Tuesday, Sep 27, 2022

Explained: The revolutionaries whom Modi mentioned in his Independence Day speech

The Prime Minister took several names, including women, tribal, and spiritual leaders, and those who fought for India's freedom both within and outside the mainstream national movement.

Freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, SukhdevOn March 23, 1931, Bhagar Singh, Rajguru, and Sukhdev laid down their lives for the independence of India from colonial rule. (Twitter/@VPSecretariat)

In his address from the Red Fort on Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to a range of personalities from India’s freedom struggle, including fearless revolutionary heroes, leaders of tribal movements, spiritual leaders, women leaders, and several others who fought colonial rule outside the mainstream national movement. Among those to whom Modi referred were:

Mangal Pandey

A soldier with the British Indian army, Mangal Pandey is believed to have sparked off the mutiny of Indian soldiers at Meerut that eventually became the great revolt of 1857, and spread to other parts of North India. The revolt is said to have been sparked by the introduction of the new Enfield rifle, which required soldiers to bite off the cartridge casing before the weapon could be fired. Soldiers believed the casing was greased with cow fat and pig fat, which offended both Hindus and Muslims.

Pandey was court-martialed for his protest and sentenced to death, and the rebellion was put down in some months. But the revolt marked the first united Indian challenge to colonial rule and left a deep and long-lasting imprint.

Tantya Tope

Born in 1814, Tantya Tope was a trusted lieutenant of Nana Sahib, the adopted son of Peshwa Baji Rao II of the Maratha empire. Nana Sahib lost his ancestral rights under the ‘Doctrine of Lapse’ that disallowed adopted heirs of Indian rulers from ascending to the throne.

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In the summer of 1857, Tantya brought together armed forces to declare Nana Sahib the ruler of Kanpur and attempted to protect the seat of power for over five months. After Kanpur was lost to the British in December 1857, he assisted the Rani of Jhansi, whose adopted son was also a victim of the Doctrine of Lapse, to mobilise an armed force. Tantya Tope was sent to the gallows in April 1859 in Shivpuri, Madhya Pradesh, after a trusted aide betrayed him.

Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru

Of all the great revolutionary heroes of India’s freedom struggle, Bhagat Singh is perhaps the most charismatic and storied. Bhagat Singh, who was inspired by communist thought, anti-colonialism, and anti-communalism, was involved in the symbolic bombing of the Central Legislative Assembly. He was hanged by the British at the age of 23. Along with Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were also hanged to death.

Chandrashekhar Azad

Azad, a comrade and intellectual fellow traveller of Rajguru, Sukhdev, Bhagat Singh, Ramprasad Bismil, and Ashfaqulla Khan, was born in Allahabad and began taking part in revolutionary activities from the age of 15. He gave himself the name ‘Azad’ and vowed never to be held captive; when cornered by police in his final moments, he chose to shoot himself.


Ashfaqulla Khan

Born in Shahjahanpur, Khan helped form the HSRA and was part of the Kakori incident. In September 1926, Khan’s close friend Ramprasad Bismil was arrested, and finally, Khan too was arrested. The trial continued for about a year and a half, and in April 1927, Bismil, Khan, Rajendra Lahiri, and Roshan Singh were sentenced to death.

Ramprasad Bismil

Bismil was associated with the Arya Samaj from an early age. He started writing powerful patriotic poems in Urdu and Hindi under the pen names ‘Bismil’, ‘Ram’, and ‘Agyat’. His autobiography is considered one of the finest works in Hindi literature, and the cult patriotic song “Mera rang de Basanti chola” is attributed to him. He was executed at the age of 30.

First published on: 15-08-2022 at 06:50:58 pm
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