As the nation approaches its 72nd Independence Day, we bring you stories of #ForgottenHeroes of #IndianIndependence that were lost among the pages of history.
The year was 1942. While the second world war was tearing the world apart piece by piece, and major superpowers tried to gain control, the British Raj headed by senior minister Stafford Cripps sought India’s help in the war. Deemed as the Cripps Mission, it failed to get the support and cooperation of the Congress leaders.
What followed on August 8 was a roar at the Bombay session of the All India Congress Committee. Mahatma Gandhi had delivered his famous ‘Do or Die’ speech at the Gowalia Tank Maidan, declaring the launch of the Quit India Movement.
And even though this mass protest was supposed to be an orderly British withdrawal from India, the British were on their heels to sabotage the growing revolution.
And while a majority of Indian leaders were imprisoned without trial, within hours of Gandhi’s speech to prevent contact with the masses, hundreds and thousands of civilians continued to protest against the British rule with a burning passion for freedom.
While our history books highlight the names of a few women who participated in the freedom struggle, it is indeed unfortunate that several of them remain unsung and uncelebrated.
These weren’t women who came from elite backgrounds or had degrees to boast of. They were ordinary women, with no formal education or very little schooling. They grew up in poverty-stricken and conservative homes. And yet decided to get involved in the struggle with an unmatched spirit and commitment.
One such forgotten hero was Tara Rani Srivastava.
Born in Saran, close to the city of Patna, Tara Rani Srivastava married Phulendu Babu, a freedom fighter when she was quite young.
When most women were denied basic rights and preferred to stay within the four walls of their homes, she paid heed to Gandhi’s call for protests and mobilised other women to carry out demonstrations during the Quit India Movement.
In 1942, Tara and her husband, Phulendu, launched one such demonstration where they gathered like-minded people and marched towards the Siwan police station. Their objective was to assert the power of a unified India against the British by hoisting the tricolour on the roof of the police station.
As you would have guessed, the police tried to cripple the protest. When their verbal orders for the protestors failed to turn them away, they resorted to a show of physical force. The protestors were subject to lathi-charge. When even the sticks failed to break their spirit, the police opened fire.
Tara watched her husband get shot and fall to the ground right in front of her eyes. One would have thought that the attack on her husband would make her step back, but Tara did the unthinkable. Rushing to her husband’s aid, she quickly bandaged his wounds with strips of cloth torn from her sari.
But she did not stop.
She continued to march towards the police station where she attempted to hoist the flag. By the time she had returned, Phulbendu had succumbed to his injuries.
On 15 August 1942, a prayer meeting was held in Chhapra in honour of her husband’s sacrifice for the country.
Despite her husband’s death, the young widow continued to be a part of the freedom struggle until independence and partition on 15 August 1947.
To the many unsung women like Tara Rani who dedicated their lives and put the motherland before their grief, our heartfelt salute. They were revolutionaries who fought all personal odds for the freedom of the country!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)