Bhubaneswar: On the occasion of 70th Independence Day, Odisha Sun Times salutes the spirit of the five Odia women who plunged into the freedom struggle, led many and played their part to free Odisha and India from British Raj:
- Kuntala Kumari Sabat
A physician by profession and a poet at heart, Kuntala Kumari Sabat’s poetry ignited the fervour of patriotism, encouraging women to join the national movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. Her thought-provoking poetry anthologies titled Ahwan and Gadajata Krishaka inspired many.
2. Rama Devi
Known as the mother of the masses, Rama Devi was the pioneer among the women freedom fighters of Odisha for more than half a century. On March 23, 1921 Rama Devi had the privilege to attend a meeting of forty women which was held inside the Binod Vihari temple at Cuttack. She presented a bundle of handspun threads to Gandhiji pledging her services to the cause of fighting for freedom of the country. Rama Devi accompanied by Malati Devi, Annapurna Devi, Kiran Bala Sen strongly participated in the Satyagraha movement at Inchudi and urged the other women to participate in the camp at Balasore where the salt law was violated. In the first phase of the Civil Disobedience Movement, six ladies including Rama Devi were jailed. During the Quit India Movement 24 ladies including Rama Devi were arrested in Orissa and the ashram was declared illegal by the British Government. She had to undergo nearly two years of imprisonment in Cuttack jail. After her release from the jail in July 1944, she concentrated on the Khadi movement.
3. Sarala Devi
For all the women activists, reformists, feminist Sarala Devi is a role model and leader. She was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and strived hard to reform social evils and to upgrade the status of women. Leadership of Madhusudan Das and Gopabandhu Das greatly inspired Saraladevi. She motivated her husband to quit the legal profession and join Gandhiji’s movement. She was the first Oriya woman to join the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1921. She gave up all her ornaments to Swaraj Movement and promised not to wear any ornament or foreign goods. Rama Devi and Sarala Devi broke the salt law at Ganjam which was first of it’s kind. She was the first woman prisoner of Orissa and was ordered a six months imprisonment at Chatrapur Jail. In a 60-seat Orissa Assembly, she was the first elected woman legislator of Orissa from Cuttack constituency from an INC ticket.
4. Malati Choudhuri
In 1934, Malati Choudhuri joined Mahatma Gandhi in his famous padayatra in Odisha and in 1946, she set up the Bajiraut Chhatravas at Angul and the Utkal Navajeevan Mandal in 1948 at Angul in Orissa. Bajiraut Chhatravas was formed to spread education among the children of the freedom fighters, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward classes and under-privileged sections of society. In 1946 Malati Choudhury was selected as the member of Constituent Assembly of India. She was also elected as the president of the Utkal Pradesh Congress Committee. Apart from her great role in spreading education and rural welfare she established herself as a dedicated freedom fighter. She accompanied Acharya Vinoba Bhave during Bhoodan Movement. Malati Choudhury also joined Gandhiji during his Noakhali visit. Gandhiji affectionately called her “Toofanee”. She was arrested several times (in 1921, 1936, 1942).
5. Annapurna Maharana
Annapurna Maharana popularly known as Chuni Apa is a known name in the Indian independence movement in Odisha. She was a member of Banara Sena, a group of children who dedicated themselves for the success of freedom movement. Annapurna was highly inspired by Pandit Gopabandhu Das to serve people and work towards the upliftment of society. Annapurna for the first time was arrested by the British Government in the year 1930 for her association with the salt movement. Throughout her life, she worked tirelessly to eradicate poverty, superstition and illiteracy from the society and followed the Gandhian principles.