The continuous violation of ceasefire on the LOC from the side of Pakistan on one hand and the mischievous activities of China on our land on the other remind us everyday that we should be on our guard to protect our frontiers from our permanent enemies in our neighbourhood. Whether it’s Britain prior to 15.08.1947 or it’s Pakistan and China from 15.08.1947 onwards till date, the patriot Indians cannot relax considering the threat from across the border to the country and the countrymen. On the occasion of the martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Raajguru (23rd March), I am presenting the review of a book telling the patriotism-filled tales of the very very young unsung heroes of the war of independence of India from the British. This is a Hindi novel whose title is – Watan Par Marne Waale (those who died for the motherland) and its author is (Late) Jagdeesh Jagesh.
Watan Par Marne Waale, true to its title, tells the true life-stories of those martyrs of tender age who laid down their lives for the cause of liberating Mother India from the shackles of slavery. These heart-stirring and tear-jerking tales of martyrdom have been told in flash-back through the mouths of three contemporary characters of free India. They are those youths who are still honest, truthful, sincere and above all, patriot at their heart and want to know more about their nation as well as do something worthwhile for their motherland.
The novel starts with the journey of a clean-hearted patriot youth, Mridul from his home to Delhi because he wants to listen to the Indian prime minister live from the battlement of the Red Fort on 15th August and feel the pride of being an Indian. But due to his bitter experiences during the journey as well as during his stay at his destination when the Indian premier was delivering the Independence Day speech, he feels that most of the Indians don’t understand the value of being free from the colonial rule and they don’t respect this status of theirs (I also feel like him). He was instigated to reach Delhi on this occasion after reading the heart-piercing episode of the martyrdom of Emperor Bahadurshah Zafar and his entire family. Zafar’s SHER (Urdu couplet) – ‘Kitna Hai Badnaseeb Zafar Ki Dafan Ke Liye Do Gaj Zameen Bhi Na Milee Koo-e-Yaar Mein‘ (how unfortunate Zafar is that he did not get even two yards of land in his motherland for his burial !) had made his eyes wet (I also feel my eyes as wet whenever I read this Ghazal of his whose the said SHER is a part of – Lagta Naheen Hai Jee Mera Ujade Dayaar Mein). However now he is feeling that the Indians living in free India have lost their national character and the sentiment of patriotism (I also feel that). But before this feelings and newly-formed opinion of this patriot youth gets solidified, he happens to come across two like-minded youths who have come from Bengal for the same purpose. They are Maneesh and his cousin, Mrinmay.
Like-mindedness brings people closer and quite naturally, these three young patriots decide to move for the return journey together and spend as much time together as possible for them. And during this return journey only, they tell the unheard stories of the unsung heroes of the Indian freedom struggle to each other (and also to their fellow-travellers). In between of that, they happen to come across one more youth – Manohar who also contributes to the lively, meaningful and patriotic talks taking place in the train compartment. Their conversation brings to fore the stories of young patriots like Pandit Shaligram Shukla, Shreeshchandra Kaushal, Surendranath Pandey, Prabodh Ranjan Chaudhury, Anant Hari Mitra, Nikhil Kumar Banerjee, Pradyot Kumar Bhattacharya, Prabhanshu Shekhar Pal, Santosh Kumar Mitra etcetera which are otherwise not known to the current generation. The references of certain well-known martyrs viz. Jatindra Nath Das, Shacheendra Sanyal, Chandra Shekhar Aazaad, Bhagat Singh, Pandit Ram Prasad Bismil etc. also come due to their link with the lesser known ones. The gist of the narration of all these talking youths is a one-liner – ‘They died so that we could live with dignity in free India.’
Watan Par Marne Waale was penned by the devoted author – Late Jagdeesh Jagesh after a lot of research work and he dug out these stories which have not been made a part of the Indian history and neglected by the high-profile historians (not to say even the least for the politicians). These teenager martyrs did not know anything except that they had to do everything to drive out the colonial rulers from their motherland. Laying down own lives was considered a very small price for the freedom of Mother India by them. But more than the death which had to come only once, they underwent severe sufferings of the kind we may not be ready to face even in our dreams. But they suffered with smiles on their lips. The tortures and hardships were flowers for them, throwing fragrance of freedom for their country. Hundreds of such martyrs did not win news headlines and could not enter the history books. But their sacrifices are invaluable. We have forgotten them, hence we are ungrateful. In the considered opinion of Jitendra Mathur, if we continue to forget them, we will continue to be ungrateful. These tender boys suffered beyond our imagination and then willingly embraced death. Can we ?
The learned author Late Jagdeesh Jagesh (who himself must have been a great patriot) has detailed the situations and the mindset of the family members of these martyrs too whose contribution in this regard is not to be underrated. They with all their maturity and worldly knowledge, never stopped their young energetic kids to go for sufferings and even sacrifice of own lives for the sake of serving the motherland. They stood by their children through thick and thin and never let their morale to come down. That’s no less a contribution to any great cause. The way Vidyavati, the mother of the immortal martyr – Bhagat Singh always remained a perennial source of inspiration and mental strength for her great son, the same way the family members of these martyrs continued to stand behind their great sons and helped them by all means, never to allow them to feel lonely in the great fight carried out by them.
Written in simple language but with a high degree of passion, this novel is an account of lesser-known history and a showcase of patriotism that used to exist a century back. It contains lively and useful discussions too between the narrating characters alongside the patriotic talks. The discussion regarding the superiority between NISHTHA (devotion) and NISHCHAY (determination) is a small yet great piece of literature.
At this moment, when India appears to be at the juncture of another Kargil like war, this novel becomes all the more relevant. While recommending this highly underrated literary novel to everybody who is a patriot and who can read Hindi, I appeal to all the citizens to spare some time out of their busy lives to think of their nation too, rising above the petty interests of self, family, caste, community, religion and province. I sign off with a SHER of the great martyr – Ashfaqullah Khan – ‘Kuchh Aarzoo Nahin Hai, Hai Aarzoo To Ye Hai, Rakh De Zara See Koi Khaaq-e-Watan Kafan Mein‘ (I don’t have any desire now, the final desire is just that some dust of my motherland is kept in my cerement while burying me). What a sentiment it was friends, what a sentiment it was !
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