Women freedom fighters lost in the pages of history

Mahatma Gandhi once said “Man can never be a woman’s equal in the spirit of selfless service with which nature has endowed her“, about the brave women freedom fighters.

Despite being oppressed by the societal pressures, women too shouldered several critical responsibilities in the independence struggle.

1. Kanaklata Barua

  • Kanaklata Barua also called Birbala and Shaheed (martyr), was a freedom fighter and revolutionary from Assam and AISF leader who actively participated in the Quit India Movement.
  • During the Quit India Movement Barua joined the Mrityu Bahini, a death squad comprising groups of youth from the Gohpur sub division of Assam.
  • During the movement, the national flag had to be hoisted at the Gohpur police station
  • She laid down her life for the freedom of our country with the flag lifted high on her hand.
  • On the same day, at Berhampur in the Nagaon district, Bhogeswari Phukanani, was killed for the same reason by the British Police. She and her colleague Ratnamala were leading a procession at Berhampur.

2. Usha Mehta

  • Known as a child revolutionary, Usha Mehta was only eight when she participated in a protest march against the Simon against the British, even though her father, a judge under the British Raj, tried his best to dissuade her from participating in the freedom struggle.
  • After quitting her studies, she joined the Quit India Movement and dedicated herself to the struggle.
  • She is also remembered for broadcasting the Secret Congress Radio, an underground radio station, which was at function for few months during the Quit India Movement.
  • She and many other child independence enthusiasts participated in the protests against the British and protested in front of liquor shops.

3. Matangini Hazra

  • Matangini Hazra was an Indian revolutionary from Midnapore, West Bengal, who participated in the Freedom movement until she was shot dead by the British Indian police in front of the Tamluk Police Station in 1942.
  • Being an active member in the Quit India Movement and Non-Cooperation Movement, she kept shouting “Vande Mataram” till her last breath.
  • Because of her bravery Hazra was affectionately known as Gandhi buri, Bengali for old lady Gandhi.

4. Parbati Giri

  • Parbati Giri who was well known as the Mother Teresa of Western Odisha, was a prominent woman freedom fighter of Orissa who played a brave role in the Indian Independence Struggle.
  • Parbati was only 16 when she was in the forefront of agitation following Mahatma Gandhi Quit India call. Post independence, she devoted rest of her life in the welfare of orphans and opened an orphanage at Paikmal village.

5. Pritilata Waddedar

  • Pritilata Waddedar was a revolutionary from Bengal who, after a brief stint as a school teacher, joined nationalist Surya Sen’s group to fight against the British.
  • She along with 15 revolutionaries  attacked  the Pahartali European Club, which had a sign board that read “Dogs and Indians not allowed”.
  • To avoid being arrested, Pritilata committed suicide by consuming cyanide.

Northeast India’s unforgettable freedom fighters

  1. Paona Brajabashi – Manipur
  • Paona Brajabashi was a great patriot of Manipur during the British colonial time of 1891 in Manipur.
  • Paona Brajabashi stood up against the mighty British and fought hard against the foreign forces which the historians described (it) as one of the fiercest battles in the annals of Indian history.
  1. Tirot Sing Syiem – Meghalaya
  • Tirot Sing Syiem is one of the greatest freedom fighters to hail from the northeast.
  • In the attempt to prevent the Khasi Hills from falling into colonial hands, Tirot Sing, a Khasi chief, had raised the battle cry against the invasive British forces in 1829, but was eventually captured and defeated. 
  • He died in captivity in Dhaka on July 17, 1835.
  1. Rani Gaidinliu – Manipur
  • Gaidinliu was born on 26th January 1915 at Luangkao village of present Manipur.
  • Rani Gaidinliu sacrificed & fully dedicated her precious life to save & free the Naga society from the British rule in our country.
  • Ranima, as she was popularly and affectionately called, led a movement against the British colonialism in the 1930s and the struggle soon turned into a battle to uproot British from Manipur and Nagaland.
  • She was in jail for 14 years and was released from jail only when India got independence in 1947. She is also noted to be the longest female freedom fighter to be jailed in the freedom struggle.
  • Gaidinliu announced- “We are free. We shall not give any right to rule upon us to foreigner”.
  1. Khuangchera – Mizoram
  • Khuangchera was the first Mizo freedom fighter to lay down his life fighting British imperialism.
  • He was killed while trying to resist advancing British troops in 1890, which saw the British conquest of the Lushai Hills (now Mizoram).
  1. Matmur Jamoh – Arunachal Pradesh
  • Matmur Jamoh did not like the British supremacy and their interference in the lives of his people.
  • He had killed British assistant political officer of the time, while another band of his followers killed another officer, both in East Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh, on March 31, 1911.
  1. Pa Togan Sangma
    • Also known as Togan Sangma or Pa Togan Nengminja Sangma, he was a 19th century Garo (A-chik) warrior and leader from East Garo hills, Meghalaya, who died battling British forces on 12 December, 1872.
  1. U Kiang Nangbah
    • A freedom fighter from Meghalaya, he led an uprising against the British during the 1860s.
    • When the colonial government sought to impose taxes and interfere with traditional customs, the tribes of the Jaintia Hills began harbouring an anti-British sentiment. The uprising (series of guerilla attacks) was triggered in 1860 with the imposition of house tax on the tribes inhabiting the Jaintia hills.
    • The British launched a full-scale military operation against Nangbah and captured him in December 1862.
  1. Haipou Jadonang
    • A Rongmei Naga leader from present-day Manipur, he was a spiritual leader, social reformist, and political leader who sought to emancipate the Naga people from the clutches of British colonial rule during the early decades of the 20th century.
    • He built an army, which he called ‘Riphen’ – well-versed in military tactics, weaponry and reconnaissance missions.
  1. Moje Riba
    • Moje Riba was involved in the cane business with traders in Assam, before his involvement in the freedom struggle.
    • He joined the Indian National Congress, joining forces with other legends of the freedom struggle like Gopinath Bordoloi and Lalit Hazarika. He was affectionately known as Aboh Nyiji, which means ‘old father of all’.
    • After joining INC, Moje Riba became the first INC President from Arunachal Pradesh.
    • For his sacrifices and contributions in India’s movement, he was conferred with Tamra Patra.
  1. Gopinath Bordoloi
    • Gopinath Bordoloi not only challenged the British, but also played a pivotal role in uniting Assam with India at the time of partition. He became the first Chief Minister of undivided Assam.
    • A follower of Mahatma Gandhi, he began his political activism during the Non-Cooperation Movement.
    • Following Independence, he played a central role in the rehabilitation of millions of refugees who had escaped communal violence in the newly created East Pakistan.
    • He was given the title of ‘Lokapriya’ for his services.