on Darua maidan he introduced Gandhiji Fair and Exhibition, which took place every year up to 1969, and then after a break it has been reintroduced. With the aim to ensure women’s participation in freedom movement in large number, he organized a training camp in the house of his uncle, Rohini Kumar Das. After the ’42-flood in kanthi, when the Congress organizations were banded in the area, Public Wlfare Society was organized with Natendra Nath Das as its President and Sudhir Chandra Das its Secretary. The jobs of the society were to carry on relief work, to arrange for getting the arrested freedom-fighters released, to from Defence Committees and to keep contact with friends in Kolkata like Shyamaprasad Mukhopadhyay.
Role in’Wake-up’ mission :
Sudhir Chandra thought of making use of the Magic Lantern, an apparatus for throwing magnified images of pictures ( cinema and video were still a long way off ), in order to wake up people to a common cause. With that end in view, he attended the training class conducted by Gnananjan Neogi in Kolkata. At the same time, he also learnt the art of colouring Khaddar ( cloth made of home –spun thread prescribed by Gandhiji for men and women to wear instead of imported cloth). The enlarged pictures of police-atrocities, shown through his Magic Lantern produced the effect on people that volumes of speeches could not have done. As a part of his publicity-campaign-mission, he also learnt the art of operating the cyclostyle machine, and secretly published a bulletin.
Rewards for his part in the movements :
Freedom-knights regarded suffering for the cause of their motherland as a reward. In this sense, Sudhir Chandra was rewarded with many feathers being added to his cap. In 1930, the police, getting wind of the printing press, raided his house in the dead hours of night, arrested him with his father, beat him mercilessly and sent him to prison for six months. For organizing a meeting at Darua, violating 144 P.C., he was arrested with Dr. Rasbihari pal and Nikunja Bihari Maity and eventually got a prison-term for six months. In 1935, he was confined in Medinipur Central Jail for one month. In the August movement of 1942, he was awarded a prison-term first for four months which was later extended for one year more.
Political Career :
The Congress like a Mother Organisation had all the revolutionaries of any shade or colour in its fold. In the early period of his life, Sudhir Chandra Das too sincerely carried out whatever duty the Congress high-command entrusted him with .But when in 1939, Subhas Chandra bose, breaking away from the Congress, formed the Forward Bloc, Sudhir Chandra Das with his mentor, Pramatha Nath Bandopadhyay, and some others built Kanthi Forward Bloc. Sudhir Chandra and Pramatha Nath attended the No-Compromise conference organized by Subhas at Ramgarh of Bihar. Significantly, both of them called on Subhas at his Elgin Road-House on 17th January, 1941, just two months before his escape from the internment. However, their relation with the Congress leaders and workers was never strained and they founded no difficulty in planning and executing the operations jointly.
Career after Independence :
After independence, the Congress formed governments both at the centre and in the states. But some leaders were disenchanted with the ways in which the government seemed be wooing the Capitalist ideas. One of these disillusioned leaders, Acharya Kripalani, left the Congress and formed a new party of the peasants and workers. Sudhir Chandra joined the Party, became the Secretary of its Sub-divisional unit, contested the Assembly seat from the Kanthi North constituency in first ever election in 1952 and won it. Thereafter, the party was renamed All India Praja Socialist Party, popularly known as PSP. As a nominee of this party, he won the Kanthi South seat in 1962, 1967, 1969, 1971 and 1972. Following the elections of 1969 and 1971, he became the Minister of the department of Animal Husbandry of the United Front Ministry.However, after the 1972 victory, he joined the Congress led by Mrs. Indira Gandhi.
Retired life and death :
In 1977, he retired from active politics and entirely devoted himself to social service. He founded a Junior High School at Darua, took the leading role in establishing a statue of Gandhiji in front of the Sub-divisional office, revived the journal ; Despran (named after the title by which Birendranath was called ), and as its editor, tried to make it an instrument for enlightening people. Then in 1991, on 25th July, at the age of eighty four, he died a death, most harmonious with the life he lived. He died in harness, in his uniform – white Khaddar ‘Dhuti’ and saffron ‘Punjabi’ while getting on to a ricksaw, on his way to the ‘Despran’ office at kanthi, he had a heart-attack, was taken to hospital, and from there was on a voyage to the world beyond.
A short evaluation :
As a political, Sudhir Chandra bore no ill-will towards anybody, never failed to show respect to leaders espousing a different political philosophy. As an M.L.A. and Minister, he was sincere and honest, never caring to feather his own nest. As a man, he was gentle, simple and sympathetic to all. He was a good speaker- his speech was based on logic, devoid of any filthy word. He liked literature, adored Rabindranath, narrowness, superstition and caste-prejudice were the last things for him to indulge in. By the way, it may be pointed out that a dumb Elderly Muslim maid helped in his house in everything and had free entrance everywhere. Sudhir Chandra’s life shows how to find the meaning of life through non-stop service to man and society.
Kshudiram Basu, the First Martyr of Bengal
Kshudiram’s task :
Kshudiram Basu, who smilingly espoused death by hanging on August 11, 1908, had spent the last few months of his short life in Kanthi Sub-division. He was inducted to the revolutionary organization, ‘Jugantar’ at the age of only seventeen, and by 1907 he had become not only an important worker but also one of the front-ranking organizers. By the ‘No-Compromise’ – faction of the organinisation of Medinipur, Kshudiram was entrusted with the task of carrying on a campaign for arousing the youth from hibernation in towns and villages of Kanthi Sub-division, and the task could not have been done more successfully.
Destination Sabang :
With Kshirode Narayan Bhunia of Ikshupatrika and Asutose Dey of Kisorenagar, Kshudiram first came to Janakpur on foot, in order to escape attention of the police, and then by train came to Balichauk and from there to Sabang, which was separated from Kanthi Sub-division only by the river, Keleyghai. On their way to Sabong, they halted in the house of Gajendra Nath Das at Jamana of Pingla where he trained some people of neighbouring villages in the art of staff-fighting and also collected some money for the revolution –fund.
To the Head Quarters at Mugberia :
From Sabong, crossing the ‘River of Sorrow’, Keleyghai, the trio came to the house of the landlord of Mugberia, Digambar Nanda, with whom Kshudiram had already been acquainted and who had a close connection with revolutionary organization of Medinipur. The house of Mr. Nanda at Mugberiya in Bhagawanpur P.S. of Kanthi Sub-division became the centre whence Kshudiram carried on his revolutionary activities in the adjacent areas of Pataspur and Khejuri, made sub-centres in many places. The Boycott movement in the area gained momentum. Volunteers, under his guidance and inspiration, raided the market-places on market-days and destroyed or set fire to lots of imported goods – cloth,glass-bangles, salt and sugar. In evenings he wandered, sometimes using ‘Ran-pa’ ( ‘fighting –legs’ made of long bamboo – staff that helped to traverse long distance in short time), from centre to centre training the local youth to use native martial arts like fencing, knife-fighting and mainly staff (Bamboo) – fighting.
Appeals made by volunteers, while chanting patriotic songs and slogans, created a lot of sensation and a wide-spread effect on people. At Pratapdighi, Mangalamaro, Patharghat and Pataspur, the boycott movement was especially effective.
Egra : (An incident of tiger-Taming).
A remarkable incident was brought about by Kshudiram at Hathnagar in Egra P.S. On the occasion of the worship of Lord Shiva with the advent of spring, a large fair is held there. Volunteers in squads would come there and offered their services to the visitors coming from distant places. Policemen too were posted in order to maintain peace and order. The policemen, as was their wont, were collecting tips by force from the visitors of the idol. Volunteers interfered and the constable had to stop the practice, but nursed the feelings of revenge. Near the temple, there was a big tank, called Krishna-sagar, where bathing for people was forbidden. One of the constables was bathing in the tank, perhaps, thinking himself above such petty laws, and a volunteer followed his example. The constable seized him and started beating him. Kshudiram came there, by chance,and the table was turned upon the constable. The staff seemed to fly off into the hand of Kshudiram and began to be applied on him. The fair-people higly enjoyed this tiger-taming.
Kshudiram’s skill :
Kshudiram’s name spread far and wide. Some experts in staff-fighting came to a sub-centre in order to learn a few tricks from Kshudiram. But at the sight of Kshudiram , underaged and apparently of no remarkable feature, they were frustrated and their frustration was perhaps betrayed by their demednour. Kshudiram challenged them, defeated five of them one by one, and then fought with two of them at the same time, but was never at the receiving end while his competitors had to receive quite a few blows. The men admitted Kshudiram to be expert of experts, saluted him and offered him a few staffs.
Final destination –the gallows via Majaffarpur :
When the call for an action – to carry out the death-sentence of Kingsford, then stationed at Majaffarpur, passed by Bengal revolutionaries –came to Kshudiram, he was at Kisorenagar, in the house of his comrade, Ashutosh Dey. Although neither the destination nor the target was disclosed, everybody understood that it was a grim business for which he was summoned. The Deys offered could serve him as a camouflage. That was the last of him to Kanthi people, who never forgot, will never forget the youngman who in the course of a few months made a palpable change in the attitude of people.
Pramatha Nath Bandyopadhyay
Contai and the Bandyopadhyay family.
Nineteenth century was coming to an end. The glory of Hijli sank in the sea in the 17th century ; the eminence of Khejuri was washed away in the recurrent cyclonic flood of the 18th century ; the prominence of Naigam alieas Negua, or Agrapattan, alias Egra was receding to the background leaving the centre-stage to Kanthi, pronounced Contai by the British masters. Its population was increasing with the sub-divisional office being transferred from Egra to Kanthi in the fiftieth decade of the century. A Government official, Yogendranath Bandyopadhyay came here on duty, found lodgings at Manoharchauk, adjacent to Barabazar , which was then the busiest part of the town, and settled here. His only son, born on the 16th day of January in 1885, was named Pramathanath .
Student-life & teaching career (first phase ).
Pramathanath, a brilliant student, was an alumnus of Kanthi High School, the oldest one in the town. From here he passed the Matriculation Examination and after passing the B.A. Examination he joined the Alma Mater- staff as an Assistant Teacher. When the Model Institution of Kanthi was upgrated to a high School in 1912, its Headmaster, Gajendra Guchhyayat, persuaded him to accept the post of the Assistant Headmaster of his school.
National School (teaching career-second phase):
In 1921, as a part of the Boycott movement, students were asked to leave the Govt. aided schools, which were nick-named ‘servant-making institutions’, and about 200 National Schools, following curricula with an eye to the need of the country, were established in Bengal. In Medinipur the first one was founded at Kalagetchhiya of Khejuri P.S. on the 1st March of 1921 and the 2nd one at Kanthi on the 7th March of the same year. Pramathanath left the Model Institution to take charge of the Headmaster of Kanthi National School. But, as he had to get more and more involved in the Boycott movement as a Congress leader, he gave up the job only a few years later.
Non-co-operation & Union Board Boycott movements :
The Non-co-operation movement started by the Congress throughout India, synchronizing with a local issue of the sub-division – grievance against the new policy of introducing a Union Board System-, made it vehement and all-pervading. Pramathanath, as the assistant of Birendranath Sasmal, contributed largely to its success. With his oratorical skill and patriotic songs, he mobilized people in favour of the No-Tax movement in the sub-division. At the beginning of the boycott movement, he shut down their large and profitable stationery and cloth shops at Kanthi, showing the sincerity of his purpose and setting an example for the dealers of foreign goods to follow.
New Union board & Pramathanath :
The movement against the Union Boards was crowned with success. The Government had to retrace its steps. It was forced to dissolve all the 227 Union Boards in the district. The village Self Government Act was amended. In recognisition of Pramathanath’s contribution, he was elected twice to the Local Board consecutively, in 1922 and 1925, and on both occasions he was the Chairman. Within the limited scope, he worked hard and brought in remarkable changes in spreading education, improving health service and constructing roads.
Communal harmony & Pramathanath :
But for the infamous British policy of ‘Divide and Rule’ and the role of some fanatics, communal problem could have been unknown in Medinipur villages. In 1971-72, out of the total population of 55 lakh in the district, 4 lakh 20 thousand were Muslims. Generally the Hindus and the Muslims lived like good neighbours, participating in the religious and cultural festivals of each other. However, the Congress Leaders were aware of the British policy and of the activities of bigots and trouble-makers seeking to fish in troubled water. Therefore, in Kanthi, as in some other places, Communal Harmony Committee was formed, in 1926, with Pramanath as its President and Basanta Kumar Das its secretary. Some other members of the committee were – Nikunja Bihari Maity, Iswar Chandra Mal, Bijoy Krishna Maity, Satish Chandra Jana, Taraknath Pal, Bhuteswar Parya and Ganesh Chandra Tala. The Muslim members were – Abdul Kaium Khan ( ex-student of Kanthi National School), a sincere Congress worker, Sayad Mainuddin Box and distinguished villagers, Aftab Ali Khan, Sk. Alauddin and Sk. Jalaluddin. To the credit of the Committee, not a single case of disharmony came about in the area in spite of instances of incitement and in spite of a riot breaking out at Khargapur in 1928.[ Facts given here are mostly taken from ‘Swadhinata Sangramie Medinipur’ by Basanta Kumar Das.]
Salt Law Violation movement & Pramathanath :
Salt Law Violation Movement is a mile-stone in the history of India’s freedom. ‘March to Dandi’ in order to produce law from sea-water violating the prohibitory British law was flagged off on 12th March, 1930. Kanthi started preparation for the historic occasion. Kanthi Salt Law Violation Committee was formed. The senior Congress leader, Pramathanath Bandyopadhyay, was its President, Satish Chandra Jana was the secretary and Dr. Prafulla Chandra Ghosh (from Kumilla Abhay Ashram) was the treasurer. The Committee, headed by Pramathanath, organized meetings and processions, collected money, enlisted more than a thousand volunteers and selected Pitchhaboni as the site for producing salt in defiance of the discriminatory unjust law. On 13th April, 1930, Pramathanath and Dr.Prafulla Chandra Ghosh were arrested from a meeting at Saraswatitala of Kanthi town and sent to prison for two years with an extra period of six months in case of non-payment of the fine of Rs. 300/-. However, the ground was well-laid and people’s sentiment was arousedto such a degree that the movement went on in the teeth of all sorts of intimidation, torture and firing to death. The Governor General Lord Irwin had to sign a pact with Gandhiji on 5th March, 1931. In consequence, all the arrested persons were released and Pramathanath too came out of Jail on the day.
Field of operation shifted to Kolkata :
Three District Magistrates of Medinipur, Mr. James Peddie ( 07.04.1931), Mr. Robert Douglas ( 30.04.1932 ) and B.E.G. Burge (02.09.1933), were killed in open daylight. The, British Government were wary. Pramathanath, being regarded as a potential threat, was expelled, along with some others, from the district. During this exile, he lived at Maniktola of Kolkata, ran a grocer’s shop for a living and for some time worked as a sub-editor of the ‘Basumati’, a newspaper of repute at the time. Then, as the Congress organizations in Medinipur were banned, an alternative organization, ‘Medinipur Workers’ Association was formed, and its Kanthi Unit, under Pramathanath’s guidance and influence, kept on working for popularizing ‘Khadi’, doing away with the practice of untouchability, mutual settlement of disputes, flood-relief and rehabilitation.
Change of path :
In 1935 the ban on Congress was lifted and Pramathanath came back to Kanthi. After being elected President of National Congress, Subhas Chandra Bose, while visiting Medinipur, came to Kanthi on 12th April, 1938, and Pramathanath was in his retinue with some other local Congress stalwarts Pramathanath was gradually losing faith in the non-violent movement under the Congress banner to win freedom for India. In 1940, with Sudhir Chandra Das, he attended the ‘No-Compromise Conference’, under the leadership of Subhas Chandra, held at Ramgarh of Bihar. On the eve of Subha’s famous escape from internet, on a mission to Europe in Quest of international help, Pramathanath, with his close follower Sudhir Chandra Das, met Subhas in his house in Elgin Road, throwing dust in the eyes of the British guards.
Kanthi Forward Bloc :
Pramathanath founded the ‘Kanthi Forward Bloc’ and the leaders like Sudhir Chandra Das, Balailal Das Mahapatra, the lawyer Natendra Nath Das, Koustav Kanti Karan, Bibhuti Bhusan Dinda, Aswini Kumar Maity stood by him. Pramathanath mobilized support for Subhas’s ideals, worked secretely for armed struggle and in the process lost one of his hands in an accidental explosion. In consequence, he was arrested and kept behind the bars till 1945. In spite of formally estranging himself from congress, he had high regards for Gandhiji and other Congress leaders. When on 30th December, 1945, Gandhiji was on his second visit to kanthi, Pramathanath was there to give a red-carpet welcome to the Messiah. For the purpose, with his comrades, he built the ‘Volunteers Squad’, which, after the departure of Gandhiji, was named ‘Azad Hind Birendra Force’ and he was its President. The Force had sixty centers in the sub-division, had a military traning given by a professional Chandan Singha and served both political and social purposes.
Post independence life and activities :
After independence, almost the whole Forward Bloc unit of Kanthi switched over to the Praja Socialist Party founded by Acharya Kripalani. As a PSP candidate, Pramathanath was elected MP from Kanthi constituency in 1957, defeating the Congress candidate, Basanta Kumar Das. As gradually his health deteriorated, he snapped ties with active politics and on 1st August, 1967, he passed away at the age of 83 years 6 months and 15 days.
A short evaluation of the Character :
Pramathanath was a man of sharp intellect, handsome appearance, sound and robust health and inexhaustible energy. His goals were to win freedom for the country and to find the society rich in education and culture, and to attain these ends he had in view, he worked all through his life. He was closely connected with the foundation of Kanthi Ramkrishna Mission Sevashram, one of the chief patrons of Kanthi hari-sabha and the Secretary of Kanthi Hindu Girls’ High School for years. Drama and literature were his passions. His acting in the role of Chanakya in the play Chandragupta carved a lasting name in the memory of people. The Saraswat Sammilani, which was for developing and spreading culture, and ‘Nihar’, a weekly magazine owed a lot to Pramathanath. In recognition of his contribution, the road that runs by his dwelling is named Pramathanath Banerjee Road and a satue of him has been placed at the point of the Hospital Road from where the P.B. Road has started.
Iswar Chandra Mal (05.03.1889 – 29.03.1963)
Kanthi – from a business center to a modern town and one of architects:
The history of the Kanthi town is not very long. Towards the end of the 18th century it was more a business centre than a residential town. When, on 1st January of 1852, Kanthi Sub-division was formed, administrative functions were conducted from negua or Egra. The offices were nominally transferred to kanthi in 1860, but it took a few years more to start full-fledged functioning from here. In 19th century and even at the beginning of the 20th century, it was a place without good communication or drainage system, infested with malaria and frequently raided by cyclone and flood. From that condition, it has now developed into a town furnished with all the modern amenities and facilities. Of the few persons whose tireless efforts have caused this metamorphosis, one is Iswar Chandra Mal.
Birth & early life :
On 5th March, 1889, Iswar Chandra was born in a poor family of Sarsa, a small village in Kanthi P.S. His father, Madhusudan Mal, died when he was only one and a half years old. The widow, Suryamoni, with the baby came back to her father’s house at Damodarpur in Kanthi Block – 1. here Iswar got his primary lessons in the village school. Thereafter he got admission to Kanthi Middle English School from where he passed the final examination obtaining highest marks in the district. Then, under the patronage of Bipin Bihari Sasmal, the elder brother of Birendranath Sasmal, he got admission to Kanthi High School and from there passed the Matriculation Examination scoring full marks in Mathematics.
Short of means, Iswar had to take up the job of a teacher, first at Kalagetchia and then at Haludbari. Then he was enrolled in Berhampore Krishnanath College which offered scholarships to meritorious students. Passing the F.A. Examination from there, he joined Kanthi High School as an Assistant teacher of Mathematics. Like Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, Iswar belonged to a new school of teachers who came down from the artificial platform of teachers and become the friend, philosopher and guide of there students withen and without the school-walls. Soon his popularity spread beyond the school-boundary,and, throughout the town and around, he came to be known as the ‘Mastermasai’, an appellation that stuck to him all through his life. When the National School was established at Kanthi in 1921, he joined its staff and took important roles with his students in the revolutionary activities that went on till India won independence in 1947.
Role in Movements :
In all the mass, movements – from ‘Non-cooperation’ in 1920-21 to ‘Quit-India’ in 1942- Iswar Chandra played key roles and his name was on committees with important assignments, political as well as social. In the Salt Law Violation Movement he was in charge of providing for the hundreds of volunteers coming from all the districts of undivided Bengal. He was arrested and jailed, and released only after the Gandhi-Irwin pact signed. In Iswar Birendra Nath Sasmal found a worthyally to carry on the movements against the partition of Medinipur district and ‘Union Board-Boycott Movement’ to glorious success. At the outset of Quit-India movement, he was arrested and released only in 1944.
‘The Vice-Chancellor of Kanthi’ :
As the Vice-Chairman of Kanthi Local Board as a member of the Provincial Government to which he was twice elected uncontested in 1937 and 1946 and as a member of the Board of Secondary Education in post-independence period, he rendered yeoman service for the cause of education in the area. He encouraged merchants and rich persons to found schools in areas, backward in education. He had a hand in establishing High Schools at Majilapur, Nayaput, Banamalichatta, Nachinda, Kanaidighi, Satmile, Baraberia and also Bhupatinagar Girls’ High School. He was a patron and adviser to a lot of schools. He was also instrumental in introducing the degree course into Kanthi P.K.College. Therefore, the men in the field of education called him ‘The Vice-Chancellor of kanthi’.
One of the Architects of modern Kanthi :
In 1926, Iswar Chandra was elected Vice-Chairman of the Kanthi Local board. Proliferation of primary schools, construction of roads and culverts, drainage and malaria prevention projects and the solution to drinking water problem made some headway. During Gandhiji’s second visit to Kanthi on 30th December, 1945, he got a link-road from Chandipur to Kakra constructed, with the consent and active co-operation of the villagers, in order to take Gandhiji in taxi from Erinchighat to Kakra. By virtue of being twice elected to the Bengal Provincial Government in 1937 and 1946, he had friends and acquaintances in key positions. With their help and with dogged tenacity, he got a master-plan, meant for preventing flood, prepared and got adequate Govt. aid to put the plan into effect. Besides, his contribution to the up-coming and flourishing of Kanthi Co-operative Bank, the bus syndicate, C.T.S., Contai Club etc. was unforgettable. This is why people called him one of the Architects of Modern Kanthi,.
Earthly assignment completed :
Iswar Chandra was careless about his own health. He contracted diabetes in 1954 and remained almost bed-ridden for the last few years of his life. On 29th March, 1963, he berathed his last in his Kisorenagar Lodgings in Kanthi. His earthly assignment was over.