It was 15 August and raining heavily in Guwahati. And there I was a 12 year old adolescent, forced to stay indoors, nursing a bad cold with my father for company.
“How unfair can life be baba! Everyone is enjoying a holiday, while I have to be in bed,” I blurted out in utter disgust! My father glanced at me and replied, “life is indeed unfair at times dear, one needs to accept that. Or a non violent nationalist and Gandhi-an like Kushal Konwar wouldn’t be accused of sabotage and murder and hanged to death by the British for a crime he never committed!” This got me interested and I begged my father to tell me the story of Kushal Konwar.
“Kushal Konwar was born into a Tai Ahom family from Balijan, near Sarupathar and as a young student attracted by Gandhiji’s idealism, he took part in the non-cooperation and quit India movement against the British rulers! He believed in truth, ahimsa and swaraj; organized the Congress party in his area and led a non violent agitation in Sarupathar against the British.”
“It was 1942, Quit India movement was at its peak, and many important leaders from all over India including Assam were arrested and jailed. A widespread mass movement cutting across caste, creed, gender and religion rose against the British, with men and women coming out in huge numbers; marching to the call of ‘Vande Mataram’. But soon in many places, the movement erupted in violence with people destroying and damaging government properties, disrupting the transport system and telecommunication networks!”” And then it was the early morning of 10 October 1942! Under the thick blanket of a fog, few nationalists removed the sleepers from the rail tracks near Sarupathar, derailed a military train that killed many British and allied soldiers on spot. Enraged by this daring act, the British launched a massive counterattack, killing many innocent people and rounding up others! Kushal Konwar was arrested as the mastermind of this attack although the charges against him could never be proved! He was sentenced to ‘ death by hanging’, and was lodged in the death row of Jorhat Jail.”
” But he was innocent, baba! He must have been so angry and frustrated by this unjust judgement,” I cried out! My father replied, ” on the contrary, he was proud to be selected by God to make the supreme sacrifice for his country and he told this to his wife when she visited him. Kushal Konwar spent his last days reading the Gita in his cell, and on the early morning of 15 June 1943 his sentence was carried out!”
And as Gandhiji said, “he alone can be a true satyagrahi who knows the art of living and dying,” summing up the life of this great martyr from Assam!
” Father, Kushal Konwar was indeed a very brave person, a true follower of ahimsa, and a firm believer in God! And look at me grumbling that life is unfair as I couldn’t go out to play one single day,” I admitted shamefully!
(The article is solely the opinion of the author. The views expressed here are solely personal and not in any way connected to any organisation or any political party ).