Kanaklata Barua: Freedom Fighter Martyred at 17 for Holding High the National Flag
“You can kill our human bodies but not our souls made of iron. O Britishers! Whatever measures you adopt to stop us will fail. We shall continue to proceed. None can stop us from hoisting our national flag at the police post.”
Her high pitched voice echoed all around with these words. It boosted the morale of her fellow freedom fighters in procession – all members of the ‘Mrityu Bahini’ group or as the name suggests ‘Death Squad’. ‘Do or die’ was their slogan firm. She was Kanaklata Barua, a 17 year-old teenager, who nurtured dreams of freeing Mother India from the clutches of the British. The British officers pointed their guns at Kanaklata Barua who held high the national flag.
The aura of the Tricolor filled the milieu all around. No fear of death! And they marched forward with the Tricolor fluttering in the Gohpur sky. They reached the police station. She was about to hoist the flag when the British shot her. She died on the spot. The brave freedom fighters in the group did not let the national flag fall. Mukunda Kakoti held the flag, but he was shot dead too. One after another more valorous sons of the soil joined. Gunshots injured them. Yet the fear of death or injury did not stop them. They proceeded. Ultimately Rampati Rajkhowa succeeded in hoisting the tricolor at the Gohpur police post! It was 20 September 1942.
This is only one example of a small incident in the Gohpur police station area of Darrang in Assam. Likewise, many such valorous stories of the sons and daughters of Bharat Mata from across her length and breadth are unheard of, and unsung in History books. It is their collective efforts, their sacrifice, their martyrdom year after year, which ultimately led the British to leave India. How do we know about the sacrifices of our brothers and sisters by our soil? How do we draw inspiration from their brave, valorous, and patriotic endeavors? Here is a saga of the brave Kanaklata Barua, one of the youngest freedom fighters, who opposed British rule. She attained martyrdom at age 17!
She was born on 22 December 1924 to Krishna Kanta and Karneshwari Barua at Borangabari, Gohpur, Darrang district (now in Sonitpur District), Assam. She was also called Birbala, Kanka, and Kali (because of her dark complexion). Her ancestors were ministers in the court of the Ahom kings.
Kanaklata Barua lost her mother when she was only five. Her father, a farmer and social worker, remarried but he died when she was thirteen. She studied at the local school till Class III but then dropped out to take care of her younger siblings Rajani Kanta Barua and Dibyalata Barua and to do household chores.
Since her childhood, Kanaklata Barua was different from the other girls of her age. She was more patriotic in approach and nurtured hatred against the British. Freedom movements during her time attracted her attention. Some political events like ‘Chaiduar Ryot Sabha’ under the leadership of Jyoti Prasad Agarwala in 1931 and persecution of eminent leaders like Cheniram Das, Mahim Chandra, Lakhidhar Sarma and Mahadev Sarma further deepened her hatred against the British. She wished to follow their path and take an active role in India’s freedom movement.
Kanaklata Barua lived in a joint family where her grandfather and five paternal uncles with their family also stayed together. Her efforts to take part in secret meetings of freedom fighters were foiled by her grandfather. He did not allow her to attend such meetings. However, she succeeded in convincing her step mother Jonaki Barua, who managed to let her go secretly.
Meanwhile, Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, the Assamese cultural icon, poet, and freedom fighter established a group called the Mrityu Vahini (Death Squad) in Tezpur to give shape to the ‘Quit India’ movement in the region. Kanaklata Barua joined the Mrityu Bahini wing of the Gohpur sub division. On 20 September 1942, the Bahini decided to hoist the national flag at the local police station. A procession of unarmed villagers led by Kanaklata Barua started their march towards the police station. Kanaklata held the flag high, shouting slogans of ‘Do or Die’. The police warned the procession of dire consequences if they proceeded further. Undeterred, the procession continued marching ahead.
It was then that the teenage Kanaklata said aloud these inspiring words, “You can kill our human bodies but not our souls made of iron. O Britishers! Whatever measures you adopt to stop us will fail. We shall continue to proceed. None can stop us from hoisting our national flag at the police post.”
Kanaklata was only 17 years of age at the time of her martyrdom.
India salutes Kanaklata Barua. Jai Hind!
Featured image courtesy: Making India and daily-sun.com
Note: The words uttered by Kanaklata Barua in this post may not be exactly the same but denote the exact meaning.
Ref: Assamese Women in Indian Independence Movement: With a Special Emphasis on … by Guptajit Pathak.