India got independence after a long struggle. British ruled India for more than 200 years. When some lost hope of living in a country of free will, some were dreaming of a free nation. There are always heroes! Right. The ones who stand up and battle. Some get the songs of praises while some remain in the dark but contribute just as much. It’s valid for some Indian Freedom Fighters as well. They fought their war just as hard but didn’t care about the praises. The main aim of these unsung heroes was a free India. But as the citizens of free India, we must acknowledge their sacrifices. Here are some Unsung Freedom Fighters you may haven’t heard about:
Matangini Hazra (19 October 1870 – 29 September 1942) was an Indian revolutionary who participated in the Indian independence movement. She was affectionately known as Gandhi Buri, Bengali for old lady Gandhi.
In August of 1942, local Congress workers planned to besiege various police stations and other government offices in Midnapore District, under the banner of Quit India Movement. The 73-years-old Matangini Hazra took the initiative.
On 29th September, she marched with more than six thousand supporters, mostly women, to seize the Tamluk Police Station. When the procession reached the outskirts of the town, citing the section 144 of Indian Penal Code, the Crown police ordered them to disband. Appealing to the police not to shoot at the crowd, she got hit by a bullet.
Unfaltering, she moved forward holding the INC (Indian National Congress) flag high, urging her comrades to follow. Despite being shot multiple times she moved on, chanting Vande Mataram. When her lifeless body, lying in a pool of blood was found the INC flag was still held high. Even in death, the braveheart had ensured that the flag (symbolizing the spirit of freedom) remained unsullied!
Master Da’ Surya Sen
“Master Da” Surya Sen (22nd March 1894 – 1st January 1934) was a prominent Indian Freedom Fighter and the chief architect of the anti-British Movement in Chittagong, Bengal (Present Day, Bangladesh).
Master Da is known for leading the Chittagong armed robbery in British India. He was a school teacher by profession. He was influenced by the Nationalist ideals. He is known for his brilliant actions and inspiring young men to join the struggle of freedom against the British. His bravery and intelligence is legendary and part of folklore in West Bengal and Bangladesh.
Master Da led a group of revolutionaries on 18th April 1930 to raid the British Armoury at Chittagong. They planned to get hands-on arms and to cut-off all the communication (including telephone, telegraph and railways) to isolate Chittagong from the rest of the British territories. They succeeded in looting the arms, but couldn’t get the ammunition. So, they hoisted the Indian Flag on the premises of the armoury and escaped.
After managing to hide for three years, Master Da was caught. Before Master Da was hanged, he was brutally tortured by the British. The British executioners broke all his teeth with a hammer and pulled out all his nails. They broke all his limbs and joints. He was dragged to the rope unconscious.
His last letter was written to his friends and said:
“Death is knocking at my door. My mind is flying away towards eternity …At such a pleasant, at such a grave, at such a solemn moment, what shall I leave behind you? Only one thing, that is my dream, a golden dream-the dream of Free India… Never forget the 18th of April,1930, the day of the eastern Rebellion in Chittagong… Write in red letters in the core of your hearts the names of the patriots who have sacrificed their lives at the altar of India’s freedom.”
Begum Hazrat Mahal
Begum Hazrat Mahal (c. 1820 – 7 April 1879), also called Begum of Awadh, was the second wife of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. After her husband was exiled to Calcutta, she took charge of the affairs of the state of Awadh despite her divorce from the Nawab, which then was a large part of the current state of Uttar Pradesh, India.
The Begum fiercely fought the English East India Company in The Mutiny of 1857, with the help of her commander Raja Jailal Singh. When she regained the state of Awadh for a brief period, she instated her son Brijis Qadra as the ruler. She worked with the Maratha rebellion leader Nana Sahib for some time and attacked the British army at Shahjahanpur in collaboration with Maulvi Ahmadullah of Faizabad and was ultimately forced to leave the country and sought asylum in Nepal.
One of the principal complaints of Begum Hazrat Mahal was that the East India Company had casually demolished Temples and mosques just to make way for roads. In a proclamation issued during the final days of the revolt, she mocked the British claim to allow freedom of worship:
“To eat pigs and drink wine, to bite greased cartridges and to mix pig’s fat with sweetmeats, to destroy Hindu and Mussalman temples on the pretence of making roads, to build churches, to send clergymen into the streets to preach the Christian religion, to institute English schools, and pay people a monthly stipend for learning the English sciences, while the places of worship of Hindus and Mussalmans are to this day entirely neglected; with all this, how can people believe that religion will not be interfered with?”
Tara Rani Srivastava
When most women were deprived of their basic rights and most of them preferred being within the walls of their homes, Tara Rani Srivastava paid heed to Gandhi’s call for protests and mobilized other women to carry out the demonstration during the Quit India Movement.
In 1942, Tara and her husband, Phulendu gathered like-minded people and marched towards the Siwan police station. Their objective was to hoist the Indian Flag at the roof of the police station to demonstrate the power of unified India.
As you would have guessed the police resorted to physical means for crushing the demonstration. When lathi-charge proved to be futile, the police started open-firing.
Tara watched her husband get shot and fall on the ground. One would have thought that the attack on her husband would make her step back, but Tara did the unthinkable. Rushing to her husband’s aid, she quickly bandaged his wounds with strips of cloth torn from her sari.
But she didn’t stop.
She continued to march towards the police station where she attempted to hoist the flag. By the time she had returned, Phulbendu had succumbed to his injuries.
Despite her husband’s death, the young widow continued to be a part of the freedom struggle until independence and partition on 15 August 1947.
Peer Ali Khan
Peer Ali Khan was born in Muhammadpur in Azamgarh District of Uttar Pradesh. At the age of seven, he fled from home and reached Patna where he met Zamindar Nawab Mir Abdullah. Mir sheltered him and raised him with his son. He got educated and learned languages such as English, Hindi and Persian.
He opened a book store in Patna where he befriended many soldiers at the Danapur Cantonment. Two secret letters from the Danapur Cantonment went into the hands of British police, one letter in the name of Peer Ali and another to Waris Ali. He and his friends were arrested immediately.
Being angry he planned an attack on the British. Despite the lack of resources, Peer managed to gather fifty guns and distributed them among the group with the help of his partner Maulvi Mehdi. British police came to know about this, and Maulvi was captured and hanged till death without a trial. This instilled a feeling of revenge in Peer.
On the 3rd of July, he and his 200 supporters marched towards the state administrative headquarter, Gulzar Bagh. Dr Llyoal ordered his men to open fire at the demonstrators. A lot of protestors lost their lives. In cross-fire Dr Llyoal got killed. As a consequence of this, the protestors were arrested and hanged brutally on trees without any hearing.
On 4th of July Peer, along with his 33 followers were arrested. Most of them were hanged the next day but Peer was tortured for several days to retrieve information. Peer Ali was brave enough to take all the torture and he didn’t disclose anything.
Peer Ali stated that “There are some occasions on which it is good to give up life and that if I sacrificed; thousands others, everyday will fill their place.” On the 7th of July, he was hanged till death with the murder charges of Dr Llyoal. His sacrifice inspired millions who joined the mission and fought for their motherland.
Birsa Munda was a freedom fighter, a religious leader and a folk hero. He was born on November 15, 1875, at Ulihatu in Bengal Presidency, now in the Khunti district of Jharkhand.
Munda set out to fight against the Feudal System that the British introduced in Adivasi Forests. Under this system, migrants from other states were invited by the British to work over tribal lands and to pocket all the profits. This, in turn, deprived the owners of their proprietary rights over the land and were left with no means of livelihood.
He fought for the rights of his people and their land. He was popularly named, ‘Dharti Abba’ or The Father of the earth.
In 1895, Birsa asked the fellow tribesmen to renounce Christianity and guided them to worship one God showed them the path of purity, austerity and prohibited cow- slaughters. He further claimed himself a Prophet and stated that the Queen’s rule has ended and The Munda Raj has begun.
The followers of Birsa Munda started attacking the places loyal to the British (like police stations, shops etc.). They also killed 2 constables and looted the houses of local shopkeepers. They also attacked officials like commissioners and deputy commissioners. The British in-turn placed a reward of Rs. 500 on Munda’s head and sent an army of 150 men to crush the rebellion. Hundreds of tribal men got killed in the attack. Munda managed to escape, but later on was arrested and sent to jail.
During his trial, Munda died on 9th June, 1900. The movement faded-out with his death. Eight years after his death in 1908, the government introduced the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNT). This Act prohibited the transfer of tribal lands to non-tribals and protected the proprietary rights of the owners.
The trio of Benoy, Badal and Dinesh
Benoy Krishna Basu, Dinesh Gupta and Badal Gupta were three like-minded youths instilled with the feeling of Patriotism. In December 1930, the trio dressed in European clothes, entered the Writers’ Building and shot Simpson (the Inspector General who was infamous for his brutality on prisoners) dead. Their aim was not only to kill Simpson but to instil the fear deep in the souls of the British.
There was a fierce gunfight between the trio and the policemen. When the trio ran out of ammunition, Badal Gupta took Potassium cyanide, while Benoy and Dinesh shot themselves with their own revolvers.
However, Dinesh survived the injury. He was tried and was the verdict of the trial was death by hanging for anti-government activities and Murder. While awaiting execution, Dinesh wrote several letters from his prison cell on the heroism of the revolutionaries and his belief in the greatness of self-sacrifice.
Dinesh Chandra Gupta was 19 when he was hanged on 7 July 1931 at Alipore Jail.
Rani Gaidinliu joined the freedom struggle at the age of 13, and by the age of 16 years she was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Born on January 26, 1915, Gaidinliu belonged to the Rongmei clan of the Zeliangrong tribe in the Tamenglong district of western Manipur. Being from a socially backward region, she never attained formal education. However, this didn’t stop her from joining the freedom struggle.
At the age of 10, Rani came in contact with cousin Haipou Jadonang who was the leader of a movement ‘Heraka’ (meaning ‘pure’) to drive the British out of the region. “We are free people — the white man should not rule over us.” were the slogans of the 13 years old Rani.
In February 1931, Jadonang was arrested, and in a mock trial by the British Indian authorities, was found guilty. He was hanged on August 29, 1931 at Imphal jail. The responsibility to lead the movement was on the shoulders of a 13 years old.
She urged her people not to pay taxes and to abolish anything that had its ties with the British. Soon, she became a threat to the government and was captured after a long struggle. Most of her followers were executed in the trials while she was sentenced to life imprisonment.
“What suppression of spirit they have brought to her who in pride of her youth dared to challenge the Empire…And India does not even know of this brave child of her hills.” Nehru also called her the “Rani of the Nagas.”
In 1966, she organised a resistance movement against the Naga National Council (NNC), which led insurgents. She was recognised as a freedom fighter and was awarded the Tamrapatra in 1972 and was felicitated with the Padma Bhushan in 1982.
Born on 4th October 1904 to a small family, OKSR Kumaraswamy Mudaliar was a native of Chennimalai, which is presently Erode, Tamil Nadu. Raised by a family whose occupation was handloom weaving, young Kumaraswamy had to drop out of school by class 5.
While the independence movements were gaining momentum, Kumaran found himself influenced by Gandhi’s principles and ideals. His family began to get concerned about his commitment to the cause. They used to reach his workplace and urge his co-workers to discourage him. Kumaran didn’t pay heed to any discouraging advice.
He started “Desa Bandhu Youth Association”, an association of young men determined to fight the British rule. When Gandhi led a demonstration in Bombay in 1932, the British decided to lock up the leader. There were riots and protests about this all over the country, including a patriotic march by Thyagi P S Sundaram in Tirupur. The protests had people carrying out the the flag of the Indian Nationalists, which was banned at the time, in honour as well as in revolt.
When lathi-charge started Kumaran didn’t leave the premises. Kumaran fell unconscious, and the fears of his family came true, as life ebbed out of him. He was later found, still clutching the flag of Indian Nationalists , preserving its dignity even in death.
Tirupur Kumaran was only 27 when he lost his life. While he may not have played a major part in the country’s independence, his national pride, patriotic fervour and selfless commitment garner credit. A martyr, Tirupur Kumaran is remembered in Tamil Nadu by the epithet ‘Kodi Katha Kumaran’–The Kumaran who saved the flag.
Still, there are thousands of freedom fighters who bestowed their lives for the motherland. We apologize for not including each of those great people, as it was impossible to include each and everyone’s sacrifices for the motherland in a single article.