The Assam town of Dhekiajuli has decided to honour Tileswari Barua, who was shot at the age of 12 by the British on September 20, 1942, during the Quit India Movement when she and some freedom fighters tried to unfurl the Tricolour atop a police station. Dhekiajuli town in Sonitpur district observes September 20 as Martyrs’ Day, but outside the town few know of Tileswari who would have been 87 years old today.
On September 20, 1942, Tileswari went along with a mrityu vahini — a kind of suicide squad — as it marched towards the police station in Dhekiajuli. Fifteen people were killed in the shooting that day. “Nobody has heard about the supreme sacrifice that a 12-year old girl made during the Quit India movement for the country 75 years ago. And we are all to be blamed for it,” said Dwijendra Mohan Sarma, general secretary of the Assam Freedom Fighters’ Association. “When I say we, it includes all, the Assam government, historians and intellectuals of the state and also the media,” Sarma said.
Tileswari was the eldest of four children of Bhabakanta Barua of Nij-Borgaon village on the outskirts of Dhekiajuli. She is believed to have been influenced by the patriotic songs that Congress volunteers were singing every day. Ramesh Chandra Bora, who has documented the Dhekiajuli episode by interviewing people and digging government archives, said that on September 20, 1942, Tileswari joined processionists as they came near Dhekiajuli to plant the Tricolour atop the police station.
Tileswari was a little behind Monbor Nath, who headed the local mrityu vahini and was leading the group. When Nath defied orders of the police officer and climbed atop the police station, he was gunned down within a few seconds. Other volunteers followed, one by one. “Tileswari was the fourth to be hit by the bullet after Nath, Kumoli Devi and Mohiram Koch,” Ramesh Chandra Bora said.
“It is very important to tell the story of Tileswari to the children of our country in order to instill in the young minds a high degree of patriotism,” Hrishikesh Goswami, the media advisor to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, said.
Local BJP legislator Ashok Singhal, who has convinced the Sonowal government to set up a Martyrs’ Park in Dhekiajuli and preserve the police station there, said, “For 70 years after Independence, the sacrifice of the martyrs of Dhekiajuli was neglected… We are also looking forward for the Assam government to grant financial assistance to these families, most of whom live a hand-to-mouth life.”