Shivdevi Tomar: The 16-year-old girl of Baraut who avenged the brutality of British troops
In 2022, the country will be celebrating 75 years of its freedom. As we approach the momentous occasion, let us revisit our freedom struggle and look into the role of lesser-known actors, the unsung heroes and their indomitable courage to fight the colonial rule.
In my Facebook series today I will be paying my humble homage to a 16-year-old #veerangana, Shivdevi Tomar and her younger sister Jaidevi Tomer of Baraut in western Utter Pradesh, who sacrificed their lives to avenge the brutality of the British troops.
On the 10th May 1857, the Indian sepoys at Meerut cantonment rebelled against Britishers. The rebellion soon spread to the adjoining towns and villages. Shahmal Singh Tomar of Baraut laid siege to the region and declared independence.
It is said that on 18th July 1857, the British forces reached Baraut and launched a vicious attack. In the fight that ensued, Shahmal Singh Tomar was martyred. More than 30 freedom fighters were believed to have been captured by the Britishers and hanged by the tree. The village was looted and plundered. It is said that the Britishers cut off the supply of food and water to the villages. Their foodgrains, property and livestock were confiscated.
Sixteen-year-old Shivdevi was witness to these gruesome atrocities on her kinsmen. She and her friend Kishan Devi gathered a few youths of the village and decided to take revenge. They launched a swift attack on the British soldiers posted at Baraut. The soldiers were caught unawares.
According to varying accounts, Shivdevi Tomar herself led the attack and was instrumental in killing several British soldiers. Although the British troops had an edge in terms of superior weapons and guns, they were outsmarted. The ferocity of the attack forced them to flee Baraut. However, Shivdevi Tomar was said to have been grievously wounded during the attack.
As the villagers began to attend on her and treat her wounds, the British forces returned and pumped bullets into her. Young Shivdevi Tomar attained martyrdom while fighting for the freedom of the motherland.
Her sacrifice, however, did not go in vain. It is said that her 14-year-old younger sister, Jaidevi Tomar, took a vow to avenge her sister’s killing. She is believed to have mobilized youth from adjoining villages and began tailing the British troops, who were on their way to Lucknow.
En route, the youth motivated and inspired the people of Meerut, Bulandshahar, Aligarh, Mainpuri and Etawah to rise against Britishers. At Lucknow, they lost track of the British contingent and had to spend days together searching for them without enough food or support in an unknown place. Eventually, they located the British troops. It is said that Jaidevi Tomar killed the English officer, while others launched a ferocious attack on the British soldiers. The bungalow of the Britishers was reportedly set on fire. In the process, Jaidevi Tomar was also killed.
Later, the locals paid homage to her and conducted the last rites in Lucknow.
Devoid of references to such courageous episodes of lesser-known veers and veeranganas of remote villages and their ultimate sacrifices, our history will be incomplete.
The 75th anniversary of our freedom will be an occasion for all of us to remember and pay homage to these great freedom fighters. After all, every generation of free India, owes its freedom to their struggles and sacrifices. We must make every generation aware of the great role played by them, including several unsung heroes, in freeing India from the colonial rule. We must acknowledge their sacrifices with gratitude in our history books.