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Ashwini Kumar Datt (Datta, Dutt)

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(15 January 1856 – 7 November 1923) of Batajore, Bakarganj District, Eastern Bengal. His father, Broja Mohan Datta, was a Munsiff and Deputy Collector and rose to be a District Judge. His mother Prasannamoyee Devi.

M.A., B.L. of Calcutta University. Zamindar with annual income of Rs. 6,000 to 8,000. Proprietor of the Brojo Mohan Institution (College and School), Barisal, and for some time Professor of English Literature and Law in this College. Member of the District Local Board where he was noted for his opposition to Government. Municipal Commissioner of Barisal from 17th March 1906 till his deportation. Well educated, good manners and of great local influence.

He began to agitate against the partition of Bengal even before it took place, and in the autumn of 1905 Lord Curzon was burnt in effigy in the compound of his institution.

Throughout the following years he was the leader of the agitation in Eastern Bengal, and his institution was a centre of disaffection, almost all the processions and demonstrations in Barisal beginning or ending in the compound of his College. He took a prominent part in organising volunteers, and was president until his deportation of the Swadeshi Bandhab Samiti, which was declared to be an unlawful association under the new Act in January 1909. In order to gain the confidence of the people he did a good deal of charitable work through his Samiti and otherwise, and in the scarcity of 1906 he was able to collect Rs. 96,000 which were used in relieving the sufferings of the Bhadralog class (the class to which he himself belongs).

Aswini Kumar Dutt was so notoriously the leader of the agitation in Eastern Bengal that his deportation was recommended by the Local Government in July 1907 but negatived by the Government of India.

Attempts were made to deal with the local unrest in Bakarganj District by increasing the Police Force and applying the ordinary law, but this was found to be ineffectual. Aswini himself left Barisal for a time ; he attended the National Congress at Surat in December 1907, and when it was broken up by the extremists under Tilak he took the side of the latter. Thereafter he toured in Bombay and the Central Provinces making speeches in the extremist interest and keeping in touch with B. G. Tilak of Poona and G. S. Khaparde of Amraoti. He returned to Barisal in July 1908 and renewed the Boycott agitation there. At an extremist meeting at Batajore in October 1908 a song was sung asking the audience “to gain their independence by the aid of the sword” but the singers were stopped by Aswini with the remark that “ the time had not yet come for such songs.”

He was deported in December 1908, and his case and that of K. K. Mitter were those which aroused the greatest amount of criticism in Bengal and throughout India. Attention was chiefly directed to the good work his “volunteers” had done in connection with famine and similar matters, and his extremist activities were denied or ignored.

On his return from deportation in February 1910 he excused himself from taking further part in politics on account of his age (about 60) and ill-health (he suffers from diabetes and Bright’s disease). Since then he has taken very little part in agitation, and the Brojo Mohan Institution where the students were formerly taught, in the words of the District Magistrate, to hate everything British with a great and deadly hatred is being gradually brought round.

 

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