Unsung Women Freedom Fighters of India

Parimita Barooah Bora
Thursday, January 19, 2017

Over the past few decades, women have surged ahead in Indian polity. Women have held high offices in Independent India including that of the President, Prime Minister, Speaker of the Lok Sabha and Leader of the Opposition.

But women were no less, seventy years ago, when the entire nation fought for its freedom. Somehow, history tends to forget her women. Even in the case of Indian independence, barring a few often repeated names like Sarojini Naidu's or Annie Besant's, the contribution of women in the freedom struggle of India has over the years received less attention as compared to their male counterparts. Many of the brave-hearts remain in shadows - their faces invisible and their valor unsung. In fact, only handful women freedom fighters that were associated with independence struggle came from elite or middle class backgrounds. There were a number of ordinary faces, from humble backgrounds, conservative households and with no formal education, who battled the British Raj, gave selfless sacrifices and even laid their lives to see their nation free and prospering.

On this special day, let's remember these brave women who helped in shaping the independent India we live in now. They are still a source of inspiration to not only women but to all. Though there are many but here is a list of only 12 of them who were exceptionally great and their absence would have definitely made this task more difficult than it was.

Begum Hazrat Maha
Begum Hazrat Mahal, also known as Begum of Awadh, was the first wife of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Oudh. She was one of the most pivotal rebellion characters during the 1857 Indian rebellion. After her husband was exiled, she took charge of Oudh and even seized control of Lucknow during the struggle. Later, Begum Hazrat had to retreat to Nepal, where she died.

Suchetra Kriplani
The first woman to become the Chief Minister of an Indian state, Sucheta Kriplani founded the All India Mahilla Congress in 1940. A follower of Gandhian principles, Kriplani worked with Gandhiji during the partition riots as well as the independence movement. On 15 August, 1947, she sang Vande Mataram in the Constituent Assembly.

Kanaklata Barua
This unsung heroine from Assam played quite a crucial role in India’s struggle for freedom. Kanaklata Barua was a significant member of the Quit India Movement and on one fateful day, she accompanied other volunteers of the Movement to hoist the national flag, but was prohibited by the police. Though she tried convincing that her intentions were noble, the British police force shot her down, along with several others. Thus at the tender age of seventeen, this young woman sacrificed her life for her country.

Matangini Hazra
Though roads in West Bengal have been named after this valiant lady, Matangini Hazra (also known as “Gandhi Buri”) remains an obscure name for many Indians. Having initiated herself into the patriotic movement at a later stage in her life, her courage was commendable. During a procession, despite being shot thrice, she never backed down, and marched forward with the national flag, repeating the slogan, “Vande Mataram!”

Tara Rani Srivastava
On a certain occasion, during a protest march at the Siwan Police Station, Tara Rani Srivastava, from Bihar, and her husband, played the important roles of leaders. It was at this procession that her husband was shot, but this brave lady remained unflustered. Not only did she tend to him till his death, but continued her struggle despite all obstacles, thus making her nation proud.

Kittur Rani Chennamma
A celebrated figure in Karnataka, Kittur Rani Chennamma is yet to gain recognition across the country for her efforts during the independence struggle. As early as the 1800s, this queen of Kittur led an army of soldiers against the enemies to protest against one of the earliest signs of British dominance, the Doctrine of Lapse. Her valor proves to be an inspiration to women even today.

Bhikaji Cama
Bhikaji Cama, also known as Madame Cama in the Parsi community, was one of those unacknowledged heroines of India’s struggle for independence. What made this great patriotic leader stand out was the emphasis she laid upon equality between men and women. An active social worker and philanthropist, she gave away all her assets to help out an orphanage for young girls. She also travelled to Germany as an Indian ambassador in 1907 to hoist the Indian national flag.

Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay
While many know Kamaladevi as a distinguished theatre actor, very few are aware of the crucial part she played in India’s fight for independence. She became the first woman from India to be arrested by the British government for her active role as a patriotic leader. Also, she was the first woman candidate for the legislative assembly. She predominantly worked towards improving the socio-economic conditions of women in India, reviving lost practices like theater and handicrafts.

Lakshmi Sahgal
A former Indian Army officer, she is fondly known by many as Captain Lakshmi. Having served a sentence in a Burma prison for her role in the World War II, she returned to her motherland to enroll herself into the army formed by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. In fact, she was in charge of establishing and leading the Rani of Jhansi Regiment, comprising of women soldiers.

Abadi Bano Begum
Many know the leader of the Khilafat Movement and co-founder of the Jamia Milia Islamia University, Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar. However, few are aware of his mother, Abadi Bano Begum. Fondly referred to as Bi-Amma, this woman of steel was one of the most significant Muslim women leaders of India’s patriotic movement. During a time, when women, especially belonging to Muslim families, were strictly prohibited from embarking on anything concerning the outside world, Abadi Bano showed the grit to speak to a large political gathering and inspire them for the freedom struggle, all from behind the purdah.lu

Velu Nachiyar
She was the first queen to wage a war against the British and gave them a good run for their money. The former princess of Ramanathapuram opposed the British rule even before the Sepoy mutiny.

Parbati Giri
Parbati Giri was known as the Mother Teresa of Western Orissa. She was only 16 but actively in the forefront of all freedom activities, especially the Quit India Movement. She was also imprisoned for 2 years for taking part in such activities. Giri served the public socially post-independence.
A lot of work is yet to be done, for we have to create the country they dedicated their lives ……..this nation and its freedom is their legacy, left to us. JAI HIND

Parimita Barooah Bora is a onetime lecturer and currently she is a stay-at-home mom. Having done her post graduation in English, Education and Travel n Tourism, she taught for few years until her relocation to Kuwait. She likes to share the experiences of her life as a freelance contributor to various newspapers, magazines and websites. Now, as a freelance writer and teaching children in the evenings at home keeps her busy. Member of IWIK Team.
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