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Spotlight on freedom fighters

With the passing of Capt Lakshmi Sehgal, we spoke to others of her generation who fought for freedom. Here are their stories...

delhi Updated: Aug 05, 2012 02:14 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times
freedom fighters,hindustan times,news

The passing of Capt Lakshmi Sehgal of the INA's Rani of Jhansi unit has once more put the spotlight on a whole generation of Indians who, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's call to 'Do or Die' and Subhash Chandra Bose's radicalism, threw themselves into the freedom struggle.

Here, they talk about those heady days when the most important thing was to unshackle India from the clutches of the British and about the disappointments of life in an India that is fighting the corruption within.

‘I was attracted by Bose’s radicalism’ - KE Mammen, 92
On the midnight of August 14, 1947 when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru gave his tryst with destiny speech, K E Mammen was in a dingy prison cell in Thiruvalla in Kerala. He heard the speech on a single-band radio and cried with joy. Read more

‘I jumped into the struggle at 14’ - Mewa Lal Gupt, 97
I was at home in Kydganj when I heard that Chandra Shekhar Azad had shot himself after being surrounded by policemen in Company Garden,” says Mewa Lal Gupt, the tears flowing at the memory. Read more

Freedom fighter Ammembala Balappa.

‘We carried the post of the fighters’ - Rani Saroj Gaurihar, 83

The city of Agra cherishes this grey-haired veteran who had her first taste of prison as a six-month old when her mother Satyawati Rawat was imprisoned by the British Raj.

Read more

‘We bombed the jail’ - Gouranga Sundar Mitra, 89
For Gouranga Sundar Mitra of Khulna district in present-day Bangladesh, Mahatma Gandhi’s Do or Die call given on August 8, 1942, meant, “Do whatever you can to force the British to quit India and be ready to die at any moment”. Read more

The village voice - Keyur Bhushan, 85
Keyur Bhushan recalls how the freedom movement touched even his primary school years. Inspired, he joined early morning processions (prabhat pheris) where he waved flags and chanted ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’. Read more

‘The Azad Hind Fauj gave us hope’ - Lalti Ram, 89
Lalti Ram was 18 when he was recruited into the British army. His desire to free the country from the British, however, made him join the Indian National Army (INA) in Singapore in February, 1942. Read more

Freedom fighter Krishna Kanta Sarma.

‘We bombed camps, bridges, trains’ - Krishna Kanta Sarma, 90

“If independence means inefficiency and corruption, maybe we shouldn’t have fought the British,” says Sarma, adding, “I can’t help comparing the administrative acumen of the British and their post-1947 successors.”

Read more

The lifelong revolutionary - Ammembala Balappa, 90
Former defence minister George Fernandes’ guru Ammembala Balappa is a well known freedom fighter who later turned socialist. Read more

'Netaji's charisma and patriotism weaved everyone' - Teka Dhankhar, 97
Teka Dhankhar jumps to action the moment one asks him about Netaji. Showing pictures of Bose, Dhankar, from Karontha village in Rohtak district reminisces about his days in the INA, which he joined in 1942. Read more

"Never heard of words like 'bhrastachar' or corruption" - Govind Narayan Sharma (Khadiwale), 94
Govind Narayan Sharma can barely walk, talk or hear properly, but he happily narrates his experience of the freedom struggle. Read more

'90% of people then were honest, today, 80% are corrupt' - Bhanwar Lal Khilonewala, 89

"When Pandit Nehru visited Jaipur, I was asked to be a volunteer. The moment Nehruji arrived, I touched his feet; he slapped me and said, 'stop bowing your head rather learn to sacrifice it'. " Read more

The man on the 'most wanted' list of the British - Captain Pandit RL Awasthi, 93

At 93, Captain RL Awasthi, who lives with his wife Raziya in Dehradun, still gives free tuitions to students in his locality. "My aim is to impart education to as many as students as possible before I die" beams Awasthi. Read more

His will power helped him escape from the British - Prabhu Singh Mann, 99

During the freedom struggle, Mann narrowly escaped death twice. The first time was at Mechili in Libya during his posting in the 4th Indian Division. Read more

First Published: Aug 05, 2012 00:43 IST