The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hero beggar after freedom

Krishnagar, Sept. 28: Bholanath Biswas went to jail twice fighting for Independence, but free India is yet to grant his wife a freedom fighter’s pension.

Bholanath died in 1988 at the age of 90. Since then, Manibala, now 82, has been doing the rounds of the MLA’s office and pleading with the Shibpur panchayat in Nakashipara, about 140km from Calcutta, in Nadia.

Bholanath’s participation in the freedom struggle is recorded in a book — Swadhinata Sangramey Nadia — published by the Nadia district administration in 1973.

“He (Bholanath) was beaten up mercilessly in Krishnagar jail for chanting Vande Mataram. He could not work because he was ill most of the time. After Independence, he begged on the streets,” Manibala said.

Before his death, Bholanath had approached local CPM legislator Kartick Sarkar to get the matter of his pension sorted out. But the family did not get a paisa.

In 1992, a new MLA was elected. Since then, no one in authority has taken up the case.

“My husband’s ill health was a fallout of the harsh life he had lived as a freedom fighter. My sons could not study beyond primary school. They are farm labourers and in no position to look after me,” Manibala said.

She is entitled to Rs 12,500 from the government every month.

Instead, each month Manibala shuffles from one son’s house to the other. The three — Jiban, 55, Bharat, 50, and Nabakumar, 47 — earn about Rs 60 a day. “If I need money for medicines, they plead helplessness,” Manibala said, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Last month, she approached Nadia district magistrate Onkar Singh Meena’s office and submitted an application.

The additional district magistrate (general), Motaleb Ali Sardar, told her he would try to secure the pension for her.

“The widows of many freedom fighters have started receiving pension in the recent past. We will inquire into her case and definitely try to ensure that she gets her due,” he said.

According to Swadhinata Sangramey Nadia, Bholanath participated in violent protests in 1933 near various government offices in and around Nadia. He spent six months in jail for taking part in the Civil Disobedience Movement.

“He also took part in the Quit India Movement and was imprisoned,” said Nandarani Mondal, widow of another freedom fighter, Dwijapada Mondal, also from Shibpur village. Unlike Manibala, she gets her pension.

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