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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 39, New Delhi, September 14, 2019

Remembering Jatindra Nath Das on his 90th Death Anniversary

Sunday 15 September 2019


Tt was 90 years ago, on September 13, 1929, that Jatindra Nath Das, one of the most courageous and committed freedom fighters of India, breathed his last at Lahore Central Jail after a 63-day fast. This fast was taken up in the company of Shahid Bhagat Singh and other imprisoned revolutionary freedom fighters for ending many-sided injustices to freedom fighters. In the history of the freedom movement of India this fast is remembered for the courage and nobility with which they faced torture and beatings. They endured fasting for very long periods. Even as they saw their own health and the health of their dearest friends collapsing before their eyes, they did not surrender. Paralysis gradually spread from one part of the body of fasting freedom fighter Jatindra Nath Das to another part, and yet he did not break his fast. Prison authorities used to mix milk in the water, so that when they drink water the fast of the revolutionaries would automatically break. Instead of drinking this milk-mixed water, the thirsty prisoners simply broke the pitchers containing this water. When the authorities tried to force-feed them in a cruel way, the prisoners still resisted so much that they were injured. Ultimately fearing loss of life due to force-feeding the jail officials had to discontinue these efforts.

The death of Jatindra Nath Dass after enduring great hardships and torture had a very deep impact on the people. In a paper ‘Bhagat Singh as Satyagrahi’, (Modern Asian Studies 43, 3 -2009) Neeti Nair has summarised this impact on the nation. When fasting freedom fighter Jatindra Nath Das died on September 13, 1929 after a continuous fast of 63 days, “50000 funeral processionists marched through Lahore. The Central Legislative Assembly passed a motion of adjournment to censure the government for their policy regarding the hunger striking prisoners in the Lahore Conspiracy Case...... In the Punjab, Drs Muhammad Alam and Gopi Chand Bhargava resigned from the Punjab Legislative Assembly. Subhas Bose led the miles-long funeral procession in Calcutta.... Rabindranath Tagore was inspired to compose a song.”

It should also be recalled that Jatindra Nath Das had earlier fasted for the same cause of rights of political prisoners in Mymensingh Jail at the time of his previous imprisonment. Hence it will be a fitting tribute if his death anniversary is observed every year as the Day for Justice for Political Prisoners.

Bharat Dogra
New Delhi

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