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Jagadish Chandra Bose

Published : Saturday, 4 December, 2021 at 12:00 AM  Count : 1714
Reviewed by Alamgir Khan



Jagadish Chandra Bose's silent rebellion against British colonial rule...
Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose is the most famous of all Bengali scientists who laid the foundation of modern scientific knowledge and learning in India. He is also the most popular of all scientists to people in Bangladesh and all Bengalis living elsewhere. He was a lifelong friend of Bengal's Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore and himself a very good writer. For some time Jagadish was also in charge of the then Bengali literary society.

He was a man of great poetic imagination and sharp mathematical calculation, the two seemingly contrary mental faculties lying comfortably within himself in abundance. The popular belief among people in Bangladesh and Bengali diasporas is that he discovered 'life' in plants and invented radio, but the Nobel Prize for the latter was denied to him in favour of Italian scientist Marconi, but grounds for both of which claims are rather emotional than otherwise.

The facts which distinguish Jagadish Chandra most are his commitment to humanity, patriotism and the torch-bearing role for the scientists of subsequent generations like his students Satyendra Nath Bose, Meghnad Saha and others. He not only had to research in a financial and technical poor condition also had to fight against the British structure of hostility towards natives and colonial mentality of his scientific contemporaries.

An element of rebellion against these and other colonial hostilities always shined in his personality and writings in Bengali. It is worth mentioning that he believed in education through mother tongue and worked for it, too. His student Boson-famous Satyen Bose also did the same.  

Abyakta (Unexpressed) is Jagadish's book of science and literature written in Bengali. It was first published in 1921 and so this year is the 100th anniversary of its publication. In these hundred years this book has been published many times by many publishers in Bangladesh and West Bengal. It is in fact one of the most popular science books in Bengali. This book also contains many jewels of beauty and knowledge about life, nation and society. It has many precious materials that express the unexpressed pain, rebellion and dream of a great humanity to be achieved by people of his nation he felt so proud of.           

Jagadish Chandra Bose was born on 30 November in 1858 and died on 23 November in 1937. It was a most tumultuous period for Bengal and India which it was part of at the time. The year of his birth witnessed the repercussions of the Great Rebellion of India, which began in the previous year against the colonialist British rule. He was one of the greatest torchbearers of Bengali renaissance and yet had to witness many historical downsides like the Hindu-Muslim enmity and others in the national struggle for freedom from the colonial masters. This national political environment shaped his mind and set him into a struggle that was hard to win. The unexpressed pains can be felt while reading Abykta, a collection of essays by him in Bengali.        

His devotion to his motherland is revealed in a speech delivered at a literary conference in Mymensingh in 1911. Here he said in the speech entitled Biggane Shahitya (literature in science), "None can deny the power of gravitation. I have come back to my birth land after so many years being pulled by that invisible power. This literary conference is carrying a condensed spirit in Bengalis' hearts from one corner to the other of the land and is awakening the determination of success everywhere in Bangla Desh."
Becoming a scientist he began to put Bengali names to the machines and devices invented by him. He made a tool named crescograph for measuring growth in plants, which measured growth of 42 points of a hundred thousandth of an inch in a minute. In Abykta, he explained why he dropped the habit of naming his devices in Bengali like kunchonmaan, shoshonman, etc. His device kunchonmaan turned into Kanchon-Man in the mouth of an American university professor while Jagadish was visiting there. So his initial plan of giving crescograph a Bengali name like 'Bridhimaan' was dropped in fear of it turning into 'Burdwan' in the English tongue.    

When he joined the Presidency College, he was given much less salary than the British white teachers because of his being native and coloured in skin. In protest against such colonial injustice, Jagadish refused to accept salary for three years until equality was established. This negligence toward the Indian people by the colonial masters gave him pains throughout his life.  When scientist Ramsay told him in a London program that the call of a single cuckoo should not be regarded as the beginning of a new era of Indian science, he retorted in his face that hundreds of cuckoos would herald the spring era of science in his country before long.            
Jagadish Chandra Bose's burning anger against colonialism is evident in one of his write-ups in Abyakta about a war against the British colonial army in Nepal. In Agniporikkha (trial in fire), he has described the longstanding courageous fight of the Nepalese hero Balbhadra Thapa with only 300 soldiers against the strong British East India Company forces of 3,500 soldiers in 1814. In the Khalanga war, the British commander was killed, but they kept they hill fort under seize for more than a month during which the British force blocked water supply to the fort in order for the Nepalese men, women and children to die of thirst. Yet the Nepalese army under the command of Balbhadra did not surrender. He later left the fort and joined the army of Ranjit Singh and later died in a war in Afghanistan. Paying tribute to this Nepalese hero the British army erected a memorial at the battlefield of Khalanga.         

The story is historical, but one can identify the deep patriotic love and anti-colonial hatred of Jagadish Chandra in passionate narration of this story. Bangladeshi scientist Ashraf Ahmed living in the USA say that this story evidently shows the protest in the heart of Jagadish Chandra Bose against the British occupation of India.

The Bengali scientist living under the British rule in India clearly took shelter behind narrating an anti-British struggle in Nepal while keeping the miserable condition of his nation in his heart. The scientist, also a poet according to his friend Tagore, evidently wanted to inspire his countrymen to rise against the colonial rule of the British in India. In this context we can also remember that Meghnad Saha, the famous Bengali scientist and student of Jagadish Chandra, was forced to leave Dhaka Collegiate School because of his involvement in the anti-British struggle in Bengal.            

Reading Agniporikkha one might be tempted to go to the extent of innocently thinking that if Jagadish Chandra Bose had been alive during the liberation war of Bangladesh 50 years ago, he would have wished to join the 1971 war as Comrade Muzaffar Ahmad had wished to do in his quite old age.   

The writer is Editor of Biggan O Sangskriti, a Bengali little mag on science and culture        

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