Sunil Das was one of those revolutionaries who dedicated themselves heart and soul for the cause of India’s freedom. He was initiated into the revolutionary outfit “Sreesangha” under the tutelage of his elder brother Anil Das and under the inspiration of the late revolutionary Anil Das and his spouse Deshnetri Leela Roy. Sunil Das was a close confidante and assistant of the revolutionary couple during their lifetime. He remained true to the vow that he took committing himself to India’s freedom movement as a student till the last day of his life.
A brilliant student in school and college, he completed his MSc degree from the Dacca University with flying colours. He began his scientific research work under the guidance of the renowned scientist Jnan Chandra Ghosh. The call of the revolutionary activities during the thirties, however proved irresistible for him and sucked him into its current.
His elder brother revolutionary Anil Das was mercilessly beaten to death in police custody in 1932. His younger brother Parimal Das lost his life in a tragic accident while being pursued by the police for his revolutionary activities. Later in life his only sister Latika (Das) Sen was killed in police firing on a peaceful demonstration in independent India. His is a shining example of a family of martyrs for the cause of India’s independence. Sunil Das, the only surviving scion of this illustrious family carried on the tradition of selfless service to the nation as long as he lived.
He was first imprisoned in October 1931 on charges of attempting to assassinate the District Magistrate of Dacca. He was arrested once again in 1933 on charges of conspiracy to murder the District Magistrate Midnapore for which he was detained in different prisons without trial till 1938.
He joined the “Forward Bloc” of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose soon after its formation along with his mentor couple and other colleagues. Going underground in 1941 to evade arrest, he was ultimately arrested in June 1942 and cast into prison where he remained till 1946. Soon after his release, however, he got busy strengthening and reorganizing the Forward Bloc.
1946 was marked by communal violence and the conspiracy to partition India. Sunil Das devoted himself fully in attempts to preserve communal harmony in the riot affected areas of Calcutta, Dacca and Noakhali. In those days a relief camp had been opened for sheltering the nationalist Muslim leaders of Calcutta the responsibility of running which fell on the shoulders of Sunil Das. Simultaneously he participated in the movement for resisting partition which was led by Sarat Bose, Satya Ranjan Bakshi, Anil Roy, Leela Roy, et al. The twin fallout of the tragic partition was issues of protecting the minorities in East Pakistan and rehabilitating the refugees in West Bengal, to which he devoted all his energy under the leadership of the revolutionary couple Leela and Anil Roy.
He played a stellar role in organisational work in the pre-Independence revolutionary work as well as the post independence political activity. He has been the Secretary of the Forward Bloc, leader of the Subhasist Forward Bloc, Secretary and later President of the Praja Socialist Party and Assistant Secretary of the Janata Party leaving his mark as an organiser everywhere. He was the prime motivating force behind the South Calcutta Netaji Birth Centenary Celebration Committee.
Elected to the West Bengal State Assembly in 1957 again, he left his impression with his well thought out and logical deliberations. Simultaneously he also led agrarian and agricultural labour reform movements. He took over the mantle of editing “Jayasree” in 1970 after the demise of Deshnetri Leela Roy the founding editor True to his nature he devoted himself totally to upholding the ideals and traditions of this periodical which had behind it the heritage of revolutionary Bengal and the struggle waged by its greatest revolutionary, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. He edited the Golden and the Diamond Jubilee editions of Jayasree Publications, which were two of its most authentic and best compilations.
Sunill Das met Bhagwanji in different places from 1965 to 1981, He used to be addressed by Bhagwanji as “Mukul”.
He remained underground once again for a prolonged period in 1975 during the Emergency He had to undergo surgical operations on several occasions for his ailments. Physical infirmity, however could not dent his determination and motivation for working for what he considered his mission.
He edited the six volumes of Complete works of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose for the Jayasree Publications. They remain a treasure trove for those willing to do research on or are just eager to know about Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. He authored a booklet on agrarian reforms and agricultural labourers’ movement while in prison during 1942-43. He also authored books in Bengali as well as in English on language and minorities issues. The Committee on National Language and Communal Harmony” published an English booklet authored by him titles “Language Separates-Assam Happenings.” He also wrote a few articles in the English weekly “Janata”. His book “The Bangladesh Revolution” was published in 1971 during the emergence of independent Bangladesh. As a member of the Sarat Bose Academy he composed a lengthy English Essay in 1982 commemorating Sarat Bose “Fateful Partition; A Plan for an United Sovereign Bengal.” Other remarkable series of articles authored by him were “Russia-China War” and “Marxism in the Twentieth Century”. He has written innumerable editorials and articles as Assistant Editor and subsequently as Editor of Jayasree since 1970. He has an incisive pen and his articles created a sensation in the period leading up to the Emergency in 1975, as a result of which censorship was imposed on the “Jayasree”. He has left his mark on varied fields of knowledge such as science, literature, philosophy, history, international politics, economics, etc. Lastly he was in the process of publishing an autobiographical series titled “Atmavishkaar” [Self Discovery] which unfortunately could not proceed to its completion.
His 1398 Pous editorial of “Jayasree” “Ki Korecho” [What have you people done] regarding Netaji created a sensation. He played a leading role in opposing the award of “Posthumous Bharat Ratna” to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. . He held the firm belief that Netaji did not perish in any air crash. His last editorial was for the 1398 Magh issue on “Dr Manmohan Singh’s Budget:1992-93” which was never published.
He shunned publicity. He was a follower of traditions, free from parochialism and deeply spiritual. He was wholly steeped in the teachings of the Gita. That is why he always reiterated “I am part of the whole”. His “whole” comprised of Anil Roy, Leela Roy and , above all, the unifying ethos of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. The guiding principle in his life were the words “Who am I?”He never expressed a thought as that of his own self or that of any particular personality. He always maintained “ I do not have any separate identity of my own. I am the eternal itinerant.” The eternal itinerant was always committed to the welfare of all, known, unknown and of people within or outside the confines of his political party. Till the last moment of his life, the only concern was never “What I have received” but “What I have yet not been able to provide.”
Once while speaking about him Mahakal remarked,” Sunil (Mukul) is after all a pupil of Sriyukta Leela Roy, that too of the highest order of the ideals of her heart. Astounding indeed is his sacrifice. He could have been a big achiever in life, but when he saw the old associates (of Leela Roy) are no more, he stood by her like a rock forgetting and forsaking all that was his own in life. I doubt if there is another one like him. I pay my respectful homage to the greatness of his heart, solemnity and depth. I love him most of all because of the greatness of his heart. One may come across a shortcoming or two if looked for carefully— as one has to look hard to notice the flickering light emitted by the firefly in the midday sun.
We offer our homage to this totally renunciate all-sacrificing great revolutionary.