THE UNCREDITED WOMEN FREEDOM FIGHTERS WHOM WE SHOULD KNOW

You may be thinking that women are making a lead in every field in this modern period. You may be thinking that they had been confined to their homes or kitchen in old days. But this is not the truth. It is true that they hadn’t been encouraged for that but they have always been a step forward than what have been expected from them. Today we will tell you about eight wonder women from our history who had proved that their patriotic values are not less than anyone; by their exemplary courage, leadership and a devotion to do anything to get their nation free from British autocracy. You may be knowing about Rani Lakshmi Bai, but you should know about them too. You may be surprised to know the early age at which this freedom fighters had shaken the British authorities. You will find that they were mostly school or college students at the time when they had shocked the British Empire by their courageous and patriotic act.

DEVI CHAUDHURANI

She was the queen of the Manthana State of Rangpur district. She was given patronage by Bhavani Pathak when she was abandoned by her in-laws. She with Bhavani Pathak led Sanyasi revolt in Rangpur district.
Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay mentioned her in his novel based on Sanyasi revolt, Anandamath and he also dedicated one his novel on her, named Devi Chaudhurani.

PRITILATA WADDEDAR

She was born on 05 May, 1911 in Dhalghat village in Chittagong. Her father Jagabandhu Waddedar was a clerk in Chittagong Municipality, who tried best for his all six children education. She studied in Chittagong, Dhaka and Kolkata and was a meritorious student during her studies. Her degree was withheld by the British authorities with Bina Das, which were conferred to them posthumously in 2012. After her studies she became headmistress in Nandankanan Aparnacharan School, a local English Medium Secondary School in Chittagong. Surya Sen wanted her to join his group whom she met on 13 June, 1932 in his Dhalghat camp. She took responsibility of supplying explosives to revolutionaries in Jalalabad battle, took part in many raids like attack on telephone and telegraph offices and capture of reserve police line. She led the attack on Pahartali European Club (having a sign board with ‘Dogs and Indians not allowed’ written on it) planned by Surya Sen on 23 September, 1932. She dressed as a Punjabi male during the attack. Members of the group were given potassium cyanide to swallow if they get caught. They began their attack at 10:45 pm when 40 people were present in the club. There were few police officers in the club with revolvers who starting firing at revolutionaries in which she got hit by a bullet. She swallowed cyanide when she got trapped by the police to avoid arrest.

KALPANA DUTTA

She was born in Sripur village in Chittagong. She studied in Chittagong and then went to Bethune College in Kolkata. Then she joined Chhatri Sangh with Pritilata Waddedar and Bina Das also its members. She joined Indian Revolutionary Army Chattagram branch led by Surya Sen. She had to attack on Pahartali European Club with Pritilata Waddedar, but she was arrested a week before while carrying out the reconnaissance of that area. After her release she went underground. She escaped when police arrested Surya Sen on 17 February, 1933 but was captured on 19 May, 1933. She was given life sentence with Surya Sen. She got released in 1939 and graduated from Calcutta University in 1940. She joined Communist Party of India and served as a relief worker during 1943 Bengal famine and partition of Bengal. From Chittagong she contested for Bengal Legislative Assembly in 1946 as a candidate of Communist Party of India which she lost. She joined Indian Statistical Institute where she worked until her retirement. She died on 08 February, 1955 in Calcutta.

SANTI GHOSH AND SUNITI CHOUDHARY

On the day of 14 December, 1931 Suniti Choudhary (age 14 years) and Santi Ghosh (age 15 years) walked into the office of District Magistrate of Comilla, Charles Stevens, with an interview slip for requesting to present a petition for appealing for a swimming club. The Magistrate came out with Sub-Divisional Officer Nepal Sen and looked at the letter given to him. When he returned from his chamber with the signed papers both the girls pointed out automatic pistols hidden in their shawls and shot him to death. Both were taken to the jail and in February, 1932 appeared in court in Calcutta. Both were given life imprisonment for 10 years because both were minors.

Santi Ghosh was born on 22 November, 1916 in Calcutta. She was a founding member and secretary of Chhatri Sangha (Girl Students Association). Suniti Choudhary was born on 22 May, 1917 in Comilla district of Bengal. She was a member of the Tripura Zilla Chhatri Sangha. Both joined the Jugantar party, a militant revolutionary organisation which used murder as tool a for political agitation to threw out British. Both got released after seven years in 1939, because of the amnesty negotiations between Mahatma Gandhi and the British Government in India.

After her release Santi Ghosh went Bengali Women’s College. Participated in the communist movement and later joined Indian National Congress. She got elected for Legislative Council of West Bengal from 1952-1962 and 1967-1968 and Legislative Assembly of West Bengal from 1962-1964. She died in 1989. Suniti Choudhary after her release got her a M.B.B.S. degree and became a doctor. She died on 12 January, 1988.

BINA DAS

Bina Das was born on 24 August, 1911 in Krishnanagar, Bengal. She studied in St. John’s Diocesan Girl’s Higher Secondary School in which on 06 February, 1932 she attempted to fire five bullets on the Governor of Bengal, Stanley Jackson, during a Convocation ceremony while receiving her degree, but failed. She was contained and disarmed by the vice- chancellor Lt. Col. Hassan Suhrawardy, for which he received knighthood. She was jailed for nine years. She was a member of Chhatri Sangha and Jugantar party.

After her release she joined Indian National Congress and took part in Quit India Movement, for which she was again jailed from 1942-1945. She got elected for Bengal Provincial Legislative Assembly from 1946-1947 and West Bengal Legislative Assembly from 1947-1951. In 1960 she won Padma Shri for social work. She lived a lonely life after her husband death in Rishikesh. Her body was recovered in partially decomposed state on roadside on 26 December, 1986.

RANI GAIDINLIU

She born on 26 January, 1915 in Nungkao village in Manipur. She belonged to Rongmei Naga tribe. Due to lack of school in the area she didn’t attended any. She became disciple of her cousin, Haipou Jadonang and joined his heraka movement. This movement aimed at ending the British rule and establishing the Nagas self-rule. It became a armed rebellion against the British oppression when they got guns from the Cachar in Assam. By the age of 16 Gaidinliu became leader of the guerrilla forces. She became spiritual and political heir of her cousin, Jadonang after he got arrested and hanged in 1931. She asked to the people of Zeliangrong to not pay taxes. Many local Nagas donated her and many joined her as volunteers. British authorities started searching for her and she started moving from villages to villages to prevent her arrest. Governor of Assam dispatched 3rd and 4th battalion of Assam Rifles under Deputy Commissioner JP Mills for her. Rewards were declared for her information such as financial and exemption from tax for ten years for the villages providing her information. Her forces had confrontation with Assam Rifles in North Cachar hills on 16 February, 1932 and Hangrum village on 18 March, 1932. On 17 October, 1932 a contingent of Assam Rifles headed by Captain MacDonald launched a surprise attack in Pulomi village on Gaidinliu and her followers when they were constructing a wooden fortress. She with her followers was arrested near Kenoma village. She was sentenced for life imprisonment and most of her associates were either imprisoned or executed. She moved in Guwahati, Shillong, Aizawl and Tura jail till 1947.

She was released after the interim government was formed on Prime Minister Nehru’s order. She was against tha Naga National Council (NNC) insurgents who demanded secession from India. She used to campaign for a separate Zeliangrong territory within India. She worked for the revival of the traditional Naga religion of animism or Heraka, which Baptist leaders see as anti-Christian and warned her for serious consequences. She was criticised by rebel Naga leaders and the NNC leaders consider her as an obstruction for them. To strengthen her position and to defend Heraka culture she went underground in 1960. In 1966 she came out under an agreement with the Government of India to work for the betterment of people through peaceful, democratic and non-violent means. On 21 February, 1966 she met Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri for the creation of a separate Zeliangrong administrative unit. When she went Kohima, during her stay in 1972 she was conferred ‘Tamrapatra Freedom Fighter Award’. She got Padma Bhushan in 1982 and Vivekananda Seva Award in 1983. She died on 17 February, 1993 at her birthplace Longkao at the age of 78.

USHA MEHTA

She born on 25 March, 1920 in Saras village near Surat. She participated in the march against Simon commission when she was eight. Her father was a judge who doesn’t encourage her participation in the movements till 1930 when he got retired. She with other children used to distribute clandestine bulletins and publications, visits as relatives in prisons and carried messages for the prisoners. She got influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and became his follower. She decided to be a celibate and live a Gandhian lifestyle.

She left her studies in law in 1942 to participate in Quit India Movement. On 14 August, 1942 when all leaders were arrested during Quit India Movement she with her associates began a clandestine radio station, the secret Congress radio. It went air on 27 August, 1942 with first words broadcast by her; “This is the Congress radio calling on [a wavelength of] 42.34 meters from somewhere in India.” It aired messages by Gandhi and other prominent leaders. They used to move their station daily to remain hidden from the British authorities. Police caught them on 12 November, 1942 and arrested her with other organisers. She was interrogated by Criminal Investigation Department for six months. To betray the movement she was even offered to study abroad. During her trial she asked the judge of the High Court that is it necessary for her to answer the question, then the judge confirmed that it is not mandatory. Then she declared that she will not reply to any question, even to save herself. She was sentenced for four years imprisonment from 1942-1946. She was imprisoned in Yervada Jail in Pune and there her health got deteriorated. She was hospitalised in Sir J.J. Hospital in Bombay. She returned to Yervada Jail when she recovered. She was the first political prisoner who got released on March, 1946 on the orders of the Home Minister of the interim government, Morarji Desai.

After independence she didn’t participated in politics and social work due to her health. She wrote a doctoral on political and social thought of Gandhi and earned PhD from Bombay University. She served in Bombay University as a research assistant, lecturer, professor and Head of the Department of the Civics and Politics. She got retired in 1980. She got Padma Vibhushan in 1998. In August, 2000 while she was suffering from fever, she participated in the anniversary of the Quit India Movement in August Kranti Maidan. After her return she felt weak and exhausted. After two days on 11 August, 2000 she passed away.

In this article we have brought you only eight, but there are many women who had made their contribution to get our nation free. They had worked in organisation either peacefully or violently against the British authorities. They had participated in various movements and picket liquor shops and shops selling foreign goods and clothes. With an active participation in independence movement they were simultaneously active in social services during the times of natural calamities such as famine, floods and etc. We should never undermine their contribution in our freedom because women too have made an equal sacrifice.

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