Wednesday 3 August 2011

Women Warriors of India’s Freedom - VII

Usha Mehta (1920-2000) set up a Radio transmitter in Bombay which started broadcasting on August 14, 1942 and could be heard upto Madras. When the government laid its hand on the Congress- Radio on November 12, 1942, she was sentenced to four years imprisonment.
Sucheta Kriplani (1908-1974), Secretary-in-charge of the women’s department of Congress, carried on anti-government activities, dodging the police, till her arrest in 1944.
Two girl students, Hemlata Shenolikar and Gulwadi, together hoisted the National flag (the latter making a second attempt as well) in the judge’s chamber in Dharwad, and were fined and imprisoned. Kanaklata Barua, a teenage girl of Assam, became the first woman martyr of 1942, when she along with her comrade Mukunda, led a group of 500 people to capture a police post. Some women lost their lives when they did not run away in fear and kept the national flag aloft.
Similar violent incidents occured at Devakottal in Ramnad district and Midnapore district in West Bengal, where Mrs Valliammal and Mrs Matangini Hazra were shot dead
In Assam, Pushpalata Das was arrested under the Defence of India Rules, and was kept in solitary confinement for three and a half years.
In Kerala, A.V. Kuttimalu Amma was arrested and imprisoned for a year. In Madras, students of Women’s Christian College, Queen Mary’s College, Annamalai University, and other institutions, organised protest meetings and processions, and unfurled Congress flag in their respective institutions.
Among the many women participants in the Quit India movement who underwent imprisonment ,mention may well be made of Alamelu and Amaravathi of Coimbatore, Anthony Ammal and Ponnammal Solammal of Puliakulam, Pankajathammal of Palani, Muthulakshmi Reddy of Pudukottai, Hansa Mehta of Surat, Avantikabai Gokhale of Satara ,Ammu Swaminathan and Rukmini Lakshmipathy of Madras and Vijaylakshmi Pandit of Allahabad.
Women were not untouched by revolutionary ideas in Bengal, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madras and other parts of India. The activities of Anushilan Samiti (estd. 1902)in Bengal, of Abhinava Bharata in Maharashtra, of Naujawan Bharat Sabha (Lahore,1925) in Punjab, of  Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (estd. 1928) in Delhi , of Siya Ram Dal and Parshuram Dal in Bihar,   and of the revolutionary organizations abroad like the Indian Home Rule Society (estd.1905)in London , Hindi Association of America, subsequently the Ghadar Party (estd. November 1, 1913), Indian independence Commitee in Berlin (reference to which came in the Lahore Conspiracy Case) besides many more, infused national feeling and roused deep emotions, thereby creating  a combatant climate which influenced all, including women.
Revolutionary organisations indulged in militant activities, believing that boycott , passive resistance or constitutional methods  would not be able to uproot the British Raj.
The daredevilry of Praful Chaki (1888-1908), Khudiram Bose (1889-1908) Madan Lal Dhingra (1883-1909), Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883-1966), Rash Behari Bose (1886-1945), Kartar Singh Sarabha (1896-1915), Ram Prasad Bismil (1897-1927), Ashfaqullah Khan(1900-1927) ,Chandrashekhar Azad (1906-1931), Jatin Das (1904-1929), Bhagat Singh(1907-1931), Shivram Rajguru (1908-1931), Sukhdev (1907-1931), Batukeshwar Dutt (1910-1965), and others, could not but influence women.
The ghastly incidents of Komagata Maru (1914) and Jallianwala Bagh (1919) raised their level of resentment against an alien regime, specially in north India.
While women remained sympathetic to the cause of revolutionaries throughout the course of the freedom struggle, some of them joined secret societies, undertook training in the use of arms or bomb-making, provided shelter to revolutionaries chased by police, helped in communication network, and showed exemplary courage.
To cite a few examples: Madame Bhikaji Rustom K. R. Kama (1861-1936), popularly called  ‘mother of revolutionaries’, spread disaffection among the Indians living in Europe and America, against the nefarious policies of the British Raj. She helped revolutionaries with men and material, and unfurled the first National flag at the International Socialist Conference in Stuttgart (Germany) in 1907.
Nonibala Devi joined the Jugantar group of revolutionaries in Bengal, known for its extremist activities. Durgavati Devi (Durga Bhabhi; d. 1999), and Sushila Devi of Punjab prepared a life-size portrait of  Kartar Singh Sarabha (d.1915), the young ghadarite who was put to gallows at the age of 19 years, with their blood on the occasion of his 11th death anniversary. After shooting J. P. Saunders (December 17,1928), Deputy Superintendent of Police, as a follow up to the death of Lala Lajpat Rai ( 1865-1928), Durga Bhabhi put a tilak-mark on Bhagat Singh’s forehead, and helped him to escape from Lahore to Calcutta.
Kalpana Dutt who loved to dress like men, was charged in the Chittagong Armoury Raid case (April 18,1930) masterminded by Surya Sen, and given life-imprisonment.
Shanti and Suniti, students in a school in Comilla, shot Magistrate Stevens to death (December 14,1931), but were shocked when the judge did not award death sentence to them. Bina das, a student of Diocesan College, Calcutta made an abortive attempt at the life of Sir Stanley Jackson, Governor of Bengal, when he came to preside over the convocation of Calcutta University (February 6, 1932). She was sentenced to nine years’ rigorous imprisonment.
(to be continued)
Article by : Satish K. Kapoor
Source: Bhavan's Journal 15 May 2011
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