Govt plans to honour ‘unsung’ freedom fighters on 75th Independence Day

The government has drawn up a list of 146 names and planned 75 regional, six national and two international seminars under the banner of “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav”, the campaign to mark 75 years of Independence.
Birsa Munda (ANI)
Birsa Munda (ANI)
Updated on Aug 14, 2021 07:16 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The Union government is planning to showcase unsung heros and little-known groups and events of the freedom struggle during the yearlong celebrations to mark 75 years of India’s independence, officials said on Friday, adding that several events and lectures will be organised to underline their contribution.

The government has drawn up a list of 146 names and planned 75 regional, six national and two international seminars under the banner of “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav”, the campaign to mark 75 years of Independence.

The names have been compiled separatelyby government departments and the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), an autonomous body under the Union education ministry.

But some historians have criticised the presence of well-known figures such as Subhas Chandra Bose, Birsa Munda and Tantiya Tope, and called for a revamp. Also included are Jana Sangh ideologue Nanaji Deshmukh and the Hindu Mahasabha in the list compiled by government departments.

“When Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March flagged of the 75-week long programme Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav to commemorate 75 years of India’s independence, he referred to a shlok (verse) of Yajurveda. Through that he (PM) conveyed that in the last seven decades we have missed some opportunities to celebrate those who did not get any acknowledgment yet for their role in India’s freedom struggle. So, ICHR has planned a three-tier programme to celebrate the lives of our unsung heroes,” said ICHR director (research and administration) Om Jee Upadhayay.

The 146 names have been classified by state of origin, and also include figures from smaller tribes and castes. In the list are Gandhians such as Ghelubhai Naik, agricultural economist Mohanlal Lallubhai Dantwala, former Jana Sangh idelogue Nanaji Deshmukh, and communist leader Ravi Narayan Reddy.

The list of also includes several tribal leaders, including Laxman Nayak from Odisha, Telanga Kharia from Jharkhand and Komaram Bheem from Telangana.

The list of little-known groups includes Hindu Mahasabha, Andhra Pradesh Library Association, Karnataka Sahitya Parishad, and Bengal’s Anusheelan Samiti, among others.

The government also drew up lists of lesser-known events and literature.

The first list included the Surat salt agitation (1840s), war against the company raj, also known as the sepoy mutiny, (1857-58), Bundelkhand resistance (1808), and Rangpur peasant uprising (1783), among others.

The second list includes Ekshlok Geeta (Marathi book, 1910), Hindu Dharm Ka Jhanda (Hindi pamphlet 1927), Gadar di Gunj (Gurumukhi, 1910), Chauri Chaura judgment (English, 1923), and Inquilab (Urdu, 1927), among others.

Some experts criticised the inclusions.

“We cannot call Subhas Chandra Bose, Chandrashekhar Azad and Birsa Munda as ‘unsung heroes’. They have included Tantiya Tope, Nanaji Deshmukh, and Ravi Narayan Reddy also in the list. In fact, the list included some names in the list of people who were born in the 1930s and called freedom fighters. It’s a very uneven list,” said historian Mridula Mukherjee. “There is no consistency in the selection of names, it is a haphazard list.’’ she added.

Bharatiya Janata Party MP and head of the standing committee of education, Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, disagreed.

“If you have not done justice to them, then there has to be a time to do justice. Whether it is Subhas Chandra Bose or any of the others, they haven’t received the credit they deserve,’’ said the MP.

Sucheta Mahajan, historian and professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), said the names from some states were indeed of people who were “lesser known” but added that some other names -- such as Bose -- were of popular figures

“We should make a distinction on when we use the term freedom struggle. We should pick up people from the late 19th century when the national consciousness came. So, in my opinion people from 1857 cannot be known as freedom fighters. The list definitely needs a revamp,” she said.

When asked about criteria of identifying these names, Upadhayay said, “There was no set criterion. We tried to cover all those who contributed or sacrificed their lives for the country but still they are not a part of our mainstream history. We have to update the list almost every day as we get a new name from states or other stakeholders.”

He said the seminars will be conducted by ICHR, adding that it will be done in the next 4-5 months.

“In academia, everyone may have his or her own arguments. But we are very clear regarding this, that unsung means those who couldn’t find appropriate place in mainstream history, besides their significant contributions in the freedom struggle,” said Upadhayay.

Officials pointed out that the list contained personalities like Andhra poet Garimella Satyanarayana, lawyer Bhulabhai Desai from Gujarat, freedom fighter Senapati Bapat from Maharashtra, Captain Mohammad Akram from Punjab, Rao Tula Ram from Haryana, and Mirza Mughal from Delhi, among others.

From the North-East states, Rani Gaidinliu from Manipur, Tirrot Singh from Meghalaya, Batan Kachari from Assam, Shanti Bhushan from Tripura and Trilochan Pokhrel from Sikkim were part of the list.

“The irony is those who had nothing to do with the freedom movement and consistently attacked Mahatma Gandhi and his lieutenants are now basking in the glory of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav,” tweeted Congress leader Jairam Ramesh.


    Fareeha Iftikhar is a principal correspondent with the national political bureau of the Hindustan Times. She tracks the education ministry, and covers the beat at the national level for the newspaper. She also writes on issues related to gender, human rights and different policy matters.

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