Pritilata Waddedar

1911 – 1932


Pritilata Waddedar is remembered for her fiery spirit and her heroic death at the age of 21. Fiery and enaged in the struggle for freedom from British rule, Pritilata was a key figure in the Chittagong revolutionary group led by Surya Sen. She is one of a small number of women who took up arms against British oppression and colonialism. The one image that we have of her is the same one that was used on WANTED posters by the British colonialists, procaliming her as an unethical, violent, mennace. Her unblinking, fearless stare, speaks of the conviction and dedication to freedom and human rights, that she conitnues to stand for. 

She defied all the rules of being a woman in Bengal at the turn of the century. Refusing to settle down and pursue her career as a teacher, she saw the Indian Freedom Movement as her life's mission. After completing her education in Calcutta, she became a teacher at the English-medium secondary school Nandankanan Aparncharan and quickly became its first headmistress. She would leave the school and make her way to secret revolutionary meetings, where together with her cohorts she planned attaks on strategic British outposts. Pritilata wanted her students to live in a different world, where they would not be forced to subjegate themselves, and feel like third-class citizens in their own country. This desire and the sign outside the Pahartali European Club which read, NO DOGS OR INDIANS ALLOWED, kept the fire of fury burning inside her.

It was during one of those meetings that Prititlata planned the assult on the club where army officers and their families came together for R&R. In preparation for the attack, the insurgents equipped themselves with firearms, daggers and cyanide; in case of arrest, death was the only option. On the night of September 23, 1931, disguised as a Punjabi man in a dhoti and fake facial hair, Pritilata led a contigent of officers to the doors of the club and set the hated sign on fire. The officers started shooting, and a battle broke out, at one point a bullet hit Pritilata. She bit the cyanide capsule and died shortly after. Never a captive of anyone. 

Her story traveled far and wide desipite efforts to erase her name from collective memory. She lives on as a legend and statement, in her gaze, we read 'What is life, without freedom and the right to be treated as a human?'