We all know by heart, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s declaration, “Give me blood and I will give you freedom!” There were many before and after him who decided to do exactly the same, so that their beloved nation may one day see the light of freedom and autonomy. While there are many pacifists and revolutionaries we remember and hold in high regard, there are others who have somehow been overlooked. These lesser known freedom fighters remain unappreciated, since not many people know much about them. True, some are at least celebrated in their places of birth with a few streets named after them or a statue erected here and there. However, there are also some patriots who become so obscure that they are declared imposters and it takes them several decades to prove to the world that they did contribute to one of the most significant independence movements in the history of the world. So let’s celebrate those unsung heroes of India who haven’t yet received their due respect.
1. Aurobindo Ghose
More renowned as a spiritual leader, it is a lesser known fact that Sri Aurobindo was also a freedom fighter in his own right. His lectures and works of literature were so inspiring that it motivated young patriots, and his writing was considered treason against the British government. He was imprisoned by the colonial rulers for his articles that seemed to instigate freedom fighters.
2. Begum Hazrat Mahal
Begum Hazrat Mahal played a significant role in India’s struggle for independence, during the Great Indian Revolt of 1857. She protested against the obliteration of places of worship by the East India Company, and thus, along with Raja Jailal Singh, led a huge army against the British forces.
3. Tirupur Kumaran
Born Chennimalai Kumaran, this freedom fighter has been long forgotten, despite having given his life taking part in the independence movement. He insisted on holding the national flag of India, irrespective of the fact that at that time, it was prohibited by the British government. It was during the same protest march that he succumbed to the injuries caused by the police force.
4. Durgabai Deshmukh
Durgabai Deshmukh actively participated in the freedom struggle of India, and as a volunteer for the Indian National Congress, worked closely with Mahatma Gandhi. She led several processions and activities for the Satyagraha Movement, and faced imprisonment on three such occasions.
5. Parbati Giri
Hailing from Western Odisha, Parbati Giri was one of the frontrunners of the independence struggle. She became an integral member of the Quit India Movement initiated by Mahatma Gandhi at the age of sixteen and was imprisoned for over two years. Even after her release, she continued serving the nation by giving shelter to orphans of her village.
6. Velu Nachiyar
The first queen to have ever actively opposed the British rule was Velu Nachiyar, who fought against the colonial rulers many years before the Sepoy Mutiny. In collaboration with Hyder Ali and Gopala Nayaker, she waged a war against the British and emerged victorious. Eventually she went on to produce the first human bomb as well as establish the first army of trained women soldiers in the late 1700s.
7. Kushal Konwar
Kushal Konwar, though relatively unknown across the rest of the nation, is a patriotic leader who still makes the people of Assam proud. He was the President of Sarupathar Congress Committee, who went on to become the only freedom fighter that was hung to his death towards the end of the Quit India Movement.
8. Kanneganti Hanumanthu
Kanneganti Hanumantha was the pioneer of the Palnadu Rebellion, which was organized as a means of opposing the heavy taxation system practiced by the British government. After being incarcerated on several occasions, he was killed by the British forces when he was just thirty.
9. Allah Bux Soomro
This frontrunner of the Indian Independence struggle has often gone unrecognized, despite his strong belief in the unity of Hindus and Muslims for a free India. Allah Bux strongly condemned the Muslim League’s proposal of the partition of the nation, and was even able to convince many Muslims on the importance of unity despite religious differences. However, he failed to gain popularity with either the Muslim League or the Indian National Congress and was eventually assassinated.
10. Birsa Munda
Though some history textbooks do mention Birsa Munda, most people are still unaware of his contribution to the freedom struggle. This tribal leader from Bihar led the Millenarian Movement against the British, but his significant role was cut short when he died at the age of twenty-five.
11. Garimella Satyanarayana
Another philosophical leader like Aurobindo Ghose, Garimella Satyanarayana encouraged millions of inhabitants of Andhra Pradesh with his uplifting poetry. His poems were considered so inciting that he was sent to prison on various occasions during his lifetime.
12. Peer Ali Khan
As a young boy, Peer Ali Khan fled from home and was brought up by a zamindar named Nawab Mir Abdullah. Later, he got involved in the activities of the Great Indian Revolt of 1857, and continued to lead many fighters till he received capital punishment from the British Raj. It is quite unfortunate that not many know much about this chivalrous leader.
13. Benoy, Badal, Dinesh
These three revolutionaries are remembered in Bengal as a trio, who were inseparable because of their love for their country. After a series of attacks on British officers, they targeted Colonel NS Simpson on one fateful day. The young boys, Benoy, Badal and Dinesh, dressed up as British men and entered the Writers’ Building to successfully shoot Simpson to his death. However, they were caught, and to avoid their capture, Benoy and Dinesh shot themselves, while Badal consumed potassium cyanide.
14. Kanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi
Kanaiyalal is another such leader who was an important part of the Independence Movement. He worked in collaboration with both the Swaraj Party as well as the Indian National Congress, and faced repeated imprisonment while the Quit India Movement was in progress. Also, he was a member of the Central Legislative Assembly a few years before India gained freedom.
15. Potti Sreeramulu
This revolutionary deserves acknowledgement because of the help and support he extended to the Dalit community, after being motivated by Mahatma Gandhi. In Andhra Pradesh Sreeramulu is known by the name “Amarajeevi,” since he sacrificed his life while embarking on a hunger strike against the British officials posted in the Madras Presidency, who refused to form a separate state for Telugu-speaking people.
16. Gour Hari Das
Gour Hari Das is a name not many would have heard of. During the freedom struggle, he actively took part in all movements and procession, even leading several of them. However, after India earned her freedom, he slipped into oblivion, and had to fight for 30 long years to prove his role in the independence movement.
17. Alluri Sitarama Raju
Alluri Sitarama Raju was another awe-inspiring tribal trailblazer, who had the courage to pioneer the Rampa Rebellion against the British Raj. Alluri, who is often hailed as “Manyam Veerudu,” was successful in obliterating several British soldiers, but was eventually killed during one of his revolts.
18. Tanguturi Prakasam
Tanguturi Prakasam is known as the first Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. However, that wasn’t all that he had accomplished. He partook in several activities of the Quit India Movement, and was also confined in prison for several years. However, he initiated the opposition against the Madras tax law, and was ultimately successful in getting it abolished.
19. Khudiram Bose
Invigorated by the speeches delivered by Sister Nivedita and Aurobindo Ghose, a young boy named Khudiram Bose decided that he would one day bring India the freedom she deserved. He showed the courage to not only request one of his teachers for ammunitions, but also went on to bomb British official buildings on several instances. He was ultimately arrested and hung to death at the age of nineteen.
20. Raj Kumari Gupta
Raj Kumari Gupta was one of the leading lights in India’s fight for independence. She took the grave responsibility of providing revolvers to patriotic leaders, upon her shoulders, and accompanied by her husband, she assisted Chandrashekhar Azad in his revolutionary activities.