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Nationalism

A 14 year old girl assassinated a British officer, faced trial and went on to become a famous doctor of Independent India

The year was 1930. The British Police were trying to suppress The Civil Disobedience Movement with utmost brutality. A young girl in her teenage witnessed the struggle and valour of the freedom fighters and decided never again to be afraid in her life.

At 14, she shot a tyrannical British magistrate, subjected to a historic trial, and underwent seven years in imprisonment. Later, in independent India, she became a doctor.

The girl was Suniti Choudhury, the youngest female revolutionary of India.

When she was in school, Prafulla Nalini brahma her immediate senior inspired her to jump into freedom struggle. And provided her with revolutionary literatures.

“Life is a sacrifice for the Motherland”—these words of Swami Vivekananda shaped her future.

Suniti became the Major of the District Volunteer Corps. She led the parade of girls when Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was in town to address the student organisation. Prafulla Nalini asked Bose about his thoughts on the role of women in the revolutionary movement. Without a pause, Nethaji replied, “I’d be happy to see you in the front row.”

Meanwhile, ‘Chhatri Sangha’, the female wing of the affiliated to ‘Yugantar’ was training young girls, to pass on information, papers, arms, ammunition, and money, for the revolutionaries.

However, Prafulla, Santisudha Ghose, and Suniti Choudhury demanded more effective responsibilities—to stand equal to the boys!

When some of the senior leaders expressed their doubts Suniti firmly said, “What good is our training if we shy away from real action?”

Their practical training began under the supervision of Akhil Chandra Nandi, president of the Tripura Students’ Organisation. They skipped school, sneaked out to the Maynamati Hills away from the dense town, and fired practice shots.

The key challenge for them was to manage the back kick of the revolver. Suniti’s index finger did not reach the trigger properly, but she was not ready to give up. She used her long middle finger to fire her lethal shots from a small revolver.

Their target was the District Magistrate Charles Geoffrey Buckland Stevens, he was brutal in approach to destroy the Satyagraha. He had harassed every non-violent Indian who raised a voice. He would molest young girls under the pretense of body searches for weapons.

At 10 am on 14 December 1931, a carriage stopped before the District Magistrate’s bungalow. Two teenage girls descended from it, giggling, brimming with excitement. Both had a silk wrapper around their saree. The coachman drove off, even before they could cross the long corridor.

The girls gave an interview slip and the Magistrate came out, along with Sub-divisional Officer (SDO) Nepal Sen.

Stevens glanced at the letter passed to him. The girls, Illa Sen, and Meera Devi as per the signatures, were appealing to the Magistrate for a swimming club. Illa also identified herself as being the daughter of a police officer to win over his trust. They requested Stevens to sign the letter as a reference. He went to his chamber, and soon returned with the signed paper.

That was his last move before the shots rang through the house. The notorious magistrate’s last sight was the two girls, now without the silk wrapper, pointing two revolvers straight at his heart.

people gathered to capture the two teenagers, Santi and Suniti did not even tried to defend the heavy thrashing.

They came prepared for all the upcoming torture, so they were not going to break under beatings or speak a word about their secret organisation.

The news spread like wildfire.

The revolutionaries distributed pamphlets about the brave girls. The photograph of Suniti in her Major’s uniform, had a single line written beneath it—Rokte Amar Legechhe Aaj Sorbonasher Nesha—The burning desire of destruction rages is  running in my blood today.

When the trial began, the courtroom was struck in disbelief over their appearance. they turned their backs to the judge and all other court members because they were not given chairs to sit.

When SDO Sen came as a witness and started cooking up stories, they shouted “Great Liar! Great Liar!” so loud that the courtroom was in mayhem. the two little girls had no fear of court.

They were no more smiling when the verdict was out. The audience saw a different side of them, they were depressed with disappointment. It was lifetime imprisonment.

They were not depressed because it was life imprisonment but because they missed chance at martyrdom. They were heard on the way, fuming, “This should’ve been a hanging! Hanging should have announced!” even news reporters were stunned by this act.

Prafulla was suspected as the chief conspirator and thrown into jail. Later, she was under strict house arrest, where after five years, she died from lack of medical care.

Santi was kept in second class with the other revolutionaries, while the younger Suniti was pushed to the third class, with the thieves.

They were treated wuth zero human rights. No good food or clothes were given to then. Suniti was regularly hearing about the police atrocities on her parents and, how her elder brother was arrested. The news of her younger brother’s death from sickness and starvation, reached Suniti but failed to break her calm resolve.

The ordeal ended on 6 December 1939. The amnesty negotiations before the Second World War caused their release. By then, Suniti was 22—a woman without formal education, with only her brother to help.

But the revolutionaries never quit.

She started over and, put all the efforts in her studies, passing in the first division of the pre-university course (ISc) from Asutosh College. She carried on to Campbell Medical School for the Licentiate in Medicine and Surgery (LMS) and finally secured admission in Calcutta Medical College in 1944. After completing the MB (now MBBS), she married Pradyot Kumar Ghose, another activist and former political prisoner, her brother’s friend.

Suniti’s quickly became a reputed doctor in Chandannagar, where the people lovingly called her “Lady Maa”.

Suniti was not only financially independent, but also helped her brothers in their business. Her skill and compassion made her a great doctor.

She died January 12, 1988. She had left behind a legacy of patriotism, bravery, kindness, and inspiration.

Dr Sindhu Prashanth

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