India got freedom from the British colonial system through the untiring struggle of our freedom fighters. Whether men or women, all equally participated in the India Independence Movement. We can never forget the contribution of women like Lakshmibai, Indira Gandhi, Kamla Nehru, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Lakshmi Sehgal, Annie Besant and Kasturba Gandhi.
However, there are several women who are not part of our history books. But the country will always be grateful to their services for the country. Today, we make a little tribute to such personalities. Here we are presenting presenting 10 unsung women freedom fighters of India.
1. Usha Mehta
Usha Mehta (1920-2000) was a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and an Indian freedom fighter. She became famous for organising an underground radio station during Quit India Movement. Her birthplace was Saras village near Surat in Gujrat. She was fortunate to visit Mahatma Gandhi at Sabarmati Ashram when she was just 5 years old.
Usha participated in the protest march against Simon Commission just at her 8 and shouted- “Simon, go back”. She and other children also participated in protest and dharna in front of a liquor shop.
Usha Mehta actively participated in Quit India Movement in 1942. She was one of the workers to hoist the tricolour at Gowalia Tank Ground from where the movement commenced. In addition, she alogwith her associates began a secret radio station that aired for three months. It broadcast uncensored news and other information banned by the British government. After that, she was arrested and imprisoned with other organisers. In 1988, the government of India awarded her Padma Vibhushan.
2. Kamladevi Chattopadhyay
Kamladevi Chattopadhyay (1903-1988) was an Indian freedom activist and social reformer. She belonged to Mangluru. Kamladevi was a part of Mahatma Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Movement. After that, she joined the Seva Dal, an organisation set up by Gandhiji for social upliftment. The Mangluru woman would recruit and train women throughout the country to become volunteers.
Kamladevi became the first Organising Secretary of All India Women’s Conference that ran voluntary programmes and worked for legislative reforms. Moreover, she was one of the seven-member team of Salt Satyagrah called by Gandhiji to prepare salt.
She came in limelight when she clung to the Indian flag in order to protect its dignity. During World War II, she travelled to many counties to represent India’s situation and gain support for the independence of the country.
She was conferred with many awards including Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, Ramon Magsaysay and UNESCO awards.
3. Durgabai Deshmukh
Durgabai Deshmukh (1909-1981) was an Indian freedom fighter, lawyer and social activist. At her 12, she left school in protest of English medium education. Thereafter, she started her own school to promote Hindi education for girls.
In 1923, the conference of the Indian National Congress was held in her hometown Kakinada. Durgabai was working as a volunteer in the charge of Khadi exhibition. The organiser had given her the responsibility to ensure every visitor enter with the ticket. She did her task with honesty and even forbade Pd Jawahar Lal Nehru from entering the conference without a ticket. However, she allowed him only after the organisers bought the ticket for him. For her courage and honesty, Nehruji praised the girl.
Durgabai was one of the followers of Mahatma Gandhi. Therefore, she participated in Salt- Satyagraha activities. Subsequently, the British government imprisoned her three times during this movement.
4. Kittur Rani Chenamma
Kittur Chenamma (1778-1829) was the queen of Kittur, situated in Karnataka and one of the female warriors to resist East India Company. She was born in a small village Kakati of Belagavi district of Karnataka. She got the training of horse riding, sword fighting and archery from the young age.
Rani Chenamma was married to King Mallasarja Desai at the age of 15. After the death of her husband and son, the British government imposed the doctrine of lapse on her state. But, Rani Chenamma did not accept this and had to enter the battle with British forces.
The battle went for several days and the British forces suffered heavy losses. Two British officers and their several soldiers were killed. But at last, the British army captured and imprisoned her at Balihongal fort.
The central government has installed a statue of Rani Chenamma in the Parliament Complex in memory of her bravery.
5. Tara Rani Srivastava
Tara Rani Srivastava belonged to Saran district in Bihar. She participated in Quit India Movement in 1942. Moreover, she encouraged women of her village to join the protest against the British.
Tara Rani was married to Phulendu Babu. In the 1942 movement, she and her husband organised a protest march to hoist the Indian flag in front of Siwan police station. The British police opened fire to control the protesters. Phulendu Babu suffered bullet injury and later he died. But, Tara Rani continued to march to hoist the flag and knew about her husband only after her return from the protest.
Tara Rani continued to work for the freedom of India.
6. Maniben Patel
Maniben Patel (1903-1990) actively participated in the Indian freedom struggle. She was the daughter of noted Indian leader Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Maniben was a part of the Borsad Movement and Bardoli Satyagraha led by Mahatma Gandhi in 1924. Further, she motivated women to join this movement by paying no tax which the British government had levied heavily on Indian people.
Maniben alongwith Kasturba Gandhi went on Rajkot Satyagraha to protest the unjust rule of Rajkot Diwan. She also participated in the Non-Cooperation Movement and Quit India Movement. For these protests, the British government imprisoned her for a long time.
7. Matangini Hazra
Matangini Hazra (1869-1942) belonged to a poor family. Hence, she did not get a formal education. Unfortunately, she became a widow just at her 18. Hazra participated in the Indian freedom struggle and shot dead by British police. Bengali people affectionately called her Gandhi Budhi (old lady Gandhi).
Hazra protested for Salt Act and Abolition of heavy tax for this British police arrested and sent her in jail. She also joined the Indian National Congress and spun her own khadi dress. She faced baton charge by the police while attending the conference of Congress at Serompore.
During Quit India Movement, she at her 72 was leading the possession of nearly six thousand supporters to take over Tamluk police station. In the midst of the town, the police came and shot her repeatedly. However, she kept chanting Vande Mataram and died with the flag held high and flying.
8. Basanti Devi
Basanti Devi (1880-1974) was the wife of Chitranjan Das. Subhash Chandra Bose had great regard for her. She was amongst the four prominent women in Bose’s life. Therefore, Bose would discuss the personal and political issues with Basanti Devi.
Basanti Devi took part in the Civil Disobedience Movement and Khilafat Movement. She was one of the key persons in the collection of gold ornaments for the Tilak Swaraj Fund. The British police arrested her for promoting khadi at Kolkata streets. Moreover, Indian youths got motivation from her to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai following baton charge by the police.
The government of India awarded her with Padma Vibhushan in 1973.
9. Kanaklata Barua
Kanaklata Barua (1924-1942) is also known as Birbala (brave girl) and Shaheed (martyr). She belonged to Darrang district of Assam. Kanaklata was an Indian freedom struggler who was shot dead at the early age of 17. This freedom fighter girl also led the All India Student Federation, the oldest student organisation in India.
During the 1942 Indian Movement, she joined a death squad namely Mrityu Vahini. The Vahini planned to hoist the national flag at the local police station. Kanaklata led an unarmed possession for this task. She continued marching ahead despite the police’s warning. The police shot her dead and the flag was held by another worker who was also killed in police firing.
Certainly, Kanaklata’s life is a source of inspiration for all. The government made her a statue in her memory in Gauripur in 1911.
10. Jhalkari Bai
Jhalkari Bai was born at Bhojla village in Jhansi. She had exceptional strength and will power. Subsequently, she got training in horse riding and other weapons. Jhalkar Bai amazed people by killing a tiger and a leopard with a single stroke.
After her marriage, she joined the army of great warrior Rani Lakshmi Bai. She resembled Lakshmi Bai and helped the Queen to escape from the fort. Jhalkari Bai disguised herself as the Queen and bravely fought against the British army. However, historians are not unanimous about the last days of her life.
A statue of Jhalkari Bai has been constructed at Guru Teg Bahadur Complex in Bhopal.
So, these are the list of a few names. However, this is not the end. There are several women who did not become so much popular and remained anonymous. It is our duty to remember such heroic personalities and take inspiration from their life.
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