Sunday, October 24, 2010

Journalist reaches out to Indian martyrs' neglected descendants

Published: Sunday, Sep 19, 2010, 14:10 IST 
Place: New Delhi | Agency: PTI

Proceeds from a new book will help Jeet Singh, the surviving grandson of freedom fighter Udham Singh, who avenged the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre by assassinating General Michael O'Dwyer.
Compiled by journalist Shivnath Jha and his wife Neena, the 444-page pictorial coffee-table book "Indian Martyrs and Their Neglected Descendants:1857-1947" will have information and pictures of freedom fighters killed by Britishers during this period but have been forgotten over time.
Jeet Singh, presently works as a daily-wage labourer in Sangrur in Punjab. His two children also work - Jaspal the elder son works in a cloth shop while his only sibling Bobby assists at a printing shop.
"Former President Giani Zail Singh had assured Jeet Singh of doing something for his family but years later, Jeet Singh continues to live a miserable and unknown life," Jha told PTI.
"The family feels sad due to the fact that despite its ancestors dying for the country the Government even after more than more than 60 years after the independence continues to ignore them," he adds.
According to the book, the adopted son of the legendary Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, Damodar Rao did survive the first war of independence of 1857 in which his mother died.
Today Rao's third generation descendants are living in anonymity in India.
"Damodar Rao lives on as a small footnote in history of India and in popular imagination as a little boy tied to a fearless heroine's back, and the historians also ignored finding out about his next generation.
He lived the rest of his days in penury begging the British government to restore to him some of his rights without avail," says the book.
To be released in November, the book comprises the 35 descendants of martyrs from 1857 to 1947, including Rani
Laxminbai, Tatya Tope, Thakur Durga Singh, Azimullah Khan,
Jaipal Singh (who fought with Babu Kunwar Singh in Bihar),
Mangal Pandey, Jabardast Khan, Surendra Sai, Udham Singh,
Khudiram Bose, Bhagat Singh, Ras Behari Bose, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Ram Prasad Bismal, Madan Lal Dhingra, Rajguru, Surya Sen, Batukeshwar Dutt and Baikunth Shukla.
"We have the example of Chapekar brothers of Pune, where all three brothers were killed by the Britishers. Nobody knows what their families are doing for a survival," says Jha.
The coffee table book is the fourth in the series launched by the "Andolan Ek Pustak Se" movement, which began in the year 2007 under which the husband wife duo aimed to publish one book per year in order to honour and help "those who have brought laurels to the country."
The series began with a "Monograph on Ustad Bismillah Khan," that was aimed at drawing attention to the plight of the ailing shahnai maestro. Other books in the series include one on former Union Railway minister Lalu Prasad, - "Lalu Prasad: ..India..'s Miracle," and "Prime Ministers of India: Bharat Bhagya Vidhata."
It will be the third attempt by the author to rehabilitate descendants of the forgotten freedom fighters from the proceeds of the books.
Earlier, he helped Vinayak Rao Tope, the fourth generation descendant of frontline leader of 1857 mutiny Tatya Tope and Sultana Begum, the great granddaughter-in-law of India's last emperor and commander-in-chief of the 1857 mutiny Bahadur Shah Zafar.
His earlier efforts have helped the families of freedom fighters in a big way.
"We collected Rs2 lakh for the marriage of Sultana Begum's daughter and railway minister Mamta Banerjee has agreed to give her a job in the railways," says Jha.
"Pragati and Tripati, greatgrand daughters of Vinayak Tope got jobs in the Container Corporation of India. Vinayak Tope has received Rs5 lakh and efforts are on to make a railway station in his name in Bithoor," he adds.