There were many women who sacrificed their lives in the freedom struggle. One of them is ‘Matangini Hazra’. She was born on 19th October 1870 in the village of Hogla in Midnapore district of East Bengal to a peasant family. Due to extreme poverty at home, she married Trilochan Hajra, Aged 62, when she was barely 12 years old. From that day she was somehow pulling her life in despair. Six years later, she became a widow. Trilochan, the Son of her dead Husband used to harass and hate her. He exhibited intense contempt towards Matangini! So Matangini decided to live in a separate hut and worked as a manual laborer. She always shared in the joys and sorrows of with the villagers and which is why all villagers developed great affection and respect for her.
She became a member of the Indian National Congress. In 1932, the independence movement began spreading rapidly all over the country. One day, at the age of 62 she witnessed the procession marching in front of her house with Chants of ‘Vande Mataram’ and she became overwhelmed and joined the procession. She kept on moving forward with the People and that day, she with firm resolution decided to fight for the Independence of the Country and the people with all her heart, soul and might.
On January 17, 1933, while leading the “Tax Abolition Movement”, she was in the front line displaying black flags to Governor Anderson and was arrested by the police and was sentenced to six months’ rigorous imprisonment in Murshidabad Jail. She was also forced to undergo hard labor. In 1935, the Tamluk region heavily suffered and reeled under severe cholera outbreak. She helped countless people, without fearing for her own Life.
Subsequently, on September 8, 1942, three freedom fighters were killed when police opened fire on protesters in Tamluk. Therefore, the people decided to fiercely fight out against repression and took out a big Protest procession on September 29, 1942. She was so overwhelmed by idea of achieving Freedom for her Countrymen and for India that She scanned, combed and scoured the area for the ‘Leave India Movement’ rally. She went from house to house preparing five thousand people for the rally. Prominently there were more women in it for the Rally than Men.
That was the Day, September 29, 1942, while Leading the rally of five thousand people with tricolors in their hands, She, Matangini, reached ‘Tamluk’, in front of the police station. The police asked them to turn back, but without staggering and fearlessly she and the procession went ahead. Then the British government started firing at the procession and the leadership.Min few moments, the first bullet hit her into her left arm. So in a moment, she transferred the tricolor from left hand to right hand to save the Tricolor from Insult of the Flag!
The second bullet slammed into his right arm and within a few seconds, before she coild even know the third Bullet, with denting noise hit and pierced through her forehead! Even while being shot, she was chanting ‘Vandemataram’ and cheering for the ‘Freedom’ for her motherland. Here ‘Veerangana Matangini’ died there on the spot. The people of the area who witnessed her death and heard about her death emotionally became restless and were moved in their heart and body by this sacrifice and at the same time felt greatly were very proud of her. Inspired by Matangini’s unimaginable courage and sacrifice the precisionists and the people drove away the English rulers in Ten Days to form an independent government! It is amazing to see that hundreds of women who gathered with MATANGINI were able to do this at that time. What a determination and sacrifice for freedom!
On December 1974, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi unveiled her statue at ‘Tamluk’ and paid homage to her. She was known as ‘Gandhi Buri’ (Old Lady Gandhi). The Postal Department of India also issued a postage stamp of Rs. 5 with the image of ‘Matangini Hazra’ in 2002.
That’s why I liked his story. During my few months stay in Calcutta, way back in 1984, while walking on ‘Hazra Street’, I used to get emotionally choked. Many schools, hospitals, roads and statues have been built in Bengal in the honor of ‘Matangini Hazra’. My threefold salute to the sacrificial idol and freedom lover, ‘Shaheed Matangini’!
Vasanti Gokhale is an essay writer