A personal travel blog by Ms. Reetwika Banerjee
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Instead of hoisting flag in the morning as a usual routine task and then spending rest of the day just like another holiday, last year we thought of celebrating our Independence Day at Budibalam, commemorating one of the most significant chapters of Indian freedom movement concerning Bengal uprisings. It was a fantastic five-hour drive (270 km) from Kolkata along the Mumbai Road towards Orissa. 102 years back, it was right here, our five brave young revolutionaries entered into a fierce fight with the overpowered British army and unfortunately ended up in losing their lives for the nation.
Jatindra Nath Mukherjee, popularly known as Bagha Jatin (Tiger Jatin) as he had killed a man-eater Royal Bengal tiger with only a knife, was the mastermind behind the Indo-German Plot during first World War. He had developed a mutually beneficial relationship with the German government who had agreed to supply weapons and funds to support Bagha Jatin’s armed revolt against the British. However, due to an insider conspiracy, the information got leaked to the colonials. In order to prevent an immediate head-on clash, Bagha Jatin decided to seek a hideout till the German ammunition reach him.
Under the nocturnal cover of the monsoons, Bagha Jatin, along with his four key associates – Chittapriya Ray Chaudhuri, Jatish, Niren and Manoranjan Sengupta – clandestinely left for Balasore in the Bengal-Orissa border. They initially took refuge in the forested regions of Mayurbhanj district, later moved towards the Budibalam side as the German arms were supposed to land there through riverway. Unfortunately, English spies disguised amongst the German troops uncovered Bagha Jatin’s plans to the British which resulted in an immediate arrest warrant against the Indian revolutionaries.
By the time this information reached Bagha Jatin, it was quite late. The British army along with Bengal Police had already left for Balasore to catch hold of the mutineers. Meantime, they had also announced a monetary reward for the capture of five absconding Indian “dacoits” which instigated the local villagers too to participate in the fatal hunt.
It was 9th September 1915 – a heavy monsoon morning. Niren and Jatish were away in search of food inside the forest by the time the news came. Bagha Jatin had no means to connect with them and so insisted to wait for their return which delayed his escape by more than four hours.
Highly outnumbered by a well-armed battalion, the revolutionaries were chased down through the marshy forestland of Budibalam. It was a deltaic region with the Bay of Bengal at a striking distance. Totally cornered with no other option in hand, they finally decided to fight out the British with only a handful of leftover bullets and five Mauser pistols. Bagha Jatin’s companions wanted him to flee through the seaway while themselves giving him a cover from the riverside. Like a true leader, he refused the escape at the cost of his team.
The gunfire lasted for 75 minutes under torrential rains. But as their shells slowly ran out, Chittapriya Ray Chaudhuri died on the spot, Bagha Jatin and Jatish were mortally wounded, Manoranjan Sengupta and Niren were arrested to be hanged till death.
As we drove through the forested trench along Budibalam River, it ran a chill through our spine. Nothing could have been a better honour to the martyrs than to visit the blood-drenched lethal spot after 70 years of our independence, sit silently by the riverside of Budibalam on a similar rainy afternoon, commemorate a forgotten chapter of Bengal’s bravery, salute their mortal sacrifice for fellow countrymen and come back with a recharged heart.