To name a street, park, bus station or railway station after a famous person is meant to honor their work and contribution. But, why is this honor mostly given to men? Almost every city, town in India and even abroad has a street named after Mahatma Gandhi. In India alone, there are more than 60 roads named after him.
But barring a couple of cases, hardly any street or place name will be seen in the name of women. Eastern Railway also followed this tradition for a long time. The station is named after him, to pay tribute to the sons of his soil.
However, in 1958, with a slight modification, the Indian Railways decided to pay tribute to a daughter of the country, and named a station in Howrah district (West Bengal) ‘Bela Nagar Railway Station’ after her. Bela Mitra became the first woman in Indian history to receive such an honour.
Netaji’s niece was the ‘Jhansi Rani’ of Bengal
Born in 1920 to an affluent family in Kodalia, Bela was known as Bela Mitra, Amita or Bela Bose. His father Surendra Chandra Bose was the elder brother of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Bela was the niece of the prominent freedom fighter ‘Netaji’.
Netaji has always been a source of inspiration for Bela and her younger sister Ila Bose. When Netaji was placed under house arrest in 1941, Bela played a major role in escaping him from there. At a very young age, Bela had associated herself with the freedom struggle. In 1940, leaving the Congress assembly in Ramgarh, he decided to join Netaji.
When the Indian National Army (INA) was formed, he commanded the ‘Jhansi Rani’ brigade. Her husband Haridas Mishra was also a revolutionary like her. He joined the INA as a Secret Service member and was later made the Chief of Intelligence.
For the country, lives were put at risk
Bela was sent to Calcutta (now known as Kolkata) to oversee the special operations of the INA. He was put in charge of under-radar communications with the Nationalist group. In one of these operations, the INA deployed a Secret Service team in India from East Asia to the North Eastern part of the country.
Haridas was a key member of this operation, but he was caught by the British government. Thereafter, Bela took over the command of this operation and was instrumental in making it a success. She supervised communications with the members, and also took charge of their deployment and accommodation. He even sold his wedding ornaments to send many prominent revolutionaries to a safe place.
In 1944, a secret broadcasting service was also established with his help. He led a team of radio operators and spies who set up their own transmitters and receivers to establish covert communications between India and Singapore. This channel was allowed to send messages for the exchange of important information between the two countries for almost a year. Bela used to handle all these tasks alone from Calcutta. Bela, one of the unsung heroes of the Indian freedom struggle, was an important part of the INA. He had risked his life for the country.
save husband from death
After the Second World War, her husband Haridas, along with three other revolutionaries, Pabitra Roy, Jyotish Chandra Bose and Amar Singh, were charged with sedition and declared anti-nationals. Subsequently, in 1945, he was arbitrarily sentenced to death. To save them all, Bela travels to Pune to seek help from Mahatma Gandhi.
She also wrote a letter to Lord Wavell, the Viceroy of India, to commute the sentence, and she eventually managed to get the death sentence commuted to life imprisonment. After independence, this punishment had no meaning.
Bela stayed away from politics
After India’s independence, Bela’s husband was released from imprisonment. Many other revolutionaries were released along with him. Subsequently, Jahan Haridas joined the Congress Party and was made the Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. At the same time, Bela decided to stay away from politics.
Instead of politics, Bela decided to help those affected by the violence caused by Partition. She always wanted to serve the public selflessly. He formed a social organization named ‘Jhansi Rani Relief Team’ in 1947 to help the refugees in West Bengal. Bela used to handle all this work.
His job was to heal the wounds on the mind and body caused by the social fabric of India that the people suffered during the partition. She was helping millions of refugees who came to India, displaced from East Pakistan.
continued till the last breath Service
Bela had also set up a refugee camp on the Beli Dankuni line of Abhaynagar. Here, she stayed to look after the resettlement of refugees from other countries. To pay tribute to his efforts for the homeless, Eastern Railway decided to rename the same Howrah Bardhaman Line railway station at Abhay Nagar where his refugee camp was earlier. She continued to serve the public till her last breath, in July 1952.
However, his story is still untouched and lost somewhere in the pages of history. People don’t know much about Bella. But still it cannot change the truth that he served the country by risking his life so that our future generations can breathe in a free and independent country.
Original article:- Ananya Barua
Editing: Archana Dubey
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