Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das (1870-1925)

Chittaranjan Das, a revolutionary freedom fighter, was endearingly called ‘Deshabandhu’ (Friend of the Nation). Born on 5 November 1870 in Calcutta, he belonged to an upper middle-class family of Telirbagh, in Dacca district.

Chittaranjan’s patriotic ideas were greatly influenced by his father, Bhuban Mohan Das, a reputed Solicitor of the Calcutta High Court. It was Bankim Chandra who influenced him in his political ideas. It was not before 1917 that Das came to the forefront of nationalist politics. In that year he was invited to preside over the Bengal Provincial Conference held at Bhowanipore. His political career was brief but meteoric. In the course of only eight years he rose to all-India fame by virtue of his intense patriotism, sincerity and oratorical power.

He wanted "Swaraj for the masses, not for the classes". To him, "Swaraj is government by the people and for the people". An advocate of communal harmony and Hindu-Muslim unity, Das effected, in 1923, the Bengal Pact between the Hindus and Muslims of Bengal, though opposed by a section of the Congress. A champion of national education and the vernacular medium, he felt that the masses should be properly educated to participate in the nationalist movement. He deprecated the prevalent western system of education that would only promote "a kind of soulless culture". His religious and social outlook was liberal. He was against caste-discrimination and untouchability. A believer in women’s emancipation and widow re-marriage, he supported the spread of female education and widow remarriage.

Great as a jurist, and dynamic as a leader of Bengal, Chittaranjan was an apostle of Indian nationalism. In the words of Tagore, " the best gift that Chittaranjan left for his countrymen is not any particular political or social programme but the creative force of a great aspiration that has taken a deathless form in the sacrifice which his life represented". The country lost one of its great sons in the passing away of C.R. Das on 16 June 1925.