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Who was Pritilata Waddedar?

The name ‘Pritilata Waddedar’ is the name of a bright star in Bengali consciousness. On Saturday 24th September, the countrymen paid tribute to the hero Pritilata Waddedar on her 90th martyrdom day. On this day in 1932 during the attack on the European Club of Chittagong, this brave comrade of Master Da Surjosen was martyred. We all more or less know the name of this heroine, but do you know who was Pritilata Waddedar?

Pritilata Waddedar was born on Tuesday 5th May 1911 in Dhalghat village of Chittagong. Her father was Jagadbandhu Waddedar, Head Clerk of the Municipal Office, and her mother was Pratibha Devi. Among their six children (Madhusudan, Pritilata, Kankalata, Shantilata, Ashalata, and Santosh), Pritilata was the second child and the eldest daughter. Dasgupta was the original surname of their family. However, one of their ancestors received the title of “Wahededar” during the Nababi period,from this Wahededar comes Waddedar or Waddar.

Pritilata’s first educational institution was Dr. Khastagir High School for Girls. She started her primary education in 1918 at this school. All the teachers loved her for her good results. One of those teachers was a history connoisseur, who used to tell Pritilata the story of Jhansi’s queen Lakshibai’s fight with the English soldiers in male guise. Also, her close school friend was Kalpana Dutta, another later revolutionary.

Then when Pritilata was passing through childhood and entering adolescence, the revolutionaries of Chittagong were becoming active after Mahatma Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement. Meanwhile, on December 13, 1923, members of Surjo Sen’s revolutionary organization looted 17,000 rupees carrying government employees’ salaries at the Tiger Pass junction in broad daylight. Then, about two weeks after this robbery, the police raided the hideout of the revolutionaries during a secret meeting and arrested Surjo Sen and Ambika Chakraborty during the fight. A case of railway robbery was registered against them. This incident raises many questions in the mind of Kishori Pritilata. By talking to Ushadi about this, she gets to know a lot about the case in detail, as well as the revolution, its purpose, and struggle, and reading the book “Rani of Jhansi” given by Ushadi, the biography of Rani Lakshibai leaves a deep impression on her.

Shortly thereafter, in 1924, an emergency law called the Bengal Ordinance began to arbitrarily arrest revolutionaries. Many leaders and members of the Chittagong Revolutionary Party were also arrested in this act. Among the students and youth of the revolutionary organizations who were outside, they hid their weapons, bicycles, and books. Purnendu Dastidar, a worker of such a revolutionary party, was a close relative of Pritilata. He kept some secret books from Pritilata. Pritilata was a class 10 student at that time. Those books are Yaksha’s treasure to her, she secretly read “Desh Katha”, “Khudiram”, “Bagha Jatin” and “Kanailal”. All these books further inspired Pritilata to the ideals of the revolution. Then one-day Pritilata told her brother Purnendu Dastidar about her deep desire to join the revolutionary organization. But till then women members were not accepted in the revolutionary party. But Dada Purnendu Dastidar did not have the strength to reject the conviction of Pritilata. After that Pritilata was gradually initiated and the revolutionary passed through many events until 1932 came into her life.

At that time, the European Club near Pahartali station in the north of Chittagong city was the favorite entertainment center of the British. Guards were stationed around the club surrounded by hills. No natives could enter the club except whites and club employees. The signboard in front of the club read “Dogs and Indians Prohibited” in large letters. Englishmen used to come to this club from evening onwards to drink, dance, sing and have fun. The revolutionaries tried to attack there repeatedly but failed. Then Master Da Surjosen decided to attack the club again in September 1932 and the leadership of this attack fell on the women’s revolutionaries.

On 24 September 1932, the day of the attack, Pritilata was dressed in a quilted dhoti and Panjabi, a white turban on her head, and rubber-soled shoes. Kalikingkar Dey, Prafulla Das, Bireshwar Roy, and Shanti Chakraborty also took part in the attack on that day – they were wearing dhoti and shirts. On the other hand, Mahendra Chowdhury, Sushil Dey, and Panna Sen wore lungis and shirts. They started attacking the club only after Yogesh Majumdar, the harbinger of the revolutionaries, signaled the attack.

About forty people were staying in the clubhouse at that time. The revolutionaries split into three groups armed with firearms and began attacking the club. Pritilata, Shanti Chakraborty, and Kali Kingkar were at the eastern gate, carrying Webley revolvers and bombs. At the south door of the club were Sushil Dey, Vireshwar Roy, and Mahendra Chowdhury with Webley revolvers and 9-bore pistols. And Panna Sen and Prafulla Das started the attack from the north window of the club with rifles and hand grenades. After Pritilata blew the whistle and ordered the attack to begin, the entire club was rocked by frequent gunfire and bomb blasts. Everyone started running around in the dark as all the lights in the clubhouse went off. A few English officers inside the club, armed with revolvers, also started retaliating. One of the officers was shot on the left side of Pritilata.

After the attack ended on the order of Pritilata, she came forward some distance with the revolutionary party. But in the end, Pritilata fell down to the ground. She gave her revolver to the Kalikingar and ordered them to go to their designated place. Shortly after they leave, they find the British police coming toward her and she will be caught. At that time she poured the potassium cyanide she had with her into her mouth. This is how the queen of Chattola, the heroic daughter Pritilata Waddadar, committed suicide on September 24, 1932, for the country.

The European club on that hillside is now known as ‘Birkanya Pritilata Museum’. Although it is still used as the office of a divisional level engineer of the Railway Eastern Zone. After the British left in 1947, the semi-paved house was handed over to the Pakistan Government Railways, which is still using the railway. In September 2012, a ‘Veerakanya Pritilata Sculpture’ was unveiled in front of the European Club, where Pritilata committed suicide, funded by the Chittagong City Corporation. This bust of Pritilita was made in copper by Calcutta sculptor Gautam Pal. In addition, Pritilata Cultural Complex has been built at the cost of 4 crore takas in Dhalghat village of Patiya, the birthplace of Pritilata. In front of the beautiful complex, there is also a bust sculpture of the heroine Pritilata.

Heroine Pritilata Waddedar did not hesitate to sacrifice herself for the country, for her fellow soldiers, and for freedom. Her self-sacrifice teaches us to love our country selflessly. We will never forget her self-sacrifice.

Habiba Sultana

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