Suresh Dey & Battle of Jalalabad

General Loknath Bal split his small army into eight units. Each units was given a specific task. The eight units were placed at eight strategic points. The eight units covered the entire hilltop.

General Bal now allotted to each units its specific task. The first and second units formed the frontline. “It is your task to thwart the first attacks. You will take the enemy by total surprise. You will pounce upon them with all fire and fury.”

In the first unit were Suresh Dey…. The advanced group of enemy troops reached the feet of the hill. Behind them were other groups, many of them as far as the rebels eyes could reach. The first column began to climb up the hill.

..The battle lasted for an hour or so. The troops could not stand the fury of the revolutionaries. …The troops of the mighty Raj were now in full, scattered retreat. Some were running for their life, some were limping, some were yelling in pain as they were trying to escape. The wounded lying on the hill were also groaning. The dead lay alone, left behind. The dead and the seriously wounded were left behind at the foothills.

…in a short while troops from other units joined British forces …the enemy was now led by three white, three or four star officers. …..As soon as the enemy troops came within the range of the Indian Revolutionary Army (IRA) rifles, General Bal thundered “Fire” ..the British force scattered and started running for life….the enemy on retreat for the second time. …

The sun was setting on Chittagong. Jalalabad hill was covered with smoke and smell of gunpowder. Its rugged body bore thick marks of blood, and dead bodies of British Sepoys were scattered around. Jalalabad became a living memorial to the blood and battle of India’s freedom. The revolutionaries however knew that the British were planning a new attack, larger and much more ferocious than the two they had lost. …..The enemy was now ready also to strike from behind the revolutionaries’ positions. …..

The enemy could not hit the revolutionaries force with its surprise machine gun firing. The boys fought with incredible grit and dexterity. They knew that their ammunition was far from unlimited. They were selecting targets carefully. Most of their bullets hit the targets. They found that four to five enemy soldiers were sitting close to both machine-guns, watching how they performed. With accurate targeting, they hit all members of a group including a white man. …..

Suresh Dey turned right not only to see the strong, sturdy, stout body of Pravesh Bal, another brother of Loknath Bal laid out on the same rocky earth...Suresh Dey had no time to look at his dead or dying comrades. He went on firing and moving ahead with the rest...the sight of three comrades falling to enemy firing in a few minutes unsettled Suresh Dey for a few moments. But he collected himself swiftly realising that he was fighting a war for liberation of the motherland, and in war there was no time to lament for dead or dying comrades, there was only one thing a soldier had to do and it was to go on fighting to win or die or to win and die.

The sun was going down and the shadows of a sombre evening was creeping up across the sky. In the dim twilight Suresh Dey saw figures of men standing behind and by the side of one of the machine guns. He aimed at the shadows and fired. Suddenly he saw nothing but dense darkness envelop his mind and everything else. A bullet had him. He fell on the ground unconscious. ......both the IRA and the enemy had withdrawn from the hills when Shanti Nag brought Suresh Dey’s body back to life. They had left them behind for dead.....

Suresh was cautiously assembling a new group of youth for physical training, the first essential qualification of a revolutionary. ..It was January 1933 when British got Suresh. ...Suresh Dey was then 19 years old...A few days letter when Suresh was being taken to the court, he found his father Gopimohan and his teacher Kamal Kumar Sen in the prison..police was getting punitive towards members of his family in order to break him down...superintendent an Englishmen named Hicks, joined in the psycho-terror. When one day Hicks came into the cell to inspect the prisoner’s refusal to eat, Suresh threw a mug full of urine at him...medical doctors examined Suresh and reported immediate medical treatment for the effects of the dundaben (beating with heavy sticks) ...he was not transferred to hospital.

The trial began in 1934. ..Though Suresh could not be sentenced for lack of evidence, the judge found him to be a “youth who was dangerous to the British regime in India” and ordered that he be detained in prison for four years without trial. Suresh Dey was released in 1937. By that time the cloth business run by his father had been folded up. The village home had been raided repeatedly by the police who had destroyed furniture, plants and the coconut and mangroves.

After his release he returned to his home town and got married to Ms Kironmoyee. In 2003, 86 year old Ms Kironmoyee in an interview said that the marriage took place in the presence of a police guard.

Suresh took up a job with the Shoe Company and worked for 11 years. What is most remarkable about Suresh Dey is that he left the job and started a shoe business of his own in Jamshedpur along with his two sons. He felt the need for generation of capital growth and employment within his country as the best way to serve the nation. Shoes were at that time not a basic amenity that the middle and the lower-middle class could think of wearing. As a champion of self-reliance, he saw and realized the need to provide the toiling millions of countrymen with durable and quality footwear at the most affordable price. This dream became his passion. This passion gave birth to Sreeleathers. Sreeleathers started making shoes in a tiny scantly-lit room, today it is known as Sreeleathers. Suresh Dey died in 1990 at the age of 79. This write up (mostly) is excerpt from the book “Battle of Jalalabad” written by Suresh Dey. He has written very less about him and more about the war and his friends in IRA. But still one must read the book to know about the “Battle of Jalalabad” and Suresh Dey.

The battle on the Jalalabad hill was fought between the “Indian Republican Army, Chittagong Branch” and on behalf of the British Raj, by the Eastern Frontier Rifles from Dhaka, and the Surma Valley Light Horse, from Assam. Of the 51 IRA Volunteers 12 died in the hills and two later in hospitals. Two unconscious rebels were left behind by the others who masterfully retreated from the hill. The two later gained consciousness and managed to move out from the battlefield. One of them was Suresh Dey.

Of the 12 revolutionaries who got killed on the Jalalabad hilltop, as many as eight were in their teens. Most dead were 14 years old. The British never made know their casualties in the battle presumably because it was embarrassingly high. However Sir Charles Tegart ...(was heard shouting at dead revolutionary) bastard, you have killed 64 of the our men. Against their Planes, Lewis machine guns, the rebels fought with muskets, single or double bore rifles and pistols.

The battle of Jalalabad was an extension of Chittagong uprising, i.e. an extension of the attempt on 18 April 1930 to raid the armoury of police and auxiliary forces from the Chittagong armoury in Bengal province by armed revolutionaries for Indian independence led by Surya Sen popularly known as Master-da. Chittagong now is in Bangladesh.

The plan was put into action at 10 p.m. on 18 April 1930. The police armoury (in Police Line in Dampara) was captured by a group of revolutionaries led by Ganesh Ghosh, while another group of ten men led by Lokenath Bal took the Auxiliary Forces armoury. Some sixty-five revolutionaries took part in the raid undertaken in the name of the Hindustan (Indian) Republican Army, Chittagong Branch. However, they could not locate ammunition. Revolutionaries also succeeded in cutting telephone and telegraph wires and disrupting the movement of the trains; about sixteen of them captured the European club's headquarters. After a few days, the police traced some of the revolutionaries. The revolutionaries were surrounded by several thousand troops while they took shelter in Jalalabad hills near Chittagong Cantonment on the afternoon of 22 April 1930.

It must be noted that the Chittagong armed uprising found no mention at all in the officially sponsored four volumes History of the Freedom Movement in India written by Dr Tara Chand. ...... this official history published by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Publication Division, when Jawaharlal Nehru was Prime Minister virtually ignored the armed struggles for independence. One is tempted to wonder if this was in accordance with instructions from Nehru himself.

While Gandhi made full use of it.
Historian R C Majumder described the exploits of the IRA as “the most daring of the revolutionary enterprises in India.” Surya Sen and his colleagues saw the Battle of Jalalabad 22 April 1930 as a fitting revenge of the massacre at Jallianawalla Bagh. Gandhi .. ..at the Second Round Table Conference September 7, 1931 in London , warned the British that if they did not work with the Congress, they would one day have to deal with the ‘terrorists’ who were writing with blood a grim warning on the wall.

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