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Unsung Heroes: Freedom fighters of India

Unsung heroes are those whose ballads are not always entertained anywhere, but in the time of need for such spirit, many such great heroes are defined through various accounts of stories and legends to look up to. Though some of the heroes’ struggles go noticed or unnoticed, their diligence and commitment towards independence go beyond the selfless acts that are powerful enough to inspire many generations yet to come.

Introduction

Let’s look at the profiles of some great leaders and warriors during the freedom struggle, whose life history is filled with many challenges to attain freedom for the country. The unsung heroes deserve great acknowledgment, for most selfless they haven’t craved for, but it is essential to understand the spirit and for one to imbibe it.

Famous Freedom Fighters of India and their Contributions

When one can’t understand the importance of the freedom struggle for independence, these are the popular faces of the pre-independence era whose stories or detailed summaries can re-instill the spirit of their diligence towards a commitment like freedom for the generations to take forward the legacy.

Mahatma Gandhi 

One of the greatest and the most reputed figures for all the great deeds during the independence is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, born on October 2, 1869, in Porbandar India. He studied law in London and while practicing in South Africa, he faced racial discrimination and oppression by the Colonial British, which led him to commit to social justice. He is well-known for the concept of Non-violent resistance, known as Satyagraha, the famous Salt March (Dandi March) in 1930, and many notable others. All his sermons, ideology, and principles were propagated towards religious harmony, brotherhood, uplifting untouchables, and emphasizing social empathy. He is famously known as ‘Father of the Nation’ which echoed all around the world for his contributions to India’s independence. Even after his death marked a significant loss, his principles, self-discipline simplicity transcended for many generations. 

Subhash Chandra Bose

The heroic story of this stalwart has some great achievements all to contribute to the independence of India. Also known as ‘Netaji’, for his contributions to inspiring many generations during the freedom struggle, was born on January 1897, in Cuttack, Odisha. He joined the Indian National Congress in the 1920s and was later elected as the party’s president in 1938, advocating for complete independence from British rule. He founded Forward Bloc in 1939, believing that the use of force was important to achieve India’s independence. He coined an impactful slogan ‘Give me blood, I shall give you freedom’ which has echoed across the nation. His contributions to India are remembered on a specific day every year January 23rd known as ‘Parakram Diwas’

Bhagat Singh 

He was born on September 28, 1907 in British India. He joined the freedom struggle at a very young age drawing inspiration from the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. He rose to a prominent position in HSRA(Hindustan Socialist Republican Association) through his radical thoughts in less time. Singh and his comrades for his radical attacks on the Central Legislative Assembly protesting against the repressive laws by the British. Expressing his revolutionary thoughts and refusing to seek pardon from the British, he was martyred through hanging on March 23rd, 1931. He coined the famous line ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ that still echoes around the corners of India. 

Bal Gangadhar Tilak 

Known as mostly ‘Lokmanya (accepted by the people)’, was born on July 23, 1856, in Ratnagiri. He was known for his slogan ‘Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it’. He organized festival gatherings like Ganesh Chaturthi so to evoke a sense of nationalism and unity. He was instrumental in boycotting British goods and promoting indigenous industries. He founded his political group called the ‘All India Home Rule League’ to advocate and practice the independence struggle. He later faced multiple imprisonments, yet he continued to be a beacon of resistance and patriotism until he died in 1920.

Jawaharlal Nehru 

He is fondly known as ‘Chacha Nehru’ and the first Prime Minister of the independent India. He was born on November 14, 1889, into a prominent political family. He was a close associate of Gandhiji in contributing to the country’s independence. He developed and practiced the principles of mixed economy and democratic socialism for nation-building, economic development, and social justice. He laid the foundations for Industrialization and major infrastructural projects. His birthday is marked and celebrated as ‘Children’s Day’ as he is fond of children. He was figurative in shaping the political and democratic nature of India. 

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel 

He was the first deputy Prime Minister and was instrumental in merging over 500 princely states across India. In uniting the country, he garnered the title of ‘Iron Man of India’. He was a close associate of Gandhiji in the freedom struggle. He was well-reputed for his administrative skills and integration which led to the balkanization of India. He was also a central figure in framing the constitution of India. He showcased his dedication to the welfare of rural population development by organizing Bardoli Satyagraha. Currently, as one of the tallest statues, he stands as a ‘Symbol of Unity’ in India commemorating his principles and struggles in nation-building. 

Chandra Shekar Azad 

He was born on July 23, 1906, and started his independence struggle journey through the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1920. He is an active member of HSRA(Hindustan Socialist Republic Association). He later turned revolutionary participating in the Kakori train robbery in 1925 to fund radical freedom activities. He sacrificed his life in 1931 in an encounter for refusing to be captured alive by the British. He is revered as a fearless soul in practices resistance under cruel rule. Later his statues and memorials were erected to evoke his contributions to inspire generations of India. 

Mangal Pandey 

Born on July 19, 1827, in Uttar Pradesh, played a pivotal role in the Indian Rebellion of 1857, known as the ‘Sepoy Mutiny’ or ‘First War of Independence’. He served as a soldier in the East India Company’s army. His dissatisfaction with aspects like the new Enfield rifle, rumoured to be made of pig and cow fat triggered his resistance. He attacked the British officers at Barrackpore, which later triggered and escalated wider rebellion. He was captured, tried, and executed on April 8, 1857. He was regarded as the first national hero to revolt against the British and become a martyr. 

Ashfaqulla Khan 

He was born in Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh during British colonial India. He was deeply influenced by the freedom struggle fervor and took a revolutionary path. He joined in HRA(Hindustan Republican Association) and played a significant role in the Kakori Conspiracy of 1925, a train robbery to fund the revolutionary activities. He was arrested and put on trial, where he defended himself and the ideology eloquently with courage. He was executed in 1927 at the age of 27 becoming a symbol of sacrifice for the cause of freedom. 

Lal Bahadur Shastri 

He was the second Prime Minister of the independent India. He was born in 1904, in Uttar Pradesh. He joined actively beside Gandhiji in the non-cooperation movement during the freedom struggle. Post-independence, he was instrumental in playing a significant role in the country’s agricultural development, advocating the ‘Green Revolution’ to increase food production. He is best remembered for leading India during the 1965 Indo-Pak war with a calm and resolute demeanor. Shastri’s slogan ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisaan’ emphasized the significance of the defense and agricultural sectors of a country. He was awarded Bharat Ratna posthumously for his dedication to Nation-Building. 

Dadabhai Naoroji 

Known as the ‘Grand Old Man of India’, was a prominent intellectual and a key figure in the Indian Independence movement. He was born on September 4, 1825, in Bombay, British India. He was the first to create history by becoming the first Indian Member of Parliament in the House of Commons in 1892, representing the Liberal party. ‘Poverty and Un-British Rule in India’ was his famous work to highlight the exploitation of India at the hands of the British Empire. He championed many social causes like education for women, women’s rights, and many others leaving a great impactful legacy through the stories and reforms during the freedom struggle. 

Bipin Chandra Pal 

He was known as the ‘Father of Revolutionary Thoughts’ for propagating the aggressive approach towards independence through his writings and speeches. Born on November 7, 1858, in Sylhet(now Bangladesh) was a part of the Triumvirate of Extremist Leaders within INC advocating against British rule. He was a supporter of the Swadeshi Movement in supporting ingenious goods and boycotting British goods. He was an associate of Gandhiji during the Non-Cooperation Movement in the 1920s. He passed away on May 20, 1932, leaving an impact of a fearless advocate of India’s freedom.

Tatya Tope 

Born in the late 1800s, he was a prominent figure in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 against colonial rule. He was a military strategist and a general in the rebel forces. He was associated with the Maratha Empire and played a key role in mobilizing support across the country. He became a symbol of resistance against colonial oppression. He was captured by the British in 1859, faced a trial and later executed. His unwavering and selfless commitment to the independence of India gives him a revered stature. 

Abul Kalam Azad 

Born on November 11, 1888, in Mecca, the Ottoman Empire was a prominent leader and scholar. He played a key role in Indian independence by being actively involved in the Non-Cooperation Movement and Civil Disobedience Movement. He served as a President of the Indian National Congress in 1923 and contributed to the educational institutions advocating secularism. He was the first Education Minister (1947-1958) of post-independent India. He played a crucial role in establishing the IITs (Indian Institute of Technology). For his freedom struggle and reforms, Maulana Azad National Urdu University in India is named in his honor.

Jain Prakash Narayan 

He was born on October 1902, in Sitabdiara, Bihar. He obtained his education at the University of California. Later he embraced socialistic ideologies and was inspired by leaders like Mahatma Gandhi to join the freedom struggle. He was a co-founder of the Congress Socialistic Party in 1934 with the Indian National Congress. He played a key role in advocating more radical socio-economic policies. Even at the time of ‘Emergency’ in India, he was a force to reckon with in resisting authoritarianism. He was regarded as the ‘Hero of the Anti-Emergency Movement’, and later was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1999 posthumously. His commitment to democratic principles made him an inspiring and indelible figure in the stories of freedom struggle. 

The Women Warriors of India’s Independence

When the world and country India were insisting upon women implying forcefully the orthodox restrictions and traditionally oppressing limitations on them, these were some of the brave women who led the resistance against the rule. Here are those warriors who through peacefully or radically contributed to the freedom struggle.

Annie Besant 

She was born on October 1, 1847, in London, a women’s rights activist, and supporter of Indian self-rule. She arrived in India in 1893 and quickly became involved in the socio-political issues. She became a prominent figure in Theosophical Society and Social Reforms promoting spiritual and philosophical ideas. She worked alongside Bal Gangadhar Tilak in initiating the Home Rule Movement demanding self-government for India from the British. Besant edited and wrote New India and Commonweal newspapers, using them as a powerful tool to voice out the opinions of grievances across the country making political strides. She was always ahead fearlessly in advocating Home Rule in various stages. She was the first woman president of the Indian National Congress. 

Rani Laxmi Bai 

Born as Manikarnika, on November 19, 1828, in Varanasi, married Maharaja Gangadhar Rao, the ruler of Jhansi at the age of 14. She was named Queen consort and was awarded a title called ‘Rani Laxmi Bai’ after marriage. She refused to accept the Doctrine of Lapse, which allowed the British East India Company to annex territories if a ruler died without a legal heir. She took a defensive position and fought back when Jhansi faced a siege by the British Army. Later she was named after a title ‘Jhansi ki Raani’ the Queen of Jhansi. In a Battle of Gwalior on June 1858

Sarojini Naidu 

She was born on February 13, 1879, in Hyderabad and later received education in Chennai, London, and Cambridge. She was referred to as the ‘Nightingale of India’ for her literary works like poems and other writing including ‘The Golden Threshold’. 

She joined in the Indian National Congress and became the first woman to be its President alongside leaders like Gandhiji who played a crucial role in the independence struggle. She was actively involved in the ‘Suffragette’ movement advocating voting rights for women. She supported the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms the Khilafat Movement and other freedom struggles with poems relating to patriotism, social issues, and the beauty of Indian Culture. He passed away on March 2, 1949, and left an impact and legacy cementing herself as one of the most important leaders to take over and contribute to the independence. 

Madam Bhikaji Cama 

Born on September 24, 1861, in Bombay into a wealthy Parsi family. She was involved in the freedom struggle alongside impactful leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji and Dadabhai Navroji. She became a member of the Indian Home Rule Society founded by Shyamji Krishna Varma. She played a pivotal role in the design and adoption of the first version of the Indian National flag and presented it at the International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart in 1907. She established the Paris Indian Society in 1905, a mantle for the Indians to participate in political issues. She is regarded as one of the primary thought leaders of the Independence movement. Her activism and ideology have raised the awareness of self-rule during the core independence struggle. 

Begum Hazrat Mahal 

Born as Muhammadi Khanum, in 1820, was a prominent Indian queen and freedom fighter and originally a courtesan in the Nawab Wajid Ali Shah’s court of Awadh. She later earned the title ‘Begum’ after marrying him. She fought against British colonialism after the Awadh annexation. She stepped against the British by forming a rebellion and took charge later. She joined forces with leaders like Kunwar Singh and Nana Saheb and skillfully overcame the British forces for several months. After the fall of Lucknow, she went to exile in Nepal and later continued to advocate independence. Her struggles and impact have many commemorations like erecting her memorials and even issuing a postage stamp in her name. 

Forgotten Leaders: The Regional Heroes

Here are some of the heroes who are popular for their contribution during the freedom struggle in their region for voicing out their resistance against the British rule who are no less than any national leader in their commitment to independence.

Alluri Sitarama Raju 

Born on July 4, 1897, in Pandrangi, a village in present-day Andhra Pradesh. He was inspired by the Non-Cooperation Movement and moved by the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. He was best remembered for leading the Rampa Rebellion against the British rule in the eastern ghats. He was able to wage wars and get away with them using the hilly terrains and forests. Not only political independence but also the socio-economic issues faced by the tribals were his priorities. He was an expert and had been successful in waging guerilla warfare in the Rampa Rebellion for 2 years, but eventually surrounded by the forces. He chose no pardon and accepted martyrdom on May 7, 1924, and was killed in action. His contributions were commemorated by issuing postage stamps in his name for selfless dedication during the freedom struggle. 

Veerapandya Kattabomman 

Born on January 3, 1760, in Panchalankurichi, Tamil Nadu was a ruler of princely state. He voraciously resisted the expansionist attitude of the British East India Company in the late 18th century. He refused the tax system and the authority. He fiercely asserted his right to the throne and refused to succumb to British pressure. In 1799, he revolted against the British waging a series of battles, later captured by the infamous betrayal by his minister, Ettappan. A controversial trial with the improper legal format was held and sentenced to death by hanging on October 16, 1799, at Kayathar. He was later celebrated as a regional leader through ballads and folklore literature. Many awards have been instituted by the governments in his name for agriculture and social welfare. 

Birsa Munda 

Born in 1875 in Ulihatu, Bihar into the Munda tribe. He witnesses deep-rooted suppression and oppression by British colonialism. He founded the religion the ‘Birsait’, emphasizing a monotheistic belief centered on the god ‘Birsa Bhagwan’, advocating spirituality and culture. He led the Ulgulan movement against British rule and the exploitation of tribals by landlords and moneylenders. He dreamed of establishing a Munda Raaj or Munda kingdom where he dreamt of peace and practiced traditions without external interference. He advocated unity and resistance against the British through his followers and other tribes which drew attention leading to his arrest in 1900. He died under mysterious circumstances on June 9, 1900. Later he was hailed as a hero and his legacy was commemorated by his fight for freedom by naming the ‘Birsa Institute of Technology’ in Sindri, Jharkhand.

Peer Ali Khan 

His early life is deep-rooted in the sense of patriotism and a desire for social justice. He joined the struggle inspired by a call for freedom and later became a vocal advocate for the rights of the people and a strong supporter of Gandhiji’s principles of non-violence. He participated in many movements, and organised mass gatherings to defy unjust laws and policies peacefully. He faced multiple arrests and detentions during his time and stayed peaceful symbolizing his commitment. He also advocates many social reforms, focusing on basic grassroots level social development. 

Sambhudhan Ponglo

He is also known as ‘Veer Sengya Sambhudhan Ponglo’ for his fight for freedom from the oppressing British rule. He fought against the colonialism in Assam, and other territorial moves to weaken them. He fought diligently for his natives’ freedom by engaging in rebellious activities. He advocated that ‘to lose freedom was to embrace slavery’. He was able to propagate such concepts and recruit many youths to fight for the native’s self-respect. 

Conclusion

There are many great leaders still whose efforts went unnoticed, yet due to their selfless acts of thoughtful and radical struggle, we have attained a stance and position in independent India.

Faqs

What are the notable movements initiated by Mahatma Gandhi? 

Champaran Movement (1917)

Kheda Movement (1918)

Khilafat Movement (1920)

Non-cooperation Movement (1920)

Civil-Disobedience Movement (1930)

Quit India Movement (1942)

What was the first war of independence?

‘Sepoy Mutiny’ by Mangal Pandey in 1857 was recorded in the books of history.

Who is the first woman freedom fighter?

Rani Laxmi Bai of Jahnsi.

What is the tagline of Subhash Chandra Bose?

“Give me blood, I’ll give you freedom’

Name some tribal freedom fighters?

Birsa Munda, Alluri Sitaram Raju.