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Portraying An Insurrection

Sabyasachi Dasgupta

By Manoshi Bhattacharya
HarperCollins, Delhi, 2012, pp. 360, Rs. 450.00


Manoshi Bhattacharya’s riveting book brings to the fore one of the most dramatic episodes in our freedom struggle, the Chittagong Armoury Raid. Bhattacharya’s book drawing upon an extensive array of sources skillfully depicts the circumstances which culminated in the attempted insurrection on 18, April, 1930. One would call it an insurrection, for the raid on the AFI Armoury and the Police Lines armoury was part of a larger plan to liberate Chittagong. Accordingly as Bhattacharya’s narrative largely based on facts and partly fiction portrays the revolutionaries led by the legendary Surya Sen or Master Da split themselves into simultaneous teams which attacked the Telegraph and the European Club in the hope of assassinating important European officials who usually chose to relax in the evenings there.   The revolutionaries as Bhattacharya’s narrative informs us were operating under the aegis of the IRA or the Indian Republican Army with Surya Sen as the pivot. Their well thought out plan ran into unexpected hurdles. For one, they could not locate the ammunition in the main armoury.The capture of sophisticated arms from the main armoury came to nought.The revolutionaries also failed to blow up the railway lines leading to Chittagong. They had not bargained for the presence of additional armouries in Chittagong from where the British could make good the loss suffered by the revolutionaries’ capture of the two main armouries.Soon things came to a pass where the best possible course for the revolutionaries was to disperse and then regroup in the hills surrounding Chittagong where they fought two epic battles at Jalalabad Hill and Badulla Pahar on 21-22 September,1930.   Bhattacharya describes the unflinching determination of the revolutionaries in the face of insurmountable odds. While a considerable number of revolutionaries were killed, many escaped to fight another day and would take part in a prolonged insurgency, the most militant phase of which lasted till 1934. This phase would end with the capture and hanging of Surya Sen in 1934, though the post-Chittagong Armoury raid is not really spelt out in detail in the book, apart from the immediate aftermath of the raid and the subsequent battles when the revolutionaries were on the run. The biographical sketches of the revolutionaries at the back of the book shed some cursory light on the post-1930 phase.   Bhattacharya tries to flesh out the various Indian and European actors in the Chittagong Armoury raid and brings out ...

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