Remembering 4 Muslim women who fought for Indian independence

Hyderabad: On the occasion of 74th Independence Day, let us remember these Muslim women who proved their strength, enthusiasm and determinism in the fight for freedom. These women broke the stereotype of Muslim women in the society, who are merely perceived to be clad in Burqha and were never let out of the house. They participated in the India’s struggle for independence and emerged victorious.

Begum Hazrat Mahal (1830–1879)

Begum Hazrat Mahal, a prominent woman of 1857 rebellion, was born in 1830 Faizabad of Uttar Pradesh. Her actual name was Muhammadi Khanum. Her father is Gulam Hussain of Faizabad. At her tender age itself, she showed good talent in literature.

She was married to Wajid Ali Shah, the Nawab of Awadh. They were blessed with a son Mirza Birjis Khadir Bahadur. On 13 February, 1856, the British troops imprisoned Wajid Ali Shah. They sent him to Calcutta on 13 March and occupied Awadh illegitimately. This irked the people and native rulers.

They revolted against the British under the leadership of Begum Hazrat Mahal. The native rulers and people met at Chavani area of Lucknow, the capital of Awadh on 31May, 1857 and declared independence. They taught a lesson to the British troops and wiped out their power in Lucknow. Later, Begum Hazrat Mahal declared her son Birjis Khadir as the Nawab of Awadh on 7 July, 1857.

As the King’s mother, she gathered 1,80,000 troops and renovated the Lucknow fort spending huge amount of money. She established a high level committee for the good governance of the state. Hazarat Mahal ruled the state on behalf of her son for about ten months and challenged the British force by inspiring patriotism among the people and the fellow native rulers. She issued a historic statement on 31 December, 1858 challenging the proclamation issued by the Queen Victoria on November 1, 1858.

But, when Delhi, the prime center for the First War of Independence was captured, the British troops surrounded and attacked Lucknow in March 1859. There was a fierce battle between the Company troops and the Begum troops. When defeat became inevitable, Begum Hazrat Mahal retreated to the Nepal forests along with the co-revolutionary leaders like Nana Sahib Peshwa and others.

The British rulers offered her huge amount of money and luxurious facilities in order to bring her back to Lucknow. But, the Begum denied them and made it clear that nothing else was acceptable to her except Independent Awadh state. Begum Hazarath Mahal was struggling for the independence of her state till her last breath. She passed away at Khathmound of Nepal on 7 April, 1879. In 1984 Government of India released a postal stamp in her honour.

Abadi Bano Begum (1852-1924)

Abadi Bano Begum, who tookactive part at par with men in the IndianNational Movement, was born in 1852in Amroha village, Moradabad districtof Uttar Pradesh. She was married to Abdul Ali Khan ofthe Princely State Rampur.

Though she lost her husband at a young age, she did not remarry. She had two sons Moulana Mohammed Ali, Moulan Showkath Ali, who were famous as ‘Ali Brothers’. She nurtured her children, into becoming memorable leaders of the Indian Independence Movement. Her involvement in the freedom movement began with the Home Rule Movement, to which she rendered moral and most importantly, financial support.

When the British government detained the Ali Brothers in Chindanwad village, under the Indian Defence Regulations, she went along with them. When a police official proposed for the surrender of her sons, she bluntly refused saying, ‘If my sons agree to the proposal of the government, I will kill them by strangulation. I hope God will bestow enough energy into this old woman’s hands’. Abadi Bano met Mahatma Gandhi in 1917 for the first time.

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There after Mahatma Gandhi always addressed her ‘Ammijan’, and all other freedom fighters followed Gandhi’s address. She helped Mahatma Gandhi and other Khilafath leaders financially for undertaking all India tours.

 She attended the Indian National Congress and the All India Muslim League sessions in 1917, held at Calcutta. She spoke in those meetings emphasising that complete freedom could be achieved through unity between Hindus and Muslims.

She also played a constructive role in the Khilafat and Non[1]Cooperation Movement in 1919. She declared in several meetings that ‘it was her ambition that even the dogs and cats of her country should not be under the slavery of the British’.

The fact that the British government official records treated her as a ‘dangerous person’, which established the kind of challenge she hurled at the colonial rule.

 Apart from participating in politics she also guided several women’s organisations all over India. So intensely patriotic and nationalist that Abadi Bano Begum who played an active role in national movement without caring old age, ill health and cruel atrocities of police, breathed her last on 13 November, 1924.‹

BIBI AMATUS SALAM (1907-1985)

Bibi Amatus Salam, who strongly believed that freedom from the slavery of British could be achieved, through the Gandhian methods only, was born in 1907 in Patiala of Punjab in Rajputhana family.

Her father was Colonel Abdul Hamid and her mother Amatur Rehaman. Amatus Salam was the younger sister of six elder brothers. Her health was very delicate since her childhood. She was inspired by her eldest brother, freedom fighter Mohammad Abdur Rashid Khan. Following the footsteps of her brother, she decided to serve the people of the country.

Amatus Salam participated in the Khadi Movement and attended the meetings of the Indian National Movement along with her brother. She was attracted towards the Non[1]Violence theory of Mahathma Gandhi and Sevagram Ashram.

She decided to join Sevagram Ashram, and went there in 1931. She joined Ashram and followed the strict principles of the Ashram. With her selfless service she became very close to Gandhi couple.

They considered Amatus Salam as their beloved daughter. During the Indian National Movement, she went to jail along with other women in 1932 despite her illness with the permission of Gandhi.

After being released from Jail, she reached Sevagram and took over the respon-sibilities as Personal Assistant of Gandhi. She said that besides achieving independence, harmony between the Hindus and Muslims, Welfare of the Harijans and Women were her life ambitions. When communal riots erupted, she toured North-West Frontier, Sindh and Noukhali areas as an ambassador of Gandhi.

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She held Satyagraha for 20 days to normalize the situation in those areas. After Independence, she rededicated herself to the Public Service. She published an Urdu Magazine called ‘Hindustan’ to promote national integration and communal harmony. When Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan toured in India in 1961, she travelled with him as his personal assistant. When India was at war with

China in 1962 and with Pakistan in 1965, she took all the pains in reaching the mountains or war area along with her adopted son Sunil Kumar to encourage our soldiers and to serve them. Bibi Amatus Salam, who spent all her life following the Gandhian ideology, breathed her last on 29 October, 1985.‹

HAJARA BEGUM (1910-2003)

Hajara Begum, who fought against the British to liberate the Nation and worked for the welfare of the toiling masses of the country, was born on 22 December, 1910 at Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh. She came to know about the sacrifices of the freedom fighters who were fighting against the British from her father, who was a police officer.

After the failure of her marriage, she went to London to pursue her higher education, where she got acquainted with the anti-British forces. This led her to decide to fight against the British Imperialist forces to liberate the nation. She had to face the anger of the British Government as she was criticizing their acts in several International fora.

She returned to India and joined as a lecturer in the Karamat Hussain women’s College at Lucknow in 1935. She also worked along with famous poet Sajjad Zahir in the formation of All India Progressive Writers’ Association. She got married to a nationalist leader Dr. Zainul Abedeen Ahmed in 1935 and in the same year both of them took membership in the Indian National Congress. Since the police were after them for their anti-British activities, they resigned their jobs and dedicated themselves totally to the Indian National Movement.

While participating in the activities of the Indian National Congress, Hajara Begum also campaigned for the Communist Party without the knowledge of the Police. She actively took part in the election campaign in those days, and as a result of this a number of Congress leaders could get elected. She attended a secret political workshop at Kotthapatnam in Andhra Pradesh in 1937.

 She spoke on different subjects in the workshop as a lecturer. Hajara Begum was against the gender bias since her younger age. She fought against all types of inequalities successfully. She left the Indian National Congress in 1940 along with her husband. Since then, she played a vital role in organizing the unorganized labour sector.

She became very popular as ‘Hajara Aapa’ in the circles of toiling people and women. The Soviet Union honoured her with ‘Supreme Soviet Jubilee Award’ in 1960 in recognition of her work for the downtrodden people on the eve of the birth centenary of Lenin. Hajara Begum, who spent her entire life in the service of the country, breathed her last on 20 January, 2003.


Syed Naseer Ahamed can be contacted at Phone: +91 94402 41727

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