Guwahati: India pays rich tribute to one of the greatest freedom fighters of Assam, Swahid Kushal Konwar, on his martyrdom day on Wednesday (June 15).
Kushal Konwar was the only martyr in India’s freedom struggle who was hanged during the last phase of the Quit India Movement of 1942-43.
Kushal Konwar was born on March 21 1905, at Chaodang Chariali of Ghiladhari Mouza, Golaghat district (then part of Shivsagar district) of Assam. His family descended from the royal family of the Ahom kingdom and used the surname “Konwar”, which means Prince.
On Mahatma Gandhi’s call, many people of Assam spontaneously joined the historical movement of 1942. Two of the leaders of Assam, Bharat Ratna Gopinath Bordoloi and Siddhinath Sarma, were arrested by the British in Dhubri while returning from Bombay after attending the Congress Working Committee meeting. Other leaders such as Bishnuram Medhi, Bimala Prasad Chaliha, Md. Tayebulla, Omeo Kumar Das, Debeswar Sarma, etc., were arrested from different parts of Assam and thrown into jails.
On October 10, 1942, hidden in the thick fog of early morning, Indian independence activists removed sleepers from a railway line near Sarupathar in the Golaghat district. A military train passing by derailed, and over a hundred British soldiers were killed. The police immediately cordoned the area and started an operation to catch the freedom fighters. The district magistrate of Jorhat, C.A. Humphrey, issued arrest warrants to all the freedom fighters of the Golaghat district.
Accusing Kushal Konwar as the chief conspirator of the train sabotage, the police arrested him. He was brought from Golaghat and was lodged in the Jorhat jail on November 5, 1942.
The Court of CM Humphrey, Kushal Konwar, was declared guilty, though there was not a single proof against him. Kushal was sentenced to death by hanging. He accepted the verdict with dignity. When his wife, Prabhavati, visited him in the Jorhat jail, he told her that he was proud that God had selected him to be the only one among the thousands of prisoners to give the supreme sacrifice for the country. Kushal spent his remaining days in the death row cell of Jorhat jail in prayers and reading the Gita.
At dawn on June 15, 1943, at 4:30 am, Kushal Konwar was hanged in Jorhat Jail. He sacrificed his life for the freedom of India. Mahatma Gandhi said of the supreme sacrifice of Swahid Kushal Konwar, “He alone can be a true satyagrahi who knows the art of living and dying.”