In India’s march to freedom, there were many heroes who worked hard but never got the respect they deserved. We fondly recall the achievements of freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh, Subhash Chandra Bose etc. But apart from these well-known names, an unknown number of Indian freedom fighters have also fought against the British Raj with incredible valor and determination. One among them is UmaBai Kundapur, the down-to-earth freedom campaigner who served her country fearlessly till her last breath.
Umabai Kundapur was born as Bhavani Golikeri to Golikeri Krishna Rao and Jungabai in Mangalore in 1892. She was married to Sanjiv Rao Kundapur at a young age of 13. Her father-in-law Anandarao Kundapur was a progressive thinker and believed in uplifting the condition of women. Under his guidance, Umabai continued her education and passed her matriculation examination.
After completing her education, Umabai helped her father-in-law in educating women through Gaundevi Mahila Samaj in Mumbai. The great funeral procession of Lokmanya Tilak in 1920 left a lasting impression on young Umabai. Half a million people had assembled with hardly handful policemen to control the crowd. Congress organization and voluntary service in those days were exemplary and Umabai was drawn towards freedom struggle and became a volunteer. She started advocating Khadi, wrote and enacted play on Swadeshi and recruited women volunteers by going door to door.
Umabai was just 25 when she lost her husband. After his death, Ananda Rao and Umabai came to Hubli, where he started the Karnataka Press. He also started a school for girls ‘Tilak Kanya Shala’, which was led by Umabai.
In 1921, Dr. NS Hardikar started Hindustani Seva Dal to organize Youth and Hubli became the hub of its activities. Umabai became the leader of the women’s wing of the Hindustani Seva Dal.
The All India Congress Session of 1924 at Belgaum was a historical event. That was the only time when Gandhiji presided over the session and it was a big challenge for Dr. Hardikar and Umabai to organize national event. Umabai recruited more than 150 women volunteers, touring the entire state.
In 1932, Umabai was jailed for four months and kept in Yerawada. News of death of her old and ailing father-in-law, who was her only emotional support reached her after a week. When she came back after her jail term, the British government had confiscated the press and the school was sealed. “Bhagini Mandal” the voluntary organization she started was declared unlawful. But Umabai did not withdraw. Her small house became shelter for all types of freedom fighters, some eagerly sought and hounded by the police. At that time, the no tax campaign and salt campaign were at their peak. People were imprisoned mindlessly and many were women. When they were released from different prisons, they were helpless and in search of a safe place. The Tongawallas of Hubli invariably brought such women fighters to Umabai’s house, who provided food shelter and money for their return journey.
After the Indian independence, she could have easily entered the politics and many coveted posts waited for her because most of the national leaders knew her. But she remained a worker through and through. This shows that Umabai never cared about publicity or fame.