As the nation approaches its 73rd Independence Day, we bring you stories of #ForgottenHeroes of #IndianIndependence that were lost among the pages of history.
Type ‘Rajkumari Gupta’ or ‘Raj Kumari Gupta’ on the internet or social media platforms, and you’ll find the odd tribute article.
A photo? Unlikely.
What about a mention in any standard textbook about the freedom struggle? Forget about it.
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It is only thanks to works like ‘In Search Of Freedom: Journeys Through India and South-East Asia’ by Sagari Chhabra, who for more than 20 years documented the forgotten heroes of our freedom movement that we even know about the Rajkumari Gupta’s contributions.
Another notable work which mentions her contribution to the freedom struggle is ‘Women in the Indian National Movement: Unseen Faces and Unheard Voices, 1930-42’ by Suruchi Thapar-Bjorkert.
Born in 1902 in the Banda Zilla of Kanpur district, Gupta’s father was a grocer. She married Madan Mohan Gupta, an active member of the Congress party at the age of 13. Drawing inspiration from the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, the couple joined the Independence movement.
However, as the years progressed, she was drawn to the revolutionaries who believed that only an armed struggle against the British would get rid of colonial rule particularly after the Non-Cooperation Movement came to a premature end.
Having established close links with the revolutionaries, particularly Chandrashekhar Azad, she began delivering secret messages and materials to his fellow comrades in the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HRA) without the knowledge of her husband and in-laws.
With time, she found her way into Azad’s inner circle, in Allahabad.
The highlight of her participation in the freedom struggle came with the famous Kakori Conspiracy, where revolutionaries of the HRA robbed a Lucknow-bound train carrying money collected from railway stations en route. This was a robbery organised to obtain funds for the HRA’s armed struggle against the British.
Gupta’s task was to deliver firearms to the revolutionaries, which she carried out with success. In fact, she famously once said, “Hum upar se Gandhivaadi the, neeche se krantivaadi the” (We were Gandhians from above; underneath we were revolutionaries).”
“Raj Kumari, who was given the charge of supplying revolvers to those involved in the Kakori operation, apparently hid the firearms in her undergarment and set out in khadi clothes to deliver them, with her three-year-old son in tow. On being arrested, she was disowned by her husband’s family and thrown out of her marital home,” says this column in The Hindu.
Such was the disdain of her in-laws that an article was published in a local daily Vir Bhagat, which claimed, among other things that the family held no relationship with her. Serving multiple jail terms for her role in the freedom struggle, Gupta played her part.
Evidently, she held no regrets and remained full of pride at her role in the freedom struggle. Speaking to Chhabra, she was once said:
“Humko jo karna tha, kiya” (What I had to do, I did).
“When I realised that these [sort] of heroic stories had gone unrecorded, it seemed to me to be a moral duty to record them. For this is not only our history but the treasures of India. If nothing is done, there will be a time when people will completely forget about these things,” said Chabbra, in an interview with the Sunday Guardian.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)