Sunday, 22 June 2014


Anybody associated with Kolkata is well aware of the area B. B. D. Bag-the busiest Government office clusters of Kolkata. To every old Calcuutan it is still Dalhousie Square. To the people interested in colonial history of Caltutta, this is tank squire.

Scene : 1
A morning in 1760, Location- adjacent to North-West corner of tank square, a linear brick made monument with neatly finished cement mortar plaster is erected and dedicated to the public. It was some English names & two events engraved in marble inscription. All expenditure against this construction is borne by the –de-facto President of the British East India Company’s Calcutta Council, Mr. John Zephania Holwell , popularly known as governor Holwell.

This is the Birth of Holwell Monument at Calcutta.

      The Old Fort, the Playhouse, Holwell’s Monument from Views of Calcutta 1786 by   Thomas Daniell, ( British,1749 – 1840)
 [ This is old Fort William, security measure of British factory of East India Company at Calcutta, was destroyed in the attack of Siraj-ud-dowla’s army in 1756. The location was within the Boundary of modern day Strand Road, Fairley Place, Netaji Subhash Road & Kailaghat Street, interestingly Ganga at that time flowing through the location of Stand Road, which had been drifted away from Kolkata in last 257 years, as per the experts Kailaghat Street is the localized pronunciation of Killa Ghat (Port adjacent to Fort). Modern day Fort William, at Kolkata maidan, the head quarter of Eastern Command of Indian Army had been developed by British in the period 1758-1781 as a replacement of this ruined original Fort William ]

Scene: 2
Another morning in 1821, same spot adjacent to the Tank Square, in line with the Government  order, labours start dismantling the shabby looking linear structure adjacent to the South-West corner of the well maintained Writers Building. The ugly looking eye-sore has to be removed for better ambience of the British India’s capital Caltutta. 
The original Holwell Monument is gone to dust.

Views of Calcutta and its Environ’s 1820 by James Baillie Fraser (1783-1856)
[ The accompanying text reads:“{Fraser’s} view at sunrise from the west of the Writer’s buildings shows us a close-up of the Holwell Monument to the Black Hole now in the last years of its existence. It was taken down by the order of the Marquess of Hastings in 1821, on the grounds of its increasing unsightliness. Built only of Brick and plaster, it had also obviously become a kind of lounging place, where barbers piled their trade. An impromptu verandah has been added all along the façade of Writer’s Buildings. At the far end of the square we catch our first glimpse of the new St. Andrew’s Church.”]

19th December,1902-almost the same venue in Dalhousie Square, the junction of South West Corner of Writer’s Building & today’s Netaji Subhas Road, the Viceroy & Governor General of British India, Lord Curzon, commemorates a beautiful marbel replica of the original Holwell Monument. A forgotten past is re-created.
Calcutta society gets the replica of Holwell Monument.

 Photograph of the Replica of Holwell Monument in 1905

Since 3”rd July 1940, student agitation in Calcutta was at its peak for the removal of replica of Holwell monument. On 23rdJuly,1940, A K Fazlul Hawk, Prime Minister of Provincial Government of Bengal on consulting his cabinet & the British Governor of Bengal declared the official decision to remove the replica of Holwell Monument.

Holwell Monument in 1940

2013- The oldest Christian burial Ground of Kolkata, inside the premises of St. John Church, beside some of the old graves of long forgotten Supreme Court’s Judges the replica of Holwell Monument stands, tucked away from the public eye of busy Kolkata.

Replica Holwell Monument within the Cemetery of St.John Church Kolkata since 24th September.1940
We can start our walk down the memory lane to ascertain the background of those scenes.
Background Scene 1:

Plan of Original Fort William
It all started on a very hot and dry tropical summer night of Calcutta on 20th June,1756 within a small prison cell of Fort William ( the English Fort of East India Company’s Calcutta Settlement) referred as Black Hole(SL-16 of the above plan).  After four days of fierce battle in tank square the victorious army of Bengal Nawab ( Mughal rank Subha-dar), Siraj-ud-dowlah entered the Fort William in the afternoon. The demoralized, wounded, fatigued British army and civilian militia along with Anglo-Portuguese mercenaries surrendered under the command of John Zephaniah Holwell. Usual plundering of victorious army started in the fort. English captives, who kept their cool, remained unhurt. Slowly the daylight faded away.
Surrendered captives had to be kept in a secured and secluded place within the fort. Somebody from the victorious army noticed the small prison cell with single entrance & two heavily guarded small windows. Captives were pushed to enter Black Hole prison at sword point. 146 persons were thrust upon in this cell of eighteen square foot, locked for the night in intolerable agony and in the morning of 21st June, when the prison door was open, it was found, 123 persons perished due to suffocation.

This is the story of Calcutta Black Hole tragedy, as recorded by European Historian.
On the eventful night nobody from the either side ever thought that within one year the British would be victorious in re-capturing their settlement ( 2nd January 1757) and by manipulating the Battle of Pallesy ( 23rd June 1957) would be able to control the political fortune of the most lucrative province of Mughal India. Nobody in the world imagined, they were witnessing the commencement process of a mercantile corporation to master a dynasty in the vast Indian sub-continent. Today we are aware that almost everything of modern life is under corporate influence, but in 1756, commerce would be mightier than sword- it was an imaginable conception.

J. Z. Holwell had written the detail of that fateful night in form of a letter to one of his friend at England which was published in 1758 as “A Genuine Narrative of the Deplorable Deaths of the English Gentlemen, and others, who were suffocated in the Black-Hole in Fort-William, at Calcutta, in the Kingdom of Bengal, In the Night Succeeding the 20th Day of June 1756, in a letter to a Friend” (Publisher A.Miller).
Till date, to the entire western world, this is treated as the first hand evidence of the British tragedy in Calcutta, and subsequent justification to overthrow the local Bengal Government by staging “ Revolution in Bengal” within a year.

Bengal Nawab Siraj-ud-dowlah(1733-1757)
Holwell become  the Temporary Governor of Calcutta presidency in February 1760, as the preceding Governor, Robert Clive, headed towards England. Soon the official intimation received, Mr.Henry Vansittart of Bombay presidency was promoted to the Governorship of Calcutta. Holwell decided to quit service of East India Company and subsequently resigned in September 1760.

Before leaving Calcutta, he arranged the erection of the monument as a homage to the comrades he had lost under his leadership in the losing battle of 1756. Forty Nine British names had been inscribed on marble. Interestingly, this monument also carried plaques mentioning two major events of the recent past, one the cause “Tyrannic Violence of Siraj-ud-Dowla Suba of Bengal” and the otherthe justice brought by the English under leadership of Robert Clive and Charles Watson against the same.
J. Z Holwell tried to immortalize with this memorial.

Background of Scene-2 :
Within sixty five years of its emergence in Calcutta skyline, the Holwell Monument was demolished & erased out of Calcutta’s public memory. Strangely this was the era in which East India Company was making their Calcutta settlement as a most happening city after London ! Surprisingly, during this period, the entire Western world was accepting the story of Calcutta Black Hole as an eastern holocaust, -but the very place of that debacle showed total negligence to the memento associated with it. We have no other option but to access the background of Scene-2 in the light of available written evidence.

After the fall of Calcutta (20th June 1976), within a day or two, barring the four prisoners taken  to Bengal capital Murshidabad, all English fugitives & deserters ( from Fort William during the seize) had gathered in some ships and waited at Falta at Ganga, downstream to Calcutta, expecting reinforcement from Madras presidency and hoping against all odds for their restoration. The second of the council, William Watts, chief of Kashimbazar factory( who had surrendered his factory to Bengal Nawab on 03rd June 1756 without a single shot) and another senior council member, chief of Dacca factory, Richard Beacher( who had surrendered to Bengal administration just after the fall of Calcutta) joined the crowd of Falta in due course. Holwell also came to Fulta, after his release from Murshidabad. Thus the circle of honorable council members of Bengal presidency was complete on the ship deck in the most helpless condition.

John Zephaniah Holwell (1711-1798)
Their pen started working relentlessly to represent the calamity, safeguarding own fault and in the way vindicating everybody else for this massive professional & personal misfortune. Holwell was no exception. His letters under singular signature were focusing mainly to the facts that during size of Calcutta (17th June-20th  June1756), the senior council members and almost every military officers went away to the safety of the ship on 18th June ; on 19th June president Roger Drake Junior deserted the fort; Holwell was elected by mandate, as commerder in charge of the Fort William on the evening 19th June; he was not forgetting to record – senior councilor Mr. Pearkes set aside his own seniority in favour of him, he had tried gallantly to defend the fort with his limited resources but ultimately had to surrender when writing was on the wall (20th June); later on he was subjected under Black Hole, somehow survived the dreadful night which was beyond human endurance and in the next morning forced to proceed to Murshidabad under confinement. He was again & again illustrating the list of deserters in his communication & elaborated the cause of failure his own angle.

From Madras Colonel Clive & Admiral Watson of British Navy with Ship of Wars arrived at Falta on 15th October 1757. Madras presidency entrusted Colonel Clive with sole civilian, military & commercial authority to restore company business at Bengal independent of the council of Calcutta. Clive in his letter on 23rd February 1757 to Mr. Payne, the Chairman of East India Company had correctly summed up the situation “ Do but reflect, Sir, that most of the gentlemen in power are become bankrupts by the unfortunate loss of Calcutta. This consideration, I must confess, added to their apprehensions of being dismiss the service, has often induced me to wish the Gentlemen of Madras had taken the entire management of affairs into their hands till the Company’s pleasure was known”.

 Clive’s opinion on merit of Calcutta council by his letter to Madras Governor Mr.Pigot ( 4th January,1757). “….I would have you guard against everything these gentlemen can say, for believe me, they are bad subjects and rotten at heart, will stick at nothing to prejudice you and the gentlemen of the committee indeed, how should they do otherwise, when they have not spared one another? I shall only add, their conduct at Calcutta finds no excuse, even among themselves and that the riches of Peru and Mexico should not induce me to dwell among them.” These gentlemen, who were ruined of their entire savings and property, not accepted the sole authority of Clive in connection with the future course of restoration of their settlement. An undercurrent resistance commenced.

Robert Clive (1725-1774)

Very soon Clive was able to pinpoint the lead resistant & diplomatically decided to send him aside from Bengal on the ground of his ill-health. On 25th January,1957( Clive’s letter to Madras Governor) it had surfaced- “ You will observe I was not mistaken in telling you the gentlemen here would not be wanting in their endeavor to posses themselves   of the whole or part of my power, however they have found themselves mistaken and Mr. Watson has not been prevailed upon them in any other light than what they really deserve. Mr. Holwell has been bottom of all this, he is going home upon the Syren sloop and the carrying of the packet [has] been unanimously refused him. The gentlemen seem well satisfied with my answer and (I) believe I may venture to assure you I shall meet with no further opposition.

On 31st January, 1757 Clive put his sentiment about Holwell’s leadership skill during the lost battle of Calcutta- “Mr. Holwell is spacious and sensible man, but from what I have heard and observed myself I cannot be persuaded he will ever make use of his abilities for the good of the company. I am well informed there is no merit due to him for staying behind in the fort, nothing but the want of boat prevented his escape and flight with the rest.” But on the same letter his sentiment about the Chief deserter was more human “ I cannot address Mr. Drake without giving him concern and uneasiness; assure him  of my gratitude and respect ; assure him at the same time, that if his nephew ( Roger Drake junior) has erred I believe it is in judgment not principle.”

Charles Watson (1714-1757)
Holwell boarded Siren, a fast moving Ship, in February 1757 and arrived at London in July 1757 with the report of re-capturing of Calcutta. When he had left, his official ranking was seventh in the Bengal council. Holwell took this opportunity to produce his story in person to London management. For this, during his voyage , he had penned a letter to one of his close friend at England elaborating his experience of Black Hole. This version was first published in 1758 with very limited circulation & widely spread in 1764 as major part of his famous work “ IndiaTracts”.

Holwell’s effort to counter Clive’s diplomacy can be judged from the preface of his black hole story under India Tract “ It has been freely communicated to several, and among those, to some persons of first distinction.  The hidden agenda for this narrative also surfaced in the last paragraph of the story “ And , shall it after all be said, or even thought, that I can possibly have arraigned or commented too severely on a conduct which alone plunged us into this unequal suffering ? I hope not.” May be, Asia witnessed one of the earliest corporate battle between its two brilliant managers which may influence the Bengal plane roughly for next two centuries.

During Holwell’s absence from Calcutta, the resident corporate politics was heading towards a completely new dimension. Some of Clive’s correspondences were chief source to display this development. He had penned to Madras Governor on 8th January,1757 “….the loss of property, and the means of recovering it, seem to be the only object which take up the attention of the Bengal Gentlemen.” His letter dated 23rh February, 1757 to Mr.Payne the Chairman of East India Company declares “I am a very considerable sufferer myself,---
Further it was more clear from his letter to his father dated 4th February,1757 “ I am money out of pocket by my second trip to India. I hope end may crown it all.” Hence to mitigate this huge personal loss of the-then Anglo-Saxon society of Calcutta, the only alternative was staging a revolution and putting a puppet provincial Government(under whom the personal business would face no resistance). On the height of this pre-revolution stage, Mr. Luke Scrafton penned on 18th 1757 ( to Mr. William Watts) “ Colonel’s and Major’s losses will be paid when desired.”

Clive had been able to stage the “Revolution in Bengal”(23rd June 1757) which Disposed the Bengal Nawab Siraj-ud-dowlah and put Mir Jafar in the Nawabship. Unknowingly, the seed of “British Raj” planted in Bengal. Ultimately, this revolution paid unexpected dividend. To his father Colonel Clive wrote on 19th August,1757, “….His (Mir Jafar) generosity has been such as will enable me to live in my native country much beyond my most sanguine wishes.”


Mir Muhammed Jafar Ali Khan ( 1691-1765)
This accumulation of personal wealth had a history of its own. The conflict between Bengal provincial Government and East India Company subsisted from 1717. It was regarding a particular custom duty exemption granted by the Mughal Monarch to East India Company. This privilege was ment to be applicable only on the goods supposed to be exported by East India Company, against a fixed  yearly tribute to Mughal administration. On the other hand, resident company personnel were allowed [ by their London management]  to carry out personal inland trade ( this allowance was there to counter their poor pay scale & to develop practical business sense which in turn, would be beneficial against their employer’s assignment-something unpardonable to today’s corporate strategist !) Company employees in concert  with their Indian counterparts, were concentrated to flourish their private inland trade by misusing this particular commercial privilege  which was only to be used for company’s export trade. 

Provincial Government was not in a position to forgo their due revenue against this illegitimate inland trading. Time to time, they have extorted heavy amount from Company from counter-balance this loss. This conflict ultimately reached its crescendo in Calcutta on 20th June, 1756. 

In general any mercantile enterprise kept some safe distance from local politics. East India Company was also no exception. The resident management of Calcutta purposefully got tangled in such a volatile situation without the permission of its head quarter ! To counterbalance, Clive referred the Black Hole tragedy first time in his official communication with Mughal authority after revolution and death of Shiraj-us-dowlah .
So when Holwell was pursuing his case at London head-quarter, Clive amassed a great personal fortune out of this revolution & Clive’s associates ( many of whom were Holwell’s colleagues in the Calcutta council against whom his vindication continued to London) were proportionately benefited. 

We are enriched by H. E. Busteed in his illustrated work “Echoes of Old Calcutta” by the fact that Holwell was successful to present his case in front of London Management , offered the second rank in Bengal council but outset once again to number nine position due to some changes in corporate body of the central management prior to his departure to Calcutta.. While he was back to Calcutta, he become forth in the council ( due to the departure of some of the senior members), subsequently become number two in 1759. In fag end of 1759, Holwell & Clive came mentally a bit close ; they had jointly penned their negative sentiments from Calcutta against London management’s illogical and impractical decisions.
Clive left Bengal on 23rd January 1760. Holwell became stop gap Prisedent of Calcutta council, but in his mind he was amply sure that London management sould never be friendly to him, he left Calcutta on September 1760 after resigning the Company service.
The next President, a Bombay cadre, Henry Vansittart’s (Governorship 1760-64) regime was better illustrated in his three volumes of works “ A Narrative in Transaction in Bengal from the year 1760 to the year 1764” (Published in London 1766). This was the era when based on Holwell’s blue print Vansittart carried out another boodless revolution, this time the Mir Jafar is  shown the door and his son in law Mir Qasim was to put to throne(1760). The private trade become( without any opposition of puppet Moughal provincial Government) the sole objective of the entire resident management. This anarchy resulted in blod-shade(commenced at Patnas in 1763 and ultimately ended in buxar in 1764), another revolution is staged, this time Mir Jafar in & Mir Qasim out(1763). Barring private trade , staging of revolution become a lucrative business for the higher-ups of the council. Resident management was so engrossed with their personal fortune, as an obvious output, the balance sheet of Company started sinking.

Henry Vansittart(1732-1770?)

Toppling of Mir Jafar(Clive’s appointee) was never taken in good spirit by pro-Clive resident management. Mr. Vansittart was outnumbered in his own council. The pro Clive function was well aware that vansittart’s act was based on Holwell’s planning. Protégé of Colonel Clive, Mr. Luke Scrafton published a pamphlet proving the baseless propaganda of Holwell against Mir Jafar’s reign. Holwell has lost his credential to the resident management of Calcutta. So who cares fpr the monument ? May be many of them started hating the structure.

The nest Governor of Calcutta John Spencer (Governorship 1764-1765),a Bombay cadre, being outsider, never got due support and regard from Calcutta council members. His short regime continued with declining Company business & almost tyranny of company personnel  in all types of inland trade. Probably Mr. Spencer kept himself aloof from this controversial structure.

On the other side of the globe, Colonel Clive become Lord Clive and with enormous wealth, had very influential part to play both in London and as well as in Calcutta. Clive was a multidimensional man, during his assignment in Bengal he had consciously trying to put up his heroics across the sea. His letter to his father dated 23 Feb,1757 suggested “ as the success (recapture of Calcutta) this is proper to push my interest……. I am desirous of being appointed as Governor General of India if such an appointment should be necessary”

The unthinkable revolution was a pinnacle in his bio-data, on 1st August, 1757 his passion is amply displayed in the letter addressed to his close friend Robert Orme ( future historian of East India Company).” I am possessed of volumes of materials for the continuance of your history, in which will appear fighting, tricks, chicanery, intrigues, politics and Lord knows what. ……………… I have many particulars to explain you relating to this same history which must be published.” In 1763, Robert Orme published his famous work “ A History of Military transactions of British Nation in Hindustan from year 1745. Vol-1”. Which minutely displaced Clive’s military exploits in South India. This made him a true British Hero. Easst India Company requested Clive to take up the charge of troubled Bengal by the popular demand of court of proprietors. 
Robert Orme (1728-1801)
Clive was back to Bengal and Become the head of Calcutta resident affairs. During this phase, like a statesman, he had tried to institutionalize the inland private trades of company personnel (without London Management’s approval !), got the authority of Revenue Collectionof Bengal, Bihar & Orissa from the powerless Moughal Monarch against a fixed yearly tribute(1765). Lord Clive initiated the revenue collection depending of some Indians who had exposure of doing the same under conventional check & balance of Moughal administration. Unfortunately, this system was in total dismay under the grinding of mercantile corporation & its employee’s personal demands. We can very well presume Holwell Monument could not be a proper topic to be discussed during even happy hour of that regime.

Since 1767, the head of Calcutta Councils Harry Verlest (1767-1769), John Cartier (1769-1771) & Warren Hastings (1771-1785) all were always close associates of Clive linked with the debacle of 1756. Particularly Warren Hastings was dead against to replace Mir Jafar by Mir Qusim(1760), but Vansittart struck to Holwell’s blue print. Hence Holwell Monument never got any recognition from their respective Governments.

Harry Verelst (1734-1785)

During this phase, the Bengal plane was sacked to its ultimate limit on the ground of Revenue collection and diversified private trades, its cottage industry erased, severe famine struck, no proper disaster management put into wheel, a great degree of Bengal population perished, many fertile land become barren, only some English & their Indian associates accumulated huge wealth. Any student of social history can get the glimpse of this unprecedented economic strangulation in William Bolt’s famous work “ Consideration of Indian Affairs”.(Published London .1772.)
John Cartier (1738-1802)

The situation of England also changed radically. The misappropriate wealth displayed by the Anglo Indian company personnel, the publications ( Vansittart, Holwell, Bolt) and its counter publications ( Scrafton, Verlest), report of the declining finance of East India Company- all this compelled British Parliament to take up enquiry of the Bengal affairs (1767). The proceeding slowly surfaced the Governance of such a huge territory & management of welfare of its people was beyond the capacity of the mercantile corporation. British Judiciary & Perliamentary Governance slowly commenced its machinery In Bengal Administration (1773).

Warren Hastings (1732-1818)

The educated British scholars who-ever first embarked in Bengal administration was mesmerized with the traditional Sanskrit scriptures and Persian writings (William Jones) or embroiled with current affairs (Eliza Imphey, Philip Fancies). To them, the old company personnel posted at Bengal appeared as a group of teenagers, sailed from England without any bright future at home, a few of the ultimate survivors of immense tropical heat, malaria and water-borne disorders, lived only with a motto to make money by any means, copied the extravagant life style of a decaying Mughal Aristocracy, back home displayed their wealth without a taste (mocked as White Nabobs), lacking western ethics & sensibility. To these elite European, the correspondences of prwvious resident company employees were either exaggeration of fact or hiding of truth- hence Holwell Monument never stimulated their attention. But we should not forget Robert Orme, his closeness with Clive was well displayed in their communication  during Clive’s Bengal exploit (1757-1758). Orme addressed Clive on 28th February, 1757 “We are in hourly expectations of hearing that you have given the Naboob another blow, which will made him sick of fighting.” On 11th March, 1757 Clive penned to Orme “Prey remit all the money of mine in your hands to Bengal time enough to get bills by September Ship”.

This remarkable friendship ended in 1769 due to some unknown cause. May be Clive’s suicide in 1774, allowed Orme to publish with painstaking details “A History of Military Transactions of British Nation in Hindustan from year 1745. Vol-II (in two parts) “ in 1778. By this time Holwell monument though subjected to the unfathomed negligence at Calcutta, its founder; J. Z. Holwell got his due citation in the West through India’s colonial history ; courtesy-Robert Orme. Any brick made structure without periodical maintenance had to be ugly in appearance ; in between 1760-1785 it had not undergone any attention at all. Hence in 1821, thirty-six years after Warren Hasting’s regime, when the structure was ordered to be dismantled not an eyebrow was raised at Calcutta.

Background of Scene 3:
1899, a ship was on its way from England to Calcutta. On its deck a sharp looking Englishman was intensely reading a book. This man was the most notable passenger of this voyage, s seasoned British diplomat, a famous politician, a brilliant author, a hypnotic orator, a globe –trotter, an authority on Middle-East & Russia – George Nathaniel Curzon or Lord Curzon of Keddleston. He was on his way to India with the charge of Viceroyalty & Governor Generalship of British India. His intense attention was attracted by the book “Echoes from Old Calcutta” by Henry Elmsley Busteed (London- First Edition 1882)

George Nathaniel Curzon (1859-1925)

Any event in general is a current affair to the people who are associated with it. After some years, the current affair becomes a past story but not without personal emotions & likings. The holistic approach to that event can only be achieved when the direct & indirect participant are absent from the field and some body, based on some documents is painstakingly developing & publishing a story of immense historical influence. Exactly that was the case with H. E. Busteed, an employee of Calcutta Mint, when he decided to open the long forgotten early days of British conquer in the plane of Bengal. At last, John Zephaniah Holwell had his rebirth through the pen of this British scholar ; lucidly Busteed recreated the story of  Black Hole after one hundred twenty-six years of its happening. During the sea voyage Curzon was absorbed with the saga of old Fort William of Calcutta, its destruction, Holwell and importantly about the Black Hole of Calcutta.
Curzon remained in Calcutta as head of the British India during 1899-1905.

The days of parliamentary enquiries against the East India Company’s resident Indian administrators (against Clive-1767-1773, against Hastings 1787-1793, against Wellesly-1806) are then well forgotten, countless malpractice charges brought by individuals ( against Harry Verelst-1774-1778) had already faded from the English memory, the war of American independence(1775-1783) was now a part of history, Europe was set aside the uncertain days of  French Revolution(1789-1799). The Napoleonic war (1803-1815) was over. When Lord Curzon was on his way to India the British supremacy was well prevailed in the West and its Indian colony was rated as the most lucrative dominion under British Empire.
Lord Curzon was one of the last Victorian statesman, a true imperialist, an out and out regal administrator who likes to preserve past heritage with grandeur ( on his patronage Archeological Survey of India emerged its existence). As all imperialist rulers, he was in search of a myth to justify the supremacy of the ruling race. Incidentally, Busteed’s work provided him that myth of supremacy of human endurance & historic justification of the British rule in India.

Earmarked Black Hole Area in 1908 at Calcutta

To establish this myth, Curzon asked his administration to mark the boundary of Old Fort William in Calcutta, pin-pointed the location of Black Hole and as a cherry on the cake, in 1902 re-erected the white marble replica of Holwell’s monument at the same location where its founder put the original in 1760. The tablets on it immortalize the names of the victims of black holes and the deceased of the Calcutta battle of 1756.

Superimposing the Plan of Existing in 1903 on the Old Fort William
Calcutta Black Hole debacle was recognized at its very place of origin by the British Govt. after one hundred forty five years from its occurrence  & historically displayed as the very cause for the British penetration in Indian politics.

Background of  Scene 4:
When the Calcutta management of East India Company was slowly transforming itself from a trading body to the Governorship of Bengal, the Hindu upper middle class native Indians of Calcutta was also going through an unprecedented change. The new Hindu affluent Middle class of Calcutta (directly or indirectly associated with British East India Company) wanted their next generation to be enlightened with Western education. In 1817 Hindu College at Calcutta ( which will be named Presidency College from 1855) commenced its activity under active patronage of urban Hindu new –elites.
When Busteed published his “Echoes of Old Calcutta” (1882) it was just a passionate work by a remarkable detailer. But in line with Government patronage, under Indian Record Series, when Mr. S. C. Hill produced his mammoth works “ Bengal in 1756-1757” in 1905 and Dr. C. R. Wilson penned “ Old Fort William in Bengal” in 1906 they had the agenda to satisfy the myth of Black Hole. Through Hill & Wilson was successful to recreate the black hole story to the international readers, already the educated  Hindu middle class had started doubting its authenticity ?
Samuel Charles Hill (1757-1926)

The controversy was mainly based upon  the fact  that the all contemporary  Muslim chronicles were silent about the Black Hole incidence, on the other hand, interestingly some of the very minute details of Calcutta seize are almost alike in both Muslim & English writings were well referred by British Historians in their own works, one is famous “ The Seir Mutaqherin” by Seid Ghulam Hossein Khan ( translated in English in 1789) and the other one “Ryazy S-Salatin” by Ghulam Husain Salim ( translated in English in 1902). Neither, there was any rumor of the story within the Calcutta native circle ( as recorder by the English translator of Seir). This was indeed very strange!

Secondly, Holwell’s credibility as an author was already questioned by his own colleagues ( Clive & Luke Scrafton). They had proved, to pen the autocracy of MirJafar’s reign, Holwell’s exaggeration had not spread some healthy living individuals, he had referred those living individual as dead & further tried to establish that their killings were resulted by the instruction of cruel Mir Jafar.Thirdly the number of the persons under imprisonment in Black Hole was an absurd figure.Fourthly when British were able to take back Calcutta, as per the treaty of  Alinagar, their was not a single compensation clause in connection with Black Hole victims.

Mr. Bholanath Chunder (1822-1910- a Hindoo college product, first Indian travelogue writer Travell of a Hindoo. Published in London 1869) and a prolific author of other English works, proved that the area of the black hole prison & number of prisoners were arithmetically total mismatch.
Mr. Biharilal Sarkar (1855-1921- a famous journalist, editor of Bengali periodical “Bangabashi” & a prolific author of different Bengali books) put up the question against Black Hole myth in his Bengali works “Ingrejer Jai”( The win of British) way back in 1890.
Mr. Akshay kumar Maitraya ( an established lawyer, eminent historian and a brilliant author ) by his Bengali works”Siraj-ud-dowla” (January,1898) re-established the character of Siraj as a tragic hero. Though his writing in some places appeared a bit emotional but he was successful to raise the issue that whatever he knew as history was only the story from English Side, proper re-evaluation of the event based on impartial documents was a necessity.

Akshaykumar Maitraya (1861-1930)

Mr. J. H. Little ( an Anglo Indian School teacher & writer of passionate historical articles) in his article “The Black Hole the question of Holwell’s Varity” (Journal of Historical Society, Vol-XI, Part-1, No-21 1915) declared Holwell’s story was a “gigantic hoax”.
In today’s television program we are habituated to watch big debates on smallest of issues where on both side some eminent personalities participate. Probably, this may be the by-product of colonial education system. This myth of Black Hole was also heading towards a similar debate.
Finally an open debate was called on 24th March,1916 in Calcutta Historical Society. The orators, Professor E.B. Oaten of Presidency College, Calcutta in favour of Holwell’s story and Mr. Akshaykumar Maitraya on behalf of Mr. J.H.Little.
During this course of debate, Mr. Maitraya quoted sentiment of famous Bengali Poeit Shree Rabindra Nath Tagore (1861-1941, first non European Noble prize winner in literature in 1913) about the replica of Holwell Monument “ a big thumb of stone, raised in the midst of a public thoroughfare to proclaim to the heavens that exaggeration is not the monopoly of any particular race of nation.”

Replica of Holwell Monument Calcutta in 1910
May be this quotation had an everlasting impression on one of  brightest ex-student of Presidency College, Subhas Chandra Bose ( stood second in Bengal during matriculation examination). Mr. Bose along with Anandomohan Dam were expelled from Presidency College on disciplinary charge of assaulting an European professor (against the professor’s anti Indian comment) on 16th February,1916. The controversial professor related to that unprecedented incidence, surprisingly- professor E B Oaten!
Mr. Bose would be successful to bring national interest to this Holwell replica once again after twenty four years of this remarkable debate. To understand that development we have recapture of the socio economic condition of Bengal and a certain points of Indian political history during the period 1905 to 1940.

Subhas Chandra Bose (1897-1945?)

Geographically the Bengal in this article represents the huge land of modern day West Bengal and Bangla Desh, Numerically this Bengal plane was dominated by Muslim population.Bengali Hindus, embracing western education was well placed with Government jobs and this education enabled them also to take up the best of self profession in a colonial mechanism. The majority of power and money were dominated by Hindu Bengai Bhadralok. In Bengal, very few of the Muslims adopted Western Education, hence, mass Bengali Muslims become mainly landless farmers under Hindu landlords. These made the majority of Muslim population at the lowest step of the social ladder.

Politically, Indian National Congress (founded in 1885) was acceptable Indian mouthpiece to the British Indian Government ; it was undoubtedly a party comprising of mainly unban elites & pro-landlords. At first Congress liked to achieve dominion status under British rule by the way of application to the British authority. Afterwards, its goal became to achieve home-rule by adopting passive resistance. The passive resistance transform to non-violence, non-cooperation movement under Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership Since 1917. Congress had a vanity to represent Indians of all ranks, files & casts; in particularly, it never emerged as a party to take care of  Indian sentiments of all minorities like Muslims, Sikhs, Hindu Dalits and Anglo-Christians. It was very tough to take care of so diversified interests of all regions & casts, but the main problem of Congress was, they never accepted any other political entity as mouthpiece of a particular Indian population barring themselves.

The first nationalist movement in India was initiated in Bengal in 1905 against British decision of partition of Bengal. It was a ploy of British machinery to weaken the anti-British Bengali political spirit by providing more facilities towards Muslim population of East Bengal in view to take advantage of existing social difference in between affluent Hindu class & have not Muslims. To counter this Bengal followed the path of passive resistance by boycott of foreign goods and Government institutions. During the peak of this movement , only for Bengali Muslims, a separate political party Muslim League founded on 31st December, 1906 At Dacca. British effort to divide and rule achieved its first goal.

Further , in 1909, by the introduction Indian Councils Act, British administration declared more participation of Indians in governance of their country but in the process, Indian Muslims were granted reservation in election process. They were allowed to select their candidate in Provincial Legislative Assembly only by Muslim vote. Though Indian National Congress had registered its protest against this, in 1916 they have accepted it after discussing with Muslim League at Lucknow.

Ultimately The Bengal anti-partition movement centered Hindu masses, with time, majority of Bengali Muslims distant themselves from this movement. In 1911, British authority withdraw their decision of partitioning Bengal. Bengal has tested the first success of nationalist movement. As an outbreak, British administration shifted their capital from Calcutta to Delhi.

Concurrently with this nationalist movement of Bengal, since 1905, some Hindu revolutionary forces were also in active operation. They preferred violence (shooting or bombing Government officials or their associates) as the only tool to achieve nationalist cause. Slowly this movement spread in other parts of the country and continued till 1934. To counter this terrorism the British administration relentlessly put different anti terrorism acts & press acts which had almost nullify the basic civil rights for any civilized individual. But with that grilling government machinery the administration was unable to suppress the Bengal revolutionaries.

During the course of World war I (1914 to1917) in Europe, Indian National Congress had supported British causes and in return was expecting lot of reforms to achieve the home rule. Equally Indian Muslim extended their co-operation to the British with a belief that British will do justice to the Monarch of Turkey ( Turkey was involve in the war against British in World War I); the highest religious leader “Khalifa”, of the entire Muslim community. None of the expectation was fulfilled.

Through that expectation of Congress was not fulfilled, Montagu Chelmsford Pact (December1919) indicated a change in administration in the long run. This act provided a dual from a government for the major provinces. In each such province, control of some areas of government, the “transferred list”, were given to a Government of ministers answerable to the Provincial Council ( to be selected in line with 1909 act). This ‘transferred list’ included Agriculture, supervision of local government, Health and Education. The Provincial Council were enlarged. At the same time , all other areas of government ( the reserved list) remained under the control of Viceroy. The “reserved list” included defense, foreign affairs, and communications. Indian National Congress decided not to participate in the process.

But almost at the same time to counter terrorism British also introduced Rowlatt Act( March 1919). This act was against any individual civic rights of Indian citizen. Mahatma Gandhi was successful to bring Muslims under Congress flag when he had clubbed Khilafat Movement along with anti Rowlatt movement under his nonviolent non-co-operation movement in 1920. First time Indian political movement was clubbed with religious justice of a particular community.
Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1845)

Mahatma desperately wanted Bengal to be part of this non-violent movement. Through Bengal had a prolific revolutionary track record; Mahatma planned to channelize the daunting spirit of Bengali youths, in his Satyagraha movement. He was banking on Chittajan Das for the success  of his movement in Bengal. In this backdrop Subhas Chandra Bose entered Indian political scene.Though, Subhas Chandra Bose was expelled from Presidence College Calcutta, ultimately completed his study with distinction and selected in coveted Indian Civil Service(Rank 4th )in 1920. Deeply philosophical, Subhash, decided not to work under British, he had regigned from Indian Civil Service in May 1921. He wanted to take part in the ongoing political movement of Indian Independence. In this regard, he met Mahatma Gandhi 16th July,1921 at Mumbai. The matured political met the young Bengali fire-band for the first time. This meeting through had an impression on Subhas’s mind that Mahatma is not clear about his path to achieve Indian Independence but in line with Mahatma’s advice he choose to commence his own political carrier in Bengal Congress under guidance of Chittaranjan Das.

Chittaranjan Das (1870-1925)

Subhas got his first political Guru in Chittaranjan. Very soon Subhas become his right hand in constitutional politics. He became the principal of National Congress ( alternative educational  institute to counter British establishment), editor of Newspaper “Swaraj”, he had also coordinate the flood relief work in North Bengal with distingtion. Subhas Chandra Bose worked relentlessly for the success of non-violent movement(1921-1923). When the movement was at its peak, certain violent measures had been adopted by the agitated mob at Chouri-Choura; it was against Gandhian non-violent doctrine, dejected Mahtma Gandhi withdraw the movement. Mahtma  decided to concentrate himself in social sorks and made him distant from all political activities (25th February,1922). Almost at the same moment Turkey abolished the rank of “Khalifa”, The Khilafat movement had its national death in India. During this political void, the social tensions between Hindu & Muslim were emerging as communal riots in different parts of Bengal. To counter this C.R. Das come with Bengal pact, where he had proposed certain reservations for Muslim community in Government services & autonomous bodies, the proposed pact was turned down by Indian National Congress (1923). This was not only made Muslims more anti Congress , in long ran it also made more communal-Hindu factions within the Bengal Congress.

Chittaranjan Das was a remarkable leader, he had de-urbanized the Bengal Congress by introducing more and more grass-root leaders in the decision making body, his secularity was well accepted within both Hindu and Muslim community, he was ready to take Muslims along with him by practicing the policy of reservations and importantly he had an check and balance on the ex-revolutionary hard-line Hindu factions within the Congress. Subhas being a remarkable orator, prolific organizer & astounding thinker of his time nurtured under Chitaranjan Das as an undisputed leader of Bengali Youth.

Motilal Nehru (1861-1931)
In 1922, C. R. Das along with Motilal Nehru formed Swaraj Party under Congress umbrella, convinced central Congress leadership to participate in the election of Provincial Council and planned to continue the resistance against all Government works by entering the government administration. Barring this constitutional politics he was ready to take control of autonomous Calcutta Corporation under his newly founded party.
In 1923, Swaraj Party was victorious in the election of Calcutta Municipal Corporation, C. R. Das become Mayor of the Corporation & Subhas Chandra Bose become its Chief Executive Officer.

In 1924,, Chittaranjan was successful to emerge as the leader of the political party with hifhwst number of seats in the Provincial Council of Bengal. His party was successful till 1925 to stall almost all Government work by voting against the Government agenda & ultimately compelled the Governor to take up the administration under his own control , the selected Indian ministers had to quit the Government. His ultimately death on 16th June,1925 ended a memorable era of  Indian National movement. Subhas Chandrq Bose was under confinement in Burma during the period 1923 to 1926. British authority had doubted that Subhas had revolutionary link.

After death of C. R. Das, in Bengal Congress, lot of new groups emerged. Previously it was rightist ( followers of non-violent means) & leftist ( supporters of means other than rightist), now socialist groups, Russian Communist group, trade union bodies,groups having terrorist history but now with national essence all come under Bengal Congress umbrella. Mahatma Gandhi was again back in National politics. Muslim leaders decided to continue their participation with British Government. Barring Muslim League other Muslim political parties emerged under ex-swaraj party Muslim leaders; such as Nikhil Praja Samiti under A. K. Fazlul Haq. British Government ran their administration in Bengal with the support of these Muslim political parties up to 1936. Congress decision to non participation of governance in Bengal continued.

Jatindra Mohan Sengupta (1885-1933)
On death of Chittaranjan Das, Central Congress committee decided Jatindra Mohan Sengupta will be the next leader of Bengal. In 1926 when subhas was back to Bengal, Internal under-current in between Subhas Group and Jatindra Group surfaced within the Bengal Congress. Though the Congress high command was in favour of seniorJatindra Mohan, slowly by delicate maneuvering , young Subhas become the leader of Bengal Congress, by the process, Subhas made Bengal Congress much more Calcutta centric & during this tenure, the dominance of hard Hindu ex-revolutionaries within Bengal Congress became evident. He made himself uneasy to the strict followers of Gandhian doctrine within Bengal as well as All India Congress. He become the chairman of Bengal Congress in 1927. Subhas brought the proposal of complete independence during the Bengal provincial Congress in 1928. In the same year, Subhas was unsuccessful for the post of Mayor in the election of Calcutta Corporation. The strained relationship between different groups within Bengal Congress reached its height. Subhas Chandra Bose and Jawaharlal Nehru (younger leftist generation of Congress) proposed complete independence on 22nd December 1928 at Calcutta during all India Congress meet. This meet undoubtedly established Subhas as a most popular leader of the younger generation in Congress. Subhas became head of All India Trade Union Congress in 1929.

Ultimately Congress under Mahatma Gandhi accepted this proposal of complete independence on 31st December, 1929 at Lahore Congress meet. Indian National Congress decided that they will reject all Government councils-central and provincial. Whoever had any ongoing post would resign and would only participate in civil disobedience movement. At the same time congress declared , on communal problem no proposed solution will be adopted till the proposal would be completely acceptable to the minority groups like Muslims, Sikhs etc.

Mahatma Gandhi commenced civil disobedience movement on 5th April,1930 at Dandi. British Government put all its machinery to suppress the movement  with its press acts & anti terrorism acts. All notable leaders were behind the bar by May 1930. Subhas was Also imprisoned. When he was released from jail he became the Mayor of Calcutta Municipal Corporation on 25th September 1930.
Lord Arwin (1881-1959)
On 5th March, 1931, Mahatma Gandhi and Lord Arwin come to an agreement, Gandhi Arwin Pact. By this pact surprisingly Mahatma agreed to partial governance by the Indians barring, defense, external affairs, finance & interest of minorities. These would be directly under British control. Mahatma Gandhi withdraws the civil disobedience movement in line with the pact. The entire act was logically inexplicable with respect to the set agenda of Congress. Jawaharlal and Subhas though both of them were stunned by this decision, the former put his faith on Mahatma but Subhash became vocal against him.

After all these, Mahatma agreed to participate in second round table conference on behalf of Congress in London-7th September, 1931. Mahatma’s representation that Congress is the sole representative of Indian political sentiment had a jolt during this meeting. In communal question, as no unanimous proposal was arrived at, all the Indian leaders were officially accepted that they will agree to the British Prime Minister’s decision in this regard. Subhas become now absolute critical about Mahatma Gandhi’s indecision. Youth bridge under Subhas  started openly criticizing indecision of Congress. In line with this agreed agenda of Round Table British authority proposed a Communal Award in 1932. By virtue of this Muslims, Sikhs, Anglo Christian & Hindu Dalits had not only reservations in the election process, they were provided with separate electorate system based on the religion. Mahatma started indefinite hunger strike against the proposal of separate electorate system based on the religion. Mahtma started indefinite hunger strike against the proposal of separate reservation of Hindu Dalits. A truce between Hindu leaders & Hindu Dalit leaders reached by Poona pact (24th September,1932), by this, Dalit Hindu classes benefited with more reservation in the entire election process. Numerically the selection probability of upper class Hindu candidates got diminished by virtue of all these reservations. As a result, a Hindu hard line entity earned popular sentiments in Indian politics.

In between January 1932 to February 1933 was under British confinement, he was released from Jail on medical ground and sent for treatment in Europe. Up to early 1936, he had taken up this opportunity to meet various European leaders and get himself acquainted with the latest situation European politics. 
Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964)
On  insistence of Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas come back to India on April,1936; he was brought immediately under internship by the British authority till 17 March,1937. A temporary truce was drawn with Mahatma, Subhas presided all India Congress in 1938 at Haripura. 
In line with communal award of 1932, in 1935, India Government Act registered more involvement  of Indian in running the Provincial Government. But the reservations of minorities in the election process, to promote the same, separate electorate system, all these were in-built with the British reform. this changed the situation radically in provincial level. Numerical majority was the guiding factor for political power now. Congress decided to participate in the election  under this new act but ultimately came to a conclusion that without absolute majority, they would never try to form any provincial government.
In 1937 after the first provincial election, as the second largest political party, Krishak Praja Party under A. K. Fazlul Haq ask to form the Government. KPP asked support of Bengal Congress ( single largest political party as per election result), the policy decision of central committee restrained the Bengal Congress to do the same. Hence KPP formed the coalition Bengal provincial government with the active support of Muslim League. KPP became a force  with the mandates of Bengal Muslim farmers. This Government under Fazlul Haq continued in one or other form till 1943.
A.   K. Fazlul Haq (1873-1962)
Subhas due to his long presence in Europe was able to speculate the date of Second Word War precisely (1939). To him this was the golden opportunity to drive out British from India and for this he was ready to adopt any militant means, to his judgment the country is ready for independence but leaders are not. On the other hand, Congress under Mahatma  was firm to remain neutral during the phase of war ( in the process almost aligning themselves for the time being to the cause of the British). A clash was inevitable.

Pattabhai Sitaramaiyya (1880-1959)
Subhas decided to fight election for the post of Chairmanship of Congress again in 1939; Mahatma tried to restrain Subhas, but could not. Mahatma’s choice, Pattabhai Sitaramaiyya, was defeated. Mahatma had taken this defeat as his own defeat; on his request the entire Congress working committee resigned. Congress, such an age old organization almost come to the point of division, Subhas decided to quit & resigned.
Subhas formed Forward Block, a political platform of all leftist fractions within Congress on 3’rd May,1939 and actively started propaganda of immediate independence. Congress disciplinary body expelled Subhas from the party for three years.

Replica of Holwell Monument Calcutta in 1920
In this situation the election of Calcutta Municipal Corporation knocked at the door. Outcast from Congress, Subhash wanted desperately to keep the control of Calcutta Municipality in Indian Hand and keeping the European representative away from the decision making machinery within the municipality. It was question of his political entity. The latest Municipal act of 1939 brought by Bengal Provinciaql Government was controversial and having anti Hindu sentiment, it had defined the reservation of Muslims candidates to forty six seats and for all others only forty seven seats earmarked. Subhas quickly understood that in this situation he had to align with other parties for achieving his goal. For this,he started dialogue with Hindu Mahasabha, entered in an agreement on the pre-pole agreement; this lasted for nine days only. Congress mocked the episode by naming it “ nine day wonder”. 
The election carried out on 28th March 1940. In this condition, once the result was out, Subhash’s effort for realigning with Hindu Mahasabha failed once again. On the other hand Muslim League was trying to have the European support to from the governing body. Without a choice, Subhas concluded a pack with Muslim League. Muslim League happily obliged. The Mayor and two Aldermen were selected from Muslim League whereas the balance three Aldermen were selected from suspended Congress, one of them was Subhas Chandra Bose.

Congress propaganda painted Subhas as a shear opportunist without any political principal. Though as per Subhas, this agreement was a stepping stone towards the Hindu Muslim amity, in his mind he was aware that the act certainly had wounded the Hindu nationalist feeling and diminished his credibility as a leader among the Calcutta Bhadrolok. Subhas was an out and out urban leader. He was in search of a damage control within his well known environment.

May be a long forgotten debate regarding Black Hole come to his mind as a flicker. May be he had envisaged dual benefit of the movement, re-attention of Hindu Bhadralok along with a scope of consolidation of popularity within the Calcutta Muslims. The agenda was set. On  Provincial Conference of Forward Block on 25th March,1940 at Dacca, Subhas asked the Muslim students to remove  the Holwell replica from the heart of Calcutta. On 29th June 1940 at Albert Hall Calcutta, Subhash declared coming 3rd July would be observed as Siraj-ud-dowla day, as a homage to the last independent Nawab of Bengal, on this occasion this structure has to be removed from public eye; the Holwell replica not only displaied the false bravery of the British, it also displaied the fabricated savagery put on Siraj-ud-dowla. Subhas gave ultimatum to Bengal administration that the monument has to be removed before 3rd July otherwise there will be direct action by means of satyagraha movement. On the first day of the movement he himself would lead the Satyagrahi volunteers. The news of the movement was well circulated through Calcutta dailies. Public opinion in Calcutta was in favour of the movement.

The movement centered with the past glory of Muslim era, hence the KPP and Muslim League combined provincial Government of Bengal principally aligned with the cause but being part of the Government Machinery, were uneasy about the means of the Government.
On 2nd July, 1940 Subhas paid a personal visit to Rabindranath Tagore’s Calcutta residence Jorasanko. May be the quote of the poeit regarding Holwell replica which was imprinted in Subhas’s mind for last twenty four years was the cause for this personal meeting, may be the younger fire-band wanted the blessings of the senior-most eternal humanitarian, on the verge of a delicate movement.
Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)
On the very day Subhas was arrested by British authority from his residence at Elgin road under Defense of India Act.
The confinement of Subhas, united Calcutta’s Hindu & Muslim sentiment. The momentum of the movement was set. Though the Leader was in jail, on 3rd July, 1940 at the agreed time the movement started. Police force though tried to control, could not prevent the waves of student demonstrators. Alarmingly for the KPP & League ministry the student association of the Muslim League was in forefront of this agitation. Every day, without the leader, the movement was carried out with more and more enthusiastic anti-British sentiment.
On Siraj-ud-dowla day (3rd July,1940) ameting took place in Town Hall Calcutta, the speakers were vocal about the release of Subhas, removal of replica, re-writing of Black-hole incidence in the text-books. Government was asked to remove the replica within 15 days.

On 13th July,1940 a meeting was called at Albert Hall Once again, the leaders Abdul Karim & Abdul Latif Biswas called for the immediate release of Subhas and asked Governmnet to remove the structure from public eye at once. Government censored this news and prohibited any meeting by the student organizations regarding this issue.
Very next day the students from Islamia College defined the Government regulation and participated for a meeting in their college premises, Police handled the situation harshly, the student movement now induced not only in front of the monument but on different Calcutta streets.

On 22nd July a strike was called, on the day, during demonstration, students were treated brutally by police, many students became severely wounded. The discussion inside Bengal assembly became volatile against the autocratic oppression and indecision of Government. Sometimes drastic had to be done to control the situation. Bengal premier A. K. Fazlul Haq announced the official declaration to remove the Holwell replica on 23rd July,1940. The student movement achieved its goal.

Subhas was released from jail on medical ground and kept under house-arrest soon he was able to evade British guards, left India in disguise, surfaced in Gerany and ultimately launched a military campaign for the freedom of India-astory too dear to every Indian, not to be told in this article.

Background of Scene 5

Replica of Holwell Monument in cemetery of St. John’s Church Kolkata
If anybody stands in front of the Holwell replica within cemetery of St. John Church, he may be amazed to remember some of the famous quotes regarding this structure.
Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of British India during the erection of replica of Holwell monument at Dalhousie square in 1902 uttered “But if among these for-runners of our own, if among these ancient and unconscious builders of Empire, there are any who especially deserve commemoration, surely it is the martyr band whose fate I recall and whose name I resuscitate on this site; and if there be a spot that should be dear to an Englishman in India, it is that below our feet, which was stained with the blood and which closed over the remains of the victims of that night of destiny, the 20th of June, 1756. It is with these sentiments in my heart that I have erected this monument, and that I now hand it over to the citizens of Calcutta, to be kept by them in perpetual remembrance of past”.

In 1940, the expelled Congressman Subhas Chanda Bose commented  about this structure – “ the monument must go because it is not merely an unwarranted stain on the memory of the Nawab, but has stood in the heart of Calcutta for last one hundred fifty years or more as the symbol of our slavery & Humiliation.”

Irony is Curzon”s “perpetual remembrance of past” erased from the memory of European minds within just forty years. At the height of student’s agitation in 1940, Percival J Griffiths ,retired civil  servant and member of the European community says “ As far as I am aware no member of any community is opposed to the removal on the monument----[T]his monuments commemorates no event which is worth remembrance, and-------- its existence is an offence of my Indian friends”.

The movement of Subhas Chandra Bose certainly creates Calcutta Hindu Muslim unity – but it is much more short-lived than even Curzon’s sentiment-within six years, Calcutta will witness one of the worst communal riot between Hindu and Muslim inhabitants-within seven years Bengal map will be changed permanently on communal ground. The Independent India will loose a chunk of old Bengal as part of East Pakistan (today’s Bangladesh).
If you have some spare time, have a glimpse of the structure, as till date, the marble body without any maintenance, through withstand seventy three seasons in Kolkata, remains in robust shape. While returning back to your routine life you can remember the quote of C W Mile, European member of Bengal Legislative Assembly in 1940, “ many would have no objection to the monument’s removal, there would be wholehearted antagonism to its demolition”.

Kolkata has not demolished the replica!

While developing this article we have consulted the following documents:
Soft copies of from the world of Internet:
1.    Wikipedia.
2.    India Tracts-J.Z. Holwell
3.    Echoes from Old Calcutta- H.E. Busteed.
4.    Indian Records Series Bengal in 1756-1757, Vol-I,II,III-S.C.Hill.
5.    Indian Records Series Old Fort William in Bengal- C.R.Wilson.
7.    Subhas Chandra Bose and Middle Class Radicalism- Bidyut Chakraborty.
8.    The Black Hole of Empire- Partha Chatterjee.
Hard Copies:
1.    Siraj-ud-dowla (Bengali)- Akshaykumar Maitraya.
2.    Banglar Itihass (4’ Part) [Bengali]- Ramesh Chandra Dutta.
3.    An artilcle in “Ei Samay” on Holwell Monument (Bengali) – Gautam Basu Millick.

       Research - Abhijnan Basu.

 Picture Courtesy - Sudip Ghosh.

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