Today we are a free and democratic nation, but have we ever given a thought about who were the ‘Heroes’ who sacrificed their lives for this ‘free air’ that you and I breathe today? It was our great freedom fighters undying spirit, bravery and undaunted courage that freed ‘Bharat Mata’ from the clutches of the ‘British Raj’.
Here are some great personalities who led the freedom struggle and got this largest democracy independent on August 15, 1947.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, fondly called `Bapu`, was the charismatic leader who paved the way for India`s independence. The ‘Father of the Nation’ was born in Porbandar, Gujarat on October 2, 1869.
Mahatma Gandhi was not only the face of the nation in India`s freedom struggle, but also became an inspirational figure for the Apartheid in South Africa.
Bapu went to the UK in 1891 to study law and entered the British bar, but soon returned to India and started practising in Bombay. Thereafter, he moved to South Africa to join work as a legal advisor to businessman Dada Abdulla. He stayed there for twenty long years and fought for the rights of the Indians. But in 1915, Gandhiji returned to India and devoted himself to the freedom struggle. Numerous freedom fighters were pleased with his personality and the unique way in which he fought.
After this, there was no looking back. Mahatma Gandhi launched movements like the Non-cooperation Movement, Purna Swaraj, Civil Disobedience Movement, Quit India Movement which shook the British Raj completely. He also gave the people this mantra: "Do or Die".
The famous poet Rabindranath Tagore and India`s most well-known writer gave him the title of Mahatma, or `The Great Soul`. Bapu also fought for the eradication of untouchability in the Indian society and addressed the low caste people as `harijans`.
Mahatma Gandhi, symbol of Free India, was assassinated by Nathuram Godse on 30 January 1948.
Mangal Pandey is known to be the first freedom fighter who sowed the seed for a struggle which gave India her freedom. He is referred to as `Shaheed` Mangal Pandey in the country. He was born on July 19, 1827 in the village of Nagwa, district Ballia, Uttar Pradesh. Though he served as a Sepoy in the East India Company, he revolted against them when he found that the cartridges which were by the British were greased with lard or tallow. Lard is pork fat and tallow is beef fat. Both Hindus and Muslims were opposed to this.
Pandey was a part of the 6th Company of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry when he attacked his British sergeant and an adjutant on the afternoon of March 29, 1857. The British termed it Sepoy Mutiny 1857 as it was a mass revolt of Indian soldiers in the British Army.
Mangal Pandey was sentenced to death on April 8, 1857 in Barrackpore.
Jhansi Ki Rani
“Khub ladi mardani woh toh Jhansi wali rani thi”
Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi embodied womanpower and stood like a defiant wall against the will of the British. With her son tied to her back, she ferociously fought the British, who had wanted to take over Jhansi. She led the first freedom struggle in 1857 against the East India Company.
He was the patriarch of India’s most powerful political family, the Nehru-Gandhi family. An important leader of the Indian National Congress, Nehru also served the Congress twice as the President. He founded the Swaraj Party, which wanted Dominion status for India.
Often called Panditji, Nehru was the first Prime Minister of independent India. He remained in office till his death in 1964. Under the apprenticeship of Bapu, Pandit Nehru rose to be not only one of the tallest leaders of India but a great statesman too. He was one of the people responsible for founding the International Non-Aligned Movement.
Subhash Chandra Bose
Subhash Chandra Bose, also known as Netaji, was one of the most prominent leaders of the Indian Independence Movement against the British Raj.
Such was his charisma that he defeated Mahatma Gandhi`s own candidate in the Congress presidential elections during the beginning of World War II. But after winning the elections, Netaji left Congress. In 1939, Bose sought assistance from Germany, Italy, and Japan as they were enemies of Britain and thus, would be natural allies to India. Thereafter, Netaji formed the Indian National Army (INA) with some 30,000 Indian soldiers in 1943.
His famous slogan `Tum mujhe khoon do main tumhe azadi doonga` attracted many youngsters to join his Army. The remarkable thing about his army was that it was composed of a women’s regiment as well. On August 16, 1945 Netaji boarded a plane from Singapore to Bangkok. The plane made a stopover in Taipei and crashed within minutes of take-off from there. Netaji’s body was cremated in Taipei on August 20, 1945 and his ashes were flown to Tokyo on September 5, 1945 where they rest in the Renkoji Temple. Mystery still surrounds his death, as many feel that he survived the air crash and went into hiding.
Subhash Chandra Bose was not only known for his struggle for freedom but also for advocating equality in the Indian society in terms of caste, religion and wealth. His slogan `Jai Hind` still resides amongst the people of this nation.
The firebrand revolutionary leader gave severe fright to the British. The Kakori Consipracy and the revenge of Lala Lajpat Rai’s death shook the very pillars of the British Empire. He had claimed that he would never be taken alive by the English, and he kept his pledge till the end of his life. When the British surrounded him, he shot himself before the British could touch him. The British did not dare to touch his body for a long time in fear that he could still be deadly.
Bhagat Singh is still remembered as the youth icon who inspired his own generation for the Independence struggle.
Bhagat Singh was born in Punjab on September 27, 1907. His hatred for the British began after the Jalianwala Bagh massacre and he joined the Non-Cooperation Movement that was begun by Mahatma Gandhi in 1921. However, after the Chauri-Chaura incident, he parted ways with Gandhiji`s ideology and joined the National College in Lahore, a center of revolutionary activities. Bhagat Singh, along with his mentor Chandrashekhar Azad, formed the ‘Hindustan Samajvadi Prajatantra Sangha’ (HSPS).
Bhagat Singh gave the famous slogan `Inquilab Zindabad`. He gained widespread national support when he underwent a 116 day fast in jail, demanding equal rights for British and Indian political prisoners.
Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were sentenced to death in the Lahore conspiracy case and ordered to be hanged on 24 March 1931. However, they were hanged on 23 March 1931 at 7:30 pm.
Subhash Chandra Bose had said: "Bhagat Singh had become the symbol of the new awakening among the youths ..."
Lala Lajpat Rai
Lalaji was popularly called Punjab Kesari. Along with Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal, they were called Lal-Bal-Pal, who advised stronger methods to gain independence from the British. During the Simon Commission, Lalaji received lathi blows which ultimately turned
Dr Rajendra Prasad
He was one of the prime architects of the Indian republic and the foremost in making the constitution of India. He was also the first President of India when the nation turned sovereign in 1950. He served dutifully for 12 years as the President of India, after which he retired.
She was aptly called the Nightingale of India, for her status as a distinguished poet and excellent orator. She was the first woman to attain the post of the Governor of a state – Uttar Pradesh. She shared a very affectionate relationship with Bapu, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, whom she called ‘Mickey Mouse’.
Gopal Krishna Gokhale
He was political mentor to the ‘Father of the Nation’. He was one of the senior leaders of the Indian National Congress, whose thoughts inspired an entire generation of freedom fighters who came after him.