C. R. Das was born on November 5,1870 in Calcutta. Even while he was a student in London, he took active part in the electioneering campaign of Dadabhai Naoroji. Public attention came his way when he brilliantly defended Aurobindo in the Alipur Bomb Conspiracy case in 1908. He also published five volumes of poems with the titles Malancha in 1895, Mala in 1904, Antaryami in 1915, Kishore-Kishoree and Sagar Sangit, both in 1913. He also started the Bengali monthly Narayana, and also wrote vaishnava kirtan songs. In 1915 he was elected President of the Literary Section of the Bengal Literary Conference during its Poona session. He started his paper Forward in October, 1923.
C. R. Das presided over the Bhowanipore session of the Bengal Provincial Conference in 1917. He was also present at the special session of the Congress in Bombay in 1918 and voiced his opposition of the Montague-Chelmsford Report. C. R. Das was also a member of the Congress Enquiry Committee set up to look into the Jallianwallah Bagh massacre in 1919. He opposed the acceptance of the Government of India Act of 1919. He was appointed as “supermom” by the Congress in Bengal to focus activities against the government. He was imprisoned on December 11, 1921 for his activities and later released in July, 1922. Although elected as President of the Ahmedabad Congress, he was not allowed to take the chair as he was an under-trial prisoner. After release he was elected as President of the Congress for its Gaya session.
C. R. Das founded the All India Swaraj Party in 1923. He was the President along with Motilal Nehru, serving as secretary. The name of the party was the Congress Khilafat Swaraj Party and its manifesto was issued at Gaya in December 1922. The party was devoted to the attainment of Swaraj by all peaceful and legitimate means. The Swaraj Party soon emerged as an important opposition leader and contested elections to the provincial councils and the Indian Legislative Assembly. Almost a terror to the Bengal Government he was successful in defeating important proposals of the government. The Calcutta Pact between Mahatma Gandhi and C.R. Das led to the recognition of the Swaraj Party by the Congress as its council entry wing in 1924. During the Kanpur session of the Congress in 1925, the Swaraj Party was merged with the Indian National Congress. C. R. Das was elected the first mayor of the Calcutta Corporation in 1924.
C. R. Das was devoted to the agrarian cause and strongly opposed the industrialisation of India on European patterns. This does not mean that he was against trade and commerce. On the contrary, he understood the potential of labour and wanted cheap capital for industries so that they could yield returns While presiding over the Lahore session of the All India Trade Union Congress in 1923 he expressed support for factory legislation and the unionisation of industrial workers. He also presided over the Calcutta session of the All India Trade Union Congress in 1924.
C. R. Das was devoted to Swaraj. He sacrificed his rich practise at the Bar to devote himself wholly to the cause. Swaraj for him meant not the acquisition of additional rights for elite classes but a richer and better life for the Indian masses. His dedication, coupled with a poets passion and a lawyer’s analytical mind, made his friends and associates call him Deshbandhu Chittaranjan. He was a man of original political ideas and high political status.
Deshbandhu was a Brahmo Samajist initially. He became a vaishnava and regarded each and everything as the revelation of God- Like his colleagues Bankim and Aurobindo, Deshbandhu also held the concept of the Indian nation as divine. He was all for Hindu-Muslim cooperation and even evolved the Das Formula to adjust the claims of different communities in Bengal- He realised early the latent threat which imperialism posed to world peace. He differentiated between aggressive nationalism and the need for self-development and self-fulfillment. He was a believer in the theory of fundamental rights, and included mental and moral harmony and growth along with political freedom under Swaraj. He was also familiar with modern western political theories.
His prophetic vision and grasp of politics came to expression in his advocacy of village panchayats and his five- point programme on governmental reconstruction. The five-point programme stated: the formation of local centres based on the ancient village system, the growth of larger groups resulting from integration of these local centres, similar growth for a unified state, autonomy for the village centres and larger groups, and the retention of the residuary power of control with the central government.
Deshbandhu passed away on June 16,1925 in Darjeeling. His body was brought back to Calcutta where lakhs of people and leaders such as Gandhi paid their homage to him. A poet, lawyer, a great leader and a devout believer, he was ready to make any sacrifice for his nation.