Chittaranjan Das is a name that hardly anyone is unfamiliar with in the Indian freedom struggle. People affectionately called him ‘Deshbandhu’. Chittaranjan Das was born in Calcutta (now Kolkata) on 5 November 1870 in an upper middle class family. His father, Bhuvan Mohan Das, was a well-known lawyer of the Calcutta High Court and mother’s name was Nistarini Devi.
Nothing can match the role that Chittaranjan Das played in freeing India from British rule as a lawyer, politician and journalist. This is the reason that Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose considered him as his political guru, then Gandhiji called him ‘Mahatma’.
Chittaranjan Das wanted to become an ICS officer after completing his graduation from Presidency College, Kolkata in the year 1890. But they did not get success. After this he went to England to study law.
After studying law from ‘The Honorable Society of the Inner Temple’ in London, he returned to India in 1892 and started practicing in the Calcutta High Court.
Aurobindo Ghosh’s case changed life
Actually, this thing is from the year 1908. Then the British government arrested Aurobindo Ghosh, the great revolutionary and editor of the English newspaper ‘Vande Mataram’, as an undertrial prisoner in connection with the ‘Alipore Bomb Case’.
Chittaranjan Das selflessly came forward to his rescue. He did not take any remuneration for fighting this case, but on the contrary, took all the cost of the case.
Because of this case, Chittaranjan Das’s fame spread throughout the country and in 1910, after his release from prison, Aurobindo Ghosh said, “Unexpectedly, that friend of mine appeared. You have all heard his name. Those who have left all their cases without worrying about themselves. Worked day and night for my case for months. The one who spoiled his health to save me, his name is Chittaranjan Das.
After this, he also saved many others including Anand Bazar Patrika and Vipin Chandra Pal from the oppressive policies of the British.
However, Das had joined the Congress by 1906. But after being elected as the President of the Provincial State Council of Bengal in 1917, he became fully active in politics. In the same year, Das’s efforts led to Annie Besant being elected as the first woman president of the Congress at the Calcutta session of the Congress.
Das was known for his radical views and policies. After the end of the First World War, when the freedom fighters of India felt that the British rule would make some constitutional reform here. But, in 1919, the oppressive Rowlatt Act was presented to the public.
Under this law, the magistrate was given the power to arrest and prosecute any suspicious person. But Gandhiji launched a nationwide movement against this law and laid the foundation of ‘Satyagraha Sabha’ in Mumbai (then Bombay).
This effort of Gandhiji got full support of Chittaranjan Das and in 1921 he left the practice and toured the whole country. Let us tell you that he donated everything to strengthen the freedom struggle.
Since, many students left their school-college during Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement. Das started the ‘National School’ in Dhaka (now Bangladesh) for his education. During this movement, he not only mobilized a large number of volunteers for the Congress, but also promoted the Khadi sales campaign of the party.
During this he was arrested along with his wife Basanti Devi. She is believed to be the first woman to be arrested in the non-cooperation movement. She was highly respected for the freedom heroes and Subhash Chandra Bose considered her as his mother. She along with Chittaranjan Das remained in jail for six months.
In 1921, when Das was in jail, he was elected the President of the Ahmedabad session of the Congress. In such a situation, Hakim Ajmal Khan took the responsibility as his representative. Das was again elected president for the Gaya Congress session in 1922. But by now he understood that some different efforts were also needed to shake the foundation of the British rule and he rejected this position.
After this, in 1922, the Chauri Chaura incident shook Gandhiji from inside and he decided to suspend the non-cooperation movement, seeing the movement’s direction deviating.
After this, the British government declared this movement illegal and arrested Gandhiji for six years. After the arrest of Gandhiji, all the freedom fighters were disillusioned and there was a disintegration in the Congress.
Establishment of Swaraj Party
Chittaranjan Das believed that if the British were to be weakened, Indians would have to be elected by the people and join the government. So that they can boycott the repressive policies and increase the pressure on the government. In general terms, he made the Legislative Councils his weapon.
But the Congress did not approve of his strategy. As such, Das parted ways with Motilal Nehru and some other party allies and started the ‘Congress Khilafat Swaraj Party’ on 1 January 1923. He was the President of the party and Motilal Nehru General Secretary.
Later, it was named as Swaraj Party. Under this, the goal of Chittaranjan Das was to promote self-government, civil liberties and local industries in the country. Then, in the Central Legislative Assembly elections, the party emerged as the single largest party in several provinces of Bengal and won 42 out of 101 seats.
Thereafter, he was elected as the head of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation during 1924-25 and in the same election Subhas Chandra Bose was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer.
Awakened light through writing
Chittaranjan Das was rich in versatility. He was a good leader and lawyer, as well as a good writer. He operated the monthly magazine “Narayan” for a long time and promoted religious renaissance. Which was very important for independence at that time.
Along with being in the founding circle of the English paper ‘Vande Mataram’, he also started the Bengal Swaraj Dal mouthpiece ‘Forward’. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was the editor of his newspaper. Later this newspaper became famous as ‘Liberty’.
Apart from journalism, he also composed many poetry books like Sagarsangeet, Antaryami, Kishore Kishori and his another book ‘India for Indian’ became very popular. He also translated his composition Sagarsangeet into English under the name ‘Songs of the Sea’ along with Aurobindo Ghosh.
At that time the political life of Chittaranjan Das was at its peak. But under the burden of work, his health started deteriorating. In the year 1925, he went to Darjeeling for health benefits. During this Gandhiji also came to meet him. But he could never recover and on 16 June 1925, this great son of the country said goodbye to the world due to high fever.
His last journey took place in Kolkata, which was led by Mahatma Gandhi himself. After Deshbandhu’s death, Gandhi said, “He was a great soul. He had only one dream. Dream of independent India. In his heart there was no difference between Hindus and Muslims. I want to tell the British government that Deshbandhu did not have any wrong feelings towards him.
After independence in 1947, ‘Chittaranjan Das National Cancer Institute’ was started in his residential premises in Kolkata, and today the Mother and Child Protection Center is run by the state government at his residence in Darjeeling. Also, there are many schools and colleges named after him.
Editing – G N Jha
Also read – Five women of Northeast India, who have a significant contribution in history
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