Freedom Fighters

10 October 2016

The British colonial authorities derogatorily called the great leader as “Father of the Indian unrest”. He was also conferred with the honorary title of Lokmanya, which literally means “Accepted by the people (as their leader)”. Tilak was one of the first and strongest advocates of “Swaraj” (self-rule) in Indian consciousness. As one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement, he was also one of the principal leaders of India’s independence movement in the 1930s and ’40s. Nehru established parliamentary government and became noted for his “neutralist” policies in foreign affairs. The son of the wealthy barrister and politician Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru became a leader of the left wing of the Congress when fairly young. Rising to become Congress President under the mentorship of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Nehru was a charismatic and radical leader, advocating complete independence for India from the British Empire.

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He is often referred to as Shaheed Bhagat Singh Born to a Jat Sikh family which had earlier been involved in revolutionary activities against the British Raj, Singh, as a teenager, became an atheist and had studied European revolutionary movements. He also became attracted to anarchism and marxist ideologies. He became involved in numerous revolutionary organizations. He quickly rose through the ranks of the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) and became one of its leaders, converting it to the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA).

She was not allowed to adopt a successor after his death by the British, and Jhansi was annexed. With the outbreak of the Revolt she became determined to fight back. She used to go into the battlefield dressed as a man. Holding the reins of there horse in her mouth she used the sword with both hands. Under her leadership the Rani’s troops showed undaunted courage and returned shot for shot. Considered by the British as the best and bravest military leader of rebels this sparkling epitome of courage died a hero’s death in the battlefield. The first name that comes to mind is that of the famous Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi.

His response to her fiery speech brought into her life the impact of a visionary who saw in her oratory and brilliance a leader of the future. The period from 1917 to 1919 was the most dynamic phase of Sarojini’s career. During this time, she campaigned for the Montagu Chelmsford Reforms, the Khilafat issue, the draconian Rowlett Act and the Satyagraha. When Gandhi launched the Civil Disobedience Movement ,she proved a faithful lieutenant. With great courage she quelled the rioters, sold proscribed literature, addressed frenzied meetings on the carnage at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar.

In 1930 when Mahatma Gandhi chose her to lead the Salt Satyagraha the stories of her courage became legion. After Gandhi’s arrest she had prepared 2,000 volunteers under the scorching sun to raid the Dahrsana Salt Works, while the police faced them half a mile up the road with rifle, lathis (canes) are steel tipped clubs. The volunteers wildly cheered when she shook off the arm of the British police officer who came to arrest her and marched proudly to the barbed wire stockade where she was interned before being imprisoned. Freedom struggle was in full force and she came under the influence of Gopalakrishna Gokhale and Gandhi.

She was a leader of Women’s Satyagraha for which she was imprisoned. She helped her husband in the cause of Indigo workers in Champaran, Bihar and the No Tax Campaign in Kaira, Gujarat. She was arrested twice for picketing liquor and foreign cloth shops, and in 1939 for participating in the Rajkot Satyagraha. Born to Gokuladas Makharji of Porbandar. Kasturba married Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi) through arrangement. They were both 13 years old. At that time, she was illiterate, and so Gandhi taught her to read and write — a potentially radical move, given the position of women in India at that time.

When Gandhi left to study in London in 1888, she remained in India to raise their newborn son Harilal. She had three more sons – Manilal (1892), Ramdas (1897), and Devdas (1900). In 1906, Mohandas Gandhi decided to practice brahmacharya, and the couple became celibate. Although she stood by her husband, she did not always easily accept his ideas. Gandhi had to work hard to persuade her to see (and agree to) his points of view. Kasturba was deeply religious. Like her husband, she renounced all caste distinctions and lived in ashrams. Kasturba often joined her husband in political protests.

She traveled to South Africa in 1897 to be with her husband. From 1904 to 1914, she was active in the Phoenix Settlement near Durban. During the 1913 protest against working conditions for Indians in South Africa, Kasturba was arrested and sentenced to three months in a hard labor prison. Later, in India, she sometimes took her husband’s place when he was under arrest. In 1915, when Gandhi returned to India to support indigo planters, Kasturba accompanied him. She taught hygiene, discipline, reading and writing to women and children. Kasturba suffered from chronic bronchitis.

She became an active member of Congress Party after marriage and participated in public processions during the Salt Satyagraha. She was arrested on the charge that she was a vagrant and hence not released in 1931 under the Gandhi-Irwin Pact which stipulated release of all political prisoners. Other women co-prisoners refused to leave the premises unless she was also released and gave in only after Mahatma Gandhi intervened. A public agitation secured her release. In 1932, she was held prisoner at the Tihar Jail where she protested the indifferent treatment of political prisoners by launching a hunger strike.

Her efforts resulted in an improvement of conditions in the Tihar Jail but she was moved to Ambala and was subjected to solitary confinement. She was politically not very active after her release. Her father Upendranath Ganguly hailed from Barisal district of Eastern Bengal but settled in the United Province. He was a restaurant owner and a very adventurous man. Mother Ambalika Devi was the daughter of Trailokyanath Sanyal,a renowned Brahmo leader who wrote many beautiful brahmo hyms. Upendranath Ganguly’s younger brother Dhirendranath Ganguly (D G) was one of the earliest film directors.

Another brother Nagendranath, a soil biologist was married to Rabindranath Tagore’s only surviving daughter Mira Devi though they got separated after sometime. Her sister, Purnima Banerjee was a member of the Constituent Assembly of India. On August 8, 1942, the AICC passed the Quit India resolution at the Bombay session. The government responded by arresting the major leaders and all members of the Congress Working Committee and thus tried to pre-empt the movement from success. A young Aruna Asaf Ali presided over the remainder of the session on 9 August and hoisted the Congress flag at the Gowalia Tank maidan.

This marked the commencement of the movement. The police fired upon the assembly at the session. Aruna was dubbed the Heroine of the 1942 movement for her bravery in the face of danger and was called Grand Old Lady of the Independence movement in her later years. Despite absence of direct leadership, spontaneous protests and demonstrations were held all over the country, as an expression of desire of India’s youth to achieve independence. Aruna Asaf Ali was awarded International Lenin Peace Prize for the year 1964. She was awarded India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, posthumously in 1997.

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