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Issue No.: 559 | January 2014
 

Unsung Heroes of the Indian National Movement

B. N. Mehrish
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In this age globalization the heroes who gave us our freedom are hardly remembered. Of course there are the occasional Indian Film blockbusters like Rang de Basanti and Lage Raho Munnabhai that instils in a sense of pop-patriotism. Gandhi and Nehru continue to be cool, but for the Gen-next, with nano second attention spans, the freedom fighters are mere academic pages. However, each freedom fighter has his and her own story to tell. The following is a very small selection, some of them less eulogized, from the long list. 

1.   Bhikaji Cama (1861 -1936)
In 1907, in the third week of August, when India’s independence was still 40 years away, and the world was not fully aware of the burning patriotism of young Indians, Madame Cama unfurled the first National Flag at the international Socialist Conference in Stuttgart (Germany) in the presence of representative from many countries. An Indian woman in a colourful sari was a rare phenomenon in those days, so her majestic appearance, brave demeanour and clear diction led everybody to believe that she was a Maharani. 

 Born to rich Parsi parents, settled in London /Paris, she fought for freedom in her
 own way, helping innumerable revolutionaries with money and materials across the sea. Cama was one of the members of the group which had planned to help Veer Savarkar escape when he was to swim to the French shores after jumping off the ship in which he was being taken prisoner to India. The plan failed and she was greatly saddened that she could not help Savarkar. But being optimistic she started planning on other efforts she could make to help him. Initially opposed to violent means, she became a revolutionary after observing the torture and suffering of her countrymen. She even parted with her husband who did not approve of her fight for freedom as he was in total awe of Englishmen and had great faith in the British rule. Madame Cama called on the Indians not to take part in the First World War. She was in France at that time. The government of the day imposed restrictions on her activities as they were allies of the British. She had to report to the police once a week during the period of the war.

At the great risk to her life, she worked tirelessly cared for the sick during the great plague of Bombay. She was infected but fortunately recovered after which her friends forced her to go to Europe in 1902. Madame Cama also fought for the cause of women. "Where is the other half of Egypt? I see only men who represent half the country!” she asked at the National Conference at Cairo, Egypt, in 1910.

2.   Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883 – 1966)i
An extraordinary Hindu scholar who evoked controversy was a great orator, prolific writer, historian, poet, philosopher and social worker. He coined several new technical terms of parliamentary usage and for Indian parlance, such as Chhayachitra (photography), Sansad (parliament). Born in a village near Nashk in 1883, he had his early schooling in the village. In school he used the occasions of Ganesh and Shivaji Utsav to put up plays on nationalistic themes. After his marriage in 1901, he joined Fergusson College in Pune. He founded the "Abhinav Bharat Society”. He got involved in the swadeshi movement and later joined Tilak’s Swaraj Party. 
Because of his instigating patriotic speeches, the British Government withdrew his B.A. degree. On 1906 he left for England to qualify as a barrister. In London he founded the Free India Society and inflamed the Indian students there against the British rule. In 1908 he produced authentic research on the 1857 revolt which the British called a mutiny. He called his book "The Indian War of Independence 18
 
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