Dr. Hari Prasad Baruah
Mrs Kalpana Agarwala Baruah
Dhekiajuli, Sonitpur, Assam
"These deaths, injuries, humiliations and atrocities are the price of liberty, a price a country is asked to pay for its desire to be free. Our people know that and therefore they are determined as never before to do or die. Untold miseries may be heaped on our people but the caravan of India goes on to its destined goal -independence full and undiluted."
- GOPINATH BARDOLOI
The freedom movement of India united people on the core concept of Indian nationhood and fellow-feeling. The unity was based on a composite culture that accepted diversity in language, customs and traditions and multiplicity of religion. The movement was not just against the British rule. It was against the elites who suppressed the peasants and workers. It was a kind of struggle against social evils and included awakening of the downtrodden castes.
The Quit India Resolution of 1942 had a tremendous effect on the people all over India. In Assam Kanaklata Baruah and Kushal Konwar sacrificed their lives. Likewise, people in Dhekiajuli played a crucial role in the Quit India Movement. Several persons died and became martyrs on 20th September, 1942. This sacrifice was for the sake of nation, for the sake of freedom and for the sake of every Indian who faced suppression under the British dominion. Jyotiprasad Agarwala declared the incident at Dhekiajuli as the incomparable incident in the history of 'Ahimsa Sangram'.
It was during 1942 that the Nikhil Bharat Congress Committee accepted the proposal of ‘Quit India Movement’ and carried on the freedom movement against the British rule with the motto “Do or Die” (korim kimba morim). Mahatma Gandhi was then under prison. The flow of the movement was seen all over India. There was the vigour and excitement among the freedom fighters. As a part of Quit India movement, the Congress volunteers of Tezpur assembled and they unanimously adopted the strategy to unfurl the national flag in places like police-stations and the district court.
One of the fore-runners of the movement was Pushpalata Das. She had contributed a lot to the enhancement of the movement. A meeting was organized in a Namghar of Borgaon. Pushpalata Das presided over the meeting. She aroused in people the intense desire for freedom. It was by her vigorous and motivating speech that she could do it. The organizers spread that the meeting was convened in order to form ‘Mahila Samiti’ so as to put a veil on the actual plan. The volunteers firmly took a decision to unfurl the tri-colour at Dhekiajuli police-station. The date set was 20th of September, 1942. Two squads were formed from among the volunteers. One was the Sewa Dal (Guard squad) and the other was Mrityu Bahini (Death squad). Many volunteers were eager to join the ‘Death squad’. At that moment, a person came forward and pleaded to the mass– “ I have been getting food and shelter in the Congress Camp and receiving a handful of alms from you. Let me be in the front of the Death squad as I cannot let you die.” This was none other than Manbar Nath who claimed to die for the sake of nation. Manbar Nath was an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi and he believed in Gandhiji’s ideology of truth and non-violence. He was overwhelmed that he had dedicated himself for sake of his motherland. This was not a matter of grief for him but a matter of joy and pride.
People arose and congregated in Johamari on 20th of September, 1942. The ‘Death Squad’ was headed by Manbar Nath who was in his Khaddar shirt and shorts. He was putting on a hibiscus garland around his neck and a ‘chandan tilak’ on his forehead. With the national flag in hand, each of the marchers proceeded towards the Dhekiajuli police station. It was a huge procession. Manbar Nath was holding an unfurled flag in his hand. He was followed by leader Kamalakanta Das, Bapuram Gogoi and Phanidhar Das. The marchers uttered “Vande Mataram” and “Bharat Mata ki Jai” with vigour.
A large group of people from Borgaon, Johamari, Misamari, Nahorbari joined in the procession as well as ‘Death Squad’ headed by Manbar Nath from the eastern part of Dhekiajuli and moved forward towards the destination. Likewise, huge number of people from the western part of Dhekiajuli i.e., from places like Doomdooma, Borchola, Roumari etc. proceeded towards the same destination. The disciplined group of marchers headed by Manbar Nath finally reached the Dhekiajuli police-station. That very day was a Sunday and it was a market day. So, lots of people gathered to view the incident. The police force was already alert and was ready to face the mob. There was a police force blocking the entrance of the police-station and was ready with sticks for lathi-charge. Next to them was the police-force holding rifles in order to fire. The leader Kamalakanta Das, Phanidhar Das and Bapuram Gogoi made the whole procession stand in front of the stick-holder and armed force. At the same time, he made women and other public to stay at the back. In the meantime, the police-officer and three local heads faced the Sewa Dal. The police-officer enquired leader Kamalakanta Das as to why the group of people rushed at the police-station. In reply Kamalakanta said that it was in order to unfurl the tri-colour at the police-station. The officer firmly refused. The leader did not pay heed to the officer’s refusal. He encouraged all the volunteers to move forward. The volunteers marched forward with the slogan “Vande Mataram”. The volunteers immediately snatched the sticks from the police-force with courage. They also snatched the rifles from the armed force. The officer and the three local heads quickly went back to the police-station. There was great agitation in that moment. The volunteers tried to step into the police-station premises and the police force obstructed them with lathi-charge. The officer-in-charge was enraged as he was pushed in the crowd .He immediately ordered to fire. Manbar Nath did not pay heed to the order and proceeded towards the eastern part of the roof of the police-station with vigour. Then and there he unfurled the tri-colour. The volunteers uttered “Swadhin Bharat ki Jai” with pride and vigour.
Manbar Nath was immediately shot and a bullet from the rifle of the police penetrated his thigh. He fell down. He tried to get up but the second bullet penetrated his chest. Blood trickled all through his chest. He did not give up and with a smile; he uttered “Bharat Mata ki Jai”. In this way he left for his heavenly abode – ‘Brave Manbar Nath’.
This is all about ‘‘Birendra Kesari Manbar Nath” who has not yet received proper recognition in the history of freedom movement. There is just a Primary School in Johamari in his memory which was established in 1970 and a thirty- bedded hospital in his tribute in Dhekiajuli. A very noteworthy point is that a martyr’s column has been established near Dhekiajuli police-station wherein the names of eleven martyrs are mentioned. The names are Manbar Nath, Kumali Devi, Mohiram Koch, Tileswari Baruah, Ratan Kochari, Khohuli Devi, Moniram Kochari, Lerela Kochari, Sarunath Chutia, Dayal Panika, and Mangal Kurku. Along with these martyrs many others died including a beggar and a monk(unidentified) by the shower of bullets by the police during the Dhekiajuli incident. Many were injured and later on lived handicapped life. A survey done by the British Government shows that the number of persons killed during the incident was seventeen and the survey done by the Congress office shows that it was twenty four. (Jyotiprasad Rachanawali, 2nd edition, 1986, p.546). Today, on the 20th September, 2017, we pay tribute to all the martyrs who gave up their lives for the noble cause.