Waddedar, Pritilata

Pritilata Waddedar

Waddedar, Pritilata (1911-1932) revolutionary nationalist. Pritilata was born to a family of modest means. Her father was a clerk in the Chittagong Municipality. She was a meritorious student at the Khastagir girl’s School of Chittagong and passed the matriculation examination in the first division in 1927. She continued her education in eden college, Dhaka and in 1929, she passed the Intermediate examinations securing the first place among all the candidates from Dhaka Board. Two years later, Pritilata graduated in Philosophy with distinction from Bethune College of Kolkata.

Pritilata had participated in ‘activities subversive to the state’ since the period of studies in Eden College, where she became a member of Sree Sangha under the banner Dipali Sangha led by Lila Nag. In Calcutta she was a member of the Chhatri Sangha led by Kalayani Das. After graduation she returned to Chittagong and took up the job of the headmistress of a local English medium secondary school named Nandankanan Aparnacharan School.

In the 1930s, there were many revolutionary groups all over Bengal and Chittagong was a fertile land for the revolutionary activities. Members of these groups believed that India's freedom could be achieved only through armed struggle. Pritilata believed that the time had come for women to take active role in the armed struggle against the British, sacrifice their lives if necessary, and confront all risks, dangers and tribulations, on the same footing as their male comrades. One of Priti's brothers was already involved in revolutionary politics.

He introduced her to the famous revolutionary activist Mastarda surya sen and although it was very rare for a woman to join in revolutionary politics, he accepted Pritilata as a woman member of his revolutionary group. She was involved in operations for destruction of the Telephone and Telegraph office and the capture of the reserve police line. She took part in the Jalalabad battle, in which her responsibility was to supply explosives.

In one assignment in 1930, Pritilata was sent to Alipur Central Jail of Calcutta to meet Ram Krishna, who was a political prisoner sentenced to death and put behind the bars under strict observation in complete seclusion. She could make it in time. Pritilata went to Dhalghat to meet Mastarda at his hideout on 13 June 1932. The venue was surrounded by a police troop and there was a confrontation, in which some revolutionaries lost their lives. Mastarda and Pritilata were able to escape. Pritilata came back to her school. By that time her name appeared in the 'most-wanted' police list. Mastarda instructed her to leave the school and go underground just as the male revolutionaries of that time did. Pritilata and along with her, another woman revolutionary, Kalpana Datta went underground.

In 1932, Surya Sen planned an attack on the Pahartali European Club, which bore the notorious notice 'Dogs and Indians not allowed'. He assigned Pritilata to lead a team that would attack the Club on 23 September 1932. Members of the team were instructed to carry potassium cyanide with them so that in case they were caught by police they could swallow it before the arrest. The raid was successful but Pritilata, dressed as a man was trapped without a way of escape on that fateful night. She committed suicide by swallowing the cyanide. She was only 21 at death. Her martyrdom created a stir and acted as a source of inspiration for revolutionaries in Bengal and India. [Sonia Amin]