The fight against colonial rule in India constitutes a unique narrative, one which is not marred by violence. Rather a narrative that is full of variegated stories of valour, bravery, Satyagraha, dedication, and sacrifice across the length and breadth of the subcontinent. These stories compose the rich Indian cultural heritage and traditions. Thus, the unsung heroes need not necessarily define the lesser-known freedom fighters. They may, at times, be the leaders whose ideals delineate the Indian value system. Some of the Eminent freedom fighters and personalities of Uttar Pradesh are discussed below:
Eminent Freedom Fighters
- She was born to a Maharashtrian family at Kashi (now Varanasi) on 18 November 1835. During her childhood, she was called by the name Manikarnika.
- In the year 1842, she got married to the Maharaja of Jhansi, Raja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar. On getting married, she was given the name Lakshmi Bai.
- Sir Hugh Rose was appointed by the British to capture Rani Lakshmibai alive.
- Lakshmibai died on June 18, 1858, during a battle at Gwalior, where she fought valiantly against the British army.
- She is remembered as a hero of the Indian Independence movement and a symbol of courage, strength, and resilience.
- Lakshmibai is perhaps most famous for her bravery during the Siege of Jhansi in 1858 when she led her army in a fierce battle against the British.
- Although the battle was ultimately lost, Lakshmibai became a symbol of resistance against colonialism and oppression.
- Lakshmibai is also known for her progressive views on women’s rights and education. She was a strong advocate for the education of girls and women and was committed to improving the status of women in her kingdom.
- Mangal Pandey, a resident of Ballia in Uttar Pradesh(19 July 1827), was a soldier in the army of the British East India Company.
- During the First War of Independence, the Company introduced new rifles, which used animal fat to grease cartridges.
- Influenced by the example of his compatriots in Behrampur, Mangal Pandey refused to use the greased cartridges. He broke into open mutiny on March 29, 1857, at Barrackpore near Calcutta and used his comrades to join him.
- Surrounded by guards and European Officers, he tried to commit suicide by shooting himself and was seriously wounded.
- He was court-martialed on April 6 and hanged at Barrackpore on April 8, 1857.
- General Bakht Khan was born in 1797 and died in 1859. He belonged to Rohilla, whereas his mother was an Awadhi princess.
- He was born in the region of Uttar Pradesh (Rohilkhand) in the district of Bijnor. Later, in the army of the East India Company, he became a subedar, referred to as the chief native commanding officer.
- He gained forty years of experience in the Bengal horse artillery. Subedar Bakht Khan was famous among British Officers before he turned a rebel.
- Bakht Khan was even familiar with those officers who were to serve against him during the blockade of Delhi in 1857. He was described as the “most intelligent character” by British officers.
- He suffered a financial crisis during the time of war. After being deported from Delhi, he was wounded by the British during the rebellion and breathed his last in the Terai plains of Nepal in 1859. He provided leadership in the First War of Independence.
Begum Hazrat Mahal
- Begum Hazrat Mahal was one of the most influential women leaders during the First War of Independence, who operated from Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh.
- After the recapture of Lucknow by the British in March 1858, she was compelled to escape towards Nepal along with other leaders of the revolutionary movement.
- Begum Hazrat Mahal was at the frontline of the War of Independence from the beginning and assumed leadership of the Uprising in Awadh on behalf of her minor son Birjis Qadr.
- She demonstrated exemplary bravery throughout the struggle. British records show she was on the battlefield on her elephant during the crucial clashes between the revolutionaries and the colonisers.
- Even as the British forces began to seize control of most of Awadh territory in late 1858, she refused to surrender and instead chose to escape towards Nepal with her troops to continue the armed struggle.
Maulvi Liaqat Ali
- Maulvi Liaqat Ali (1817-1892) was born on 05 October 1817 in Tehsil and Pargana Chail of Mahgaon, a few miles away from Allahabad (renamed as Prayagraj) in the house of Syed Mehar Ali and Amina Bibi.
- Maulvi Liaqat Ali was a good orator, a writer, and a person who loved to care for his followers.
- He and his followers successfully launched antiBritish operations at Sandee, Bilgram, and Pali of district Hardoi.
- In 1872, Maulvi was arrested at Bombay Railway Station by a British Police officer, Style, who was preinformed by Maulvi’s two own men.
- The people of Allahabad, including general Muslims, Brahmins, Pandas, and Pathans, supported the revolutionaries under the leadership of Maulvi Liaqat Ali.
- In 1872, Maulvi was arrested at Bombay Railway Station by a British Police officer, Style, who was preinformed by Maulvi’s two own men.
- In the judgment of 24 July 1872, he was sentenced to transportation for life to the penal settlement of Andamans.
Rao Kadam Singh
He was a leader of a minor group of Gurjars who fought against the British East India Company during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. He is popularly known as the raja of Parikshitgarh and Mawana in Meerut district.
- Begum Hazrat Mahal: Begum Hazrat Mahal, the wife of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, played a significant role in the 1857 uprising against the British. She took charge of the Awadh region (present-day Uttar Pradesh) after the British exiled her husband. Begum Hazrat Mahal led the resistance against the British forces and became a symbol of bravery and resilience.
- Jhalkari Bai: She had served in the women’s army of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi and played an important role in the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
- Kamala Nehru: Kamala Nehru, wife of Jawaharlal Nehru, actively participated in the freedom movement. She played a significant role in women’s participation in the non-cooperation and civil disobedience movements. Kamala Nehru also advocated for women’s rights and worked towards improving the status of women in Indian society.
- Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit: Born in Allahabad, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit was a prominent diplomat and politician who actively participated in the freedomstruggle. She was one of the prominent women leaders of the Indian National Congress and played a crucial role in the Quit India Movement. Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit later became the first woman President of the United Nations General Assembly.
- Sucheta Kriplani: Sucheta Kriplani, born in Ambala (now in Haryana) but associated withUttar Pradesh, was a prominent freedom fighter and social reformer. She actively participated in the Quit India Movement and the Salt Satyagraha. Sucheta Kriplani played a crucial role in organizing women’s movements and worked towards uplifting the status of women in society.
- Sarojini Naidu: Born in Hyderabad and raised in Lucknow, Sarojini Naidu, also known as the Nightingale of India, was a prominent poet, orator, and politician. She actively participated in the freedom movement and played a vital role in mobilizing women and inspiring the masses through her powerful speeches. Sarojini Naidu wasthe first Indian woman to become the President of the Indian National Congress and later served as the Governor of Uttar Pradesh.
From 1857 Onwards
Ram Prasad Bismil
- Ram Prasad Bismil was an Indian revolutionary and freedom fighter born on June 11, 1897, in Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh.
- He was one of the leaders of theHindustan Republican Association (HRA) and is known for his involvement in the Kakori Train Robbery in 1925.
- Bismil was deeply influenced by the nationalist movement and was inspired by the works of revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, and Raja Mahendra Pratap. He was also a prolific writer and poet, and his poems and writings reflected his passion for the country’s freedom.
- In August 1925, Bismil and his associates carried out the Kakori Train Robbery, in which they looted a train carrying money belonging to the British government.
- The incident drew the attention of the British authorities, and Bismil was arrested and sentenced to death in 1927.
- Before his execution, Bismil wrote the famous poem “Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna,” which became an anthem for the Indian independence movement.
- He was hanged on December 19, 1927, in Gorakhpur Jail. Bismil’s bravery and sacrifice continue to inspire generations of Indians, and he is remembered as one of the great heroes of the Indian freedom struggle.
Chandra Shekhar Azad
- Chandra Shekhar Azad (born on 23 July 1906) was an Indian revolutionary who played a significant role in the Indian independence movement.
- He was born in Bhavra, Madhya Pradesh, but spent most of his time in Uttar Pradesh.
- He was a member of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association and is known for his bravery and sacrifice in the struggle for Indian independence.
- Azad was a member of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA), a revolutionary organisation formed in 1928 to overthrow British rule in India.
- Azad was known for his courage and his commitment to the cause of Indian Independence. He took part in several acts of sabotage and armed resistance against the British and was involved in the Kakori Train Robbery of 1925, which was a major blow to British colonial rule.
- The British hunted Azad for many years, and he was finally cornered by the police in Alfred Parkin Allahabad on February 27, 1931. Rather than surrendering to the police, Azad fought to the death, choosing to die as a free man rather than be captured and executed by the British.
- Historical Context: Chandrasekhar Azad’s ideology was shaped by the colonial era, characterised by oppressive and exploitative rule. Armed resistance and revolutionary activities were considered necessary to challenge the British Empire. However, the context has changed significantly today. Most nations have achieved independence, and the struggle for freedom has taken different forms, such as democratic governance and human rights advocacy.
- Non-violent Movements: In the post-independence era, non-violent movements, inspired by leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., have gained prominence worldwide. Nonviolence has proven to be effective for social and political change in various contexts. Peaceful protests, civil disobedience, and advocacy drive social transformation.
- Democratic Processes: In many countries, including India, democratic processes have been established, providing avenues for expressing grievances, participating in governance, and effecting change. While democratic systems have challenges, they offer peaceful mechanisms for addressing issues and creating a more inclusive society.
- Legality and Rule of Law: Chandrasekhar Azad operated outside the legal framework due to the oppressive nature of colonial rule. However, in modern times, the rule of law and adherence to legal frameworks are essential for maintaining order and justice in society. Resorting to armed resistance or violent methods is considered illegal and can undermine the credibility and legitimacy of any movement.
- Global Perspectives: In the current global context, the international community views armed resistance movements cautiously. Nonviolent and diplomatic approaches tend to garner more support and legitimacy. Advocacy for human rights, social justice, and democratic principles resonates better internationally, leading to increased solidarity and cooperation.
- Ashfaqullah Khan was an Indian revolutionary who was essential to the Indian independence movement.
- He was born on October 22, 1900, in Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh.
- The ideas of socialism and nationalism profoundly influenced Khan, who became involved in revolutionary politics early.
- He joined the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA), a revolutionary organisation founded by Ram Prasad Bismil.
- Khan was a key member of the HRA and was involved in several acts of sabotage and armed resistance against the British colonial government.
- He was a part of the Kakori Conspiracy, a train robbery by the HRA in 1925.
- Following the Kakori Conspiracy, Khan and several other members of the HRA were arrested and put on trial.
- Khan was hanged on December 19, 1927, in Faizabad Jail. Indian nationalists and revolutionaries widely condemned his execution, and he is remembered as a martyr of the Indian Independence movement.
Acharya Narendra Dev
- Acharya Narendra Dev (1889–1956) was a prominent socialist leader and educationist. He was born on 30th October 1889 in Sitapur, in present-day Uttar Pradesh.
- After pursuing a Masters in 1913 and completing law in 1915, he started his career as a successful lawyer. However, he quit law and started teaching at the Kashi Vidyapith, where he got the title “Acharya.”
- The revolutionary ideas of Congress leaders such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Sri Aurobindo deeply influenced Acharya Narendra Dev.
- He was associated with the Home Rule League and became a member of the provincial Congress.
- He actively participated in the demonstrations against the Simon Commission and the Civil Disobedience Movement.
- Acharya Narendra Dev was instrumental in the establishment of the Congress Socialist Party in 1934 as a radical faction working within the Indian National Congress.
- The Congress Socialist Party, under the leadership of Jayaprakash Narayan and Acharya Narendra Dev played a major role in the Quit India Movement (1942), for which he was imprisoned.
- Acharyaji’s contributions as a distinguished leader, freedom fighter and educationist to both pre-and post-independent India have been immense.
- Born in Rattuchak, a village in the Ballia District of Uttar Pradesh, Chittu Pandey was popularly called the Sher-e-Ballia (Lion of Ballia).
- A distinguished independence activist, he led the Quit India Movement in Ballia; described as the “Tiger of Ballia” by Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose, he headed the National Government declared and established on 19 August 1942 for a few days before it was s pressed by the British.
- The parallel government succeeded in getting the Collector to hand over power and release all the arrested Congress leaders. But within a week, soldiers marched in, and the leaders had to flee.
- This government did not last long. During the intervening night of 22–23 August, British military forces entered Ballia and overthrew the popular government.
Govind Ballabh Pant
- Govind Ballabh Pant was born on 10 September 1887, in Khoont village near Almora, in a Karhade Brahmin family.
- Pant studied at Allahabad University and subsequently worked as a lawyer in Kashipur.
- In 1921, he entered politics and was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh.
- Known as a competent lawyer, Pant was appointed by the Congress party to initially represent Ramprasad Bismill, Ashfaqulla Khan and other revolutionaries involved in the Kakori case in the mid-1920s.
- In 1940, Pant was arrested and imprisoned for helping organise the Satyagraha movement. In 1942, he was arrested again for signing the Quit India resolution.
- His judicious reforms and stable governance in Uttar Pradesh stabilised the economic condition of India’s most populous State. Among his achievements in that position was the abolition of the Zamindari system.
- Also, he passed the Hindu Code Bill, made monogamy compulsory for Hindu men, and gave Hindu women the rights of divorce and inheritance to ancestral property.
- He served as Union Home Minister from 1955 to 1961.
- As Home Minister, his chief achievement was re-organising States along linguistic lines.
- He was also responsible for establishing Hindi as an official language of the central government and a few states. Pant was awarded the Bharat Ratna on 26 January 1957 during this time.
- In 1960, he suffered a heart attack. His health started deteriorating, and he died on 7 March 1961, at 74 year, from a cerebral stroke. At that time, he was still in office as the Home Minister of India.
Maulana Hasrat Mohani
- Maulana Hasrat Mohani was born on 1 January 1875 in Qasba Mohan of Unnao district in Uttar Pradesh.
- After completing his initial studies, he was admitted to the Aligarh Muslim University. During college, he jumped into the revolutionary movements
- He was one of the active members of Congress. He remained associated with Congress till the year 1907.
- Maulana left the Congress soon after Bal Gangadhar Tilak left the party. He was one of Tilak’s close associates.
- Maulana Hasrat Mohani showed courage in th, made monogamy co, made monogamy compulsory for Hindu men and was also a co-founding member of the Communist Party. During that time he was once again put behind bars in 1925.
- According to a few historians, Maulana Hasrat Mohani wrote the slogan ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ in 1921.
- Maulana Hasrat Mohani sacrificed his life for the country till his last breath. On 13 May 1951 in Lucknow, Hasrat Mohani breathed his last.
Ram Manohar Lohia
- Ram Manohar Lohia was born on 23 March 1910 in Akbarpur, currently part of Uttar Pradesh, India.
- In 1918, he accompanied his father to Bombay, where he completed his high school education.
- He later joined the Vidyasagar College, under the University of Calcutta and, in 1929, earned his B.A. degree. Lohia decided to attend Frederick William University.
- Returning to India in 1932, when he was still in office at that time, the freedom movement in response to Gandhiji’s call for Satyagraha or Civil Disobedience.
- Imprisoned for his participation, Lohia met likeminded nationalists who felt that things were more or less status quo and no real change was happening.
- Imprisoned in the Nashik Road Jail, these young men and women wanted to take the movement to the masses, in this case, the poor, the peasants, and the working classes.
- And within Congress, they formed a youth wing called the Congress Socialist Party.
Swami Sahajanand Saraswati
- Swami Sahajanand Saraswati (1889-1950) was a sanyasi and a revolutionary who dedicated his life to the cause of political and economic independence of the Indian people.
- Born in Ghazipur of Uttar Pradesh, he was brilliant as a young student. Renouncing his home and family and adopting the way of asceticism, he moved to Varanasi, where he devoted nine years to studying Sanskrit and Hindu philosophy.
- He went on to play a prominent role in organising the non-cooperation movement in the Shahabad district of Bihar and the adjoining district of Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh.
- While advocating the abolition of the zamindari system and the creation of peasant proprietorship as the central slogans of agrarian reforms, he took up the burning issues of feudal oppression, such as forced labour, illegal exactions, evictions, etc., for organising Kisan resistance and struggle.
- He was also a forceful writer and ran the Hindi weekly Hunkar from Patna.
- Born in Allahabad on 14 November 1889, in North Western Provinces in British India, into a Kashmiri Pandit family, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was the first prime minister of independent India.
- He was one of the forerunners in the Indian independence movement. As a prime minister, he served for 17 years until he died in 1964.
- While in office, he emphasised promoting science and technology, parliamentary democracy and secularism – things that truly shaped India of today.
- His birthday on 14th November is celebrated as Children’s Day yearly. He received the Bharat Ratna in 1955.
Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri
- Lal Bahadur Shastri was the second Prime Minister of India, serving from 1964 to 1966. He was born on October 2, 1904, in Mughalsarai, Uttar Pradesh.
- Shastri actively participated in the Indian independence movement, joining the Indian National Congress in the 1920s. He was imprisoned several times by the British colonial authorities for his activism.
- Shastri played a key role in the Indian independence movement and was a trusted aide of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. He served as the Minister of Railways and Transport in Nehru’s government.
- Shastri became Prime Minister in 1964 after Nehru’s death. During his tenure, he focused on strengthening India’s economy and agriculture and worked to promote the Green Revolution in India.
- Shastri is best known for his slogan “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan” (Hail the Soldier, Hail the Farmer), which he coined to inspire and motivate the Indian people during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 and to emphasise the importance of self-sufficiency in agriculture.
- Shastri was key in promoting peace and resolving conflicts between India and Pakistan. He signed the Tashkent Declaration in 1966, which marked the end of the 1965 war between India and Pakistan.
- Shastri died on January 11, 1966, in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, shortly after signing the Tashkent Declaration.
- His death was attributed to a heart attack, although there have been speculations of foul play. Shastri is remembered as a statesman and a hero of the Indian independence movement, and his birthday, October 2, is celebrated as Lal Bahadur Shastri Jayanti in India.
Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi
- He was from Kanpur and well-known face of Noncooperation Movement. He was a journalist by profession and the founder-editor of the Hindi language newspaper, Pratap.
He was a Urdu poet and prominent Indian freedom fighter. The famous slogan Inquilab Zindabad (that translates to “Long live the revolution!”) in 1921 was given by him. He was the first man who demanded complete independence for India in 1921 at the Ahmedabad Session of the Indian National Congress. He was from Unnao district of United Provinces in British India.
Maulana Shaukat Ali
He was an Indian Muslim leader of the Khilafat Movement that erupted in response to the fall of the Ottoman Empire.He served as member of the ‘Central Assembly’ in British India from 1934 to 1938.
Raja Mahendra Pratap
He was a journalist, writer, and Marxist revolutionary social reformer of India and President of the first Provisional Government of India. He was born to the princely jat family of state of Mursan in the Hathras District of Uttar Pradesh.
Role of freedom fighters in India’s freedom movement
- Freedom fighters played a crucial role in India’s freedom movement, which spanned several decades and ultimately led to India gaining independence from British colonial rule on August 15, 1947.
- These courageous individuals fought valiantly and made immense sacrifices to liberate their country. Here are some critical roles played by freedom fighters in India’s struggle for freedom:
- Inspiring Leadership: Freedom fighters provided strong and inspiring leadership to mobilise and unite the masses against British rule. Leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, and many others emerged as prominent figures and guided the movement with their vision, ideologies, and determination.
- Mass Movements: Freedom fighters organised and led mass movements to protest against British policies and demand independence. Movements like the Non-Cooperation Movement, Civil Disobedience Movement, Quit India Movement, and Salt Satyagraha mobilised millions of Indians and showcased their unity and resolve.
- Civil Disobedience: Freedom fighters actively practised civil disobedience by defying unjust laws and British authorities. They boycotted foreign goods, staged protests, participated in nonviolent resistance, and refused to cooperate with the British administration, exerting significant pressure on the colonial government.
- Armed Resistance: Some freedom fighters believed in armed struggle and took up arms against the British. Leaders like Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, and Subhash Chandra Bose led revolutionary movements and fought fiercely to overthrow colonial rule.
- Sacrifices and Martyrdom: Many freedom fighters sacrificed their lives for the cause of independence. They faced brutal repression, imprisonment, and even death. Their unwavering dedication and willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice inspired countless others to join the struggle and strengthened the nation’s resolve.
- Propagation of Ideas: Freedom fighters propagated the ideas of nationalism, unity, and social reform. They used various mediums like newspapers, pamphlets, speeches, and public gatherings to spread awareness, educate the masses, and build a collective consciousness of Indian identity.
- International Support: Freedom fighters actively sought international support and highlighted the cause of India’s freedom on the global stage. They formed alliances, established contacts with international leaders and organisations, and sought assistance in their struggle against colonial rule.