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Kanaklatha Barua! A young girl who sacrificed her life in freedom struggle

“हम युवतियों को अबला समझने की भूल मत कीजिए। आत्मा अमर है, नाशवान है तो मात्र शरीर। अतः हम किसी से क्यों डरें?”

We girls are not weak, do not make a mistake of judging us weak. ‘Atma’ never dies, it’s only physical body which will be lost, then why should be afraid of anything?

These words were spoken by a 17 year old young girl Kanaklatha Barua, with Indian flag in her hand. She was leading a group of freedom fighter of ‘Atma saparpana dal’ taking part in ‘Quit India movement’.

She was from Barangabari, which was under Gohpur police station in the district of Sonitpur (previously Darrang).

This 17 year old girl was gunned down by the British armed Police along with Mukunda Kakati in front of Gohpur Ploice Station on 20 September 1942.

Yes she was the youngest woman to give her life in freedom struggle.

Kanaklatha barua was born on 22nd  December, 1924 at Barangabari in a conservative family called ‘Dolakasharia’ family, as the daughter of Krishna Kanta and Karneshwari Barua. Her grandfather Ghana Kanta Barua was a famous hunter in Darrang.

She became orphan at the age of 5 and perhaps because of her helpless position, she bore a responsible mind since her childhood. and the early struggle in her life ultimately inspired her to dedicate herself for the cause of the nation at the prime of her life.

20th September of 1942

is a red letter day in the history of ‘Quit India Movement’.

The movement had gained momentum in every part of India. Like in many other places of Assam, preparation for successful implementation of the programme was also being planned  at Barangabari . The preparation was made by the people of three Mauzas – Kallangpur, Helem and Brahmajan under the leadership of local leaders like Jonaram Bhuyan, Jiten Borah, Lakhi Kanta Bora, Giridhar Barua,Karneswar Hazarika and Mukunda Kakaty. These leaders inspired the local people with the slogan of Gandhiji ‘Do or Die’.

Shaheed Kanaklata Barua was an unsophisticated village girl. When she expressed her eagerness to take part in the movement many believed she would run away as soon as she encounters police with a lathi. What they did not know, she had a will of a tigress, she did not buckle under pressure, even after the British police threatened of open fire, she stood their holding the flag in her hand, challenged the police-

“you may fire and kill us, how will you kill the ‘fire’ in our hearts burning for freedom”

Kanaklata barua had got her name enrolled among the volunteers organized for the purpose of hoisting the Indian national flag at the Gohpur Police Station on 20 September, 1942 without the knowledge of other members of the family.

In the early morning of 20th September, like the other days, she completed her domestic works and took meal with her younger brother and sisters, telling them that she might not be able to come back alive and then she went out and joined the picketers at Barangabari Chariali.

She stood at the head of the women volunteers line with the national flag in her hand. On receiving the signal from the leaders, the volunteers, two in line, male and female proceeded towards the Gohpur Police Station about 12 KM from the spot. The aim of the volunteers was to hoist the national flag at the British police station, following Gandhiji’s principle of non-violence.

They were joined by many other volunteers at different places on their way to Gohpur and all of them were shouting the slogans, ‘British imperialists should go back’, ‘Freedom is our birth right’ etc.

Gohpur Police Station is situated at a distance of about 1 1/2 KM from the gate of New Purubbari tea garden owned by a native entrepreneur. The volunteers took rest at the place for a while and they were made aware by the respective team leaders of the dangers likely to be faced by them in front of the Thana gate.

The leaders asked the female volunteers to be behind the line, but Kanaklata strongly opposed the suggestion, by saying that they would not be at the back of the line, if necessary, the women volunteers would sacrifice their lives for the cause of the nation. This immortal speech of Kanaklata on the verge of her imminent death inspired the minds of thousands of male and female volunteers, who were taking part in the movement that day.

They were so motivated by her speech they got ready to face any danger coming their way.

Shouting the slogan ‘Do or Die’ they reached the Thana and made queue before its western gate. At the same time, volunteers from the eastern part of Gohpur like Kalabari, Kamdewal, Dubia etc. led by the local leaders like Golok Pujari, Nirod Boran Das, Chandra Bardoloi, Mineswar Kakaty, Uma Bardoloi, Bhubaneswar Kakaty, Thaneswar Bora and others reached the Thana and made queue in front of the eastern gate.

The police force led by R.M. Sunia surrounded the western gate and did not allow the picketers to enter the compound to hoist the flag in spite of repeated request from their side.

In the meantime, Kanaklata with the national flag in her hand took her position at the head of the line of female volunteers and tried to convince the policemen by saying that they came to achieve their noble object of hoisting the national flag at the Thana for the cause of the nation, she said they are believers of Gandhiji’s teachings on non-violence and that they would go back after discharging their noble duty.

This argument of Kanaklata did not have any effect on the British ears, who started to use force to stop these volunteers.

When the volunteers did not care for the lathi the police force pointed gun at them.

Kanaklata who was leading women volunteers pushed aside a gun in front of her, saying that they could kill their human bodies but not their soul which is made of iron.

She also said that whatever measures the Britishers might adopt to prevent them from doing their duty, but they would proceed.

The police force opened fire at the unarmed picketers without any prior warning and Kanaklata was gunned by one constable Gogal Chipahi. She fell to the ground and had succumbed to the gun fire wounds.

next round of firing had  caused grievous injury on the head of Mukunda Kakaty, who sccumbed to the injuries on the same night. Police fire had injured many other volunteers like Hemakanta Bora, Thuleswar Rajkhowa, Bhola Bardoloi etc. Kanaklata died on the spot.

But this brutality on the part of the imperialist could not stop the volunteers from achieving their goal, and ultimately, one Rampati Rajkhowa of Kamdewal hoisted the national flag on the Thana building in the evening of the same day without the knowledge of the British officials.

The body of Kanaklata was brought to her home at Barangabari and cremated at her own land there. Mukunda Kakty was also cremated on the same night.

In her respect,

The Fast Patrol Vessel ICGS Kanak Lata Barua of the Indian Coast Guard, commissioned in 1997, is named after Kanaklata. A life size statue of hers was unveiled at Gauripur in 2011.

Kanaklata left this world in a very young age. but her sacrifice for the cause of freedom of our country has remained a great source of inspiration to thousands of indian women.

Dr Sindhu Prashanth

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