Remembering our freedom fighters evoke much passion and nationalism. Many of them made the supreme sacrifice to get independence for India. They are commemorated and romanticized in the best way possible. People like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose almost single-handedly took on the powerful British Empire. But there were many others whose contribution to the Indian freedom struggle has been largely forgotten over the years.
As India prepares to observe its 70th Independence Day in less than a year from now, we at Historyly, remember those brave men and women whose contribution towards an independent India find no mention in history books and are largely ignored by the society.
1. Alluri Sitarama Raju
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He led a band of tribals against the British in the doomed “Rampa Rebellion” (1922-24). He was fondly called “Manyam Veerudu” (Hero of the Jungles) by the locals. Born in a prosperous and upper-class Andhra family, Raju forbade all luxuries. He took up the cause of the oppressed tribals in the Agency areas, who were being harassed by British officials under a controversial forest act. His armed rebellion was ultimately curbed by the British.
2. Benoy, Badal, Dinesh
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8 December, 1930. Benoy Krishna Basu, Badal Gupta, and Dinesh Gupta, three youths dressed as Europeans, walk into the chamber of Inspector General (Prisons) Col NS Simpson at the Writers’ Buildings state secretariat in Calcutta (now Kolkata). They shoot him dead point blank. Simpson had earned notoriety for his brutal torture on imprisoned freedom fighters. A gunfight ensued but the three had no intention to court arrest. While Badal took cyanide, Benoy and Dinesh shot themselves with their own revolvers. Dalhousie Square, the nerve centre of the city where the incident happened, was renamed as Benoy-Badal-Dinesh Bag after independence. But the trio of freedom fighters today remains largely forgotten outside Bengal.
3. Veerapandiya Kattabomman
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A courageous 18th century Palyeakar chieftain from Tamil Nadu, Veerapandiya waged a war against the British 60 years before the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. He protested against the hegemony of the East India Company and refused to pay taxes. His fort was razed and his wealth looted. One of the earliest freedom fighters, Veerapandiya was nabbed by the British and hanged in 1799.
4. Rani Gaidinliu
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A Naga spiritual leader, Rani led an anti-British revolt in her state. She joined the Heraka religious movement, at the age of 13, which later turned into a political struggle against the British in Manipur. Before she turned 16, Rani was life imprisoned by the British. Jawaharlal Nehru visited Rani in 1937 and promised to get her out. She was finally released after the Interim Government of India was constituted in 1946, following which she continued working for the Naga community. Rani was awarded the prestigious Padma Bhushan in 1982.
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5. Ashfaqulla Khan
Image Credit: Economy Decoded
Born on 22 October, 1900, in Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh, Ashfaqulla Khan was the first Muslim among the freedom fighters of India to be sentenced to death in a court trial. Khan, along with his close friend and Urdu author Ram Prasad Bismil, carried out armed revolutionary activities. They hatched the famous Kakori Dacoity plan which was carried out by Chandrasekhar Azad, Sachindra Bakshi, Rajendra Lahiri, and others on 9 August 1925. Khan was an active member of Hindustan Republican Association (HRA), an organization of armed freedom fighters, and was hanged on 19 December 1927 for the dacoity. He was only remembered in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti (2006). Kunal Kapoor played Khan’s role in the film.