When we think of freedom fighters, the most immediate people we tend to name usually are Mahatma Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lala Rajpat Rai, Balgangadhar Tilak, Subhash Chandra Bose etc.
There are many famous freedom fighters who played a big part in India’s independence from the British. However, our independence as not won by these people alone. There are many freedom fighters who fought bravely, were imprisoned and even gave up their lives for their country’s freedom. Here’s a look at 8 of them who we may not have heard of, or who deserve to be heard of a little more.
1. Alluri Sitarama Raju
During the British rule, the Britishers took advantage of the fact that there were many different tribes and not united. They deprived the tribals of their rights. Alluri Seetha Rama Raju took note of that fact and united the different tribes ad trained them in the art of guerilla. Along with the tribals, he led the Rampa Rebellion of 1922 which lasted until 1924. Unfortunately, he was caught by the British, tied to a tree and shot. AAfter his death, the tribal rebellion lost momentum. But in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, even to this day he’s remembered as a brave hero who had the courage to stand up to the British.
2. Potti Sreeramulu
Do you know what Mahatma Gandhi once said of Potti Sreeramulu? He said, “If only I have eleven more followers like Sriramulu I will win freedom in a year.” Andhra Pradesh and Telangana owe their existence to Potti Sreeamulu. Sreeramulu was a devout follower of Gandhi who worked hard for the upliftment of Dalits. Like Gandhi, he used non-violent methods such as fasting to get his point across. He’s one of the few people who fasted unto death, so that the state of Andhra Pradesh could be created. After his death, Andhra Pradesh came into being.
3. Sangolli Rayanna
Sangolli Rayanna was the army chief of the Kingdom of Kittur, which was ruled by Rani Chanamma (another freedom fighter). He mobilised the people of Kittur and along with them, he ensured that the British did not have it easy. He burnt government offices, attacked treasuries and waylaid British troops whenever he came upon them. The British desperately wanted to capture him in open battle, but Rayanna was elusive and managed to stay away from them. Finally, they did manage to capture him, but the capture was marked by deceit and treachery, and he was sentenced to death.
4. Begum Hazrat Mahal
Begum Hazrat Mahal was the first of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah and also known as the Begum of Awadh. When Awadh was seized by the British in 1857 and her husband was exiled to Calcutta , along with her supporters, she took back Lucknow and also looked after the affairs of Awadh. She was not very impressed by what the British claimed to do either and had this cutting rejoinder for them.
“To eat pigs and drink wine, to bite greased cartridges and to mix pig’s fat with sweetmeats, to destroy Hindu and Mussalman temples on pretense of making roads, to build churches, to send clergymen into the streets to preach the Christian religion, to institute English schools, and pay people a monthly stipend for learning the English sciences, while the places of worship of Hindus and Mussalmans are to this day entirely neglected; with all this, how can people believe that religion will not be interfered with?“
5. V.V Krishna Menon
V.V Krishna Menon was one of those freedom fighters who took the fight for freedom outside of India and to the doorstep of the British. He created the India League in London and aggressively campaigned for India’s independence, rallying an enormous amount of support. And what is more, he always had a snappy comeback for any and all remarks that were sent his way. When a novelist, Brigid Brophy, expressed surprise at the quality of his English (he was known for his wit and eloquence), this is what he had to say, “My English is better than yours. You merely picked it up: I learnt it.” Both abroad and in India, he was a figure who both loved and hated. But it cannot be denied that he was one of India’s biggest champions both before and after independence.
6. Khan Abdul Khan Gaffar
Popularly known by the sobriquet ‘Frontier Gandhi’, Khan Abdul Khan Gaffar was a pacifist and a political leader known for his non-violent opposition to the rule of the British rule. He was also the founder of the Khudai Khitmadgar(Servants of God) movement, where Pashtuns of the North West Frontier of India (present day Pakistan) resisted British rule peacefully. After the partition of India, which he did not approve of in the first place, Gaffar allied with Pakistan, where he was arrested repeatedly, or even exiled. When he finally passed away in 1988, such was his stature that thousands of mourners attended his funeral, marching through the Khyber Pass to get to Jalabad, Afghanistan despite the way being marred by bomb explosions and heavy fighting.
7. Rani Gaidinliu
At the young of 16, Gaidinliu was imprisoned by the British because she spearheaded a movement that was to drive out the British from Manipur and surrounding Naga areas. Despite exhorted her people to rebel against the British and asked them not to pay taxes. After her imprisonment, she continued to be an inspiration to be an inspiration for people to rebel against the British. When Jawaharlal Nehru visited her in jail in 1937 and gave her the title, Rani, meaning Queen of her people. She was only released in 1947, after independence and continued to work for the upliftment of Naga people.
8. Hemu Kalani
At the age of 19, most of us are in college or thinking about what we want to do about our future. Hemu Kalani too had the future on his mind. But it was India’s future that worried him. He wanted the British out of India and regularly took part in revolutionary activities and joined the Quit India Movement in 1942. Wanting to take a more active part in the freedom struggle, he and his friends decided to derail a train that was carrying British troops and supplies. Despite not having the tools to derail a train, he and his friends did their best. Unfortunately, they were caught by the British troops before they could finish. Kalani was imprisoned and tortured but he refused to divulge the name of his co-conspirators. The people of Sindh intervened on his behalf and petitioned the Viceroy for mercy. The Viceroy granted mercy conditionally. Kalani would be let go if he named his co-conspirators. Brave until the end, he refused and was hung in 1943.
While we have chosen to feature 8 people, there are many more people out there who took an active part in fighting for our country’s independence. Share your choices for forgotten freedom-fighters with us, so that other people can know of them too!
Feeling a little patriotic? You can also check out our post about patriotic movies you can watch this independence day!