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Hollwell Monument Removal Movement conducted by Netaji in 1940 at Calcutta

By : Hollwell Monument Removal Movement conducted by Netaji in 1940 at Calcutta

August 05, 2021

Along with his attempt to have friendly arrangements with the Muslim League leadership, Subhas Bose endeavoured to consolidate Muslim support in his favour in Calcutta. His efforts in this direction began with the agitation to remove the Holwell Monument which was erected by G. Holwell ‘at his cost during the short tenure of his Calcutta Governorship in 1760 to commemorate those deceased in the Black Hole. The monument was a symbol representing the alleged savagery of the last Nawab of Bengal, Sirajuddowla, and the bravery of the British soldiers who sacrificed their lives. It was argued, ‘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 the last 150 years or more as the symbol of our slavery and humiliation.’

The selection of Holwell Monument as the main issue for the agitation reflected in Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s strategic sense. In a meeting on 3rdJuly 1940, resolutions paying homage to Sirajuddowla, condemning the falsity of foreign historians and urging deletion from school textbooks of matter derogatory to Sirajuddowla were adopted. It was agreed as well that if there was no ministerial decision on the Holwell Monument by 15 July, satyagraha by the council of action would start on 16t July. The meeting was definitely illustrative of a unity in the sense that not only was it attended by the Hindus and anti- government Muslims, but also by the Muslim League Student Organization. Nazimuddin, the Home Minister, in particular, was disturbed by the participation of the students and he pressed for a quick cabinet decision on the Monument question and the release of Subhas Bose. This put the ministry in an awkward situation. Both Haq and Nazimuddin agreed to set Bose− imprisoned as a result of the Holwell Monument agitation−free as early as possible. When D.A. Brayden, Central Intelligence Officer, emphasized that ‘as S. Bose was an all India figure… the Government of India would be interested in his fate’, Nazimuddin in his reply argued that the government of India would take no action against Bose ‘as they had already allowed J. Nehru to make speeches as objectionable as S. Bose’s’.

As regards the removal of the Monument, neither the ministry nor anybody from the de facto ruling authority objected. On the question of Bose’s release, however, both the Bengal Governor and the intelligence Branch refused to concede, Herbert, the Governor, for instance, attributed Bose’s rise and the alliance between him and the powerful Calcutta Muslims like Isphani, Siddiqui and Nooruddin to the obduracy and short-sightedness of the comparatively petty Europeans in the Calcutta Corporation which created the occasion for the pact between the League and S. Bose… a pact which both enhanced the power of the Calcutta trio [Isphani, Siddiqui and Nooruddin] and tied the hands of Nazimuddin to curb S. Bose’s openly defiant and anti-war attitude.

The Bose-led anti-Holwell Monument agitation and the consistent opposition of ‘the Calcutta trio’ to European business reveal that ‘there is no greater common factor in their efforts than common antagonism to European vested interests.’ He thus suggested to Linlithgow that the agitation ‘has to be stopped… which would remove the last of the immediate causes of conflict in which revolutionary Hindus and Muslims can be banded together against the Ministry and Europeans’. The Central Intelligence Officer of the Government of Bengal, D.A. Brayden, was also reluctant to accept either of the ministry’s suggestion: he felt that the removal of the monument and the release of Bose ‘will greatly enhance S. Bose’s popularity and prestige and he will then be enabled to launch his campaign for the release of political prisoners with the assistance of the students whose enthusiasm [has already been] aroused’. Having shown the necessity of putting Bose behind bars, he requested W.N.P. Jenkins, Deputy Director of the Intelligence Bureau (Home Department, Government of India), to issue orders, if necessary, ‘to detain Bose under section 26(i’.)

The Holwell Monument was finally removed, but Bose remained in prison until December 1940. 

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