Every year, 23 March is celebrated as Martyrs' Day to pay tribute to freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar, and Shivaram Rajguru.
But while the role of Bhagat Singh is widely known in India’s freedom struggle, few know of Durga Devi Vohra alias Durga Bhabhi, who helped him escape the British.
Bhagat Singh was friends with Durga Devi’s husband Bhagwati Charan Vohra, and would frequently visit his family home in Lahore.
When on 19 December 1928, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were faced with criminal charges for assassinating the Assistant Superintendent of Police John Saunders, they came to their ‘Durga Bhabhi’ for assistance.
She agreed to help and handed over the sum of money her husband had left with her for emergencies, even posing as Bhagat Singh’s wife in order to help him escape the British.
This was at a time when social convention constrained contact between men and women who were not married.
Durga Devi even played a crucial role as an undercover ‘post box’ receiving mail from absconding revolutionaries and forwarding these to their families.
Following three years of imprisonment for shooting at a British Officer and his wife, Durga Devi opened the first Montessori School in North India.
In the years after Independence, she lived a quiet life of anonymity in Lucknow before breathing her last on 15 October 1999 at the age of 92.
History remembers her as a woman whose exceptional bravery and intelligence were monumental in the nation’s struggle for freedom.