Tribune News Service
Kolkata, September 28
The room he stayed in was demolished long back during renovation of the building. A brass plate and ‘lota’ that the revolutionary freedom fighter had left with an employee of the institution also got lost. Yet the association of Bhagat Singh with the Arya Samaj temple in Kolkata is not a forgotten chapter.
The revolutionary freedom fighter’s brief stopovers at the temple are considered the most significant part of the history of the 116-year-old institution.
According to Devnarayan Tiwari, senior office-bearer at the Arya Samaj here, Bhagat Singh’s first visit to Kolkata was to procure materials for making bombs. He stayed at the temple and got the material from Rajabazar area, which was not far from the building located on College Street, and then safely returned to Lahore.
Bhagat Singh next visited the Arya Samaj temple in 1928. This was after Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev had shot British police officer John Saunders in Lahore. To dodge the police, Bhagat Singh travelled as a family man in the company of Durgawati Devi, wife of Hindustan Socialist Republican Association member Bhagwati Charan Vohra.
Durga Bhabhi, as she is fondly called, was accompanied by Bhagat Singh, carrying her sleeping child, posing as the husband, and Sukhdev in the disguise of the family servant.
Bachan Singh Saral, Kolkata-based journalist and an ardent admirer of Bhagat Singh, said the assassination of Saunders had a Kolkata connection. Basanti Devi, wife of Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, had exhorted the youth to avenge Lala Lajpat Rai’s death. Like her husband, Basanti Devi was also sympathetic to armed revolutionaries. Bhagat Singh and associates were moved by her appeal and decided to kill the British officer responsible for Rai’s death.
Bhagat Singh had studied in an Arya Samaj institute and probably considered the Arya Samaj temple in Kolkata as his natural shelter when in trouble. The revolutionary leader’s most popular photograph–wearing a felt hat–was also taken at Kolkata when he was on the run after Saunder’s killing, insists Tiwari.
During his last visit to the temple, Bhagat Singh gave his utensils to an employee and reportedly told him that these could become items of historical importance one day. Tiwari has also seen the plate and ‘lota’. But these got lost later.
Tiwari and his colleagues want to erect a concrete gate dedicated to Bhagat Singh at the entrance of the temple as a reminder of his association with the place. A wooden replica of the gate was set up during a celebration in 2002. A proposal submitted to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation for this purpose, however, is awaiting the green signal.
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