‘Every man dies, not everyone really lives – lines from movie ‘Braveheart’
The hunger strike of a young Bengali revolutionary shook the British empire and the impact was so great that it overshadowed prominent leaders of freedom struggle and compelled the British government to take up notice of the demands of Indian prison mates who were subjected to unhygienic food and poor living conditions. It was Jatin Das, the great revolutionary who fasted for 63 days in jail and stood up for Bhagat Singh’s ideologies till the last breath of his life. Sadly, today people either know very less or nothing about this young revolutionary who breathed his last after undergoing a hunger strike of 63 days. Who is to blame for this? The history textbooks or the corrupt politicians of the pre-independent India who termed Jatin Das, Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad as trigger happy outlaws.
During the freedom struggle, many Bengali youngsters plunged themselves in revolutionary activities and Jatindranath Das (27th October 1904-13 September 1929) was one of them. Bengali revolutionary Khudiram Bose’s sacrifice was an inspiration for several Indians to revolt against the barbaric British government. Jatin Das joined Anushilan Samiti, an active revolutionary group based in Bengal.
Jatin Das had also participated in Gandhi’s non-co-operation movement because he respected the ideologies of Mahatma Gandhi. The withdrawal of non-co-operation movement by Gandhiji shattered the hopes of several youngsters like Bhagat Singh and Jatin Das. The youngsters realized that freedom can’t be solely achieved by peaceful means. Slowly revolutionary groups started forming in all parts of India. Jatin Das had also been arrested for his political actions against the British in November 1925. Jatin Das went on a hunger strike of 20 days to protest against the biased behaviour of British police against the Indian prisoners. After his release, Jatin Das joined hands with HRA (Hindustan Republic Association) and learnt to make bombs through help of revolutionary Sachindranath Sanyal.
It was Jatin Das whose support in bomb making helped Bhagat Singh to hurl low powered bombs in legislative assembly and protest against the trade dispute bill and public safety bill. Later after the arrest of Bhagat Singh, all the revolutionaries including Jatin Das were arrested in Lahore conspiracy case.
Hunger strike and final martyrdom – The facilities for Indian prisoners were horrible in comparison to the aristocratic facilities provided to British prisoners. Bhagat Singh decided to undergo hunger strike to protest against the unhygienic conditions (unwashed clothes, kitchen infested with cockroaches) and demanded that they should be too given the same treatment as provided to British prisoners. Jatin Das also went on hunger strike on 15th June 1929 and this pain-staking hunger strike went on for 63 days. In this period, the British authorities used various methods to feed Jatin Das but he didn’t deter away from his hunger strike.
The conditions under which revolutionaries were undergoing hunger strike were in sharp contrast to the lavish feasts enjoyed by royal Maharajas and British officers. The impact of Jatin Das and his comrades’ hunger strike compelled the British government to bow and provide every facility demanded by Indian prisoners. Unfortunately the health of Jatin Das worsened due to this hunger strike. The beatings, torture and the long hunger strike of 63 days had taken a toll on health of Jatin Das. Jatin Das breathed his last on 13th September 1929. Though the demands of revolutionaries were fulfilled, Jatin Das didn’t live to see the success of hunger strike. Bhagat Singh had lost a great comrade and friend who had supported him in freedom struggle till the last breath of his life.
Durga Bhabhi (the widow of late revolutionary Bhagwati Charan Vohra) participated in the funeral procession which started from Lahore to Calcutta by train. Thousands of people were present to pay their last respect to this young revolutionary. Though Gandhi acknowledged the sacrifice of Jatin Das, he was completely against the ideologies of Bhagat Singh and his comrades.
Sadly there is no full-fledged biography or comic book based on this revolutionary that would tell the younger masses about the struggle and pain he underwent. It is an injustice that history has done on Jatin Das by not giving him the due, respect and honour he deserved for. Through this article, I have taken a small effort to circulate the story of this brave son of India who never bothered about worldly comforts and got perished for honour of nation.
In 2002 Hindi biopic – The legend of Bhagat Singh, the role of Jatin Das was played by Amitabh Bhattacharjee.
‘Another name has been added to the long and splendid roll of Indian martyrs. Let us bow our heads and pray for strength to carry on the struggle, however long it may be and whatever consequences, till the victory is ours’ – Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s praise for Jatin Das on his martyrdom.
Nation hasn’t forgotten you Jatin Das. Your sacrifice will always be an inspiration to us.