Patriots >Extremist Leaders > Datta,Ashwini kumar
Datta,Ashwini kumar (1856-1923)

Ashwinikumar Datta was born in an upper middle class Kayastha family at Laulcale, Patuakhali, in the district of Barisal on 15 January 1856. His father, Broja Mohan Datta, was a Munsiff and Deputy Collector and rose to be a District Judge. His mother Prasannamoyee Devi was a pious lady of independent spirit. Ashwinikumar derived his love of freedom and devotion to God from his parents.

At the age of five he took admission in the pathshala of his ancestral village, Batajore (Barisal). He passed the Entrance examination from Rangpur in 1870, and the First Arts examination from the Presidency College, Calcutta. He next went to Allahabad to study law and passed the law examination in 1877. Returning to Bengal, he graduated from the Krishnagar College in 1878 and passed M.A examination in 1879 and the B.L examination in 1880 from the same institution. He was married to Sarla Bala, daughter of Chandra Kumar Roy, in April 1878.

He began his life as a teacher in Krishnagar Collegiate School in 1878. Next year he got the post of Headmaster at Chatra, near Serampore. But soon after he joined the Bar at Barisal, in 1880. he built up a lucrative practice but did not find it congenial to his temperament. Like Bipin Chandra Pal born of rich parents, Ashwinikumar also was laid under no necessity to work for a living. As he had no children of his own, he adopted the entire school-going children of his district as his own and devoted all his wealth to their education. He established the Brajamohan School in the name of his father on 27 June 1884.

Five years later the Brajmohan College was started as a second grade College. He served as an honoary lecturer of English in this institution for seventeen years. It was affiliated upto the B.A standard in 1898. Arrangements were also made to teach the Pleadership and B.L degree courses there at the same time. Under the guidance of Ashwinikumar both the School and the College became ideal institutions. The motto of the School was “Truth, love and purity”.

Every effort was made to inculcate these principles among the students. Associations like the “Band of Mercy”, “Band of Unity” and “Band of Hope” and “Little Brothers of the Poor” were organized in the School. The College was spoken of the highly appreciative terms by competent authorities. Ashwinikumar also organized the Bakharganj Hitaisini Sabha, and its auspicious started a Girls School in 1887.

Ashwinikumar took an active interest in politics from his early life. In 1880 he organized the People’s Association, first at Serampore and then at Barisal. He was elected a delegate to the second session of the Congress, held in Calcutta in 1886. In 1887 he attended the third session at Madras and spoke on the reform of the Legislative Council. He was one of the few person’s who tried to have mass contact on that early stage of the evolution of the Congress at the Madras Session he

produced a petition to the House of Commons for introducing reforms in the legislature.

In 1897 at the Amraoti session of the Congress he warned that the Congress would sink into a three-days fun, if its ideals did not reach the rural people. His position in the Congress may be ascertained from the fact that in 1898 he, along with D. E. Wacha, Madan Mohan Malaviya, Subrahmania Iyer, R. N. Mudholkar and the President and ex-President, was empowered to draw up a constitution for the Congress.

The Constitution draw up was adapted in 1899. The partition of Bengal transformed him from a Moderate to an Extremist. In 1906 he resided over Shivaji festival. Bipin Chandra Pal writes in his “Spirit of Indian Nationalism” that during the Swadeshi agitation Ashwinikumars word was lord to the people of Barisal.

The Government of East Bengal and Assam proposed to deport him on 3 July 1907, but the Government of India did not agree. When, however, the proposal was repeated on 10 December 1908, Ashwinikumar was deported. He was detained in Lucknow jail, where he devoted his time to learning Gurumukhi and studying he Grantha Saheb. He was released on 9 February 1910.

Ashwinikumar also took great interest in the civic affairs of Barisal. He was elected a Commissioner of the Barisal Municipality, when it was first established in 1885. In 1897 he rose to be its Chairman. It was mainly through his efforts that the district board was set in Barisal in 1887. He organized famine relief in 1906 and also helped those who suffered from cyclone in 1919. in 1913 he was elected President of the Bengal Provincial Conference held in Dacca.

In 1921 he was the chairman of he Reception Committee when this Conference met at Barisal. He also promoted the Railway and Steamer strike in Assam and Bengal to protect the interest of the laborers in tea gardens. He was really the uncrowned king of East Bangal. He was in favor of boycotting he legislature set up under the Montagu-Chelmsford scheme, and welcomed the non- cooperative movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi.

Ashwinikumar led a simple, austere life. He was converted to Brahmoism by Krishna Goswami in 1886. He used to read the Pali Buddhist texts, the Gita, the Bible and the Grantha Saheb with devotion. He tried to eradicate untouchability, prostitution and drinking habit. He also tried to promote cottage industry but was not averse to industrialization.

Ashwinikumar wrote a number patriotic songs, which he published as ‘Bharat Geet’. His ‘Bhakti-Yoga’, ‘Karma-Yoga’ and ‘Prema’ have become classic in Bengali literature. His ‘Bhakti-Yoga’ has moulded the life of thousands of patriotic men and women in the pre-Independence days.

Author : B. B. Mazumdar