[Women Empowerment] Role of Women in India’s Freedom Struggle

The history of Indian Struggle would be incomplete without mentioning the contributions of women. The Sacrifice made by the women of India will occupy the foremost place. They fought with true spirit and unafraid courage and faced various tortures, exploitations, and hardships to earn us
freedom. When most of the men freedom fighters were in prison the women came forward and took charge of the struggle. The list of great Women whose names have gone down in history for their dedication and undying devotion to the service of India is a long one.
Woman’s participation in India’s freedom struggle began as early as in 1817.Bhima Bay Holkar fought bravely against the British Colonel Malcolm and defeated him in guerrilla warefare.Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi whose heroism and superb leadership laid on outstanding example of real patriotism. Sarojini Naidu, Kasturba Gandhi , Vijay Lakshmi pundit ,Annie Besant etc. in the 20th century are the names which are remembered even today for their singular contribution both in battlefield and in political field.

Bhima Bai Holkar :- Women’s participation in the freedom struggle began as early as 1817 when Bhīma Bai Holkar fought against the British Colonel Malcolm and a defeated him in guerrilla warfare .At a very critical time for our motherland when the British East India Company was fast expanding its empire in India, When Tipu Sultan had been eliminated(1799),the proud Marathas had been humbled (1815),Chenamma the widowed queen of Raja Malla Sarja frustrated the machinations of British to annex her kingdom Kittore ,a tiny principality in the present Belgaum District of Karnataka. She fought against the mighty British army and scored initial success.

Rani Lakshmi Bai:-Rani of Jhansi Rani Lakshmi Bai whose heroism and superb leadership laid an outstanding example for all future generations of women freedom fighters. Married to Gangadhar Rao head of the state of Jhansi. She was not allowed to adopt a successor after his death by the British, and Jhansi was annexed. With the outbreak of the Revolt she became determined to fight back. She used to go into the battlefield dressed as a man. Holding the reins of their horse in her mouth she used the sword with both hands. Under her leadership the Rani’s troops showed undaunted courage and returned shot for shot. Considered by the British as the best and bravest military leader of rebels this sparkling essence of courage died a hero’s death in the battlefield. The first name that comes to the mind is that of famous Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi. Dressed in the men’s clothes, she led her soldiers to war against the British. Even her enemies admired her courage and daring .She fought valiantly and although beaten she refused to surrender and fell as a warrior should, fighting the enemy to the last. Her remarkable courage inspired many men and women, fighting the enemy to the last. Her remarkable courage inspired many men and women in India to rise against the foreign rule.

Sarojini Naidu: -
Sarojini Naidu had known as “Ccuckoo of India”. She was a distinguished poet; renowned freedom fighter. Her father was principal in Nizam College. At that time Nizam was not in favour of Women‟s education, hence Sarojini was sent to Madras for schooling .She topped the matriculation examination at the age of twelve. She met English authors Arthur Simon and Edmond Gausse. It was Gausse who convinced Sarojini to stick to Indian themes-India’s great mountains, rivers, temples, social milieu, to express her poetry.

Sarojini Naidu was elected as a president of Indian National Congress. Dramatic meeting with another respected leader of time, Gokhle, in 1906 was to change her life forever. His response to her fiery speech brought into her life the impact of a visionary who saw in her oratory and brilliance a leader of the future. The period from 1917 to 1919 was the most dynamic phase of Sarojini”s career. During this time, she campaigned for the Montagu Chelmsford Reforms, the Khilafat issue, the draconian Rowlett Act and the Satyagraha. When Gandhi launched the Civil Disobedience Movement, She proved a faithful lieutenant. With great courage she quelled the rotors, sold proscribed literature, and addressed frenzied meetings on the carnage at Jallianwala Bag in Amritsar. In 1930 when Mahatma Gandhi chose her to lead the salt Satyagraha the stories of her courage became legion. After Gandhi’s arrest she had prepared 2,000 volunteers under the scorching sun to raid the Dahrsana Salt Works, while the police faced them half a mile up the road with rifle, lathis(canes) are steel tipped clubs. The Volunteers wildly cheered when she shook off the arm of the British police officer who came to arrest her and marched proudly to the barbed wire in full force and she came under the influence of Gopalkrishna Gokhale and Gandhi. Gokhale advised her to spare all her energy and talents for the nation’s cause. She gave up writing poetry and fully devoted herself to emancipation of women, education, Hindu-Muslim unity etc. She became a follower of Gandhi and accompanied him to England. Whenever in England, she openly criticized British rule in India which caught the attention of scholars and intellectuals.

Kasturba Gandhi:-Kasturba Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi‟s wife joined her husband while he was in south Africa and worked with him for many years there. She was a leader of women‟s Satyagraha for which she was imprisoned. She helped her husband in the case of Indigo worker in Champaran, Bihar and the No tax Campaign in Kaira, Gujarat. She was arrested twice for picketing liquor and foreign cloth shops, and in 1939 for participating in the Rajkot Satyagraha.

Madam Cama: - Madam Cama fought for the freedom of the country till the last in her own way, and helped many revolutionaries with money and materials. She unfurled the first National Flag at the International Socialist Conference in Stuttgart (Germany) in 1907.She declared “The flag is of Indian Independence! Behold it is born! It has been made sacred by the blood of Young Indians who sacrificed their lives. I call upon you, gentlemen to rise and salute this flag of Indian Independence. In the name of this flag, I appeal to lovers of freedom all over the world to support this flag. “A thousand representatives from several countries were attended. She travelled a lot of places including America and propagates Americans about Indians struggling for Independence.

Begam Hazrat Mahal:-Begam Hazrat Mahal was a great Indian freedom-fighter who played a major role during India‟s First War of Independence. She was also known as Begum of Awadh and the wife of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, ruler of Lucknow.She led a band of her supporters against the British, and was even able to seize the control of Lucknow.She worked in closed association with other leaders of the India‟s First War of Independence, including Nana Sahib. Begum was not only a strategist but also fought on the battlefield. When the forces under the command of the British re-captured Lucknow and most of the part of Awadh, she was forced to retreat. When her forces lost ground, she fled Awadh and organized soldiers again in other places. She turned down all offers of amnesty and allowances by the British rulers.Finally,she took refuge in an asylum in Nepal, where she died in the year 1879.To acknowledge her endless efforts in fighting for the freedom of country, the Government of India issued a stamp on 10th May 1984.

Arun Asaf Ali:-Arun Asaf Ali, a radical nationalist played an outstanding role in the historic Quit India Movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi on August 9, 1942, and was a prominent leader of the underground movement. She published bulletins, went from place to place and even met Mahatma Gandhi avoiding arrest .She edited Inqulab a monthly journal of the India National Congress.

Annie Besant:-Annie Besant an Irish Lady the leader of the Theosophical Society joined the Indian National Congress and gave it a new direction. She was the first women president of the congress and gave a powerful lead to Women‟s movement in India. She soon became a leading labour organizer, strike leader and reformer. She also became involved in Indian Nationalism and in1916 established the Indian Home Rule League of which she became President. She started a newspaper, “New India”, critized British rule and was jailed for sedition. She got involved in Political and educational activities and set up a number of schools and colleges, the most important of which was Central Hindu College and School in Banaras which she started in 1913.

Kamala Nehru:-Kamala Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru‟s wife gave full support to her husband in his desire to work actively for the freedom struggle. In the Nehru home town of Allahabad, She organized processions, addressed meetings and led picketing of liquor and foreign cloth shops. She played a prominent part in organizing the No Tax Campaign in United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh). In the Non Cooperation movement of 1921, she organized groups of women in Allahabad and Propagated use of Khadi cloths. When her husband was arrested, to prevent him delivering a “seditious “public speech, she went in his place to read it out. She was twice arrested by British authorities.

Vijay Lakshmi Pundit:-Vijay Lakshmi Pundit is a daughter of Motilal Nehru, were the president of congress and brother of Jawaharlal Nehru, India‟s first Prime Minister. She was inspired by Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi and impressed by Sarojini Naidu. She entered the Non Co-operation Movement to fight against the British rule. Vijay Lakshmi represented India in many of the Conferences abroad. She attended numerous public lectures and challenged the British dominated delegate‟s rights to represent India therein. She was a great fighter and took parts in many of the freedom movement. She was arrested in1932 and sentenced to one year‟s rigorous imprisonment. She was arrested in 1940 and yet again during the Quit India Movement in1942.

Indira Gandhi:-Indira Gandhi was a most remarkable woman in Modern India. She became a member of Indian National Congress in1938.Soon after her return to India in March 1941, she plunged into political activity. Her public activity entered a new phase with India‟s Independence in1947.she took over the responsibility of running the Prime Minister‟s House. The Congress, which had been her political home ever since her childhood, soon drew her into leading political roles, first as a member of the Congress Working Committee in 1955 and later as a member of the Central Parliamentary Board in1958.In 1959, she was elected President of the Indian National Congress .In the eventful years of her leadership as Prime Minister, Indian Society underwent profound changes .She was unremitting in her endeavor for the unity and solidarity of the nation. A staunch defender of the secular ideals of the Constitution, she worked tirelessly for the social and economic advancement of the minorities. She had a vision of a modern self-reliant and dynamic economy. She fought boldly and vigorously against communalism obscurantism, re-vivalism and religious fundamentalism of all types. She laid down her life in defense of the ideals on which the unity of India will reverberate across the centuries. She became the indomitable symbol of India‟s self-respect and self-confidence. Death came to her when she was at her peak, when her stature and influence were acclaimed the world over.

ConclusionAfter a century of revolutions,struggle,blood shedding,Sathyagrahas and sacrifices, India finally achieved Independence on August 15,1947.The Hindus, the Muslims, the Sikhs, the Christians and all the other brave sons and daughters of India fought shoulder to shoulder to throw out the British. Perhaps for the first and the only time in world history, the power of a mighty global empire „on which the sun never set‟, had been challenged and overcome by the moral might of a people armed only with peace, ideals and courage.

Women shouldered critical responsibilities in India‟s struggle for freedom. They held public meetings, organized picketing of shops selling foreign alcohol and articles, sold Khadi and actively participated in National Movements. They bravely faced the baton of the police and went behind the iron bars. Hundreds and thousands of Indian women dedicated their lives for obtaining freedom of their lives for obtaining freedom of their motherland and only very few could include in this essay due to space restriction.

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