“Cheer up man you are released,” said the Jailer.
“Although I had pictured that someday I would be released from the Cellular Jail, I had not anticipated that I would hear the news of my release that soon,” narrated the legendary freedom fighter, Sachindra Nath Sanyal in his autobiography.
As I continue with my Facebook series on the freedom fighters who were incarcerated in the infamous cellular jail, today, I would like to share the story of one of our great revolutionary freedom fighters, Sachindra Nath Sanyal, who was sent twice to the dreaded prison.
Sachindra Nath Sanyal was born in 1893 to Hari Nath Sanyal and Ksheroda Vashini Devi in Varanasi. His father died when he was young, leaving behind his mother and his three brothers. He once mentioned, “At the age of 14-15, my father left for his heavenly abode. My father had left some money through insurance etc., that helped my widow mother and us, four brothers survive.”
At a young age, Sachindra Nath took a vow to liberate the motherland from the clutches of the British rule. He had stated: “When I was a child, I had taken a pledge due to various reasons that India needs to be liberated, and for that, I will have to plan my life strategically”. Determined to fight the oppressive British rule, he started participating in revolutionary activities from a young age. In 1913, when he was just 20 years old, he opened a chapter of the revolutionary organization ‘Anushlian Samiti’ in Benaras. He used to organize fitness activities and motivate youth to fight for the motherland.
In 1915, Sachindra Nath and Rash Bihari Bose were involved the Ghadar Party’s armed rebellion plan to overthrow British rule. Sanyal trained the youth in revolutionary tactics and prepared them for the uprising. But to their misfortune, their plan was leaked to the British and the efforts of the Gadhar party to overthrow the British government went in vain. This incident alerted the British and led to the arrest of many Gadarites and revolutionaries, including Sachindra. Sachindra was sentenced to life and deported to the Cellular Jail of Andaman for his involvement in the Benaras Conspiracy; his house was also confiscated by the British.
On August 18, 1916, Sachindra reached Cellular Jail, the penitentiary notorious for its inhumane treatment of the prisoners. Incarceration in the Cellular Jail was a living nightmare for all the prisoners. The prison’s three-storeyed radial structure was constructed in a way that all the prisoners could be monitored from one location. Moreover, the prisoners could not communicate with each other while living in the same premises. Prison inmates used to be kept in complete isolation and given harsh and virtually unachievable tasks to be completed in a certain stipulated time. Failure to complete the tasks used to attract severe punishments like working extra hours on the grinding mill, standing handcuffed for a week, and eating an unhygienic diet.
Sachindra, like many other prisoners, was subjected to cruel treatment which eventually took a toll on his health. In 1920 in the wake of the victory of Britain and its allies in the First World War, the British had freed many prisoners, among them Sachindra Nath.
Sachindra was ill and resting in the prison’s hospital bed when he was informed about his release. He was asked to meet the jailer and upon seeing him, he was told that he was being released from the cellular jail. While recollecting that moment, he had said, “I remember when I got to know about my release, I was not very cheerful. One thought that kept bothering me was how will I face my inmates as they were still there, and I would soon leave this place.”
Soon he and some other prisoners were released. The harrowing time spent at the Cellular Jail did not break the spirit of Sachindra Nath and he continued with his revolutionary ways. He co-founded the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) which was later renamed to Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) and mentored great freedom fighters such as Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Bhagwati Chandra Vohra among others.
Sachindra Nath was arrested again in 1924 for what was considered as a provocative speech against the government. He was sent for the second time to the Cellular Jail for his involvement in the Kakori raid. While leaving the Cellular Jail in 1920, he would have hardly imagined that he would be back at the horrendous place.
This time his stay was longer, and he was once again subjected to cruel treatment, which took a huge toll on his health. He had contracted Tuberculosis and was released from Jail due to his deteriorating health condition in 1937. However, this was not the end of his jail confinement and Sachindra continued to participate in the freedom struggle. He was again imprisoned in Rajasthan in 1939 and in Uttar Pradesh in 1942. He was later moved to Gorakhpur jail where he succumbed to TB and passed away on February 6, 1943.
Sachindra Nath Sanyal strove till his last breath to fulfil the vow he had taken to free India from foreign yoke. The countless sacrifices made by freedom fighters like him have paved the way for India’s freedom. We must never forget the sacrifices of these great men and women and must pass on their stories of valour and grit to succeeding generations. The Cellular Jail at Andaman is a grim reminder of the atrocities faced by our countrymen at the hands of the British. I would urge people, especially the youngsters to visit the Cellular Jail and understand the hardship and suffering which numerous freedom fighters went through in their quest to free the motherland from colonial rule.