Chandrashekhar AzadAzad, who lived and died ‘free’, will always be remembered in history for his crucial role in the freedom struggle. He was among the first to raise an armed rebellion against the British and was wanted dead or alive. It was on February 27, 1931 when he had fixed a meeting with his friends at Alfred Park, Allahabad that the police surrounded the elusive Azad and asked him to surrender. Not one to give up, he fought back and killed three policemen. Left with little choice of an escape, he shot himself in the head with the last bullet that he had in his possession. The British could never get him alive.
Subhash Chandra Bose
Cambridge educated and a civil servant, Netaji, as he was fondly known, decided to give up his career to resurrect the country. He joined the Indian National Congress and went on to serve as its national president in 1938 and 1939. Differences between him and the leadership led to a fallout and Netaji escaped from India after he was put under house arrest by the British. In Germany, he formed the first Indian National Army with the prisoners of war, who were the Indian soldiers fighting for the British Crown. It is believed that Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose died in a plane crash but his body was never recovered.
Shaheed Bhagat Singh
Arguably India’s youngest freedom fighter, Bhagat Singh was hanged on March 23, 1931 when he was just 23 years old. His death inspired millions to take up the cause of the freedom movement. He along with Sukhdev planned to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai and plotted to kill the Superintendent of Police James Scott in Lahore. However in a case of mistaken identity, John Saunders, the Assistant Superintendent of Police was shot. A year later, he and Batukeshwar Dutt threw bombs in the Central Assembly Hall in Delhi, and shouted “Inquilab Zindabad!” He didn’t evade arrest and used his trial to propagate the idea of Independent India.
Rani Lakshmi Bai
The epitome of women empowerment, Rani Lakshmi Bai was among the key rebels of the Great Revolt of 1857. After the death of her husband and king of Jhansi Gangadhar Rao, the British did not allow the claim of their adopted son applying the doctrine of lapse and also annexed the state to its territories. Rani Lakshmi Bai later took over the administration of Jhansi provisionally, but let go of her peaceful mien when the British began to clean up rebel encampments following the Mutiny of 1857. She secured 14,000 volunteers from a population of 220,000, as well as 15,000 Indian soldiers who had been serving under the British (sepoys) and led the troops into battle when the British arrived. Rani Lakshmi Bai upset the British on many occasions but died after a valiant fight in Gwalior in 1858. Hugh Rose, who led the fight against her, referred to her as the Indian Joan of Arc and the most dangerous of all rebel leaders.
History will remember Mangal Pandey as the man behind the Sepoy Mutiny that eventually led to the Indian rebellion of 1857. He was a sepoy in the Bengal Native Infantry, a regiment of the East India Company and dealt the first blow that shattered the British rule in India. Tin February 1857, the 19th Bengal Native Infantry (BNI) regiment realized that the cartridges which were being issued to them were wrapped in paper greased with cow and pig fat, which had to be opened by mouth thus affecting their religious sensibilities. Pandey led a group of Indian soldiers who refused the use of the cartridge. Angered by the recent actions of the East India Company, on March 29, 1857, Mangal Pandey declared that he would rebel against his commanders, at Calcutta's Barrackpore parade ground. He started the revolt by attacking his British sergeant, Lieutenant Baugh. After attacking him, Pandey even tried to shoot himself. His execution was scheduled for April 18 but was carried out ten days before on April 8.