Uda Devi was one of the prominent ‘Dalit Veeranganas’, who participated in the revolt of 1857 against the British East India Company and led one of the fiercest battles in Lucknow which was termed Battle in Sikandar Bagh. She alone killed as many as 32 British soldiers before she died on the battlefield on November 16, 1857. She passed away more than 150 years ago but her bravery and courage is still an inspiration for many.

Early Life: 

She was born into a Dalit family in a village in Awadh, Uttar Pradesh. At a young age, she sensed the anger among people against the British administration. She went to Begum Hazrat Mahal to seek help in preparation for the battle against the British. The Begum helped her to form the women’s battalion which Uda Devi led herself. When Awadh was attacked by the British, she along with her husband, became part of the armed resistance.

Role In Independence:  

When the British army under the leadership of commander Colin Campbell’s attacked Sikandarbagh in Lucknow, the army had to face the wall of thousands of Dalit women. Many poems were written during that time which highlights the important moments of the battle. One such poem goes like this:

koi unko habsin kehta, koi kehta neech achchut

abla koi unhein batlaye, koi kahe unhe majboot.

(Some called them black African women, some untouchable. Some called them weak, others strong.)

During the battle, when Uda Devi received the information that her husband got martyred, she vowed to avenge his death. On seeing British army coming towards Sikandra, she climbed a banyan tree disguised as a man and as a sniper killed 32 soldiers of the British army.

Also Read: Dr Usha Mehta: The freedom fighter who helped set up a secret radio station for the Indian National Congress

Death:

On suspecting a sniper sitting on the tree, commander Colin Campbell ordered to fire at the tree. It was then that she was shot dead and fell to the ground. The soldiers were surprised when they got to know that a woman caused such a large number of fatalities. Every year on November 16, which is the anniversary of Uda Devi martyrdom, Pasi community (Uda Devi too belonged to it) of Pilibhit gather to pay her tribute.

Also Read: Sucheta Kriplani: India’s first woman chief minister and founder of Congress women’s wing

As India celebrates 70 years of independence, we bring you stories of women who were part of the Indian Independence Struggle. You might have heard about some of them but most do not find a mention in our history books or popular memory. These were ordinary women from all walks of life who managed to make extraordinary contributions to the cause of freedom. 
This series is our tribute to these women and their exemplary work. We bring you 70 stories of courage and valour over the next one week leading up to 15th August 2017. Write to us, if you have any names to add to this list. Email: inuthsocial@indianexpress.com

 

 

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