The Annual Convocation ceremony of Calcutta University in 2012 was rather special: The University awarded two special graduation certificates to recipients who had passed out 80 years earlier: A thread on this unique affair.

The year 1911 was a momentous one for the subcontinent. This was the year when the capital of British India was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi. It was also the year when Mohun Bagan club made history by becoming the 1st Indian team to win the prestigious IFA Shield.

1911 also witnessed the birth of two girls in two parts of Bengal, within a few months of each other. On May 5, the Waddedar family of Dhalghat village in Chittagong was blessed with a girl who they named Pritilata.

On August 24, another girl was born in Krishnanagar to a Beni Madhab Das – originally a resident of Chittagong. She was named Bina. Both girls would grow up in a nation energised to break free from the chains of colonial rule.

Bina’s father was an idealist professor, and one of his students was a certain Subhas Chandra Bose. Her mother Sarala Devi ran a hostel in Calcutta which was a known hideout of armed revolutionaries. Thus, nationalistic influences were strong in her life.

Meanwhile in distant Chittagong, Pritilata had a school teacher who loved narrating stories of Rani Laxmi Bai and the 1857 Revolt to the students. These stories made a deep impression on Pritilata’s young mind as did exploits of young revolutionaries all over Bengal.

In 1928, in a meeting of All Bengal Students’ Association presided over by Subhas Chandra Bose, a resolution was adopted to form a dedicated womens’ armed resistance movement.

From this meet was born Chhatri Sangha – an organisation that would train young girls in physical exercises, cycling, horse-riding, self-defence, and firing weapons amongst others.

Bina Das joined this organisation as did Pritilata who’d moved to Calcutta to pursue higher studies. Incidentally, both were students at Bethune College for Girls.

On February 6, 1932, the annual convocation of Calcutta University was to be held, presided over by the Governor of Bengal, former England cricket captain Sir Stanley Jackson. A plan was made to assassinate Jackson during the ceremony.

Bina Das was chosen to carry out this task. While Jackson was in the midst of his speech, Bina tried shooting him. She fired five times but Jackson was able to evade the bullets and a senior Bengali professor was unfortunately injured.

Bina was overpowered and arrested. She was sentenced to nine years of rigorous imprisonment.

Pritilata meanwhile, had gone back to Chittagong where she tried to join Masterda Surya Sen’s group. Although initially reluctant, Surya Sen eventually took her in. In a short time, Pritilata would emerge as one of his most trusted lieutenants.

During the Battle of Jalalabad with the British forces, Pritilata was engaged in supplying arms and ammunition to Surya Sen and his troops. Later, to avenge the deaths at Jalalabad, it was decided to attack the European Club in Chittagong.

Surya Sen entrusted Pritilata with leading the attack on September 23, 1932. Disguised as a Punjabi male, Pritilata led her team into the club and started firing. The police arrived and a gun battle ensued. Pritilata was struck by a bullet.

She exhorted her teammates to try and escape while she engaged the British forces. Determined not to be taken prisoner, Pritilata consumed cyanide. Calcutta University chose to withhold the graduation degrees of both Pritilata and Bina Das for their actions.

Bina, after her release, joined the Congress Party. She was again imprisoned for three years for taking part in the Quit India movement. After independence, she quit the party due to ideological differences. She was awarded the Padma Shri in 1960.

Her later years were spent in Rishikesh. After the death of her husband Jatish Bhowmik, also a freedom fighter, Bina largely vanished from public life.

On December 26, 1986, the corpse of an old woman was found by passersby and reported to Rishikesh police. After nearly a month, the cops were able to establish that the deceased woman was none other than Bina Das.

On March 22, 2012, 80 years after they had passed out, Calcutta University at its annual convocation finally reversed a historical wrong and awarded Pritilata Waddedar and Bina Das their graduation certificates as a posthumous honor.