One of the descendants of last Nawab of Bengal Siraj-Ud-Daulah spent last part of his life here at Agartala in Tripura. This may sound incredible but fact is this was discovered by no other than a legendary historian of our times
By Manas Pal
Agartala, June 13, 2020:
Yes, you have read the heading right. One of the descendants of last Nawab of Bengal Siraj-Ud-Daulah spent last part of his life here at Agartala in Tripura. This may sound incredible but fact is this was discovered by no other than a legendary historian of our times and former president of Asiatic Society and also Indian History Congress Prof Dr Amalendu De.
The former professor of Jadavpur University, and once president of Indian History Congress, he is considered an authority of pre- Independence India and freedom struggles with many books in his credit. Prof De after 50 years of careful and meticulous research not only found out Siraj’s descendants—many of who are still living and part of well known families- but also gave details and chronology as to how the last Nawab’s bloodline followed till date in his book Sirajer ‘Putro o Bangshadharder Sandhane’ (It was translated by Nandini Guha and was titled ‘In Search of Siraj’s Son and Descendants’ (Publisher Parul Prakashani). The book received Muzaffar Ahamed Memorial Award from former Chief Minister of West Bengal Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in 2014.
Nabarun Ghosh, Branch Manager of LIC, Agartala can still vividly remember as to how then Chief Minister of Tripura, Nripen Chakrabarty – who was never known to have shown any outward emotion- reacted in alacrity and monitored the treatment of the old man who had suddenly fallen ill to GB hospital. Nabarun was then a college student. Lala Saradindu De whom Nabarun used to call ‘Buli Dadu’ used to stay at their home after his wife Sushma De expired.
“After he fell ill Buli dadu told me to contact Chief Minister Nripen Chakrabarty. I was not certain and hesitant. To call the Chief Minister, that too, a man like Nripen Chakrabarty at night was not easy for a college student like me. But somehow I managed courage and made a telephone call. And as soon as the call was transferred to him and the Chief Minister heard the name – Lala Saradindu De alias Buli Babu—he came alive and took up the matter at his hand—immediately an ambulance came and when we reached GB Hospital we found all doctors were ready. In the morning Nripen Chakrabarty came to hospital , talked to Buli dadu for a while and then lauded us for what we –I and my friend- did for the old man”.
“But I did not have faintest idea that Buli dadu (Lala Saradindu De) – a confirmed Communist- was direct and fourth descendant of Siraj-Ud-Daulah”. Nabarun or his family was not alone. No one of the state was, perhaps, ever aware of this fact–not even Nripen Chakrabarty who knew Lala Saradindu De for decades and had close friendship.
Prof Amalendu De writes: “Having spent about 22 years in jail and in underground in their old age and down with ill health both Lala Saradindu De and his wife Sushma De Purkayastha- (who was also a communist and once associated with Nankar movement)- came to Tripura in 1970 and Nripen Chakrabarty arranged a plot of land for them near Agartala. It is an irony of the history that Nripen Chakrabarty never knew he gave shelter to the direct descendant Siraj-Ud-Daulah in his last years”.
Lala Saradindu De a ka Buli babu was one of the founders of Communist party in Sylhet in 1935 along with Chitta Ranjan Das, Digendra Dasgupta, Chanchal Kumar Sharma, Dipesh Choudhury and Amarendra Das. Having spent his entire life in jail or underground –joining Gandhiji’s freedom movements at first and then as a Communist, Lala Saradindu De when came to Tripura he was given a land plot at Baishnab Tilla by the side of Amatali bypass road in Agartala – where the Loknath Ashram is now located. The land has now been largely encroached but locals still call it Lala Bura’s tilla. It is where Sushma De set up a school for children. After her expiry Nabarun’s mother Tapati Ghosh—a relative of well known Communist leader of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) Mani Singh- brought the lonely nonagenarian at their home where he died sometime in 1987 or 1988. He was cremated at Battala cremation ground. Tapati Ghosh knew Lala Saradindu De from her childhood in Sunamganj (Sylhet) which was his birthplace too.
Says Dr Purnendu Kanti Das, former professor of Chemistry of MBB College and a writer: “Sushma De was like my second mother. While I got admitted MC College of Sylhet for I Sc in 1959 I used to stay with her—in a small shabby and decrepit two room house – a bit far from the crowded areas. I used to pay Masima (Sushma De) Rs 30 a month. At that time also she was frail and I used to wonder how she could manage meals for both of us. I knew her husband Lala Saradindu De was either in jail or in underground. I also noticed often some people- likely to be communist party members used to come to her and discuss something serious. I did not know what transpired between them but I have a feeling they might have talked about their movements and they might have also financially supported her”.
“Later I met her in Silchar once. I came to know she and Lala Saradindu De came to Tripura but we could not meet again”, said Prof Das.
However, it was not only Lala Saradindu De but also his younger brother Lala Nawal Kishore De spent some time in Tripura in early 1970s. He was secretary to Governor and was known as Lala N K De. In fact, the land records of Lala Saradindu De that we have checked showed his address Kunjaban Type 6 Quarters- ostensibly which was of Lala N K De.
But what helped him most was the closely guarded family history of the Lala De family and their own documents. Some of the elders of the Lala De family from Shillong and other parts of the country like Lala Bijon Kumar De, Lala Ajay Kumar De, Lala Shyamal De, Lala Bishnu De helped him find out the missing links of the Nawab’s bloodline. In fact As Prof Amalendu De said, Lala Bijon Kumar De’s write up ‘My Recollection of Family Tales’ and Lala Ajay Kumar De’s ‘Heera’s Legacy’ helped him greatly to find out the entire family tree of the Siraj- Ud-Daulah’s descendants. It was with their permission that Prof De published their names and for the first time brought to open public a closely guarded secret of their family after about 255 years in 2012. In fact, it was so closely guarded that not even all the family members were aware of their legacy- but the selected some.
Part III : The descendants of Siraj
It was well known that Siraj had a daughter Qudsia Begum, but Prof Amalendu De during his research found that Siraj also had a son. Prof De was searching for the Siraj descendants for about 50 years but it was at his last part of life ultimately could find out the truth he had been searching for so long. Based on this research the book Sirajer ‘Putro o Bangshadharder Sandhane’ was published.
According to Prof De- – Mohanlal, one of the close friends and military commanders of Siraj had a sister –Madhabilata who for her beauty was also known as Heera. Siraj got close to Heera and a child was born. Later at the instance of Nawab Alivardi, Madhabilata a ka Heera got converted to Islam and became known as ‘Aleya’. The son under Alivardi’s instruction was given to Mohanlal for his upbringing. It was after her name the lake in Murshidabad became known as the Heerajheel ( It is no more there as River Bhagirathi ate it up).
On June 23, 1757 in the decisive and historical battle of Plessey Mir Madan and Mohanlal were in charge of advanced cavalry while left wing of Siraj’s troops was commanded by Mir Jafar, centre wing by Yaar Latif Khan and right wing was commanded by Roy Durlabh. Siraj’s troops also had 50 French artillerymen with 53 guns who were commanded by Monsieur Sinfrey. Siraj had about 50, 000 troops but 15,000 participated in the battle. While Mir Jafar and others betrayed Siraj in the battle, Mir Madan was killed so was Mohanlal’s son in law Bahadur Ali Khan. But Mohanlal after valiantly fighting Lord Clive’s force ( commanded by Major Killpatrick , Major Grant, Major Eyre Coote, Captain Gaupp and Captain Richard Knox –having 950 European soldiers, 2100 Indian soldiers, 100 gunners, 9 cannons) got wounded and then escaped.
But while fleeing he took along Siraj’s six years old son – his nephew- and two of his close associates – Basudeb and Horonanda. Dr De sought to dispel the claims that Mohanlal was also killed and maintained that Mohanlal being extremely clever and wise military strategist himself spread the rumour so as to confuse the spies and followers of East India Company and Mir Jafar.
“Mohanal came to Mymensingh and took shelter at Bokainagar fort. But after some days he left Bokainagar and kept Siraj’s son at the residence of his associate Basudeb’s uncle at Amhati village”.
From there Mohanlal went to meet Zamindar of Mymensingh Sri Krishna Choudhury . After some days at Mohanlal’s instance Sirajs son was’adopted by Sri Krishna Choudhury’s youngest son Krishnagopal Choudhury- who despite marrying twice did not have any child .
Siraj-Ud-Daulah ánd Aleya’s son got the new name ‘Jugal Kishore Roy Choudhury’ ( his original name was not known).
Jugal Kishore learnt to run zamindari from his elder uncle Krishnakishore. Later he became the Zamindar and expanded his Zamindari. Jugal Kishore was tall, handsome, powerful, skilled and benevolent Zamindar but he also then got entangled in several cases relating to property disputes, conflicts with another zamindar and faced police cases. Later Jugal Kishore changed his place of zamindar at least thrice.
First he left his original zamindari in Krishnapur and came to Gauripur. Gauripur flourished under him but again due to property related cases with his elder aunts ( Krishnakishore had also two wives). Apparently Jugal Kishore – who was aware of original identity- was worried that during the disputes his real identity would be disclosed and then it would bring about massive repercussions- he will be detained by British and also his zamindari will crumble down when people would know he had Muslim blood but ran the affairs as a Hindu. Besides, by then he also lost a great part of his zamindaris. Jugal Kishore then came to Sylhet and set up another zamindari in Kajalsha area.
Jugal Kishore also married twice and had three sons and four daughters. While his eldest son Harakishore Roy Choudhury ran the Gauripur Zamindari, his second son Shibkishore died at young age. His third son Prankrishnanath Roy Choudhury stayed with him in Kajalsha ( or Kajal Sahar). Here Jugal Kishore turned an ascetic and used to spent time alone. It was in his last days he disclosed his identity to Prankrishnanath and asked him to keep the information secret. He also asked Prankrishnanath to bury him after his death instead of cremation. Jugal Kishore was thus buried in some secret place at their Kajalsha zamindari.
Part IV : Jugal Kishore ( Siraj’s Son) bloodline
After Jugal Kishore’s death Prankrishnanath took several initiatives for development of Sylhet and also set up a Biashnab Akhra at a place known as Jugal tilla ( it is where the biggest ISCON temple is now located).
Prankrishnanath had two sons – Kajal – who died at young age and Sourindrakishore Roy Choudhury. Sourindra Kishore got involved in anti British movements and was under surveillance for long. He also faced murder case after his first wife Tripureswari devi died in an accident.
Due to cases and also to avoid the British Sourindra Kishore changed his name twice—first as Prasanna Chandra Roy Choudhury then as Prasanna Kumar De. Sourisndrakishore passed from Presidency College as Prasanna Chandra Roy Choudhury. He was a poet and wrote several poems. One of his book of poems written as Prasanna Kumar De is “ Indian Bouquet” . There was another book of poems – The Peacock Lute.
It is Sourindrakishore a ka Prasanna Kumar who not only had to change his name twice but also had to leave Kajalsha and come to Sunamganj. Here became a well known and highly respected person, said Prof Amalendu De.
In Sunamganj (Sylhet) Prasanna Kumar set up Jubilee school and became its Principal. He also set up first press in Sunamganj –Jubilee Press. This name Jubilee was also used by his grandfather Jugal Kishore who built a road with deodar trees in both sides -from Bokainagar to his home in Mymensingh. This road is also known as Jubilee Road.
Sourindra Kishore alias Prasanna Kumar De after his first wife Tripureswari Devi’s death (They had one son Upendra Kishore Roy Choudhury who was brought up at his maternal uncle’s home) married twice—Mohini and Hiranmoyee.
He had two sons and daughter from Mohini—Bijoy Kumar and Hemanta Kumar and Sailabala and six sons and a daughter from Hiranmoyee – Purnendu, Ghanendu, Nirendu, SARADINDU, Prasanta, Nawal Kumar and Parul Bala.
Before his death Prasanna Kumar told their family secret to Bijoy Kumar- who was then eldest in absence of Upendra Kishore,- and asked him to keep it secret and pass on the information to family members who could withstand the shock and maintain the dignity of the family. Bijoy Kumar studied in Sylhet, in Kolkata Scottish Church College, in Guwahati Cotton College and became a lawyer.
In 1926 when the entire Indian subcontinent was abuzz with nationalist movement and the British was leaving no stone unturned to crush the movements, Bijoy Kumar De under his father Prasanna Kumar De’s instruction left Sunamganj and came to Shillong.
Evidently, Prasanna Kumar was trying to send his elder son –who was by then aware of their blood line – to somewhere where they would be able to keep their so closely guarded secret a secret forever.
At that time Bijoy Kumar not only added Lala prefix at their names but also settled in a place of Shillong where Bengali population was virtually nil. Soon he became one of the legendary lawyers of undivided Assam and president of Meghalaya Bar association. He practiced in Gauhati High Court. Besides Bengali he was fluently conversant in several languages – English, Arbi, Pustu, Hindi, Khasi. Once he taught law at Dhaka University.
Lala Bijoy Kumar also brought his youngest step brother Lala N K De who was first with the army and later became an IAS. His other step brothers including Lala Saradindu De remained in Sylhet (Sunamganj) and later chose their own life –joining political, revolutionary and other activities and settling down in different parts of the subcontinent.
Lala Bijoy Kumar De’s second son Lala Chitswarupananda De was Wing Commander of Indian Airforce and his son Lala Ajoy Kumar De used to stay with his grandfather Lala Bijoy Kumar De. It from his grandfather Lala Ajay Kumar De came to know about their family history. Lala Bijon Kumar (Son of former artillery officer and later IG Bimalendu Kumar and himself ex DGP of Meghalaya) also came to know about the bloodline. So did some others of their families, but not all.
Somehow the family members who knew about their family line learnt about Prof Amalendu De’s research and they felt it was right time to disclose the family history to him.
Interestingly, that not all of the family were aware of the his family secret was established from the fact that Lala Bijon Kumar De’s sister Bijoya Sawain in a Facebook post said, their ancestor Lala Harikishen, a Kashmiri who taught Persian in the court of Siraj Ud Daulah came to Sylhet with Mohanlal when he fled from Plessey.
This claim does not fit to what her brothers wrote (Heera’s Legacy by Lala Ajoy Kumar) and told to Prof Amalendu De. Besides, when Mohanlal- the last surviving fighter military commander of Siraj was running for life it was also unlikely to take along with him an entire Kashmiri family to an unknown place like ‘Sylhet’. Apart from that it was also not that Mohanlal came to Sylhet – he came to Bokainagar and Mymensingh first.
Lala Kalyan De , fourth son of Lala Bijoy Kumar De and former student of Delhi School of Economics and Harvard University who is now settled in USA in a review of the English version of Dr Amalendu De said, “The author was in poor health when he worked on question. Hence it needed proof reading. But it provides a very exciting piece of research. The translation does not provide in the appendix copies of the family papers underlying the contentions”. ( March 15, 2018, Amazon. In Search of Siraj’s son and Descendants.)
The Lala De family is huge and spread all over the world –with matrimonial relations from across all religions, castes and races – but going by the research of Dr Amalendu De, they all are carrying Siraj Ud Daulah’s blood and legacy—some knowingly and some unknowingly.
( Lala Bijoy Kumar’s daughter Beena named one of her grandniece –Aleya- the name of Siraj’s wife and Jugal Kishore’s mother after conversion to Islam. Aleya’s original name was Madhabilata a ka Heera. Her tomb is still there with Siraj’s another wife Luftunnesa ).
Post Script : After arranging adoption of his nephew and Siraj’s son to Mymensing Zamindar family what happened to Mohanlal ? Prof Amalendu De also researched on that and came to conclusion that Mohanlal kept on fighting the British at various levels and groups across undivided Bengal and spending many years as fugitive in Nadia, Burdwan and Hoogly – many years at Juranpur Sati peeth and Guptipara at Hoogly. Perhaps, he died at Sri Sri Brindaban jiu Math at Guptipara where a memorial plaque is still there. ( In the plaque it is said he was born at Guptipara while Sir Jadunath Sarkar said he was a Kashmiri. Many other historians maintained he was from Purnia, Bihar. His descendants according to Prof De are still there among the Yadab communities of Bengal and Bihar.
(Siraj-Ud-Daulah and Aleya alias Madhabilata. Her picture as given by Prof. Amalendu De) (First published in Tripura Times)