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The unsung women of Indian freedom struggle

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Freedom fighters, freedom struggle, Matangini Hazra, Bhogeswari Phukanani, Durgabai Deshmukh, Kamaladevi, Abadi Bano Begum, Velu Nachiyar, quit india movementOur country India has a great pre-independence history and India would not have been breathing liberation if it had not been for these valiant women who are not known and almost forgotten. You will hardly find their mention in History test books or Indian films. They are the one who fought for the nation without having a name or fame. The lesser-known but equally valorous leaders who made a mark in history. Many people came together to fight for the country’s independence. However, not much has been written about them. We talk about women’s plight, fight and struggle. We talk about women of India with great respect, somewhere we need to even remember, whatever we possess today there is some woman’s struggle story behind the same. Our independence was hard-fought. The British ruled over our lands for a long time. But then, there are heroes, so there are heroines too, the ones who stood up and fought. Some get the spotlight while some stay in the dark and contribute just as much as the others. This bodes true for India’s freedom fighters as well. For those who fought equally hard but never got any share of the limelight, because they simply never cared. Their only focus was on seeing an independent India. But as citizens of this country, we should know about some of them.

Bhogeswari Phukanani was brutally shot down by the British for launching the revolutionary mass program, the ‘Bharbhuj’. Kanaklata Barua. She too was shot down in a procession during the Quit India Movement in 1942 for proudly holding up the national flag.

Another woman Durgabai Deshmukh led numerous Satyagraha movements and was a member of the Constituent Assembly of India and the Planning Commission of India. She played a prominent role in the Indian freedom movement. At the Khadi exhibition in 1923, she was in charge of ensuring that all visitors had proper tickets before entering. She even forbade Pandit Nehru from entering until the organizers gave him a ticket and she let him pass.

Sucheta Kriplani was the first woman to become the Chief Minister of an Indian state (UP) and was also the founder of the All India Mahila Congress in 1940. She was a Gandhian and worked with him during the partition riots as well as the independence movement. On 15th August 1947, she sang Vande Mataram in the Constituent Assembly.

Matangini Hazra was part of the Quit India Movement and Non-Cooperation Movement. During one procession, she continued to advance with the Indian flag even after being shot thrice. She kept shouting “Vande Mataram”. Along with her husband, she led a procession in front of the Siwan Police Station. Though he was shot, she bandaged his wounds and kept going forward. By the time she returned, he had died. However, her will to go on was stronger still and she continued to fight holding the flag high.

Kamaladevi was the first woman to run for a legislative seat in India and interestingly, she was also the first Indian woman to be arrested by the British regime. She played a very vital role as a social reformer and brought back handicrafts, theatres and handlooms to help in uplifting the socio-economic standard of the Indian women. Today we may fight in the name of religion, but Muslim woman too gave her life for the freedom of our nation.

Begum Hazrat Mahal was a vital part of the 1857 Indian Rebellion. After her husband was exiled, she took charge of Awadh and even seized control of Lucknow during the rebellion. Later, Begum Hazrat had to retreat to Nepal, where she died. Few have heard of her, but when she was 33 years old, she gained some prominence as she hoisted the Indian National Congress flag during the Quit India Movement at the Gowalia Tank Maidan in Bombay, 1942. Although there are numerous roads and buildings named after her around the country, only a few know who she was and what she did. Not only was she a part of the Indian Independence Movement, but she was also a figure for gender equality. She donated most of her personal effects to an orphanage for girls. She also unfurled the Indian flag at the International Socialist Conference at Stuttgart in Germany, 1907. She was an officer of the Indian Army and was also referred to as Captain Lakshmi. Lakshmi was a World War II veteran and spent time as a prisoner in Burma. When she heard that Bose was recruiting women soldiers as well, she gave her name. She was ordered to form a female regiment called Rani of Jhansi Regiment, where she got the rank of Captain.

Abadi Bano Begum, born in 1852, she was one of the first few Muslim women to join the fight. Abadi Bano Begum addressed a political gathering from behind purdah and was one of the first women to do it. Parbati Giri 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 and was also known as the Mother Teresa of Western Orissa.

Velu Nachiyar 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.

When I look at Indian history and its freedom struggle, I feel proud of that womanpower in spite of all odds and unfavourable circumstances they created their own space and participated to get Indian freed from slavery.

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with three Honourary Doctorate in Journalism. Vaidehi has been an active journalist for the past 21 years, and is also the founding editor of an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, and The Democracy digital video news portal is her brain child. Vaidehi has three books in her name, "Sikhism vs Sickism", "Life Beyond Complications" and "Vedanti". She is an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, OSCP offensive securities, Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester that caters to her freelance jobs.
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