Unknown Women Who Inspired India’s Freedom Struggle
Any reference to the fight for our independence would not be complete without recognizing the valuable role played by the innumerable women who were mostly illiterate, came from very poor families and who lent their unstinting support to the freedom fighters at a time when stepping out of the house itself was considered a taboo for women.
These women would secretly cook for freedom fighters, act as their couriers, deliver weapons and other materials to them and in almost all cases lend their moral support to the men in their family, including their sons, to go out and sacrifice everything for the freedom of their motherland.
History has done great injustice to these women by not recording their contributions, but there are some who have found a brief mention.
Moolmati: a fierce patriot
One wouldn’t know her by her name but she commands a prime slot in the narrative of the freedom struggle as the mother of Ram Prasad Bismil. Ram Prasad was a revolutionary who formed the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association in 1928 along with Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Ashfaqulla Khan, Rajguru and others. Ram Prasad was involved in the famous Mainpuri Conspiracy case of 1918 and the Kakori Conspiracy of 1925. He was arrested and hanged in Gorakhpur Jail on 19 Dec 1927.
Moolmati, who was a simple woman, supported her son throughout in his struggle for the freedom movement, went to Gorakhpur jail to see her son before his hanging. Ram Prasad broke down on seeing his mother who remained unmoved. She was firm in her response and told him that she was proud to have a son like him. He in turn told his mother that his tears were not for the pending death but that he would never get another mother like her. Such was her resolve that post his death, in a speech at a public gathering she raised her other son’s hand and offered him to the freedom movement. Without her unstinting support and belief in the freedom struggle, Ram Prasad Bismil mightnot have had the resolve to pursue the path he had chosen.
Raj Kumari Gupta: woman of steel
Born in Banda, near Kanpur, Raj Kumari got married at a young age. Both she and her husband were drawn towards Mahatma Gandhi and his call for joining the freedom struggle. But her zeal and conviction to fight against the British drew her closer to Chandrashekhar Azad and his line of revolutionary response. Very few people are aware of her contribution to the famous Kakori train robbery that went on to be known as the famous Kakori Conspiracy.
She began supporting him by secretly carrying messages and materials to other revolutionaries, without the knowledge of her husband and her in-laws. She was given the charge of delivering firearms to revolutionaries. On one such trip, she hid firearms in her undergarment and was walking through the fields along with her three-year old son, when she was arrested. On hearing the news of her arrest, she was disowned by her in-laws. Little is known on her life thereafter, but she was a true hero and deserves a mention in our history.
Tara Rani Srivastava: true grit
Born in a simple family in Saran, Bihar, young Tara had just got married to Phulendu Babu. Both were passionate about the freeing India from British rule and responded to Mahatma Gandhi’s call for the Quit India movement in 1942. They organized protests in their area and on one such protest they planned to raise the Indian flag on the roof of the Siwan Police Station. In those days, the police station was seen as a symbol of government authority and raising a flag on its roof would represent a major show of defiance.
They managed to gather a crowd and began their march towards the Siwan Police Station, shouting ‘Inquilab’. Seeing the protest marching towards them, the police opened fire. Phulendu was hit and fell to the ground. Undeterred, Tara tore a part of her saree, bandaged him and continued to lead the crowd towards the station shouting ‘Inquilab’ and holding the Indian flag. By the time she returned, her husband, Phulendu Babu had died. Tara continued to support the freedom struggle.
Abadi Bano Begum: also known as ‘Bi Amman’
Abadi Bano came from a simple conservative Muslim family of Lucknow who had rarely stepped out of the house on her own. Her son joined the freedom movement and was arrested for his activities. The year was 1917. To speak out in support of her son, she took the brave decision to address a political gathering. Nottoviolatethethepurdahsystem, she addressed the crowd from behind her burqa but her message was strong and firmly in support of the freedom struggle. This was perhaps the first instance of a Muslim woman addressing a public gathering. The significance of the act must be seen in the context of the conservative life of the times and the courage it took to come out and speak for the freedom struggle.
The road to our freedom was built on the blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice of thousands of unsung men and women, most of whom missed out on the pages of history.Therefore the least we can do today is to spare a moment of thought on the sacrifice they made for our motherland.
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