It was the time of Civil Disobedience Movement in India. The year was 1930. A teenage girl, probably like every other girl from an ordinary middle-class family, was witnessing the movement at its peak, with all its processions and arrests of men and women. This unrest and her other revolutionary schoolmates were what went into the making of the youngest revolutionary woman of India, Suniti Choudhury.
Suniti Choudhary was born on 22nd May 1917, in Comilla district of West Bengal (presently Bangladesh). She went to Foyjunessa Balika Vidyalaya in Comilla for school.
Choudhury was influenced by the revolutionary activities of Ullaskar Dutta, who was a revolutionary from Comilla too. Around this time, Prafulla Nalini Brahma, who was her immediate senior at Faizunnisa Girls’ High School, also became a great influence on Choudhury. She mentored her and also supplied her with the books and the revolutionary literature banned by the British. Choudhury’s beliefs were shaped by Swami Vivekanand’s famous words—“Life is a sacrifice for the Motherland“. Suniti was also recruited to the Jugantar Party by her. She also joined the Tripura Zilla Chhatri Sangha, the female wing of the organisation, affiliated to Jugantar.
Suniti Choudhury was made 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. Choudhury was selected as the Captain of the Women’s Volunteer Corps in the Annual Conference of Tripura Zilla Chhatri Sangha, held on 6 May 1931. During this time, she was known by the alias of ‘Meera Devi’. She was selected as the “custodian of firearms” and was in charge of training female members (of the Chhatri Sangha) in lathi, sword and dagger play.
Suniti was made 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.
While Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose met the girls at the end of the conference, Prafulla Brahma asked his opinion about women’s involvement in direct revolutionary action. In reply he said, “I will be pleased to see you peoples in front rank“. On being requested by Shanti Ghosh to give his autograph, Subhash Chandra Bose wrote, “To preserve your, honour, take up arms yourselves, YE MOTHERS“
Meanwhile, ‘Chhatri Sangha’, was training young girls, while the smartest and bravest of the trainees passed on information, papers, arms, ammunition, and money, for the revolutionaries. However, Prafulla, Santisudha Ghose, and Suniti Choudhury demanded more effective responsibilities. They wanted their responsibilities to be equal to that of boys. This naturally raised questions by some of the senior leaders on the purpose of girls taking up arms. When this happened, Suniti retorted, “What good is our current dagger-and-stick play, if we shy away from real action?”
Assassination of Charles Stevens
Stevens was born in December 1880, originally belong to London. He arrived in India on December, 18 1914. He joined as Dist. Magistrate & Collector of Tiepera which was the district of Comilla, on 6th March 1930. On 14 December 1931, Choudhury, who was 14 then, and Santi Ghose, who was 15, walked into the office of Charles Geoffrey Buckland Stevens. They used a petition to arrange a swimming competition amongst their classmates as a pretense to enter his office. While Stevens looked at the document, Ghose and Choudhury removed automatic pistols which were hidden under their shawls and shot and killed him.
Trial and Sentence
The girls were taken into custody and imprisoned in the local British jail. In spite of all the difficulties, Choudhury and Ghose maintained their calm and cheerfulness throughout their trial days in the prison and in the court. They expected to die martyr’s death. However, when in February 1932, Ghose and ChoUdhury appeared in court in Calcutta, being minors, both of them were sentenced to jail for 10 years. In an interview, they stated, “It is better to die than live in a horse’s stable.”
Suniti Choudhury was held captive in Hijli Detention Camp as a “third class prisoner”. The effects of her activities were also faced by her family, with her father’s government pension being stopped, and her two elder brothers being held in custody without trial. Her younger brother died from consumption, exacerbated by years of malnutrition. She was released, along with Santi Ghose in 1939, after having served seven years of her sentence, because of the amnesty negotiations between Gandhiji and the British Indian government.
Choudhury was held captive in Hijli Detention Camp as a “third class prisoner”. The effects of her activities were also faced by her family, with her father’s government pension being stopped, and her two elder brothers being held in custody without trial.
Public and Media Response
Contemporary Western periodicals characterized the assassination of Stevens as a sign of “Indians’ outrage against an ordinance by the Earl of Willingdon that suppressed the civil rights of Indians, including that of free speech.” Indian sources portrayed the assassination as Ghose and Choudbury’s response to the “misbehaviors of the British district magistrates” who had abused their positions of power to rape Indian women.
After the verdict was announced, a flyer was found by the intelligence branch of police in the Rajshahi district praising Ghose and Chowdbury as nationalist heroines. The poster read, “THOU ART FREEDOM’S NOW, AND FAME’S” and displayed photographs of the two girls alongside lines from Robert Burns’ poem Scots Wha Hae:
“Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty’s in every blow!”
After seven years, she got an early release with undaunted spirit. She again faced life full of struggle awaiting her in outside world. She resumed her studies and took the M.B.B.S. degree. In 1947 she married Pradyot Kumar Ghose. With an only daughter, she died in 1994. Her heart was always bleeding at the sufferings of millions of her dear countrymen, and ill-at-ease for not being able to do all that she wants to do for them.