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HVK Archives: Lifers' homage to great escape - on Netaji Subash

Lifers' homage to great escape - on Netaji Subash - The Pioneer

Pioneer News Service ()
24 January 1997

Title : Lifers' homage to great escape - on Netaji Subash
Author : Pioneer News Service
Publication : The Pioneer
Date : January 24, 1997

In perhaps the most unique tribute to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose,
all prisoners of the Presidency Jail where the freedom fighter
spent his last internment before the great escape in 1941, spent
Thursday organising a function on the premises in which the
"heritage cell" was decorated, ministers garlanded by lifers and
the entire place spruced up by them.

Jail superintendent Kamal Kumar Banerjee told this correspondent,
"they took it upon themselves to organise the function. It was
spontaneous. I had mooted the idea to them some weeks back; all of
them took it up in right earnest and put their best foot forward."

All 927 prisoners at the jail were in their holiday best and formed
a human chain in the afternoon to welcome the Minister for Jail
Biswanath Choudhury, Justice Nurelam Choudhury of the Calcutta High
Court and Congress legislator Saugata Roy.

Netaji's 12-feet-by-8-feet cell had been decked up with a bust of
the leader which was garlanded by the minister and other VIPs. A
plaque behind the bust said, "This is the cell where Netaji was
interned between July 2 and December 5, 1940. He went on satyagraha
from November 29 which the British rulers were forced to set him
free as his health deteriorated. It was from here that he planned
his great escape."

Netaji escaped from the country from his Elgin Road residence in
1941 disguised as a kabuliwallah. He was interned there after his
removal from this cell.

Mr Banerjee said, "obviously, his fast was calculated... He wanted
to return home so that he could make good his escape." lie,
however, could not specify why Netaji had been interned in the jail
at that time.

Lifers also sang a patriotic song before the main function began
and the fluttering Tricolours as well as the freshly-painted
buildings set the mood. According to Mr Banerjee, the entire
section comprising two floors and 10 cells, the cornermost of which
Netaji occupied, had been "preserved" as being of "heritage value."

However, a discordant note was struck by one lifer, Jahengir Khan
(54) who said that he had been in the jail for 16 years which is
more than the stipulated 14 years.

"The authorities have done nothing about my release. Yes, I did
garland one of the VIPs... but I was asked to. I have had two
heart attacks in the last five years... I have all documents. I am
sure I am going to die in this jail too. My wife and sister are
dead. I am not being released because I do not have strings to

Kartik Biswas (34) who firs spent close to 10 years in the jail for
a "ghastly murder" (his own words) seemed to be extremely happy
about what was going on. "Which paper do you belong to? Will you
publish my name? We have done a splendid job, haven't we?" Biswas
was in charge of putting up the Tricolours all over the place.

Justice Choudhury said, "I am a sitting judge. I cannot speak my
heart out. But whatever is happening around us pains me. I have
come here not only because I have been invited but because 1 felt
the urge to. After seeing what these prisoners have done today, I
belong to history myself. "

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