Even after 68 years of independence when we Indians could feel the fervor and the resentment of the people who witnessed that era and even participated in the freedom process of India. People from all walks of life forgot all differences and came together from all walks of life and all classes of society be it men or women or youth all came on streets to fight for the freedom of their country. We still read or hear with awe about courageous stories of freedom fighters of those times; they still fill our hearts with respect, courage and patriotism and leaves our eyes wet with tears.
History has witnessed many women with exceptional bravery and intelligence who walked shoulder to shoulder with men of their times. Let us remember women of the freedom era who fought bravely for their country and contributed towards the achievement of independence of the country India. They are still a source of inspiration to not only women but to all.
Though there are many, 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.
The list states the chronological order.
12. Rani lakshmibai (19th November – 17th June 1858)
A name etched in history for her bravery forever. She was the queen of Maratha ruled state of Jhansi. She was the first prominent women freedom fighter, who participated in the first freedom rebellion of 1857. British wanted to take over the princely state of Jhansi under the cover of “Doctrine of Lapse”. Sir Hugh Rose came to capture the city of Jhansi in March 1858 but, the brave Lakshmibai announced to fight for freedom instead to surrender. Though she was defeated here and decided to leave and fight from camp at Kalpi. After Kalpi they decided to fight from Gwalior Fort. Here Lakshmibai with Damodar Rao, her son on her back and i cavalry attire died after fighting bravely. Even Hugh Rose praised her bravery and commented that she is the most dangerous of all Indian leaders, which is a commendable tag.
11. Begum Hazrat Mahal (1820- 7th April 1879)
She was another queen of a princely state who rebelled against the British East India Company. She was also known as the Begum of Awadh. She also played a major role during the rebellion of 1857. After the death of her husband Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, she took over the affairs of state of Awadh. During the rebellion, the supporters of Begum seized control of Lucknow as an act of rebellion against British East India Company and declared her son, Bijris Qadra as the ruler of the state of Awadh, though later it was recaptured by the Company and Begum was exiled to Calcutta. She drew everyone’s attention towards the demolishment of temples and mosques by the Company to make way for the construction of roads thus; hurting religious sentiments of Indians. Karl Marx said about Begum that “during the national liberation uprising of 1857-1859 in India headed the rebels”.
10. Annie Besant (1st October 1857- 20th September 1933)
Though she was British socialist she was a supporter of Indian self-rule. In 1890 she joined Theosophical society as a member and later became its president thus; she visited India where she helped in the establishment of Central Hindu College, and Sind National Collegiate Board in Mumbai in 1902. In 1914 when the world was witnessing World War I, she started All India Home Rule League along with Lokmanya Tilak. This body had many branches in India which was active the whole year round and mobilized agitations and demonstrations demanding home rule in India. This compelled the Company to declare that they are working towards the Indian self-government. She also joined Indian National Congress and once became president of the Congress for one year. Her active participation in politics gave way to Indians to gain independence.
9. Madam Bhikaiji Cama (24th September 1861- 13th August 1936)
She belonged to Parsi community and was a philanthropist and an active social worker. During the epidemic of bubonic plague that hit Mumbai in 1896, she herself got infected with the disease while providing aid to the others thus; she was sent to Britain for her treatment. Throughout her life, she struggled for Indian Independence from abroad as she was told by her acquaintances not to take part in freedom struggle if she comes back to India. While working as secretary to Dadabhai Naoroji she supported the founding of Shyamji Krishna Verma’s Indian Home Rule Society. On 22nd August 1907, she unfurled the Indian flag (Flag of Indian Independence) in Stuttgurt, Germany while attending the International Socialist Conference, there she made people aware of the aftermath of the famine that had hit the Indian Subcontinent and raised her voice for the human rights and equality in India. She was an active freedom fighter and was later sent to exile in Europe until 1935.
8. Kasturba Gandhi (11th April 1869- 22 February 1942)
Being the better-half of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Kasturba Gandhi played a role as a political activist who was fighting for civil rights as well as Indian independence. She accompanied her husband to all demonstrations and movements and even took his place in his absence. She played the role of teaching Indians basic lesson of health, hygiene, discipline, reading, and writing due to lack of proper education to all. She played an important role at the backstage of the freedom struggle.
7. Sarojini Naidu (13th February 1879- 2nd March 1949)
Popularly known as “the nightingale of India” Sarojini Naidu contributed towards freedom struggle by joining politics during the wake of Partition of Bengal in 1905. She traveled to various places in India and delivered lectures on social welfare, making women aware towards freedom struggle and invoking them to participate, and arousing the feeling of nationalism through her lectures. In 1917 she even helped to launch Women’s Indian Association. She has many first credit tags to her credit- she acted as the first governor of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, with this she also became the first woman to become governor of any Indian state. She was the second woman to become the president of Indian National Congress and the first Indian woman to become so.
6. Kamala Nehru (1st August 1899- 28 February 1936)
Kamala Nehru was married to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Being the wife of a person whose contribution to Indian freedom struggle can never be forgotten is in itself a great contribution to Indian freedom struggle. At a prominent instance, in 1921, during the Non-Cooperation Movement in Allahabad she organized groups of women and picketed shops of liquor and foreign cloth. Performing the role of a wife she often went to deliver speeches when Nehru ji failed to appear.
5. Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit (18th August 1900- 1st December 1990)
Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit was a sister of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and played a crucial role in Indian politics. She was the first women to become a cabinet minister, she was designated the post of minister of local self-government and public health. She is well known for her political and diplomatic role during the freedom struggle. She was also the first woman president of United Nations General Assembly. She was also the first woman ambassador in the world who attained the position in three countries – Moscow, Washington and London.
4. Sucheta Kripalani (25th June 1908- 1st December 1974)
She was a freedom fighter and worked closely with Mahatma Gandhi during Partition riots in India. She also played a major role in politics by joining Indian National Congress. During the formation of the constitution of India, she was elected as a member of the drafting committee of Constituent assembly. Another feather in her cap is attached when she sang “Vande Mataram” in the Constituent Assembly. She was also elected as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state after independence.
3. Aruna asaf Ali (16th July 1909- 26th July 1996)
She is well known as Indian independence activist. Being an activist she participated actively in public processions during Salt Satyagraha, and she also became an active member of Indian National Congress. Due to her activity, she was imprisoned but prison walls did not stop her she continued with her protests and strikes inside the jail for indifferent treatment of prisoners which resulted in the improved condition of prisoners in Tihar Jail.
2. Durga Bai Deshmukh (15th July 1909- 9th May 1981)
She was a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and thus; played an active role in Gandhi Satyagraha movement and played a role of Indian struggler, a lawyer, a social activist and a politician. She was a lok sabha member as well as a member of Planning Commission of India. While being a member of Planning Commission she launched a Central Social Welfare Board through which she improved the condition of education, women, children, handicap and rehabilitation of needy persons.
1.Usha Mehta Savitribai Phule (25th March 1920- 11th August 2000)
A very great contribution to her credit is the origination of Congress Radio also known as Secret Congress Radio, which was an underground radio station which was active for few months during the Quit India Movement of 1983. Due to this clandestine activity, she was imprisoned in Yeravda Jail of Pune. She was also a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and a freedom fighter.
All these women freedom fighters with their contribution made the Indian freedom struggle successful, memorable and inspirational.