Jatindra Nath Das was an Indian freedom fighter who was a member of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA). He was also a part of several other Indian independence movements such as the non-cooperation movement, which was initiated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1921. At the age of 29, Jatindra Nath Das died following a 63-days hunger strike in Lahore jail on 13 September 1929. Jatindra Nath Das demanded equal treatment for the Indian revolutionary prisoners as the European prisoners in Lahore jail.
Jatindra Nath Das was born on Thursday, 27 October 1904 (age 24 years; at the time of death) in Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India. His zodiac sign was Scorpio. Soon after finishing his school studies, Jatindra Nath Das went to Vidyasagar College, Calcutta, India, to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Parents & Siblings
His father’s name is Bankim Behari Das. His mother’s name is Suhashini Das. He had a younger brother named Kiron Das.
He was not married.
Jatindra Nath Das was born and brought up in a middle-class family in Calcutta. During his school days, he was a bright student who completed his matriculation in the first division. When Jatindra Nath Das was pursuing his school education, he got inclined towards revolutionary activities. He joined the Anushilan Samiti, a Bengali revolutionary group, soon after passing the school. When Jatindra Nath Das was seventeen years old, in 1921, he became a part of the non-cooperation movement, which was led by Mahatma Gandhi.
In 1925, he was arrested by the British police for his involvement in anti-British activities and was detained in the Mymensingh jail in Bangladesh. Jatindra Nath Das experienced the ill-treatment provided to the Indian revolutionary prisoners in jail by the British government. To demand improvement, Jatindra Nath Das went on a twenty days hunger strike following which the superintendent of jail apologised to Jatindra Nath Das and accepted his demands. Soon, Das gave up his hunger strike. During this period, Das learnt how to make bombs from Sachindra Nath Sanyal, who was a renowned Indian revolutionary. On 14 June 1929, Jatindra Nath Das was again arrested by the British authorities for his involvement in the Lahore Conspiracy Case, and this time, Jatindra Nath Das was sent to Lahore jail. At Lahore jail, he got upset by experiencing the miserable conditions of the revolutionary Indian prisoners, who were given unhygienic food to eat from a kitchen where a lot of rats and cockroaches were spotted roaming, and the uniforms of these Indian prisoners were very dirty and had not been washed for many days. There were no reading and writing facilities provided to the Indian prisoners as it was provided to the European and British prisoners. Jatindra Nath Das then decided to raise his voice against this discrimination in the jails, and on 13 July 1929, he went on a hunger strike. The British authorities used to beat up Jatindra Nath Das during his hunger strike, and they also tried to force-feed him. This force-feeding damaged his lungs and paralysed some parts of his body. The jail authorities decided to release him after monitoring his physical condition, but his unconditional release was rejected by the British government.
On 13 September 1929, Jatindra Nath Das died after 63 days of the hunger strike at Lahore Jail.
His funeral procession from the Lahore jail to Calcutta was led by Durgawati Devi, who was a woman revolutionary freedom fighter. Thousands of Indians gathered to attend his funeral procession, which was led in a train. Subhash Chandra Bose received the coffin of Jatindra Nath Das at Howrah railway station. His coffin was carried on foot from Howrah railway station to the cremation ground, which was two miles away. According to the media sources, it was one of the biggest funeral processions with the biggest gatherings in Indian history. In Kanpur, Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi and Jawaharlal Nehru led the funeral procession, and Kamla Nehru led Jatindra Nath Das’ funeral in Allahabad. The then Viceroy of India informed its London authorities about the death of Jatindra Nath Das. He said,
Mr. Das of the Conspiracy Case, who was on hunger strike, died this afternoon at 1 p.m. Last night, five of the hunger strikers gave up their hunger strike. So, there are only Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt who are on strike.”
A book titled “Profile of Martyr Jatin Das” stated that at the entrance of the Lahore jail, the photo of Jatindra Nath Das’ dead body was clicked on the evening of 13 September 1929 by The Tribune newspaper, and this photo was described that it was decorated with garlands and flowers. It mentioned,
After the photo of the dead hero was taken, the bier was bedecked with garlands and flowers. Jatin’s body was buried under a pile of flowers which were wet with scented water. Reclining on the big pillow was his head a mere skull. The bloodless face with the sunken cheeks and eye-balls deep down in the sockets bore traces of the death agony. It was easy to see that he had perished inch-by-inch.”
The photograph of Jatin’s dead body that shook the souls of the Indian people was printed in the Tribune newspaper the next day after his death, and this anger among the Indians forced the British Empire to change its policies to hand over the bodies of the revolutionaries to their kins. Reportedly, all the shops were closed from Lahore to Calcutta during Jatindra Nath Das’ funeral procession. A large number of people gathered to attend this funeral procession, and some were spotted showering coins on his dead body. Others spotted collecting these coins and heard saying that these coins would be used by them as ornaments for their children.
Soon after the death of Jatindra Nath Das, to protest against the Britishers, the Punjab Legislative Council leaders Mohammad Alam and Gopi Chand Bhargava resigned from their respective positions in the party. Motilal Nehru adjourned the Central Assembly to protest against the mistreatment provided to the Indian revolutionaries by the British government in jails. On the martyrdom of Jatindra Nath Das, the congress party leader Jawaharlal Nehru said,
Another name has been added to the long and splendid roll of Indian martyrs. Let us bow our heads and pray for strength to act to carry on the struggle, however long it may be and whatever consequences, till the victory is ours.”
The martyrdom of Jatindra Nath Das was compared with the sacrifice of Dadhichi by Subhash Chandra Bose. Bose stated that Dadhichi, a renowned mythological yogi, sacrificed his life to kill a demon, and Jatindra Nath Das died to uproot the British empire in India.
- He was also called by the nickname name Jatin.
- A day before the martyrdom of Jatindra Nath Das, on 12 September 1929, Muhammad Ali Jinnah delivered a historic speech in which he said that the soul of the man, who went on a hunger strike in Lahore jail, believed in equality and justice. he said,
The man who goes on hunger-strike has a soul. He is moved by that soul and he believes in the justice of his cause.”
- Several illegal detentions by the British government were opposed by many other renowned Indian freedom fighters soon after getting motivation from the hunger strike death of Jatindra Das in Lahore jail.
- Later, at the University of New South Wales, Australia, an associate professor of South Asian and world history, Kama Maclean mentioned in her book “A Revolutionary History of Interwar India” that Britishers stopped handling the bodies of the Indian revolutionaries to their families after the custodial death of Jatindra Nath Das in Lahore jail. She wrote,
Das’ death created a major impact on nationalist politics, as indicated on the first page of The Tribune. After this, the British stopped handing over bodies of revolutionaries to their kin.”
She continued that the funeral procession of Jatindra Nath Das caused a sensation in the press as the train that was carrying his dead body was stopped at major stations to be viewed by many. She wrote,
Jatin Das’ body was given to family, but the Bengal Congress took responsibility to repatriate him back to Bengal. The train stopped at major stations and the body was viewed by many. It caused a sensation in the press and all the way back to Calcutta.”
- During Das’ hunger strike, Kiron Das, the younger brother of Jatindra Nath Das, took care of him in the Lahore jail, and this was allowed by the British government.
- Later, according to Shiv Verma, who was awarded life imprisonment at Lahore jail and one of the comrades of Jitendra Nath Das, published a book ‘Samsmritiyan’ in which Shiv Verma mentioned the nature of Jatin Das as a serious-looking, sound, and soft-spoken person.
- Reportedly, when Jitendra Nath Das was on hunger strike, he never followed the advice of the doctors. Even, he refused to take medicines from them. He also rejected the advice of the renowned Congress party politicians, who tried to convince Jitendra Nath Das to stop his hunger strike. However, he took medicine at Bhagat Singh’s behest. Jatindra Nath Das was once asked by someone why he followed the instructions of Bhagat Singh. He then answered,
You know not how brave he is! I can never refuse his offerings.”
- Apparently, according to Jatindra Nath Das, the hunger strike was a revolt against British rule in India. As per his conversations with his revolutionary comrades, Jatindra Nath Das found the hunger strike much more difficult than a gunfight. He stated,
By declaring this hunger strike, we are jumping into a battle that will be hard to fight, harder even than gunfight. Creeping towards death inch by inch is more difficult than meeting death by the bullet or dying on the gallows. It will be against the dignity of revolutionaries to step back after jumping into the struggle. It is better not to join the struggle, than taking yourself back in the midway.”
- The Government of India issued a postal stamp of thirty paise with the name and picture of Jatindra Nath Das to honour his sacrifices in the Indian independence movements.
- The character of ‘Jatindra Nath Das’ was portrayed in the film ‘The Legend of Bhagat Singh’ by Indian actor Amitabh Bhattacharjee in 2002.
- ‘Immortal Martyr Jatin Das,’ a documentary film was released in 2009, and this thirty-five minutes story portrayed the sacrifices made by Jatindra Nath Das during the Indian freedom struggle.
- Later, in West Bengal, in memory of Jatindra Nath Das, a statue was established at Jatindradas Nagar to honour his sacrifices for the freedom of India.
- A research paper titled ‘How Empire Mattered: Imperial Structures and Globalization in the Era of British Imperialism’ concluded in its analysis that the death of Jatindra Nath Das due to prolonged hunger strike resulted in the resistance against the illegal detentions by the British government, and this led to many more hunger strikes in Deoli and Andaman Islands by the Indian revolutionaries. It further analysed that the British government found it difficult to justify the illegal arrests of thousands without any trials. It mentioned,
The hunger strike by Jatin Das in 1929 that resulted in his death was one crucial moment in the resistance against illegal detentions; hunger strikes in Deoli in 1932 and the Andaman Islands in 1934 and 1937 further exacerbated the public relations problem that the colonial government faced in justifying why they were keeping thousands in jail without trials.”