Martyred at 12, India hasn't heard of her youngest freedom hero, even on her 75th anniversary
Who is Tileswari Barua? Very few even in Assam would be able to identify her, not to speak of people elsewhere in the country. Exactly 75 years ago, on this day, Tileswari Barua had laid down her life while trying to hoist the national flag atop the police station in Dhekiajuli in northern Assam. And she was just 12 years then.
“Nobody has heard about the supreme sacrifice that a 12-year old girl had made during the Quit India movement for the country 75 years ago. And we are all to be blamed for it,” said Dwijendra Mohan Sarma, general secretary of the Assam Freedom Fighters’ Association. “When I say we, it includes all, the Assam government, the historians and intellectuals of the state, and also the media,” Sarma adds.
Tileswari, the eldest of four children of Bhabakanta Barua of villahe Nij-Borgaon on the outskirts of Dhekiajuli, was so influenced by the patriotic songs that the Congress volunteers were singing every day that she did not even think twice when Mahatma Gandhi’s call for raising the national tricolor reached her village.
“As the procession got closer to the police station, Tileswari had also moved ahead, just a few persons behind Monbor Nath, leader of the local mrityu vahini who was leading the group. While Monbor Nath defied orders of Mohidhar Borah, the police officer and climbed atop the police station only to be gunned down within a few seconds, other volunteers followed, one by one.
Tileswari was the fourth to be hit by a bullet after Nath, Kumoli Devi and Mohiram Koch,” said Ramesh Chandra Bora, who has documented the Dhekiajuli episode by interviewing a large number of people and digging government archives, said.
While altogether 15 persons had attained martyrdom in the Dhekiajuli firing of September 20, 1942, Tileswari was not only the youngest there but in the entire country. “It is our failure that the people of the country have not heard about her. Her story should have been in the textbooks across the country. But the reality is that Tileswari’s story is not to be found in textbooks even in Assam,” rued Sarma of the Assam Freedom Fighters’ Association.
Dhekiajuli incidentally is one place where even a nameless beggar and a nameless sanyasi had laid down their lives as they too joined the others to hoist the flag in the local police station on that fateful day. “Nowhere else in this great country did a beggar and sanyasi attain martyrdom except in Assam. But then we have failed to tell their story too,” said local legislator Ashok Singhal, who has convinced the Sarbananda Sonowal government to set up a Martyrs’ Park in Dhekiajuli and also preserve the historic police station there.
“For 70 years since Independence, the sacrifice of the martyrs of Dhekiajuli had just remained neglected. It was only last year that we traced out the family members of the martyrs except those of the beggar and the sanyasi and honoured them in public for the first time. We are also looking forward for the Assam government to grant financial assistance to these families most of whom are living a hand-to-mouth life,” Singhal, who has drawn up an ambitious plan to set up the Dhekiajuli Martyrs’ Park, said.