"No Rajmata Amrita Roy, Siraj ud Daulah wasn’t a villain"

Story by  Saquib Salim | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 30-03-2024
Amrita Roy and Nawab Suja u Daulah (Portrait)
Amrita Roy and Nawab Suja u Daulah (Portrait)


Saquib Salim

It was nauseating to read that a candidate for West Bengal’s Krishnanagar Lok Sabha constituency, Rajmata Amrita Roy, defended her ancestor Raja Krishnachandra Roy for siding with the British during the Battle of Plassey in 1757. She reportedly said, “If he had not done that, would Hinduism have survived here? Would Sanatana Dharma have survived? No. Then, he would have been transformed into another identity. If that's the case, why can't we say that the Maharaja saved us from an anti-communal strike?

Siraj-ud-Daulah was the last independent Nawab of Bengal, who ruled from 1756 to 1757. His defeat at the hands of the British at the battle of Palassey marked the beginning of the rule of the East India Company over Bengal and later almost entire Indian subcontinent. 

In India, it is unimaginable for young Indians to believe that seven decades after we won freedom, there are people who defend the British imperialism. If we agree with her version then Bhagat Singh, Ramprasad Bismil, Balwant Phadkey, Lala Lajpat Rai, Ashfaqullah Khan, and so many others sacrificed their lives fighting against the saviours of “dharma”.

Indian nationalism is my belief and I cannot debate with the people who try to portray English Colonialism as my nation’s saviour.

Rajmata Amrita Roy is the BJP candidate against TMC’s Mahua Mitra from Krishnaagar Lok Sabha constituency. Kunal Ghosh of TMC alleged that Roy comes from a family of British collaborators and one of her ancestors helped the British against Siraj-ud-Daulah.

Mahua Mitra and Rajmata Amrita Roy

In defense, Roy chose to defend the British as saviours of “Sanatana Dharma”. She wanted to tell us that by helping the colonial forces at Plassey, her ancestors saved the Indian civilization. There cannot be a bigger lie.

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, a revolutionary and one of the most important ideologues of Hindutva had a different view for the Battle of Plassey. In his authoritative history of the First War of the Indian Independence in 1857, he likened the defeat at Plassey to the defeat of the Indians.

Savarkar wrote, “On the 23rd of June in 1757, the question whether India should belong to the Indians or to the English was openly discussed for the first time on the field of Plassey. On that very day and on that very field, where it was first discussed, were sown the seeds of the revolution. If Plassey had not been there, the War of 1857 also would not have taken place. Though a century had rolled by, the memory of that day was fresh in the heart of Hindusthan. In proof of this, witness the terrible scene on the 23rd day of June 1857, in Northern India. In the vast country from Punjab up to Calcutta, wherever there was an open field, thousands of revolutionaries were fighting the English simultaneously in different places, from morning till evening, after openly challenging them saying: ‘Today we are going to avenge Plassey!’”

Savarkar said: “On the battlefield of Plassey, India had sworn to fight a war of freedom”. The most important thinker of Hindutva did not know that the British were, in fact, trying to save ‘Sanatana Dharma’. He should have taken some lessons from Rajmata Amrita Roy.

The war of Indian independence was a ‘yagya’ for Savarkar. He asked the revolutionaries, “Dig the Sacrificial Fire-pit on the altar wider and wider, deeper and deeper! Well and good. Lo! The Fire of National Indignation is already bursting forth into flames! As the first sacramental rite, the Sankalpa, the declamatory vow, has already been proclaimed a hundred years ago as early as the year 1757 A.D. So, as the first sacrificial offering, throw the Field of Plassey into the flaming pit!”

The proponent of Hindutva ideology, Savarkar, termed the defeat at Plassey as the “national insult”.

Maybe Roy’s “Sanatana Dharma” is local and Savarkar being a Maharashtrian doesn’t appeal to her. Then she should read about arguably the greatest Indian revolutionary from her home state, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

Almost the whole of India knows that Bose escaped from British house arrest in January 1941. Roy may try to know why Bose was arrested in the first place.

Bose was strengthening his Forward Bloc after he resigned as President of Congress. He found that the Holwell memorial, a monument that depicted Siraj ud Daulah as a tyrant, is an emotive issue for every Indian, Hindu and Muslim alike. He declared that 3 July 1940 would be celebrated as Siraj ud Daulah Day, the date on which he was executed in 1757.

On 30 May 1940, Bose addressed a large gathering at Albert Hall, Kolkata. He said that the Holwell memorial should be removed and the history portraying Siraj ud Daulah as a tyrant or communal should be removed from the textbooks. 3 July was to be marked as Siraj ud Daulah Day and on that day a mass agitation was to start under the leadership of Bose.

Bose was arrested on 2 July 1940 under Section 129 of the Defense of India Act.

His followers went ahead with the programs on 3 July. Roy should know that Siraj ud Daulah was being celebrated more by Hindus of Bengal than Muslims. Governor of Bengal informed the Viceroy, “General impression was that saner Muslims were inclined to be quiet, but Hindu followers of Subhas and some extreme Muslims were anxious to foment trouble... Well-known ex-terrorists (read Anushilan Samiti and HSRA) and Forward Bloc Hindu agitators were prominent.” 

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Subhas Chandra Bose was imprisoned and in December shifted to House Arrest from which he eventually escaped. As a commander of Azad Hind Fauj, Bose kept invoking the memories of Siraj ud Daulah and Plassey.

Does Rajmata Amrita Roy know that praising British imperialism is a crime against our national heroes?