Sidharth Monga at the 2011 World Cup March 9, 2011

The last revolutionary standing

“We knew we were all going to die,” he says, casually.
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“We knew we were all going to die,” he says, casually.

I have heard this line many times in films, read it in books, but to hear it face to face, from a man who knew he was going to die, is something else. This is not a line we, born in free countries, quite appreciate when it is played out in the movies. To feel the real meaning of the words, make a trip to Momin Road in Chittagong, and find Binod Bihari Chowdhury, who lives in one of the bylanes in a small non-descript house. He had a bullet pierce his neck, but he has survived to tell the not-often-told tale of the Chittagong Armoury Raid in 1930.

Binod is 101 now, the last revolutionary alive among that group, mainly comprising students, who fought a battle that they knew would eventually claim their lives. He is as frail as can be imagined. Recently he has been to Kolkata for treatment. He struggles with high blood pressure, but still watches cricket, much to the chagrin of those who look after him. He struggles to talk, but likes to tell stories. Dadu we call him. Like a dadu, a grandfather, he has us sit around him and tells us of the people who fought for independence. He doesn’t blink at all when he is talking. There are four of us there, and he looks into the eye of each, one by one, alternating, as he admits his memory plays tricks at times.

Once upon a time Binod was a student too. A student who, when moving to an English-medium school from the Bangla school, had to be demoted two standards to fit into the English school. “I didn’t understand all that then, I did what my father asked me to,” he says. From the age of 16, Binod’s life has been one full of revolution, the fight against injustice, prison, hibernation, having a prize on his head – 500 rupees – but the most inspirational part of it has been the Armoury Raid, led by the legendary Masterda Surjya Sen.

The first thing he talks about when he realises we are from India is about the recent Bollywood film on the Chittagong Uprising, Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se. “Why do they keep calling him Surjyo da, Surjyo da in the film? Don’t they know nobody ever called him Surjyo da? He was always Master da.” Just confirms how callous popular culture can be. How do you make a whole feature film on the revolution without consulting the only revolutionary alive?

At the age of 16, Binod joined Jugantor, the revolutionary organisation. A measure of how committed they were to the cause was how nobody got to know what he was up to. Not his father, not his mother, not his brother, not his sister, not the best of his friends. Such organisations had to be secret in those days, else they wouldn’t survive. “One day I was chatting with Master da,” Binod says. “And one of the revolutionaries saw us, and asked Master da, ‘Why do you let him sit next to you? I have asked him to join us many times, but he keeps abusing you.’ That’s when Master da laughed and told him, ‘He has been a member even before you.’ That’s how well we guarded our organisation. I still have secrets I have never told anybody, ever.”

After meticulous planning, they put up their fight against imperialism, after which, albeit for a short duration, Indian Republican Army, Chittagong Branch, as they called themselves, tasted freedom. They took Auxiliary Forces armoury, and cut telephone and telegraph wires. Master da took a military salute, and the National Flag was hoisted.

“We knew if we claim their armouries in Chattagram [Chittagong], the Britishers wouldn’t be able to do much. But we also knew we would be able to rule for only two-three-four days. We would soon be outnumbered… We knew we were all going to die.”

We spent more than an hour with Binod, during which he told us about his and his friends’ ordeals when the stronger British forces finally caught up, about his time in prison, about how the independence they fought for didn’t turn out to be the independence they wanted, his role in the planning for the Liberation War of 1971. For about 10 minutes after we came out, nobody spoke a word. Films and books can never do that to you.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • shahriar on June 13, 2012, 4:23 GMT

    real hero.....but we gave him nothin...shame

  • shubhro on March 14, 2011, 12:41 GMT

    thank you for this amazing article , we owe our freedom and the free air that we breathe in to men like these

  • Anonymous on March 14, 2011, 11:59 GMT

    vandemataram they struggle to bring freedom we

  • Nupur Das on March 14, 2011, 8:14 GMT

    @Anonymous: Dadu is still in Chittagong because he wanted to be there, not just because he is too old to move to some other place! And Chittagong has a vibrant Hindu population too! Why give a wrong message in such a common platform?

  • ncpaul, west bengal, india on March 11, 2011, 3:49 GMT

    I am 71, He could be my father-like.In my school days some of my class mates were highly inspired by the stories of Masterda which influenced us in our latter life to a great extent.Those who are able to hear from Sri Binod directly are blessed.This should be widely circulated.

  • Ovi on March 11, 2011, 2:43 GMT

    Thank u to tell us about him. My SALUTE to BINOD BIHARI CHOWDHURY..

  • Zakirul Haque on March 11, 2011, 1:36 GMT

    Tarek Hassan: In Bangladesh, I have never seen anybody is trying to portray Surja Sen from a negative angle. There is Surja Sen Hall at Dhaka University. There are plenty of novels, poems, songs in BD about Master Da. He is a hero in Bangladesh. Actually that movement is known in history as "Shontrasy Andolon". Surja Sen, Khudiram, Bagha Jatin are the golden boys of that movement. I must mention here the name of Pritilata Waddadar of Chittagong. An educated young lady of Master Da's group. She gave her life during the Chittagong Armoury Raid.

  • eddie on March 11, 2011, 1:17 GMT

    that's a great story. cricketers hit centuries and they become national heroes but this man truly is a national, in fact, a subcontinental, hero. it is such a shame that this gentleman wouldn't have been known to us if mr sidharth hadn't brought it to us.

  • George Gomes on March 10, 2011, 21:52 GMT

    What an inspirational story. I hope somebody puts this in Bangladesh dressing room before tomorrow's match against England. Thanks Sidharth and my salute to Dadu. Feeling proud to a Bangladeshi.

  • Jim c on March 10, 2011, 17:56 GMT

    Being a westerner I'd have known nothing of this but for this article, puts a different light on the struggle for independence, including the comments afterwards.

  • shahriar on June 13, 2012, 4:23 GMT

    real hero.....but we gave him nothin...shame

  • shubhro on March 14, 2011, 12:41 GMT

    thank you for this amazing article , we owe our freedom and the free air that we breathe in to men like these

  • Anonymous on March 14, 2011, 11:59 GMT

    vandemataram they struggle to bring freedom we

  • Nupur Das on March 14, 2011, 8:14 GMT

    @Anonymous: Dadu is still in Chittagong because he wanted to be there, not just because he is too old to move to some other place! And Chittagong has a vibrant Hindu population too! Why give a wrong message in such a common platform?

  • ncpaul, west bengal, india on March 11, 2011, 3:49 GMT

    I am 71, He could be my father-like.In my school days some of my class mates were highly inspired by the stories of Masterda which influenced us in our latter life to a great extent.Those who are able to hear from Sri Binod directly are blessed.This should be widely circulated.

  • Ovi on March 11, 2011, 2:43 GMT

    Thank u to tell us about him. My SALUTE to BINOD BIHARI CHOWDHURY..

  • Zakirul Haque on March 11, 2011, 1:36 GMT

    Tarek Hassan: In Bangladesh, I have never seen anybody is trying to portray Surja Sen from a negative angle. There is Surja Sen Hall at Dhaka University. There are plenty of novels, poems, songs in BD about Master Da. He is a hero in Bangladesh. Actually that movement is known in history as "Shontrasy Andolon". Surja Sen, Khudiram, Bagha Jatin are the golden boys of that movement. I must mention here the name of Pritilata Waddadar of Chittagong. An educated young lady of Master Da's group. She gave her life during the Chittagong Armoury Raid.

  • eddie on March 11, 2011, 1:17 GMT

    that's a great story. cricketers hit centuries and they become national heroes but this man truly is a national, in fact, a subcontinental, hero. it is such a shame that this gentleman wouldn't have been known to us if mr sidharth hadn't brought it to us.

  • George Gomes on March 10, 2011, 21:52 GMT

    What an inspirational story. I hope somebody puts this in Bangladesh dressing room before tomorrow's match against England. Thanks Sidharth and my salute to Dadu. Feeling proud to a Bangladeshi.

  • Jim c on March 10, 2011, 17:56 GMT

    Being a westerner I'd have known nothing of this but for this article, puts a different light on the struggle for independence, including the comments afterwards.

  • Mizanul Khan on March 10, 2011, 17:55 GMT

    I am still wonder.......why we are separated based on religion???? We all are human being, then religion. This British made us Blind.....

  • mithun dastider on March 10, 2011, 15:35 GMT

    proud to be an chittagonian......

  • Isnaad on March 10, 2011, 14:54 GMT

    Inspiring!

  • Hossain Mohammad on March 10, 2011, 14:32 GMT

    What a wonderful article,,,,thax to Sid and Shame to us,,,,I didn't even know there is a living legend living between us,,,,HATS OFF TO THEM

  • Anonym on March 10, 2011, 14:22 GMT

    Tonmoy Chakraborty, your name sound Bengali to me. You better search বিনোদ বিহারী in google. In you understand Bangla then you will see if anything is written about him or not.

  • Shuddha on March 10, 2011, 14:21 GMT

    Incredible! I dunno but I really liked the movie Khelein Hum jee jaan se. In the movie only his friends called him Surjo da the students called him master da.

  • Sridhar Kalyan on March 10, 2011, 13:05 GMT

    Dadu or Boro Dadu is probably the amongst the last few of the genuine freedom fighters of the undivided India - and deserves to be recognized as such by the Indian Government. Will Siddarth Mongia add to his already excellent work, by initiating action on this, with his Delhi-connections? Not only should the GOI recognize him with Citations etc but also pay him the Freedom Fighters' pension with retrospective effect, so that the great man is aware that we haven't been an ingrate nation.

    We salute you, Dadu.

    And, thanks Siddarth for this wonderful article on such a great man.

  • Mohammed on March 10, 2011, 12:30 GMT

    I am cricket fan but have never commented on any writing. But I could not refrain myself thanking Sidharth Monga for bringing up our glorious past to the huge cricket fan base and saluting our real hero.

  • srinivas gade on March 10, 2011, 12:24 GMT

    Thanks a lot for letting us know of such a man. God knows how many such unsung men and women are there in our sub-continent.We are so busy fighting one another while great people who forght for us remain in unknown. I wish England wins the cup and Binod Dadu is called in to handover the cup!!

  • Rahat on March 10, 2011, 12:21 GMT

    Thnx for bring this story to the world! Very few of us know what really happened that time. and how the revolution goes!

    Salute, Binod Bihari.

  • Yasir on March 10, 2011, 9:34 GMT

    Stories like this will never surface, cus our history is written by Frangies... not by us.. Sad but true....

  • RAMIT on March 10, 2011, 9:14 GMT

    Thanks a lot

  • Anonymous on March 10, 2011, 9:03 GMT

    What a fantastic piece...loved it.

  • asad on March 10, 2011, 8:56 GMT

    I am really glad to listen the story of that time, they are national heroes. I am pretty sure our cricketers will get the inspiration if they know their adventurous story. Thanks for publishing this type of column.

  • Farhan on March 10, 2011, 7:50 GMT

    Please don't criticize Ashutosh Gowarikor, at least he tried to make a movie about a forgotten story. Yes, people called him "master da" but his name was Surjya Sen.

  • Aravind on March 10, 2011, 7:43 GMT

    Why is this story in Cricinfo? Because he watches cricket?

  • Anindya Chowdhury on March 10, 2011, 7:24 GMT

    Let Tamim-Shakib become Masterda and Binod Dadu and start afresh tomorrow.

  • Krish on March 10, 2011, 7:01 GMT

    Thanks Sidharth for bringing up this epic Tale of a True Patriot Alive........Hats off to Dadu & 'Master da'.........Its a previledge to know such true tales which the Britishers has always tried to abolish.........Sidharth, it would be great if you could tell us something more about 'Dadu' & 'Master Da'...........Jai Hind

  • Sagarnil Pal on March 10, 2011, 6:41 GMT

    Brilliant article! And very few among us really did know about this Living Legend. Who would have thought of Cricinfo doing this great job? which the makers of Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se never did. Thank you again Sidharth!

  • Anonymous on March 10, 2011, 6:21 GMT

    What a great soul! He fought to liberate India from the barbarians. He is one of the few Hindus left in Chittagong now. I guess he is too old or else he would have been driven out of East Pakistan (sorry, Bangladesh) like many others before and after 1971.

  • Md. Minhajul Hasan on March 10, 2011, 5:41 GMT

    living legend !!!!!!!! wow !!

  • Rabiul Zaki on March 10, 2011, 5:22 GMT

    Master da's stories were taught in schools in Bangladesh. We are all proud of his group. Thanks for putting it among broad audience.

  • Mehul on March 10, 2011, 5:12 GMT

    Very nice, tour diaries have a character of its own..a good one at that..

    Just makes you realize that the 3 countries in the subcontinent are connected to each other so much more deeply than we can think of, may be if we had more people like him, a number of wars, loss of lives could have been averted.

    After all we all have the same lineage...one family.

  • manzoor m ahmed on March 10, 2011, 5:02 GMT

    Awesome piece of article. short but moving. for those kind of people we r alive n kicking in our country.

    thanks so much Sid.

  • Anonymous on March 10, 2011, 4:48 GMT

    Great.

  • Tonmoy Chakraborty on March 10, 2011, 4:42 GMT

    Not surprisingly, almost nothing has been written about the anti-British revolutionaries residing in Bangladesh. Sadly, they did not receive the fame and name their Indian counterparts did.

    Great-Granddad (Boro Dadu) as we refer to him in Chittagong has been a idol-like figure to us and thanks Sidharth for covering one of the living legends of Bangladesh.

  • mahin on March 10, 2011, 4:42 GMT

    what a revolutionary story.........

  • Aziz Ahmed on March 10, 2011, 4:42 GMT

    Bangladesh and the entire Indian Subcontinent...indebted to you - Mr. Bihari...for giving the people...the courage to take the initiative and fight for rights.... Thank you.

  • Aungshuman on March 10, 2011, 4:33 GMT

    A truly inspiring figure. It's a shame that the revolutionaries never got the respect they deserved. Non-violence would have never succeeded without the forcefulness of these youths.

  • Anonymous on March 10, 2011, 4:17 GMT

    can we get a follow up on this story? did anyone even try to follow up this true story with Bollywood!!! Its a shame how movies get twisted to attract un-appreciated crowd who don't even bother to know the real story of these legends...

  • Enayet Talukder on March 10, 2011, 3:46 GMT

    Thanks to Sidharth Monga for featuring one of the heroes of our nation. We read about these heroes but never knew one of them is still living among us. Our best wishes and regards to Binod Chowdhury. An excellent article indeed!

  • Sam on March 10, 2011, 3:43 GMT

    Beautifully written!

  • Humayun Hasan on March 10, 2011, 3:28 GMT

    Thank you Sidharth for this article on Binod Bihari Chowdhury. He is a living legend.

  • Bang_La on March 10, 2011, 1:50 GMT

    Thank you very much Sidharth for meeting Dadu and writing such an excellent piece. Who thought there could be more than cricket for you in Chittagong? We express our gratitude for taking that trouble.

  • Raj on March 10, 2011, 1:27 GMT

    Moving story. Salute to the brave man. It is noteworthy how those who write history focus on certain events and people and choose to forget others. Love your articles Sid.

  • singh on March 10, 2011, 0:08 GMT

    Thank you for bringing us face to face with a great man! I wish health and an even longer life for Binod da!

  • Ketan on March 9, 2011, 22:49 GMT

    "Did not do research" is a common problem with many Bollywood movies. That is why even movies that promise to be inspirational do not end up being so.

    We have few people willing to go lengths required to portray a character realistically - but that's about it. Most directors think they know what makes a good movie, so much so that they never bother to get these small things right. How hard is it to just hire a small team of experts, do a little googling, meet a few key people, and make sure they do not do blunders like this ? Compare this to the amount of research put in some truly great films like King's Speech and Fighter.

  • Dr. C. Zaman on March 9, 2011, 22:01 GMT

    Thank you for making us a gift of this wonderful, yet largely unknown, chronicle.

  • Shoaib Ahmed on March 9, 2011, 21:56 GMT

    Excellent article Sidharth. Probably doesn't mean a great deal to others outside the subcontinent. They don't make men like Binod Bihari Chowdhury any more.

  • Hira on March 9, 2011, 21:22 GMT

    Salute to Binod Bihari.. Laal Salaam..

  • Hasib on March 9, 2011, 21:13 GMT

    Last sentence was an epic way to end such a wonderful article !

  • Wafi Sattar on March 9, 2011, 21:08 GMT

    Wonderful of you all to go get some real knowledge from the wise who lived through it all and share it with the world Sidharth! Very well appreciated indeed.

    It is a shame thought that history would be a little more muddy when held up on the silver screen to those who never knew of this uprising, amongst the first of our revolutions in our subcontinent. At least they should have made an effort to meet this gentleman.

    Fine and courageous men like these are hard to come by nowadays. What truly inspirational wise men we had back in the days.

  • Saad on March 9, 2011, 21:02 GMT

    I am awed. Of all men, only select few are men.

  • Abid Vali on March 9, 2011, 20:46 GMT

    Amazing story of a true hero on the field of independence struggle... this should have headline status in the news rather than be tucked away as a sideline article on a website that celebrates a lot of fake heroics on the field of play. Thanks for a really important piece of news.

  • Mullick on March 9, 2011, 20:33 GMT

    My hats off to Binod Dadu. I lived in Chittagong in early 70s. In 1970 I read the book "Shadhinata Shongrame Chottogram" (Chittagong in the independence war) written by Purnendu Dastidar and I was absolutely moved by the tale. In 1971 I joined the independence war and all the time the tale of Chittagong armouryraidthe raid worked as an inspiration to me. I am also surprised why Master Da was always called Surjo Da in the movie? The makers could have been a little more faithful.

  • Bangladesh_Blaster on March 9, 2011, 19:52 GMT

    We need to recognize these real life heroes. Maybe make a tv documentary on him and his tales, before he passes away.

  • ZR on March 9, 2011, 18:31 GMT

    Thanks!

  • ZR on March 9, 2011, 18:28 GMT

    Thanks!

  • sunny on March 9, 2011, 17:13 GMT

    i'm from Chittagong but i never knew his name. thanks for bringing this.

  • Devashish Barua on March 9, 2011, 15:45 GMT

    I have had the honor of studying under him for 5 years. For us, he was known as "Dadu" (Bengali meaning of Grand Pa). Apart from known as last revolutionary who fought for the independence, he was also known as one of the best Grammar Teacher in Chittagong for many years. In our lives, we spent a lot of time with many personnel but he was one of the most noble persons that I have ever known close to my heart. May god bless Dadu for his well being as this world needs person like him.

  • Tarek Hassan on March 9, 2011, 13:00 GMT

    When I was a kid, in our social science book, Master Da was referred as a terrorist and he was sentenced to death because of terrorism. Its a pity how governments try to bury the history. what they do not understand that, you can not bury the heroes. they will be there, at the minds, forever.

  • Anonymous on March 9, 2011, 11:38 GMT

    a wonderful tale.

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  • Anonymous on March 9, 2011, 11:38 GMT

    a wonderful tale.

  • Tarek Hassan on March 9, 2011, 13:00 GMT

    When I was a kid, in our social science book, Master Da was referred as a terrorist and he was sentenced to death because of terrorism. Its a pity how governments try to bury the history. what they do not understand that, you can not bury the heroes. they will be there, at the minds, forever.

  • Devashish Barua on March 9, 2011, 15:45 GMT

    I have had the honor of studying under him for 5 years. For us, he was known as "Dadu" (Bengali meaning of Grand Pa). Apart from known as last revolutionary who fought for the independence, he was also known as one of the best Grammar Teacher in Chittagong for many years. In our lives, we spent a lot of time with many personnel but he was one of the most noble persons that I have ever known close to my heart. May god bless Dadu for his well being as this world needs person like him.

  • sunny on March 9, 2011, 17:13 GMT

    i'm from Chittagong but i never knew his name. thanks for bringing this.

  • ZR on March 9, 2011, 18:28 GMT

    Thanks!

  • ZR on March 9, 2011, 18:31 GMT

    Thanks!

  • Bangladesh_Blaster on March 9, 2011, 19:52 GMT

    We need to recognize these real life heroes. Maybe make a tv documentary on him and his tales, before he passes away.

  • Mullick on March 9, 2011, 20:33 GMT

    My hats off to Binod Dadu. I lived in Chittagong in early 70s. In 1970 I read the book "Shadhinata Shongrame Chottogram" (Chittagong in the independence war) written by Purnendu Dastidar and I was absolutely moved by the tale. In 1971 I joined the independence war and all the time the tale of Chittagong armouryraidthe raid worked as an inspiration to me. I am also surprised why Master Da was always called Surjo Da in the movie? The makers could have been a little more faithful.

  • Abid Vali on March 9, 2011, 20:46 GMT

    Amazing story of a true hero on the field of independence struggle... this should have headline status in the news rather than be tucked away as a sideline article on a website that celebrates a lot of fake heroics on the field of play. Thanks for a really important piece of news.

  • Saad on March 9, 2011, 21:02 GMT

    I am awed. Of all men, only select few are men.