1911 – 1932
‘She was a woman just like any of you’
The fiery Pritilata Waddedar was a key figure in the Chittagong revolutionary group who took up arms against the oppressive British rule. The one image that we have of her is the same one that was used on WANTED posters by the British colonialists, declaring her as an unethical, violent menace. Her story is widely known because of her valiant choice to kill herself rather than surrender to British officers when she was only 21.
Pritilata’s sense of defiance arose when her degree in philosophy was held back by British authorities at the Calcutta University. Upon completing her studies she taught at a local English medium secondary school, where she became its first headmistress. Vowing to ensure a future where her students won’t have to feel like second class citizens, she joined the struggle for freedom with Surya Sen’s revolutionary group, attending secret meetings and planning strategic attacks on British outposts. They carried out raids on the Telephone & Telegraph offices and captured the reserve police line. In the Jalalabad battle, she was responsible for supplying explosives to the revolutionaries.
She is most well known for the assault on the Pahartali European Club which army officers and their families used for leisure activities. This particular club caught their attention because of the racist sign board displayed across its premises which stated ‘Dogs and Indians are not allowed.’ On the night of September 23, 1931, disguised as a Punjabi man with a fake beard, dressed in a dhoti, Pritilata led a contingent of officers to the doors of the club and set the hated sign on fire. Soon afterward, Pritilata and her team found themselves ambushed by soldiers where she was fatally wounded by a bullet. Determined not to be a captive, Pritilata bit into a cyanide capsule, sacrificing her life.