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Century-old Nadia school with major contribution in Bangladesh Freedom Movement

25 July, 2020 21:49:59
Home / Century-old Nadia school with major contribution in Bangladesh Freedom Movement
Century-old Nadia school with major contribution in Bangladesh Freedom Movement

Shikarpur village and Shikarpur Uchcha (Uchchatara Madhyamik) Vidyalaya are like Siamese twins and share their common birth and history. Before the Partition, Shikarpur village was part of Meherpur sub-division in Kushitya district (now in Bangladesh). Like many other little-known places, Shikarpur too, has an ancient tradition of both written and oral history.  According to folklore, once upon a time this area was a dense forest infested with wild animals. A favourite with hunters (‘shikar’) for an abundance of gaming animals, the jungle came to be known as Shikarpur. 

Nature’s bounty overflows in this small hamlet and verdant greens surround the village throughout the year. The weather is pleasant and the cool, calm atmosphere offers an effective healing process for both the body and the soul. Mathabhanga River, a tributary of Padma flows through the area demarking Bangladesh and Nadia district. Around 1815, British indigo planters cleared the jungles and set up human habitation on the banks of Mathabhanga River. Gradually, the place came to be known as Shikarpur. Mathabhanga-Jalangi-Bhairav-Garai rivers all flow close to the village and its land is blessed with rich fertile alluvial soil. The British found this place perfect for indigo cultivation and from 1830, large scale commercial cultivation of indigo started. 

Initially, this area was owned by the legendary zamindar, Queen Bhavani, but later, Shikarpur became the headquarters of the northern zone of indigo planters. There were 152 indigo Kuthis (offices) under Shikarpur. During the 19th century, Mathanhanga River was the connecting river between Calcutta and East Bengal. Seamless connectivity was a prime reason for setting up the indigo planters’ headquarters here.  It is well neigh impossible to imagine what a prosperous area Shikarpur was during its heyday before Independence. A miniscule evidence of the riches can be traced to the school’s grand wooden doors and windows that stand as a testimony of its rich heritage. The British planters had built sprawling stable, mechanized launches, speed boats, four wheelers, an army of private soldiers, clerks, typists, managers et al. They had dug a fantastic swimming pool, a lake for boating, well-laid gardens, street-lamps, bakery, beautifully done palatial Kuthi (office) and the hunter. Now the only edifice that still stands erect is the Protestant Church with its melodious bell that chimes from time to time. The school library has a rare collection of very expensive imported books donated by the British when they left. 

Locals of this area had actively participated in the indigo revolution. The Indigo revolt (or Nil bidroha) was a peasant movement and subsequent uprising of indigo farmers against indigo planters that arose in Chaugacha village of Nadia in Bengal in 1859. Renowned freedom fighter, Jatindranath Mukhopadhyay aka Bagha Jatin organized the district’s first dacoity bid in Shikarpur. In 1922, Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Dash sent his follower Brahmachari Someshwar Chowdhury to Shikarpur to hammer the last nail on the coffin of indigo exploiters. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose had been to this village to organize meetings and form the body for fighting against the British imperialists. A large number of freedom fighters, including Harendranath Bhattacharya, Sukhomoy Chowdhury, Jagannath Talapatra, Sudhangshu Bagchi, Maulavi Abul Samad, Naimuddin and many others hail from this village and studied in the local school.  

According to available documents, this school was first set up at the other end of Mathabhanga river, on the periphery of Kushthiya district well before 1876 and operated from a mud house. However, due to frequent flooding in the locality, the school building’s condition became precarious.  At that time, the honcho  of indigo plantation business at Shikarpur, M.M. Crawford along with a group of bright educated enthusiastic Bengalis including Sudhamoy Sanyal, Bijoykrishna Biswas, Sariyatullah Bisws, Gourikanta Baghi, Chandramoy Sanyal and Lakshmipati Chowdhury decided to set up an English medium school to prepare students to appear for the Entrance examination. Shikarpur H.E. Vidhyalaya was formally inaugurated in 1876 with M.M. Crawford as the first president of the school. Baboo Jahnavicharan Bhowmik was the first headmaster of the school. There were about 75 students who joined the institution in its inaugural year. The school building was not ready yet and classes used to be held in a large room in a bungalow. Bhowmik officiated as the headmaster of the school from 1901 to 1905, when he left Shikarpur after he was promoted and got transferred elsewhere. The foundation stone of the school building was laid during his tenure.

Babu Surendra Mohan Maitra succeeded Bhowmik as the Principal of the school. He was a brilliant administrator and educator. During his 34-year-long tenure from 1905 to 1939 he was instrumental in lifting the standard of education to very high levels. He imposed strict discipline, camaraderie among students, sensitized the young minds to duties and social responsibilities and streamlined the administration. By 1907, the school building came up on seven acres of land donated by the Midnapore Zamindar Company. This solved the building problem to a large extent. Many new wings were added to the main building after Independence. There were two hostels for students, one for Hindus and the other for Muslims. After Independence, a girls’ hostel was also constructed. On January 3, 1939, Babu Satyacharan Bagchi joined as the Principal. He retired in 1945. Babu Abani Mohan Sarkar from Calcutta replaced him as the new head. He worked till August 19, 1947, as the Principal of the institution. 

Before Independence, Hindus and Muslims lived as neighbours peacefully but communal violence raised its ugly head after Partition. Pakistan’s flag was hoisted above the school building. Nadia was included in India three days after August 15 and the Indian national flag was hoisted again. A funny incident occurred at the school soon after Independence. Mr Bomfield was still working as the president of the school when the teachers and non-teaching staff appealed to him to grant a day’s pay as ‘Independence Bonus.’ Mr Bomfield agreed to grant the bonus.

After Independence, Bibhutibhushan Chattopadhayay, a much-respected freedom fighter and educator joined as the president of the school and Babu Manoranjan Sarkar became the first Head Master of the school after Independence on August 20 1947, and continued till August 14, 1950. He hailed from Tokla village in former East Pakistan. During his tenure, he faced the huge influx of refugees and arranged for financial and other donations for his students, ran from pillar to post for government grants for the school. He was extremely agitated to witness the mass exodus of Muslim students from the school and hostel. It pained him to see the dark shadows of Partition had enveloped his institution as well. He failed to stall the turn of events and finally took a transfer to Khatra high School in Bankura and left, a dejected man whose dreams had turned in a nightmare. 

He was succeeded by Asimananda Majumdar who took full control of the reins tightly. He asked the teachers to visit every village home and persuade parents to send their wards to school again. Students too, were assured full cooperation and asked to join school and continue their studies. This move was well-received and the once desolate school once again reverberated with the footfalls of students.  Majumdar took initiative to rebuild and develop the village. He arranged to donate a portion of the school’s plot to the government to set up the BDO’s office. Likewise, Shikarpur market was established on land donated by the school. He was instrumental for electrification of the village, raised his voice against the BSF’s laxity, demanded tightening of safety and security measures for the village. Old-timers can still remember the fiery op-ed articles he wrote in The Statesman newspaper. In 1959, Ramakrishna Theatre Podium was built in the school during his tenure. The school was very progressive and encouraged female education. There was a girls’ hostel within the school premises during the first half of the 1950s, which was a landmark even of sorts. Majumdar’s contribution for the school’s development has given him to a cult status. 

During the Bangladesh War of Independence in 1971, the school’s geographical location was vital and helped the Indian Army to get an upper hand. During the war, West Pakistan’s powerful Baluch Regiment took position on the southern portion of Shikarpur. The Indian Army was not aware of this development. Meanwhile, a fisherman who was angling at night in the Mathabhanga river got wind of the Baluch Regiment’s plan to ambush slyly and informed BSF authorities. The Indian Army and BSF surrounded the Baluch regiment and defeated after a fierce combat. Many bodies lay mutilated and scattered on the school field. They were later buried in the school ground. 

After the war was over, US ex-President John F. Kennedy’s brother Edward visited the refugee camp at Shikarpur School premises.  After 21 years of dedicated service, Majumdar was transferred to Tehatta Madhyamik Vidyalaya. Ardhendubhushan Kundu joined as his successor. In 1976, The institution was elevated to higher secondary school and students were offered science, commerce and arts streams to choose from. Towards the end of the 1970s, the then state Information and Culture minister, Buddhadev Bhattacharya, inaugurated the school’s Gitanjali Bhavan.  In 2000, the school’s centenary   was celebrated amid a lot of pomp and splendour.  At present, Arun Pramanik heads the illustrious institution. 

This school has imparted very high quality education to its student for decades. Its holistic and progressive approach has been greatly appreciated. The school provides all opportunities for the all-round development of each student. This   revered temple of education has been instrumental in imparting a high standard of moral and social values in its students. The school has also been a melting pot of different religions and beliefs. Shikarpur is the great leveller – the birthplace of revered Vaishnavite pundit Bijoykrishna Goswami is also Sufi Fakir Kalachand’s arena, here the ancient mosque co-exists with the Protestant Church built in 1818. 

In recent times, the locals of this area have been vociferously demanding to accord the ancient Shikarpur Uchcha Uchchatara Madhyamik Vidyalaya with a ‘Heritage School’ tag. 

Story Tag:
  • Education, Bangladesh

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