The Unsung Heroes of
India’s Freedom Struggle
India’s long drawn struggle to free itself from the foreign rule has been a saga of valour. The untold miseries and sufferings of those who fought for the freedom of their motherland form a glorious part of the story of resolve and yearning for self rule. The fight was not merely for political rights, but for freedom from oppression of the alien rule in all walks of life. Over the years, the freedom struggle struck deep roots across the length and breadth of the country. It drew strength from every nook and corner of the country cutting across caste and creed, region and religion.
The supreme sacrifice and selfless spirit of our freedom fighters have carved out a niche in the annals of history.
The freedom struggle is a part of recorded history, yet there are a large number of selfless, valiant freedom fighters whose contribution could not find mention or was ignored. The story of India’s freedom struggle is incomplete without these unsung heroes. We pay tributes to these great sons and daughters of our country as we celebrate 70 years of India’s independence.
Pingali Venkaiah: Pingali was born on 2nd August1876 in Bhatlapenimarru, Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. He was an accomplished person on many fronts. He served in the British Indian Army during the Anglo-Boer wars in South Africa. It was there he came in contact with Mahatma Gandhi and was influenced by his ideology. During the National conference of Indian National Congress at Kakinada, he suggested that we should have a flag of our own. Gandhi liked this idea and said it would be good if he could come up with a design. During the National Conference at Vijayawada, he proposed the Tricolour with a charkha at the middle. Gandhi liked the flag and this was later adopted as the National flag of India with the Ashok Chakra at the centre. He died on 4th July,1963.
Moje Riba: He was a patriot and one of the noblest sons of our motherland. Known for his readiness to help others, people lovingly called him Aboh Nyiji. He was arrested by Britishers in 1947 for campaigning and distribution of Congress pamphlet in support of Gopinath Bordoloi by touring Aalo, Basar and Pasighat area. He was the first person from Arunachal Pradesh to hoist the national flag at dipa Village of Arunachal Pradesh on the 15th August, 1947. He was awarded Tamrapatra in 1974 at Shillong by Government of India in recognition of his sacrifices and contributions towards freedom struggle.
Chapekar brothers: Freedom fighters Damodar Hari Chapekar and his brothers Balkrishna and Vinayak Chapekar were born in Chinehawad, district Pune, Maharashtra. On June 22, 1897, the three brothers set out to kill British officer Walter Charles Rand who had handled the plague in Pune in a high-handed manner. Another police officer Lt Charles Ayrest who was passing by was also shot by Balkrishna Chapeker. Eventually, Damodar, his brothers and their friend Mahadev Ranade were caught and hanged.
Vanchinathan: He was born in Shenkottai, Tirunelveli district, Tamilnadu. Vanchinathan alias Sankara Iyer was son of Shri Raghupathy Iyer. He had studied upto primary standard and joined Forest Department. He took part in revolutionary activities against the Britsh. He also organised a society known as Bharatha Matha Sangam with the aim of killing all the British officers in India. He had attacked and killed Mr. Ashe, the Collector of Tirunelveli, on June 17, 1911. When British pressurized him he died immediately afterwards by committing suicide.
Raut Baji : Raut was born in 1926 at village. Nilkanthapur, Dhenkanal in Odisha. Son of Shri Hari Raut baji was a boatman and volunteer of the Praja Mandal in the Dhenkanal State. He undertook the task of keeping vigil on the movement of the State police and troops at the Nilkanthapur Ghat on the Brahmini river during the reign of terror let loose against the people by the State authorities in 1938. On the night of October 10, 1938, a number of policemen and soldiers tried to force him to take them across the river in his boat. The twelve-year- old boy refused to do so and told them that they were enemies of the people. A soldier struck him on his head with the butt of his gun and his skull was fractured. Despite his serious injuries, he raised an alarm and warned the villagers about the arrival of the soldiers and policemen. He died the same night due to excessive loss of blood. A mob on villages collected at the ghat and tried to prevent the soldiers from crossing the river. Several villages were killed in firing by the troops. The bravery and patriotism of young Baji Raut has been immortalized in the poem ‘Boatman’ by the famous Oriya poet, Sachi Routray.
Peer Ali Khan: He was born about 1812 at Patna, Bihar. He was a bookseller. Khan played a leading role in the organisation of the Great Revolt of 1857 in the district in July 1857. He was captured by the British after the defeat of the rebel forces. The British executed him by hanging.
Surya Sen: Also known as masterda, Sen was born on October 18, 1893, at av. Noapara,. Chittagong, Bengal (now in East Pakistan). He was son of Shri Rajmani Sen. Sen joined the Revolutionary Party in 1918. Took part in the Non-co- operation Movement (1921). He become the leader of the Revolutionary organization known as part in organizing the political dacoity in the pahartali railway office on December 23, 1923. He escaped arrest and remained undrground. He set up revolutionary centers in the tea-garden areas of Assam- Silchar, Karimganj, Gauhati, Sibasagar, etc. Arrested again in 1924 and detained without trial for four years. Sen planned and executed the famous raid on the British armory at Chittagong on April 18, 1930. He also led the attack on the armory and seized the magazines and guard room. He fought against British soldiers on the Jalalabad Hill on April 22, 1930. He evaded arrest by the police and directed revolutionary activities from his secret hide-out. Detected in the house of Sabitri Chakrabarty at Patiya and surrounded by a military squad on June 13, 1932. He dodged the squad and slipped away after a brief encounter. Sen was again surrounded by armed police and soldiers at Goirala on February 16, 1933. He gave a tough fight but was family captured. Subjected to brutal beating and torture by the police. Sentenced to death. He died on the gallows in the Chittagong Jail on January 11, 1934.
Rani Gaidinliu: She was a Naga spiritual and political leader who led a revolt against the British rule in India and was also staunchly against the conversion of Naga religious practitioners to Christianity. At the age of 13, she joined the Heraka religious movement that her cousin had initiated, which later turned into a political movement that tried to drive the British away from Manipur and nearby Naga regions. She was 16 at the time of her arrest, and was put into life imprisonment by the British. Five years later, in 1937, Nehru visited and promised to get her out and gave her the title ‘Rani’. She was released in 1947after which she continued to work for the community. She was also awarded a Padma Bhushan.
Surendra Sai: The man died in obscurity despite protecting Western Orissa from the British rule along with a few other comrades. Eligible as the next in line to the throne of Sambalpur after the death of Maharaja Sai in 1827, he helped the lower caste tribal people in Sambalpur against the British by encouraging their language and culture development. Affectionately called Bira by the local people because of his swordsmanship, he began protesting from the age of 18 and spent some 17 years in jail after that. But he continued the protest till 1862, when he surrendered and went to jail. He spent 20 years in prison after his surrender. Also, Sambalpur was the last patch of land to be occupied by the British except for the princely state, and it is said that it was largely due to the efforts of Sai.
Velu Nachiyar: She was born in Ramnathpuram Tamilnadu on 3rd January 1730. The first queen to have ever actively opposed the British rule was Velu Nachiyar, who fought against the colonial rulers many years before the Sepoy Mutiny. In collaboration with Hyder Ali and Gopala Nayaker, she waged a war against the British and emerged victorious. Eventually she went on to produce the first human bomb as well as establish the first army of trained women soldiers in the late 1700s.
Peer Baksh : Peer was a resident of Delhi. He fought against the British forces at Delhi. Peer retreated towards Jaipur State after the defeat of the rebel forces. After that he was captured by the British at Hindan in Distt. Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan. Peer was rescued by soldiers of the Jaipur State Army stationed at Hindan, who rebelled against the British. He was captured again by British troops and imprisoned at Agra. This time Peer was sentenced to death and executed by hanging at Agra in 1857.
Potti Sreeramulu: Potti was born on 16th March,1901. He was an Indian revolutionary. Potti was a devout follower, avid supporter and devotee of Mahatma Gandhi. He participated in the individual satyagraha and the Quit India Movement and was imprisoned on three occasions. He died on 15th December,1952.
Maniram Dewan: He was born on 17th April,1806 at Rangpur, Assam (Now in Bangladesh). He was one of the greatest freedom fighters of Assam. He was one of the first people to establish tea gardens in Assam. It was he who informed the British about the Assam tea grown by the Singpho people, which was hitherto unkown to the rest of the world. Initially, he was on friendly terms with britishers. He was interested in establishing private tea plantations in Assam. He wanted the restoration of Ahom rule in Assam. He saw an opportunity in the ongoing India’s first war on independence. He along with other activists like Peali Baruah hatched a plot to drive away Britishers. However, their plot was uncovered and he along with other leaders was arrested. Maniram was found guilty of mastering an anti-British plot. He along with Peoli Baruah was publically hanged on February 26, 1858 at Jorhat Jail.
Basawon Singh: He was born in 23rd March,1909 at Jamalpur, Hajipur Bihar. He was an activist in the Indian independence movement and a campaigner for the rights of the underprivileged, industrial labourers and agricultural workers. He spent around 18 and half years in prison in British India. He absconded after the Lahore conspiracy case. He was coaccused in the Bhusawal, Kakori, Tirhut and Deluaha conspiracy cases. He died on 7th April,1989.
Veer Narayan Singh: He was born in 1795 at Sonakhar, Raipur District, Chattisgarh. He was a landlord. He spearheaded the 1857 war of Indian independence in Chhattisgarh. The British arrested him in 1856 for looting a trader’s grain stocks and distributing it amongst the poor in a severe famine year. In 1857 with the help of the soldiers of the British Army at Raipur, he escaped from prison. He reached Sonakhan and formed an army of 500 men. Under the leadership of Smith, a powerful British army was dispatched to crush the Sonakhan army. He was moved by the atrocities and the acts of devastation and destruction of the British. He surrendered himself to the British army to protect the lives of the people. He was charged with treason and sentenced to death. He was publicly executed on 10th December, 1857.
Pt. Neki Ram Sharma: Sharma was born on 4th September 1887 at Kalenga, Rohtak District, Haryana. He was a great orator. He was offered more than six hundred acres of land to stop freedom fight but rejected this attractive proposal offered by the then Deputy Commissioner for the sake of nation. He called on Gandhi and Nehru first time in 1915 and 1918 respectively and participated in their every movement with full enthusiasm. He was first arrested in the movement launched against Rowlatt Act in 1919 followed by non- cooperation, salt satyagrah, individual satyagrah and quit india movement. Significantly, Nekiram was arrested nine times in the freedom movement and served 250 days of rigorous imprisonment. he organized ‘Ambala Divisional political conference’ which was attended by Gandhi as chief guest .The salient feature of this conference was ‘Pandal without chairs’ which impressed Gandhi a lot and thereafter, in every conference hosted by Congress ,there were no chairs. He fought tooth and nail against the social evils like untochability child marriages, pardah system, dowery.
Pt. Prem Nath Dogra: He worked for total integration of the state with India. He was also known as Sher E Duggar. He formed Praja Parishad Party in 1947 along with Balraj Madhok and opposed policies of Shaik Abdullah.
K. Kelappan: Kelappan was born on 24th August,1889. He was a founding member and president of Nair Service Society, a reformer, freedom fighter, educationist and journalist. He is also known as Kerala Gandhi. He fought for social reforms on one hand and the British on the other. He died on 7th October,1971.
Birsa Munda : Birsa was born in Ulihatu, Ranchi District, Jharkhand on 15th November 1875. He was a farmer. He organised and led Adivasi movement against British rule from 1895 to 1900. He was arrested on 3rd February 1900 and died in jail on 3rd, June 1900. As a Munda youth, he raised his voice against the oppression and exploitation of landlords and British rulers who, in general, stood by the side of the landlords. Today, the Munda and other tribals of the Ranchi district hail Birsa as their God. They call him Birsa Bhagwan. Birsa was inspired and he kindled the flame of revolt among his fellow members.
Kittur Chennamma: She was born at Kakti Belgavi, Karnatka on 23rd October 1778. She was the Queen of Kittur. First Indian female ruler to lead an armed rebellion against the British East India Company in 1824.
When the British tried to confiscate the treasure and jewels of Kittur, a war broke out and in that war Collector and political age was killed along with British forces and two British officers were held hostages. During the second assault, she captured and imprisoned where she died.
Tirot Singh: He was one of the Chiefs of the Khasi people in the early 18 th century. He was born in Nongkhlaw, West Khasi hills, Meghalaya. He drew his lineage from the Syiemllieh clan.
He fought against British attempts to take over control of the Khasi Hills. He fought with only with native weapons such as a sword and shield, he was shot at by the British and died on 17 th July, 1835.
Tantia Mama: He was an Indian Robin Hood. He was born in Badada, Khandava , Madhya Pradesh in 1842. He embarked on his career after the harsh measures taken by the British following the Indian Rebellion of 1857. He was one of the greatest revolutionaries who waged an armed struggle against the British rule for twelve years and endeared himself to the masses by virtue of his indomitable courage and passion to uproot the foreign rule. He became a symbol of the feelings of tribals and general people. He used to plunder the government treasuries of the British government and wealth of their sycophants used to distribute it among the poor and needy. He was skillful in Guerilla warfare. He was ultimately arrested and take n to Jabalpur jail where the British officers tortured him inhumanly. He was sentenced to be hanged till death on 19.10.1889.
Kartar Singh Sarabha: He was born in Ludhiana on 24.05.1896. He was Indian Sikh revolutionary who was amongst the most famous accused in the Lahore conspiracy trial. A leading luminary of the Ghadar Party, Kartar Singh was executed at Lahore in November 1915 for his role in the Ghadar Conspiracy in February 1915.
Vijay Singh Pathik: He was a great patriot and freedom fighter. Born in Bulandshahar, Ajmer, Rajasthan on 27.02.1882, he joined revolutionary organization in his teenage and took active part against British rule in India. His non-cooperation movement was so successful that Lokmanya Tilak wrote a letter to Maharana Fateh Singh to meet the demand of the Bijoliya agitators. Gandhi sent his secretary Mahadev Desai to study the movement. It was Pathikji who fought for the cause of united Rajasthan.
Maganbhai Patel: He was born at Matwad Mokhala Falia, District Surat, Gujarat. He was a student of third standard and took part in the Quit India Movement. He received bullet wound in firing by the police on August 22, 1942 and he died on the same day.
(Compiled by EN)