Shri Dev Suman was a writer and activist who stood for the freedom of Tehri and united the entire Garhwal region. The valiant soul died on 25 July 1944 on his fast-unto-death in Tehri jail.
“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance…” We all remember these lines of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru on the eve of India’s Independence on 15 August 1947, but how many of us remember that great soul who fought for the people of Garhwal?
When British won the Garhwal Kingdom in 1815 from Gurkhas, they gave the left bank of Alaknanda river to the former King of Garhwal, Sudarshan Shah. But they kept their hold over the old capital of Garhwal, Srinagar. Thus, in need of new capital, the King made new capital at the confluence of two rivers and thus emerged—Tehri. The city flourished in coming years and became the center of trade and rich culture. In the 1930s and 1940s, people rebelled against the King and his court.
Sri Dev Suman was one of the prominent person in the mass movement for freedom struggle. He was a Gandhian who followed the path of non-violence in his fight for freedom of Tehri Riyasat (Province) from the King of Garhwal. Suderlal Bahugana, an eminent environmentalist too supported him. He was captured and declared a rebel by the Tehri Kingdom on 30 December 1943, after his demand for freedom.
Born on 25 May 1916 in Jaul Village of Bamund Patti of Tehri Garhwal, Sri Dev Suman as a result of his 84 days of fast unto death on 25 July 1944. He was from a simple farmer family. He moved to Dehradun after completing his middle education from Tehri. In Dehradun, he started teaching as well as studying in Hindu National School. Then he came to Delhi where he came in contact with many revolutionary leaders such as Jagatguru Shankaracharya and published poetry book called ‘Suman Saurabh’ in 1937.
In 1938, Sri Dev Suman attended a political event organised in Srinagar by the district Congress Committee. Here, he got the opportunity to meet Jawaharlal Nehru and Vijaylaxmi Pandit. After meeting several political and social activists he decided to do something for people of Garhwal.
By the arrival of 1942, the whole nation was united against the British in struggle of freedom. It also had an impact on the people of the provinces. When he reached Devprayag on 29 August, 1942, he was arrested by police and put into the Dehradun jail. During this period, many others activists were also arrested in Uttarakhand and rest of the India. From Dehradun, he was shifted to Agra jail from where he was released on 9 November 1943.
After being released from jail, he went to Delhi and met a lot of activists. Finally, he decided to go back Garhwal again. He reached Narendranagar on 18 December 1943. He was again arrested by police on 30 December while he was spending some days in his village. The most unfortunate part of his great struggle that his body was thrown into the river of Bhilangna without a funeral. The new Tehri planners never found his body.
In jail, he was tortured by the jailers by putting heavy cuffs around him, mixing stones in his meal, beaten by the jailer Madan Singh, sand roti (Chapatti) was given to him, along with many other means. After spending 209 days in prison he decided to go on hunger strike. The staff of prison tried to feed him forcibly, but did not succeed. A doctor by profession, Sri Dev Suman died only at the age of 29, leaving behind his wife and many people who were inspired by him.
He was part of many freedom activities in Garhwal an editor and writer for any underground presses, and a key organizer and agitator for civil rights in Tehri. A self-taught person who formed some influential organization like the Himalaya Seva Sangh, to the Himalayan States People’s Federation and Garhdesh Seva Sangh.
Whenever we think about freedom of India from the British, we should not forget the valiant soul of Sri Dev Suman who fought for our freedom in Tehri. One of the earliest non-violent nationalist and satayagrahi’s birthday is celebrated on 25 July as Suman Balidan Divas.