In the realm of Indian freedom fighters, it is indeed a matter to lament over that female presence hasn’t always been lauded and exulted in the same breath as their male counterparts. Even when female presence has been significant and even determining a factor that contributed to independence of the country, they remain relatively shrouded in obscurity. It’s however as essential to honor their valor and courage to present and laud them also as worthy perpetrators of the cause that led to the country emerging as an independent nation. Here’s listing 10 most influential female freedom fighters of India whose courage will remain unmatched forever, whether we choose to applaud them or not-
Rani Lakshmi Bai
Among the many female freedom fighters of India, one name that invokes courage and inspires adulation by her very valour is Rani Lakshmi Bai, the Queen of Jhansi. The encompassment of fearlessness that Lakshmi Bai was, she indeed was a vehement threat to the British subjugation.
One of the most prominent leaders of the Rebellion of 1857, Lakshmi Bai in fact soon became the symbol of resistance against the British oppression and fought a valiant war to uproot foreign rule from her motherland. She eventually lost her life at the battle against the British but not after she had put up a valiant show of bravery and audaciousness to ward off the foreign force. It is indeed remarkable that the Jhansi ki Rani remained unperturbed in her zeal to ensure the freedom and security of her people that she resiliently shoved aside the death of her four month old son even when it had cost her husband his sanity.
A poor peasant woman who rose to become Gandhi Buri or old lady Gandhi, Matangini Hazra might be a lesser known name but her active participation in the Indian freedom struggle sure makes her one of the most influential female fighters who ensured India did not forever remain under the British Subjugation. This lady from Bengal became quite an active Gandhian presence in the Indian independence movement and was even jailed for breaking the Salt Act. Hazra also participated in the Quit India Movement, the Civil Disobedience Movement and the Non Cooperation Movement asserting her dedication in riding the British out of India. She eventually lost her life in this very pursuit of freedom when she was shot down thrice by the police, but all the while she held the tricolor upright and uttered Vande Mataram in a final assertion of her patriotism and pride.
Among the female freedom fighters from the state of Assam in north east India is Kanaklata Barua who achieved martyrdom for her motherland as a mere teen. However even in her young age, Barua displayed enough courage and patriotism to come forward as an active member of the death squad Mrityu Bahini. As a leader of the group that decided to hoist the National Flag at the local police station in an utter show of deference against the British government, Barua marched forward with courage and pride even in the face of the unabated police firing that eventually claimed her life.
Along with another martyr Mukunda Kakoti, Kanaklata Barua however made sure that her zeal and efforts did not go in vain as the Tricolour was eventually unfurled at the police station by the other protesters who took inspiration from the unperturbed spirit and sacrifice of this young and resolved spirit who displayed a courage way beyond her years.
She might be better known as the wife of Mahatma Gandhi but that does not take anything away from the resolve and dedication freedom fighter Kasturba Gandhi exhibited in her active participation in India’s pursuit of independence. Indeed she was influenced by husband in emerging to become an active participant in the freedom struggle. But beyond that it was her own zeal and dedication that established her firmly as being one of the leading female freedom fighters who gave their all for the sake of a developed and independent India.
Kasturba Gandhi was put in jail for three months in 1913 when she protested against the prevailing working conditions for Indians in South Africa. Thereafter also she continued her fight for civil rights of India and her people and against the British subjugation. She even led protests during the times her husband was arrested while still working dedicatedly for causes that furthered the welfare of woman.
A tireless activist, Gandhi did not however restrict her activities to the political realm of freedom. She also imparted teachings on hygiene and discipline, health and education to the people in her pursuit of an India that wasn’t just independent but also reformed. Alongside she continued with protests and activitism even in poor health and went to jail numerous times. She eventually passed away due to ill health in a detention camp where she was confined due to her participation in the Quit India Movement.
An important figure in India’s struggle for independence was Sarojini Naidu who strongly advocated for civil rights, women’s emancipation, and the country’s freedom from the British rule. Also known as the Nightingale of India for her many poems that also delivered patriotic fervor among others, Naidu joined the freedom movement in the wake of the partition of Bengal in 1905 and remained an active participant throughout the nation’s tryst with the freedom struggle. Her participation in the Salt March, Civil Disobedience Movement and the Quit India Movement led her to be arrested by the government on multiple occasions. The first Indian woman president of the Indian National Congress as also the first woman governor of independent India, Naidu was one of those female freedom fighters who remained unperturbed in their pursuit of freedom for their motherland and worked relentless for the same.
Aruna Asaf Ali
Another active participant in the Indian struggle for freedom, Aruna Asaf Ali is popularly known as the Grand Old Lady of the Independence movement. Drawn into the struggle courtesy her husband’s active position within the Indian National Congress, Aruna Ali participated in public protests during the Salt March for which she was arrested. During her stay at the Tihar Jail, Ali protested vehemently against the prevailing conditions there which led to some betterment in the same.
Aruna Asaf Ali is however best remembered for her role in the Quit India Movement of 1942. As the activist who hoisted the tricolour at Bombay’s Gowalia Tank Maidan, Ali came to be dubbed as the Heroine of the 1942 movement. She also continued her agitation against the British by becoming an active part of the underground movement and continued as a vibrant political persona of independent India by becoming Delhi’s first mayor.
The first of the female fighters who was arrested by the British government for her fight to gain India her freedom, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay yielded in to the struggle for independence when she came to know about the Non Cooperation Movement. As a member of Mahatma Gandhi’s Seva Dal that was aimed at women empowerment, Chattopadhyay also established herself as one of the prominent Indian social reformers. The lady from Karnataka also took active part in the Salt March of 1930 and was an enthusiast of the swadesi movement. Chattopadhyay also played a remarkable role in augmenting foreign support for the Indian freedom movement during the Second World War by going on a world tour. From reviving the Indian institutions of handicraft and handlooms to powering women emancipation, Chattopadhyay’s contribution to the Indian freedom struggle went way past the conventional political route.
The wife of Jawaharlal Nehru, Kamala Nehru became involved with the Indian freedom struggle after her marriage into the politically active Nehru family. In fact she was so influenced by the ideals of nationalism that she emerged at the forefront of the movement several times during her long association. Kamala Nehru was instrumental in organizing groups of women who picketed shops selling foreign cloth and liquor during the Non Cooperation Movement of 1921. In fact even when Jawaharlal Nehru was arrested to refrain him from delivering a seditious public speech, it was Kamala Nehru who read out the same thereby ensuring that the struggle continued unabated.
Her active involvement in the freedom movement led the British authorities to arrest her multiple times as they became wary of her ever growing presence and influence. In fact her patriotism and fellow feeling was so strong an influence for her that she even started a dispensary in her house Swaraj Bhawan where she treated wounded freedom fighters and their families thereby ensuring that the movement never runs out of steam. Though she passed away in 1936 owing to ill health, Kamala Nehru did indeed play an indispensable role as a freedom fighter committed to bringing about independence for India.
Another of the prominent female freedom fighters of India from the state of Assam, Bhogeswari Phookanani is renowned as the 60 year old martyr. Her role in the Quit India Movement and active participation in the overall freedom struggle has earned her a prominent place among the multitude of Indian freedom activists who selflessly sacrificed their life for the sake of the motherland.
Phookanani also took part in a nonviolent march during the civil disobedience movement against the British authorities and was arrested for picketing but it was her act of defiance during the 1942 movement that rendered her immortal among the Indian freedom activists. She was shot dead by a British police official while rushing to uphold the dignity of the national flag during a protest march against the authorities.
Kittur Rani Chennamma
The queen of the princely state of Kittur in Karnataka, Chennamma was one of the earliest queens to rebel against the British subjugation of India. A symbol of the independence movement in India owing to her resilient defiance of the British rule, Chennamma however remains relatively less known and lesser applauded for her many acts of valiance. Kittur Chennamma is most remembered for leading an armed force against the British East India Company in 1824 in defiance of the doctrine of lapse that empowered the foreigners to take over the region. She bravely fought multiple wars to maintain Indian stronghold over her empire, but was defeated in the third war and died imprisoned.