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Surya Sen: The ‘Master’ Behind India’s Freedom Struggle

Surya Sen was better known as Master. He was popular by the name Master Da among his companions and followers. Master Surya Sen was a noticeable freedom fighter, mastermind, and hero of the Chittagong Armoury Raid. He first time arranged a countrywide non-co-operation movement. Later he was arrested and hanged by the British rulers.

He was born in Noapara, under Raozan Upozilla, in Chittagong. His father, Ramaniranjan Sen, was a teacher. Surya Sen joined a revolutionary movement for the first time in 1916 when he was a student of the Intermediate Class at Chittagong College. He was provoked by one of his teachers. He was appreciative of the maintenance of the flag of the revolutionary group Anushilon Samity. Later when Surya Sen went to Behrampore College for Graduation, he was inspired by the Jugantar group and their ideas.

After finishing his studies, he returned to Chittagong in 1918 and joined a school at the National School of Nandankanan. During that time, he formed a revolutionary group. That group was interested in armed revolution for Indian independence. The leader of the group was Surya Sen, and the members were Lokenath Bal, Nirmal Sen, Ganesh Ghosh, Ambika Chakraborty, Tarakeshwar Dastidar, Naresh Roy, Sashanka Dutta, Ardendu Dastidar, Harigopal Bal, Ananta Singh, Jibon Ghosal, Anand Prasad Gupta, Binod Bihari Chowdhury, Subodh Roy, Debi Prasad Gupta, Kalpana Dutta and Pritilata Waddedar and others. He organized Jugantar and became popular by the name of Master. He started to spread the revolutionary organization and spread it in several parts of the district by 1923.

In 1930 he formed a group of rebels to raid the weapon store of the British police and supporting forces in Chittagong. The plan included grabbing arms from the two store rooms of weapons in Chittagong and damaging all communication systems like telephone and telegraph office. Later they planned to attack the European Club to kill all the members. Because the majority of the club members were representatives of the British government were present there. Their main motto was to isolate the Chittagong district from the rest of the country, mainly from Calcutta. But in reality, the rebels were looting the arms, but they failed to find bombs and bullets. At last, they raised the national flag on the Armoury building, and they fled. The Chittagong Armoury Raid was organized on 18 April 1930.

On the next day of the armory attack incident, British rulers became aggressive in finding out the revolutionary group, including Master Da Surya Sen and his followers. The British police searched every nook and corner of the Chittagong. At last, after a few days, British police got some news about the independence activists. They trapped a large portion of activists with several thousand British troops near Jalalabad Hills adjoining Chittagong cantonment. That was on the afternoon of 22 April 1930. Twelve fighters and eighty troops died in that gunfight between British soldiers and the revolutionaries. Many activists were arrested, while Surya Sen and a few others managed to escape to the nearer villages and disguised themselves; few escaped to Calcutta. Few revolutionaries tried to accumulate their broken organization. They planned for their next attack. Their next attack was planned on 24 September 1932 at the European Club. The group leader was Pritilata Waddedar, and the members were Debi Prasad Gupta, Rajat Sen, Swadesh Roy, Subodh Chaudhury, Manoranjan Sen, and Phanindra Nandi. This plan also failed, and Debi Prasad Upta, Manoranjan Sen, Rajat Sen and Swadesh Roy were killed. Subodh Chaudhury and Phani Nandi were arrested. One woman was also killed in this attack. After this failed attack, revolutionaries also became aggressive and made several attempts. They killed almost 22 officials with 220 soldiers.

That time Master Da started his hiding life to avoid his arrest by the British rulers. He frequently moved from one place to another and disguised himself under a different profession. He took work as a farmer, or a priest, or a workman, or a house worker or even as a religious Muslim. But he was arrested because he trusted one person. During these days, he once took accommodation at the house of Netra Sen., But that person informed the British soldiers about Master Da’s hiding. Then the police came and arrested him. Netra Sen was also killed by a revolutionary before the British Government awarded him. He informed the British government of the ten thousand rupees. The revolutionary came into his house and killed him with a long knife called Dwaan in the local Bengali language. The wife of Netra Sen never revealed the name of his husband’s killer. That lady was a big supporter of Master Da and his mission.

Master Da Surya Sen was arrested from the Gairala village on 16 February 1933. The arrest of Master Da was a big success for the British Government. The British tortured him brutally. British soldiers broke all his teeth with a hammer and pulled his nails. They broke all his joints and pulled him with a rope. But the British failed to break Master Da’s mission and his wish. He wrote a letter to his friends and followers before his death.

He wrote, “Death is knocking at my door. My mind is flying away towards eternity …At such a pleasant, at such a grave, at such a solemn moment, what shall I leave behind you? Only one thing that is my dream, a golden dream-the dream of Free India…. Never forget 18 April 1930, the day of the Eastern Rebellion in Chittagong… Write in red letters in the core of your hearts the names of the patriots who have sacrificed their lives at the altar of India’s freedom.” On 12 January 1934, he was hanged with Tarakeshwar Dastidar at Chittagong Central Jail, Bangladesh. Sen was buried in the Bay of Bengal. Other members of the armory raid were on the mass trial, and the judgment was brought in 1932. Twelve offenders were sentenced to life banishment, two were sentenced to three years of jail, and the other 32 were released. After the arrest of Master Da Surya Sen, the Chittagong Revolutionary Group was almost destroyed.

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