Recalling the inspiring saga of revolutionary women in the Indian freedom movement
Sall revolutionary women have made very courageous contributions to the freedom movement, but their inspiring struggles have not received the broad recognition that is so richly deserved by their great work under very difficult conditions.
Sushila Didi was an important member of the Association of the Socialist Republic of Hindustan (HSRA) headed by Chandra Shekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh. She has fulfilled many difficult responsibilities. Even before joining this organization, she showed a great sense of responsibility in the education of her younger siblings, her mother having died in infancy. As a schoolgirl, she distributed brochures of revolutionaries. When she learned of the death sentences of four defendants in the Kakori case, all very valiant freedom fighters, she donated all of her jewelry for their defense and their appeal.
After joining HSRA, she participated in many of its activities. She was part of the group that had gathered in Lahore to try to save imprisoned Bhagat Singh, an effort that had to be called off at the last moment. As the police were on the lookout, she had to assume a hidden identity, but even then she continued to participate in the activities of the mainstream freedom movement under a false name and even served a short prison term under that name. She accepted a job as a housekeeper in a wealthy house and, gaining their trust through her good work, she even arranged shelter there for her comrades.
After independence, she continued to be involved in several constructive activities, including education.
Another important member of the HSRA was Durga Bhabhi. The Bhabhi part of her name struck her as her husband Bhagwati Charan Vohra was a devoted revolutionary and his memory is cherished as one of Bhagat Singh’s most selfless and closest colleagues. Durga accepted the ideals and goals of this group as his own. His first and most important contribution was to help Bhagat Singh escape Lahore after the police launched a big hunt for him. Bhagat Singh was disguised as a Sahib while she and Shachi, her small child, traveled with him as family members and managed to escape the very suspicious eyes of the police.
As this was a relatively well-established family in Lahore, their home was used as a meeting place and for leaving messages for revolutionaries. When Bhagwati Charan Vohra went into hiding, Durga Bhabhi worked hard to continue playing this role and providing many support services even though his house was under surveillance. She and her husband both provided a tireless, selfless and self-effacing role model under very hostile conditions. In fact, Bhagwati and Durga worked under exceptionally hostile conditions.
She was involved in daring activities but suffered a big setback due to the sudden and accidental death of her husband as she prepared to save Bhagat Singh from prison. Despite her deep mourning, she continued to be a part of the rescue effort until the entire effort had to be abandoned due to unavoidable circumstances.
Later, she continued to participate in the freedom movement in a more open way, and after independence undertook various constructive activities.
In Bengal, several women and young girls responded to the call of a great revolutionary master Surya Sen to join the various actions of the revolutionary movement for freedom in Chittagong. Pritilata Waddar was one of these young girls. She was a topper in her school and was mentioned for special merit in college. But abandoning plans for a brilliant career, she answered the call of the freedom movement and at the age of 21, she was in the midst of revolutionary struggle in Chittagong, participating in several courageous missions. Despite her young age due to her deep commitment and excellent performance, she was already given leadership responsibilities.
During one of the actions, she received a gunshot wound. Despite the heavy bleeding, she managed to escape for some distance but was unable to run any further. Rather than fall into the hands of those who pursued her, she preferred to consume poison that she took with her for such a situation. Thus ended a very noble and courageous life at a very young age.
Suniti Choudhury was another revolutionary who took bold action at an even younger age. She had attracted a lot of attention for her deep commitment and courage and this is why she was selected for the daring mission to attack an official who was known to be exceptionally cruel and unfair to freedom fighters. . She and her friend Santisudha completed their mission and, during her trial, continued to shout slogans of freedom movement and revolution. Eventually, she was imprisoned for seven years.
After serving a prison sentence, she returned to her unfinished studies and went on to study medicine. After independence, she rose to fame as a highly regarded doctor and was offered tickets to run for office by the Communist and Congress parties, but by then she had become too involved in medical work with an emphasis on service to the poor.
The women family members of several great revolutionary freedom fighters have also been deeply involved in the service of the cause of the freedom movement. A very important contribution in this context was made by Bibi Amar Kaur, sister of Bhagat Singh. She participated in the freedom movement and was imprisoned in Ambala with her 1 year old son in 1945. During the days of partition, she remained on the other side for several weeks after independence so that she could use his stature to protect several women and children still stranded. in refugee camps, even though she has had to put her own life in danger time and time again.
After independence, Bibi Ji became involved in a multitude of activities and constructive works to perpetuate the legacy and teaching of her martyred brother and his comrades.
The mothers of several revolutionaries showed exemplary courage when they learned of the martyrdom of their sons. In this context, the examples of the mothers of Bhagat Singh and Ram Prasad Bismil in particular should be mentioned with great honor because by their great courage and dignity at the time of their greatest sorrow, they have become symbols of a great inspiration for the entire freedom movement. Bebe Ji, as Bhagat Singh’s mother was often referred to, continued to give her blessings to many noble causes in the days following independence.
Bismil’s mother refused to cry when she last went to meet her son in prison shortly before he was executed and instead said some very inspiring words about her son bringing him great honor to her and the country. In fact, she even helped a fellow Revolutionary get important addresses from Bismil even during this reunion by taking him to her side as a parent.
Yashpal’s mother, a revolutionary who later emerged as a prominent and much admired author, was also a great source of inspiration as she supported herself and her family by doing odd jobs and helping them. rare occasion when she met her son leading an underground life. she only asked him to keep his courage no matter what the difficulties. Later, his younger son also joined the revolutionary path. Both sons were imprisoned and the mother continued to send inspiring messages. Once again, she displayed remarkable reformist zeal when she supported Yashpal’s unorthodox relationship with revolutionary colleague Prakshwati and even accompanied her to prison for the first prison marriage in India in which Yashpal and Prakshwati got married. Prakashwati worked hard to help the revolutionary movement although she initially faced a lot of unwarranted criticism due to her relationship with Yashpal.
The great courage and the struggles of these revolutionary women must be more widely known to the new generation because their role of inspiration is always very important.
Bharat Dogra is a freelance journalist who has been involved in several social movements and initiatives. His recent book on Survival Problems and People’s Response titled Planet in Peril was published by Vitasta, Delhi.