A cage might be golden but it is a “cage”. There’s no substitute to freedom. The feeling of self-reliance and freedom fills the heart of the citizens with supreme happiness and joy. It was 15th of August, 1947 when India got its freedom after the long slavery of British India for more than 200 years. We celebrate this day in order to pay honor to everyone from farmers to revolutionary fighters and to the countless Indian citizens, who dedicated their lives to the service of our country.
However, one must agree that the Indian freedom struggle was not all about a certain group of revolutionary fighters. It was a fight of numerous tribals, peasants, laborers and every other Indian citizen who had the vision to make India, an independent nation.
So here we will pay our tribute to those unsung revolutionary fighters who sacrificed everything for the love of their motherland. You may not remember their names, but it is because of these freedom fighters that we living in a peaceful and ‘free’ country.
1. Gogineni Ranga Nayukulu
A freedom fighter, a parliamentarian and kisan leader, Gogineni Ranga Nayukulu was an exponent of the peasant philosophy. He was considered as the father of the Indian Peasant Movement that took place during the British Raj.
Ranga joined the freedom movement inspired by Gandhi’s clarion call in 1930 after which he led the Ryot agitation in 1933. Ranga was one of the founders of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers. And interestingly, a commemorative postage stamp has been released by the Government of India with his picture in 2001.
2. Kittur Chennamma
Kittur Chennan can rightly be considered as the precursor to Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi. She was the Rani of Kittur, a former princely state in Karnataka. Evidently, she was one of the first Indian rulers and revolutionary fighters who led an armed rebellion against the British East India Company in 1824 in defiance of the Doctrine of Lapse.
However, she was captured by the British after being defeated in her last battle and was imprisoned in Bailhongal Fort for life. Rani Chennamma took her last breath at the fort after five years of imprisonment. On September 11, 2007, a statue of Rani Chennamma was unveiled at the Indian Parliament Complex by the then President Pratibha Patil.
3. Chapekar brothers
The Chapekar brothers namely, Damodar Hari Chapekar, Balkrishna Hari Chapekar, and Vasudeo Hari Chapekar, belonged to Maharashtra. Under the influence of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, they organized a society for imparting military training to Indian youth for overthrowing the British. On June 22, 1897, Damodar and Balkrishna attacked and killed W. C. Rand, the British Plague Commissioner of Pune.
Mr. Rand had adopted policies which allowed troops to strip men, women and children naked for “check-ups”, sometimes even in public. Apparently, both brothers were arrested, tried and sentenced to death. The third Chapekar brother, Vasudeva, killed Ganesh Shankar Dravid, the man who helped in getting Damodar and Balkrishna killed. These brothers became honorable revolutionary fighters for the country.
4. Pritilata Waddedar
An integral part of the Indian independence movement, Pritilata Waddedar is considered as the Bengal’s first woman martyr. After a brief stint as a school teacher, Pritilata joined a rebellious group headed by Surya Sen. Along with the group of revolutionary fighters, Pritilata took part in many raids like attacks on the Telephone & Telegraph offices and capturing the reserve police lines.
During the battle of Jalalabad, she took the responsibility to supply explosives to the revolutionaries. Moreover, she led a team of 15 freedom fighters in 1932 attack on the Pahartali European Club which had a sign board that read “Dogs and Indians not allowed”. The revolutionaries torched the club and were later caught by the British police. To avoid getting arrested, Pritilata consumed cyanide and died at the spot.
5. Jatindra Nath Das
One of the participants of Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Movement, Jatindra Nath Das is known for his fight for the rights of prisoners, especially the political prisoners. In November 1925, Das was arrested for his political activities and was imprisoned at the Mymensingh Central Jail. During his jail time, Jatindra Das went on a hunger strike to protest the ill-treatment of political prisoners.
After fasting for twenty days, the Jail Superintendent apologized and he gave up the fast. Later, in Lahore Jail, Das began a hunger strike along with other revolutionary fighters, demanding equality for Indian political prisoners with those from Europe. The condition of Indian inhabitants of the jails was deplorable, while it was quite different for the British prisoners.
Das’s hunger strike started on 13 July 1929 and lasted 63 days. On the 50th anniversary of his martyrdom, the Indian Post paid homage to the memory of the young revolutionary by issuing a special postage stamp.
6. Bhikaiji Rustom Cama
Known as the ‘mother of Indian revolution, Bhikaiji Rustom Cama started a ‘‘Free India Society” in London during the Indian freedom struggle for the people there. Later, she went over to Paris and founded centers there as well. There is quite an interesting fact about Bhikaiji Cama.
As an Indian representative to the International Socialist Congress held at Stuttgart on 18th August 1907, she waved the first version of Indian flag in front of the huge assembly. There, she appealed to the delegates to co-operate with Indians in their efforts to free India from the British rule. On 26 January 1962, India’s 11th Republic Day, the Indian Posts and Telegraphs Department issued a commemorative stamp in her honor.
7. Vasudev Balwant Phadke
During the British Raj, Phadke was moved by the plight of the farmer community. He believed that Swaraj was the only remedy for their ills. In 1875, he formed a revolutionary group, called Ramoshi with the help of Kolis, Bhils and Dhangars communities in Maharashtra to overthrow the British. On the night of February 20, 1879, Phadke along with few of his colleagues declared his militia outside Loni, which was eight miles north of Pune.
Seemingly, it was one of the first revolutionary armies of India during the freedom struggle. Furthermore, in order to collect funds for their armed struggle and provide for famine-stricken farmers, Vasudev Phadke and his men launched raids on rich English businessmen. Phadke issued his famous proclamation denouncing the exploitative economic policies of the government and warned them in which created a sensation throughout the country. Evidently, he became quite renowned when he took complete control over the city of Pune by catching the British soldiers off guard during one of his surprise attacks.
8. Shyamji Krishna Varma
An Indian patriot, lawyer, and journalist, Shyamji Krishna Varma was a noted scholar in Sanskrit and other Indian languages, even after being graduated from London. He pursued a brief legal career in India and served as the Divan of a number of Indian princely states in India. However, after having some differences with the Crown authority, he was dismissed following a conspiracy of the local British officials.
In 1905, he went on to launch the India House and The Indian Sociologist in London, which rapidly developed as an organized meeting point for radical nationalists. Shyamji Krishna Varma was considered as a staunch nationalist and his organisations became one of the most prominent centres for revolutionary Indian nationalism outside India. Varma’s patriotic zeal and efforts for the freedom movement in the country will never be forgotten.
9. U Tirot Sing
One of the chiefs of the Khasi people in the early 19th century, Tirot Sing was a legendary freedom fighter from North East India. He and his band of warriors fought the British with sheer courage. Tirot Sing was excellent with developing guerrilla warfare tactics in the hilly areas of the North-East.
With his troops, he fought against British attempts to take over control of the Khasi Hills. This was one of the main reasons for Anglo-Khasi war as Tirot Sing chose to fight instead of surrendering his motherland. After he was shot and captured by British in 1833, he was exiled to Dhaka where he died on 17 July 1835. His death is commemorated in Meghalaya, India as U Tirot Sing Day.
10. Matangini Hazra
One of the most inspiring Indian revolutionary fighters, Matangini Hazra participated in the Indian independence movement with zeal. Affectionately known as Gandhi buri (Bengali for an old lady), Hazra participated in the freedom struggle in her own humble way.
Under the Quit India Movement, local Congress workers planned to besiege various police stations and government offices located in the Midnapore district and the 73-year-old Hazra took the charge of the plan. However, she was shot dead by the British-Indian police in front of the Tamluk Police Station on September 29, 1942. But her sacrifice did not go in vain.
These revolutionary fighters may have been forgotten under the shadows of other prominent freedom leaders, but their contributions for the Indian movements will always be honored by us.