Years ago the most prominent freedom fighters of India like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru remarked that “When the History of India’s fight for independence would be written, the sacrifice made by the women of India will occupy the foremost place”. These leaders kept women on a higher pedestal because during the time, when most of the men folk were in prison, the womenfolk came forward and took the charge. Women’s participation in India’s freedom struggle began as early as 1817 when Bhima Bai Holkar fought bravely against the British colonial Malcolm and defeated him in Guerrilla warfare and since then there had been an avalanche of these fighters. As India celebrates its 72 years of independence, let us read about some of these inspiring women freedom fighters of India.
- Rani Lakshmi Bai
Rani Lakshmi Bai was an Indian queen, a warrior, a leader and the first prominent women freedom fighter who participated in the great revolt of 1857, also called the first war of independence. Rani Lakshmi Bai became queen of Jhansi after the sudden dismissal of her husband Gangadhar Rao. She vehemently revolted against the British policy of ‘doctrine of lapse’ which didn’t allow the adopted sons of princely states to become the rulers. Although she was defeated and her state was annexed, she displayed the courage of a true warrior and chose not to surrender till her last breath. She defied the given stereotypes of her contemporary times by donning the attire of a man and leading her army into the battlefield. Under her leadership, her troops also showed undaunted courage and returned shot for shot. Considered by the British as one of the best and the bravest military leaders of rebels, this sparkling epitome of courage died a hero’s death in the battlefield. Her remarkable courage inspired many men and women in India to rise against the alien rule thereafter.
- Sarojini Naidu
Another great and inspiring women freedom fighter in India was Sarojini Naidu. She was a powerful orator, a poet and a writer. She was the first woman to become the governor of an Indian State and second to become the president of Indian National Congress. Between the periods of 1915-1918, she travelled to different regions of India delivering lectures on social welfare, making women aware about the issues of freedom struggle, thereby arousing the feeling of nationalism amongst dormant masses. She campaigned for the Montagu Chelmsford Reforms, the khilafat issue and the draconian Rowlett Act. During the Civil disobedience movement, she quelled the rioters, sold proscribed literature and addressed frenzied meetings on the carnage at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar. She acted as a strong leader for the time period when Mahatma Gandhi was arrested. Further, she accompanied Gandhi everywhere for the cause of the nation and was herself imprisoned a number of times.
- Kasturba Gandhi
Being the better half of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Kasturba Gandhi played a pivotal role and fought for the civil rights movement and certainly for India’s independence. From 1904-1914, she took an active participation in the Phoenix settlement near Durban. In 1913, she protested against the working conditions of Indians in South Africa. In 1915, she accompanied Gandhi to India, in order to support the Indigo planters in Champaran, Bihar. She even undertook the task of spreading awareness amongst Indians for the importance of health, hygiene, discipline and education. She certainly inspired other women to support their husbands for the larger cause of freedom struggle.
- Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit
The sister of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit is also an inspiring women freedom fighter as she played a highly diplomatic role in the freedom process. She was the first women to become a cabinet Minister and also the first women president of United Nations General Assembly. She attended the pacific Relations Conference at U.S.A as the leader of the Indian Delegation and was also present in the meetings of UN and through some of the well attended public lectures she challenged the British dominated delegates’ rights to represent India therein. She was arrested a number of times and was also sentenced to 1 year’s rigorous imprisonment. Adding on to this, she also tried to abolish caste barrier, outdated customs and tried hard to bring women empowerment in the country.
Moolmati is the mother of Ram Prasad Bismil, a true freedom fighter and a martyr. He was hanged till death under the British Raj. Moolmati displayed utmost courage as she continued the freedom struggle even after losing his son. Without her unstinting support and belief, Ram Prasad Bismil might not have had the resolve to pursue the path he had chosen. Moolmati’s devotion to the cause of motherland could be understood from the fact that days before his elder son’s death, she addressed a public gathering and offered her other son to the freedom movement. She truly inspired other women fighters to become strong women and mothers.
These women are an eternal source of inspiration for us. The stories of these inspirational women fighters ignite in us the extreme fervour and courage to fight against all the odds that surrounds us.