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Roy, Kiron Sankar


Roy, Kiron Sankar (1891-1949) a scion of the Teota zamindar family, was the son of Harasankar Roy Chaudhuri. Although his formal education began at the Teota Academy, he passed the secondary level 'Entrance' examination from Hindu School, Calcutta. He joined St Xavier's College, and subsequently Bangabasi College, from where he did his IA (Intermediate Arts). Around this time, the teenage Kiron Sankar developed involvement with the extremist-nationalist movement. He was sent to England in late 1909 for education, and he joined New College, Oxford, around 1910. Roy was a prominent member of the Oxford Indian Majlis and was President for a term. He took his BA (Oxon) degree with honours in History in 1913.

Kiron Sankar Roy

Returning to India, Roy taught History at Presidency College and Sanskrit College, Calcutta, for a brief period. While in the Bengal Education Service, Kiron Sankar spoke at a meeting in the Town Hall organised in protest against the Rowlatt Act. The authorities took great exception at this, and asked Roy to explain his conduct. In reply, he submitted his resignation. He again went for England, shortly afterwards, to finish the legal training at the Lincoln’s Inn but he did not complete the course. 

Back home, Roy joined the Congress, and became the vice-principal and professor of English literature at the 'National College' (Kolikata Vidyapitha), with subhas chandra bose as principal. Kiron Sankar was later the Vice Chancellor of the 'National University' (known at that time as Gauriya Sarba-Vidyayatan). In 1921, at the call of the Congress, Kiron Sankar became actively involved in the non-cooperation movement, along with Subhas Bose, under the leadership of Chitta Ranjan Das (Deshbandhu). He was detained during this time for writing a seditious article.

A disciple of CR Das joined the swarajya party when it was formed at the Gaya Congress (1922) under the leadership of Motilal Nehru and CR Das. He became the secretary to the Swarajya Party in 1923, and was elected to the Bengal Council, for two consecutive terms. When the civil disobedience movement got under way in 1930, Roy was arrested a second time, along with Subhas Bose, for leading an illegal procession in Calcutta.

A prominent figure in Bengal Congress politics for almost thirty years, Kiron Sankar had been a member of the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee and the All-India Congress Committee since 1922 and held important positions in both its parliamentary and non-parliamentary wings. In the 1937 elections held in accordance with the provisions of the 1935 Act, Roy was elected to the Bengal Legislative Assembly. He was Leader of the Congress Party, and Leader of the Opposition, in the Bengal Assembly in the late 1930s and 1940s.

After partition, Kiron Sankar Roy was for some time the Leader of the Congress Party in the East Bengal Legislative Assembly, and also the Leader of the Opposition and of the Congress party in the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. He later resigned his membership of both the assemblies, and joined Dr BC Roy's West Bengal cabinet as Home Minister on March 4, 1948. He died shortly afterwards, at fifty-seven, on 20th February 1949.

Kiron Sankar was a key figure in the complex, Calcutta-centric Congress politics of Bengal, following the death of CR Das in the mid-twenties. Roy played a vital role in the turbulent decade of the forties. He was prominently among (along with Sarat Chandra Bose) the handful of Congress politicians who made a determined attempt at resisting the proposed partition of Bengal. Roy and Bose, in open conflict with the Congress High Command, came to an eleventh-hour agreement with Suhrawardy and Abul Hashim for the creation of a 'United and Sovereign Bengal' and a 'Free (Socialist) State of Bengal'; however, this plan did not succeed.

Apart from his role as a politician, Kiron Sankar made significant contributions to Bengali literature. He was a prominent member of the 'Sabuj Patra' group led by pramatha chowdhury, and of sukumar roy's celebrated 'Monday Club'. Roy's essays and short stories (in the 'Sabuj Patra', 'Prabasi', 'Atmasakti' and other publications) were appreciated by a large section of readers, and well received by critics. He published a collection of short stories under the title of 'Sapta Parna'. [R Roy]