Chittaranjan Das was from a well-known Bengali family
Deshbandu was born on 5 November, 1870. He was the son of Bhuban Mohan Das, who was a lawyer and a journalist. He was also the nephew of Brahmo Samaj social reformer Durga Mohan Das (one of the founder of Sadharan Brahmo Samaj).
Das was a nationalist from his college days
After school, Das went to Presidency College, Calcutta and took an active part in the student’s movement. As a member of the Students’ Association (1886), he attended lectures on patriotism delivered by compatriot Surendranath Banerjee.
Having developed a taste for Bengali literature, Chittaranjan’s political ideals were deeply influenced by the writings of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. He excelled in English and went on to do law at Inner Temple in London in 1883.
He defended Aurobindo Gosh
Gosh was an accused in the Alipore Bomb Conspiracy case where two attempts had been made on the life of Mr Kingsford, Chief Presidency Magistrate of Calutta. In the second attempt two English women had died.
Gosh was charged with being the mastermind behind the bomb blast. No lawyer came forward to defend Aurobindo. Das took up the challenge.
After a trial that lasted 126 days, in which 200 witnesses were examined, Gosh was acquitted. Das accepted no fee for defending him. From his own pocket he spent Rs.15,000/- a very large amount in those per-Independence days on the case.
He started a newspaper and was the first Mayor of Calcutta.
To fight the British intellectually as well as to awaken his fellow countrymen, Das brought out a newspaper called ‘Forward’. Later it’s name was changed to ‘Liberty‘.
When the Calcutta Municipal Corporation was constituted in 1923, Das was the city’s first Mayor.
Das was at the forefront of the Non-Cooperation Movement
Though an aristocrat, to set an example, Das gave up all luxuries when participating in the 1919-22 Non-Cooperation Movement. In fact, Das was the leading figure from Bengal in the movement.
A supporter of self rule, Das gave a call for the boycott of foreign clothes.
Das’ clothes used to go for a wash to Paris, a practice he gave up when participating in the Non Cooperation Movement. Starting by burning all his European clothes, he gave a call for boycott of all foreign goods. In later life, he only wore khadi clothes.
He was jailed with his wife and son in 1921
The British rulers were unsparing towards Das and his family. He along with his wife and son underwent 6 months of imprisonment for their participation in the Non Cooperation Movement.
Chittaranjan Das was Subhash Bose’s political guru
Das resigned as Congress president in the Gaya session opposing Mahatama Gandhi’s faction motion about no legislative council entries for Congressmen legislators. Subhash Chandra Bose had worked under the leadership of Chittaranjan Das in the Congress party and regarded Das as his political guru.
He floated a political party
Failure of the Non-Cooperation Movement and in opposition to Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership of Indian National Congress, Das along with Motilal Nehru formed the Swaraj Party. The party contested elections and won a majority in the Bengal legislative councils election of 1924.
Das was all for Hindu-Muslim unity
Educated in British legal system, Das was a believer in constitutional methods for realization of national independence. He championed the cause of education, started a college and was a firm believer in Hindu-Muslim unity.
He wanted to reform cottage industries
Having given up on foreign clothes, Das was for encouraging cottage industry and wanted a complete boycott of machine made foreign products. He also wished to reform the nation’s cottage industry, incorporate local self government and strengthen cooperative credit societies.
He supported widow re-marriage
Das supported Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s movement for widow re-marriage. A couple of years before he died, he donated his home and the adjoining lands to set up an institution for improving the lives of women. The Chittaranjan Seva Sadan hospital in Kolkatta was founded on the land and house donated by Das.
Das was also a poet and a writer
A voracious reader with a flair for writing, Das had read all the works of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and Rabindranath Tagore. As a poet, Das wrote the collections of Mala, Antaryami and Kishore-Kishoree and contributed to scholarly magazines.
Illness did not stop Chittaranjan Das
Das suffered ill health throughout his short but meteoric rise as a freedom movement leader. He underwent imprisonment. Aurobindo Gosh, in a public speech later, gratefully acknowledged that Das broke his health to save him.
Chittaranjan died young
In May 1925, his health began to fail. Das withdrew to a mountain home in Darjeeling where Mahatma Gandhi visited him. He died there on June 16, 1925 aged only 55. The body was brought to Calcutta where the funeral procession was led by Mahatma Gandhi. Rabindranath Tagore even penned a couplet in honor of the freedom fighter after his death.
Many institutions are named after him
A national hero who had immortalized his name in the service of the nation, there are many enclaves and institution named after him. Some of them are Chittaranjan Avenue, Chittaranjan College, Chittaranjan High School, Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute, Deshbandhu College for Girls, and the Deshbandhu Mahavidyalaya.
RBI issued a coin Chittaranjan Das’s name
Firmly cast in metal, the Reserve Bank of India honored the brave life of Das by issuing a commemorative two rupee coin in 1998. It has been in general circulation since then.
He was one of the key persons of forming Brahmo Sammilan Samaj
It was his proposal that for the purpose of ensuring the full participation of Brahmo Ministers and members owing allegiance to all the three sections Adi, Navabidhan, and Sadharan Samajes, a new name, namely “Brahmo Sammilan Samaj” be adopted. This formal proposal was passed at a Special General Meeting held on 1st October 1902. Unity of all Brahmos in worship and in welfare and social activities had been a marked feature of the nascent institution and the future Deshbandhu felt that this should be enshrined in the very name as also in the rules and regulations of the Samaj. So he proposed yet another resolution that a committee be appointed to frame rules and regulations and to draw up a trust deed relating to the land and building that the Samaj was hoping to acquire and this also was accepted unanimously. The drafts presented by him were accepted at a meeting held on 16th November 1902 and it can be legitimately surmised that he had done the bulk of the work involved.