State heritage plan for Batukeswar Dutt Hideout
The Bengal government has drawn up a plan to purchase and renovate a private home in East Burdwan’s Oari village whose patal ghar (basement) was used by freedom fighter Batukeswar Dutt to hide from British raids between the 1920s and 1930s.
The plan follows BJP proposals to rename Burdwan railway station in the honour of Dutt, a key member of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA).
Dutt — along with others in the HSRA like Bhagat Singh and Chandra Shekhar Azad — was a Left-wing revolutionary with no known association with, or support for, the Sangh parivar and its ideology.
Union minister of state for home Nityanand Rai had proposed the renaming of Burdwan station in July this year after visiting Dutt’s home in Patnaalong with former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
The move had sparked a controversy, with Trinamul accusing the BJP of trying to appropriate Dutt as an icon.
Dutt had later participated in the Congress’s movements, like the Mahatma Gandhi-led Quit India. Although, he — like his fellow members in the HSRA — is not known to have warmed up to the Sangh parivar, the saffron camp has in recent years been seen trying to appropriate icons who had nothing to do with its ideology. Dutt’s comrade Bhagat Singh is a notable example.
Sources said the BJP’s move had prompted the Trinamul government to commemorate Dutt’s roots in the state. The government, said sources, has decided to observe Dutt’s birthday on November 18. The local block development officer, Kamal Kanti Talapatra, has sought Rs 1 lakh from the state to observe the day, the sources added.
District officials said they planned to ask the state tourism department to release over Rs 40 lakh that had been returned for non-utilisation following three years of work. The sum was part of a Rs 85-lakh corpus granted by the state nearly six years ago to preserve the house in Oari village.
“The historic basement where the freedom fighter used to hide during police raids in the British era is located in a private home. We want to renovate and save the heritage site as soon as we can. The government needs to purchase house. We will request the government to send the money that had been returned,” said Rajat Nanda, ADM (development) of East Burdwan.
Dutt was born in Oari in East Burdwan’s Khandoghosh in 1910. He is best known for accompanying Singh to the Central Legislative Assembly — which made way for Parliament in independent India — on April 8, 1929, where they were arrested on charges of hurling bombs and circulating revolutionary pamphlets, and for popularising “Inquilab Zindabad (Long live the Revolution in Urdu)” as an anti-occupation rallying cry, especially among the Left in south Asia.
“The government will assess the value of the land and the house and purchase it from the owners. We will be very glad if the work to restore the patal ghar starts soon as the building is old and damaged,” said Sarbajit Jash, joint secretary of the Batukeshwar Dutt Welfare Trust.