One after another, three gunshots were fired at 73-year-old Mantangini Hazra and with each gunshot, her voice chanting ‘Vande Matram’ got louder and the flag that she held in her hand went higher. Such was the courage and determination of the indomitable freedom fighter, Mantangini Hazra.
Whenever I read about such extraordinary people and their stories of valour, my heart swells with pride and gratitude. It was due to their persistent and valorous efforts that our country got freedom from the unjust British rule.
On the eve of legendary freedom fighter Matangini Hazra’s birth anniversary (19th October), let us honour her memory by recalling her heroic efforts during India’s freedom struggle.
Born into a poor peasant family in a small village, Tamluk in West Bengal’s Midnapore district, Matangini’s life saw many ups and downs. She could not get any formal education, was forced into child marriage at an early age and became a widow when she was just 18 years old. After her husband’s demise, she moved back to her native village and started helping people in distress.
Those days the winds of freedom began to sweep across the nation. Matangini was drawn towards the freedom struggle and actively participated in different protests in her area. Greatly inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, she started spinning yarn despite her weak eyesight and wore khadi clothes, apart from religiously following his teachings. People fondly started calling her Gandhi Buri (Old Lady Gandhi) for her dedication towards Gandhian principles.
Matangini used to lead huge processions and actively participated in the Quit India and Non-cooperation movements.
During the Salt Satyagrah, she stealthily got into the premises of Tamluk Court without arousing suspicion of the police guarding the building and hoisted the national flag. She was eventually caught and arrested by the police. Her active participation in different protests led to her arrest on many occasions, but the police used to eventually release her, keeping her old age in mind.
However, repeated arrests did not deter, but only strengthened her resolve to fight for the freedom of the motherland. Soon after her release, she used to participate in a fresh protest. At times, she was also injured during those protests. Nothing affected her determination and each time she came back stronger than ever.
Mantangini Hazra showed bravery till her last breath. On September 29, 1942, she led a procession of around 6000 supporters towards Tamluk police station. As she surged forward, the police shot at her. But the gunshot did not stop her from moving ahead. She was again shot at, but she didn’t stop and raised her voice saying ‘Vande Matram’. She held the flag aloft as she was shot at for the third time. She finally succumbed to her injuries and died with the flag in her hand.
She was truly a woman of great courage, unmatchable valour and grit. She had inspired many others to follow in her footsteps in the fight against British rule in India. Matangini Hazra like many other freedom fighters sacrificed her life for the nation.
The stories of great men and women, who sacrificed everything and took active part in the freedom struggle should be included in our history textbooks so that the people, particularly the younger generation know about these legendary people.