We regularly come across articles, news, reports on exploitation, ill-treatment, assault of women in our society. It seems that these incidents are happening quite frequently now, but that is not quite true; If we draw the lines to the past, we see many such examples. Though the characteristics of the exploitation has changed over a period of time, and inspite of all efforts towards promotion of equal rights to women, the victimization still continues.

There is a common mindset seen among many men – “Women are inferior to us.” This  kind of attitude of men towards women is because of lot of factors like their social background, the events happening in and near their place, the attitude of people around them and many others.

Women are generally considered to be physically and mentally weaker compared to men, which is not quite true. Our history  gives plenty of examples of women, who have successfully led battles and freedom struggle, as well as worked for the betterment of the society.Whether it is  Rani of Jhansi, Sarojini Naidu, Sucheta Kriplani,Kasturba Gandhi or Kamala Nehru, everybody have played a stupendous role in getting us the freedom which we are enjoying now.

This article is dedicated to those heroic ladies who have done commendable job in our freedom struggle, but remained obscure from general audience….

Matangini Hazra – was an Indian revolutionary, an active participant in the Indian Independence movement, a warrior who sacrificied her life for the country.

Matangini participated in Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement (Salt Satyagraha) in 1932, manufactured salt at Alinan salt centre and was arrested for violating the Salt Act. After her arrest she was made to walk a long distance as punishment. She also participated in the ‘Chowkidari Tax Bandha’ (abolition of chowkidari tax) movement and while marching towards the court building chanting slogan to protest against the illegal constitution of a court by the governor to punish those who participated in the movement, Matangini was arrested again. She was sentenced to six months imprisonment and sent to Baharampur jail.
After her release Matangini got actively involved with the activities of the indian national congress. She took to spinning thread and Khaddar (coarse cloth) like a true follower of Gandhi. In 1933 she joined the ‘Mahakuma Congress Conference’ at serampore where police resorted to baton charge on the protesters. Always engaged in humanitarian causes, she worked among affected men, women and children when small pox in epidemic form broke out in the region. People lovingly called her ‘Gandhi Buri’.
During the quit india movement, the people of Medinipur planned an attack to capture the Thana, court and other government offices. Matangini, who was then 72 years old, led the procession. The police opened fire. A bullet hit her arm. Undaunted she went on appealing to the police not to shoot at their own brethren. Another bullet pierced her forehead. She fell down dead, a symbol of the anti-colonial movement, holding the flag of freedom in her hand.

She now has a road named after her in Kolkata – Hazra Road.

Akkamma Cherian – was another revolutionary who hails from Kerala popularly known as the Jhansi Rani of Travancore. In the thirties, under the inspiration of Gandhiji, she resigned from the post of a teacher and joined the Congress agitation for a ‘responsible government’ in what was then the princely state of Travancore.”While the British police chief ordered his men to fire on the rally of over 20,000 people gathered to protest against the Deewan of Travancore, Akkamma Cherian cried “I am the leader; shoot me first before you kill others” . Her courageous words forced the police authorities to withdraw their orders. The protesters did receive an order revoking the ban. She was arrested and convicted for violating prohibitory orders in 1939.But she stood stong against all odds. She even participated in the Quit India Movement of 1942 and imprisoned where she was ill-treated.In the early 1950s, when her kind of political belief systems began to become invalid and parties ideologies were changing, she quit politics.

Her life history was made into a documentary film by Sreebala K. Menon and a statue was erected on her memory in Thiruvananthapuram later.

Usha Mehta – Another veteran of our freedom struggle was an active follower of Gandhi and an proponent of Gandhian thought and philosophy. At a tender age of eight, she participated in a protest march against the Simon Commission and shouted her first words of protest against the British Raj: “Simon Go Back.”During the Quit India Movement, Usha quickly became a leader. She moved from New Delhi to Mumbai, where she hoisted the tricolor on August 9, 1942 at Gawalia Tank Ground, which was later renamed as the “August Kranti Maidan.” At that time, almost the entire leadership of the Congress Party was in prison.
On August 14, 1942, she and her close associates began the Secret Congress Radio, a clandestine radio station. The first words broadcast in her resonant voice were: “This is the Congress radio calling on [a wavelength of] 42.34 meters from somewhere in India.”Although the Secret Congress Radio functioned only for three months, it greatly assisted the movement by disseminating uncensored news and other information banned by the British-controlled government of India. Scecret Congress Radio also kept the leaders of the freedom movement in touch with the public.

Reminiscing about those days, Usha Mehta described her involvement with the Secret Congress Radio as her “finest moment” and also as her saddest moment, because an Indian technician had betrayed them to the authorities.She was imprisoned at Yeravda Jail in Pune, Maharashtra, where her health deteriorated, and she was sent to Bombay for treatment at Sir J. J. Hospital. In the hospital, three to four policemen kept a round-the-clock watch on her to prevent the her from escaping. When her health improved, she was returned to Yeravda Jail. In March 1946, she was released, the first political prisoner to be released in Bombay.

he Republic of India conferred on her Padma Vibhushan in 1998, the second highest civilian award of India.

Aruna Asif Ali – An ardent socialist and  veteran of the Quit India Movement of 1942.fter Gandhiji and other Congress leaders were arrested, she unfuried the national flag at the August Kranti Maidan. She was imprisoned in
1930, 1932 and 1941. She was elected the first Mayor of Delhi.

Aruna Asaf Ali was awarded International Lenin Peace Prize for the year 1964. She was awarded India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, posthumously in 1997. In 1998, a stamp commemorating her was issued. Aruna Asaf Ali marg in New Delhi was named in her honour. All India Minorities Front distributes the Dr Aruna Asaf Ali Sadbhawana Award annually.

As we approach our 62nd Independence Day, I would like to salute all the ladies who have fought and who are still fighting against various evils of the society by this article.

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