A Glimpse into the Life and Works of Indian Revolutionaries – Pritilata Waddedar

By Unknown – Directorate of State Archive, East Bengal, Kolkata.Commons uploader: Rahat Rahim, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27427865

When the British took over India’s governance, they didn’t just strip us of the independence of our country, but they also stripped us of our self-respect. The English reserve all posts of importance and authority for themselves and they often treated us in a condescending manner. One of the most insulting displays of such behaviour was the use of a signboard which said: Dogs and Indians Not Allowed. It was almost natural for us to be outraged about it. What followed was a greater insult – the death of a revolutionary who chose to torch the club which used this sign.

Pritilata Waddedar was born on May 5, 1911. In Dalghat Village in Chittagong which lies in modern-day Bangladesh. She was one of the six children of Jagabandhu Waddedar, a clerk at the Chittagong Municipality and Pratibhamayi Devi, a housewife. Pritilata was nicknamed Rani. She was schooled in Dr. Khastagir Government Girls’ School, Chittagong. After completing school in 1928, she took admission in Eden College, Dhaka in 1929. For higher education, she travelled to Calcutta and studied in Bethune college. She graduated in Philosophy with distinction, however her certificate was withheld by the British.

She returned to Chittagong and joined Nandankanan Aparnacharan School as headmistress. She met Surya Sen in June 1932, and decided to join the Indian Independence Movement. While there were early objections to women actively taking part in armed resistance, Surya Sen saw it fit for women to join the group since they can transport arms with lesser suspicion. She actively took part in several raids alongside Surya Sen.

They raided Telephone and Telegraph offices, captured the reserve police line and Pritilata supplied explosives to revolutionaries. In the same year (1932), Surya Sen planned an attack on the Pahartali European Club which had a sign that read, “Dogs and Indians not allowed”. He felt that a female leader would be apt for the mission. Kalpana Dutta was chosen to head the attack but she was arrested a week before the attack. This put Pritilata in the lead for the attack.

Pritilata went to Kotowali Sea Side where she trained for the attack. All members of the attack party were given potassium cyanide so that they can kill themselves to avoid arrest. Dressed as a Punjabi male, Pritilata and her associates reached the club at around 10:45 pm. There were 40 people in the club. The revolutionaries started setting the club on fire. The few policemen in the club who had guns started shooting at the revolutionaries. Pritilata was injured by a bullet.

While the rest of her team successfully evaded the police, Pritilata was trapped. She swallowed cyanide to avoid arrest. The post-mortem revealed that the bullet injury was minor and the cause of the death was the cyanide. Waddedar Primary School in Chittagong is named after this courageous revolutionary who gave up her life in a bid to secure the respect of her countrymen.

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