Battle for recognition

Santosh Singh

Tarapur (Munger) : Nearly 75 years after a barrage of bullets from the British army wiped their feeble defence away, the fight for little-known martyrs from Tarapur continues from their grave. This time, against government apathy and indifference.

Mahipal Singh, Sheetal Chamar, Badri Mandal and Basant Dhanuk and their 31 associates laid down their lives in 1932, professing love for the motherland.

"Do gaz zamin bhi chahiye do gaz kafan ke saath, mar ke bhi hame rehna hai, khakh-e-watan ke saath (Give us two yards of shroud along with two yards of land; we want to live with the motherland even after death)," the bravehearts had said before the bullets fell them.

On November 25, 1984, then chief minister Chandra Shekhar Singh had erected a memorial — the Shahid Smarak — in the sleepy town of Tarapur, 45 km from Munger and 245 km south of Patna in memory of the freedom fighters. It could be done thanks to the efforts of influential residents like Nandkumar Singh, Jaymagal Singh, Hitlal Rajhans, Basuki Nath Roy and Hado Choudhary.

Ever since, their memories have faded into oblivion. Neither has the act of defiance found a way into the history books nor has the government ever celebrated the memorial.

A coat of whitewash was last applied on it 22 years ago and the fangs of time are slowly wiping away the names of the martyrs from the plaques.

A blame game and buck-passing between the residents and the government, however, have remained consistent.

And the residents are not amused. Sanjay Prasad Singh, a retired teacher-in-English from Tarapur, said: "Most memorials go through such government apathy. Lalu ji had promised the construction of a martyrs' statue in 2001. But it has turned out to be a mere eyewash."

But 89-year-old Sukhdev Mandal (popularly known as Lodhu), the only surviving witness of the 1932 battle, is bristling with anger. "Almost 100 freedom fighters had gathered at the police station to protest against imposition of a Rs 80-lakh community fine on villages. A British superintendent of police was hit by a gunshot fired by one of the protesters. This provoked the police to open indiscriminate fire that killed 34 people and injured over two dozen," reminisced Mandal, who had saved himself on the day by hiding in a house.

"The faces of the dead freedom fighters were blackened in front of the resident of Tarapur," he said, adding that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, on a visit to Tarapur in 1942, had mentioned the sacrifices of the 34 martyrs.

Sanjay Verma, a local businessman, puts the onus on the common people as well. "Tarapur citizens have never taken up seriously the memorial upkeep and renovation as a collective responsibility," Verma said.

Tarapur subdivision magistrate Shiv Bhushan Thakur told: "The government has a public fund of Rs 30,000 for raising martyrs' statues, but not for the maintenance of the memorial.

(Courtesy The Telegraph)


Dear Santosh,

We are touched by your story. The Shahid Smarak in the town of Tarapur should be a place of visitor attraction. The memory of those brave one's always be inspiring to all the Biihari's. I will be thankful if you could please get us the contact information for Nandkumar Singh, Jaymagal Singh, Hitlal Rajhans, Basuki Nath Roy and Hado Choudhary so that we can join hands to make the memorial a pride of Bihar for generations to get inspired from the bravery and selfless nature of those Bihari who gave life to get the freedom for the generations to come.

Dear Santosh, can you please e-mail to us that what improvement, maitenance is required immidiately, and what is the cost.

Radha and Ramesh Yadav

43611 Greenhills Way
Fremont, CA 94539

Santosh Singh is Patna -based Principal Correspondent with The Telegraph