On September 13, 1929, a youth from Bengal gave up his life in a prison of Lahore fasting for 63 days.
The year 1929 was also when India’s freedom movement was getting the better of Gandhi. In 1928, Lala Lajpat Rai, who had an illustrious past in pre-Gandhian Congress, but like other Arya Samajists had become a Gandhian, succumbed to injuries from lathi charge at a Anti-Simon Commission rally in Lahore. The Bhagat Singh troika, in order to avenge Lalaji’s death, shot down the guilty police officer Saunders in broad daylight. Bhagat Singh escaped from Lahore and resurfaced on April 8, 1929, with Batukeshwar Dutt at Delhi’s Central Legislative Assembly, hurling two crude bombs and bundles of propaganda pamphlets.
Within days of Bhagat Singh’s arrest, police unearthed a house in Lahore used as a bomb making workshop. It followed a string of arrests like Sukhdev, Hansraj and Jaigopal; and further Shiv Verma, Rajguru, Vijay Singh and finally Jatin Das from Calcutta. This sensational event became popular as the Lahore Conspiracy Case that ultimately led to the execution of Bhagat Singh-Rajguru-Sukhdev on March 23, 1931.
But a year and half before Bhagat Singh trio, Lahore Conspiracy Case, claimed another victim viz Jatin Das. He laid down his life in a Lahore prison in Gandhian fashion. But Gandhi’s attitude towards him was more cold and intriguing. Subhas Bose, who admired Jatin Das wrote, “Jatin Das was twenty-five at the time of his death. While a student he had joined the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1921 and had spent several years in prison. At the time of the Calcutta Congress in 1928 and after, he had taken a leading part in organising and training volunteers…” (pp 179-80). Whether at Cellular Jail (where Savarkar stayed) or Mandalay (where Bose was incarcerated) Britishjailers treated extremist political prisoners as harshly as any murderer or robber. In June, arrestees of Lahore Conspiracy Case decided to go on hunger strike to protest against atrocities. Though Jatin Das did not initiate that hunger strike, nonetheless he stopped them from deserting. The hunger strike aroused intense agitation in the country, but little softened the heart of the British authorities.
Bose chronicled subsequently, “As the days rolled by, one by one the hunger-strikers dropped off, but young Jatin was invincible. He never hesitated, never faltered for one small second but marched straight on towards death and freedom. Every heart in the country melted but the heart of the bureaucracy did not. So Jatin died on September 13th. But he died a martyr’s death.
After his supreme sacrifice, the whole country gave him an ovation which few men in our recent history have received. As his body was removed from Lahore to Calcutta for cremation, people assembled in their thousands and tens of thousands at every station to pay their homage” (p 179).
Bose wrote, “In this connection, the attitude of the Mahatma was inexplicable. Evidently, the martyrdom of Jatin Das, which had stirred the heart of the country, did not make any impression on him. The pages of Young India ordinarily filled with observations on all political events and also on topics like health, diet, etc., had nothing to say about the incident. A follower of Mahatma, who was also a close friend of the deceased, wrote to him inquiring as to why he had said nothing about the event. The Mahatma replied to the effect that he had purposely refrained from commenting, because if he had done so, he would have been forced to write something unfavourable” (p 180).
When will the Nation Give Him His Due ?
Source : Daily Pioneer