About three minutes walk from Chowrasta, Darjeeling, commonly known as the Mall, the main tourist attraction of Darjeeling, will bring the visitors to STEP ASIDE, the house where the famous Indian patriot Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das passed away on 16th June, 1925.
This 19th century building, originally owned by Mr. Warnsei, was purchased by Sir N.N. Sirkar, who had been a friend of Deshbandhu. Deshbandhu was in bad health since January 1925. On 11.05.1925, he left Calcutta with his wife and daughter for a rest cure
in Darjeeling. Sir N.N. Sirkar instructed his agent at Darjeeling Sri Anuplal Goswami, to receive and look after Deshbandhu at STEP ASIDE. Deshbandhu arrived at STEP ASIDE on 16.05.1925. He began to take long walks up and down the hills and within a few days was of the impression that his health was improving and also planned to purchase a house at Darjeeling. A house named KATHLEEN COT situated below Auckland Road was selected.
Meanwhile, Deshbandhu continued his political activities. Mrs. Annie Besant met him in Darjeeling seeking his support to her Commonwealth of India Bill sponsored in the British Parliament by the Labour Party. Mahatma Gandhi came to STEP ASIDE on June 4 and stayed upto June 9, during which period, the two great leaders had prolonged discussions on the activities and future plans of the Congress and Swaraj Party.
On June 14, Deshbandhu was suddenly taken ill and on June 16 at 5.15p.m., he passed away at STEP ASIDE.
It is also noteworthy that in this very building, on May 8, 1909, the prince of BHAWAL allegedly passed away, was taken by some local Bengalis for cremation in a stormy night, and from the crematorium the dead body was found missing. Later, a Sannyasi appeared at Bhawal who resembled the dead prince, and the advent of this "Princely Imposter" led to one of the most famous cases of Indian judicial history.
On August 29, 1953, the DESHBANDHU MEMORIAL SOCIETY was registered, with His Excellency Sri Harendra Coomar Mookerjee, the then Governor of West Bengal as the President. The main aim of the Society was to collect and preserve the memorials of Deshbandhu, and to promote the welfare of the common people of Darjeeling by extending educational and medical facilities. In his appeal to the general people dated June 16, 1953, Sri Mookerjee wrote--- “The perpetuation of the memory of such a man is a sacred duty. But memorials in his honour should not be confined to Calcutta alone. ---- STEP ASIDE at Darjeeling---- should be acquired for the nation, and the first floor of the premises, including the room where DESHBANDHU breathed his last, should be set apart as a museum.” Keeping in view the ideal of DESHBANDHU—“Service of the Poor”, he further added that “ ---- it has been decided to establish on the ground floor of the premises STEP ASIDE a baby clinic and health center adequately equipped in charge of competent doctors and nurses.” Accordingly, by a Gift Deed of 8.1.1954, the building was acquired by the Society from Sri R.N.Sirkar, son of late Sir N.N. Sirkar.
At present, one room on the first floor of the building, where Deshbandhu breathed his last, is being preserved as a personal museum displaying some furniture and belongings used by Deshbandhu. The remaining portion of the floor was being used for residential purpose by some staff of Deshbandhu Memorial Society, which is now being vacated. The servant’s quarters at the rear side are proposed to be renovated by the PWD for shifting of these staff. On the ground floor the Deshbandhu Maternity and Child Welfare Clinic is being run. On two days the clinic staffs visit house to house for various health activities. The activities of the clinic are very popular in the locality and largely supplement the activities of the Health Department which provides for bulk of the medicine and equipments to this clinic.
It is proposed that the entire first floor be used as personal museum in memory of Deshbandhu, the clinic be continued in a portion of the ground floor, and one room on the ground floor be converted to a museum displaying the facts, photographs and case records pertaining to Ramendranath Roy, the prince of BHAWAL.