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The Last Heroes: Foot Soldiers of Indian Freedom

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Item Code: HAG504
Publisher: Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd.
Author: P. Sainath
Language: English
Edition: 2022
ISBN: 9780670096923
Pages: 301 (Throughout Color and B/w Illustrations)
Other Details 8.50 X 5.50 inch
Weight 290 gm
Book Description
About The Book

So who really spearheaded India's Freedom Struggle? Millions of ordinary people farmers, labourers, homemakers, forest produce gatherers, artisans and others stood up to the British. People who never went on to be ministers, governors, presidents, or hold other high public office. They had this in common: their opposition to Empire was uncompromising.

In The Last Heroes, these foot soldiers of Indian freedom tell us their stories. The men, women and children featured in this book are Adivasis, Dalits, OBCs, Brahmins, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. They hail from different regions, speak different languages and include atheists and believers, Leftists, Gandhians and Ambedkarites,

The people featured pose the intriguing question: What is freedom? They saw that as going beyond Independence. And almost all of them continued their fight for freedoms long after 1947.

The post-1947 generations need their stories. To learn what they understood. That freedom and independence are not the same thing. And to learn to make those come together.

About the Author

PALAGUMMI SAINATH is founder-editor of the People's Archive of Rural India (PARI). He has been a journalist and reporter for forty-two years, covering rural India full-time for thirty of those. With an MA in History from JNU, Sainath joined the United News of India in 1980. In 1982, he became foreign editor of The Daily and deputy chief editor of the weekly Blitz in Mumbai. In 1993, he left Blitz to work full-time on reporting rural poverty. He was rural affairs editor of The Hindu from 2004 to 2014.

Sainath has won over 60 national and international reporting awards and fellowships. These include the Fukuoka Grand Prize 2021, the World Media Summit Award 2014, the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2007, Amnesty International's Global Human Rights Reporting Prize and the Ramnath Goenka Journalist of the Year award. He has been teaching journalism at the Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai, for three decades, and also at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, since 2000. He was McGraw Professor of Writing in Princeton in 2012.

In December 2014, Sainath launched PARI. Publishing in 14 languages, PARI is is an independent multimedia digital platform, whose reporting mandate is to cover every region and section of rural people. In seven years, PARI has won over 50 journalism awards.

Sainath lives in Mumbai.


Demati Dei Sabar 'Salihan' was not a freedom fighter. Not to the government of India, anyway. Yet, when barely sixteen, this Adivasi girl led a spectacular counterattack on a British police force raiding her village in Odisha. She and forty other young tribal women took on a platoon of armed police with only lathis-and won.

She did not go to jail. She was not a part of organized politics. She had no role in campaigns like the Civil Disobedience or Quit India movements. In the village of Saliha, where she led that death-defying charge, they still speak of her valour. In the same village, the names of seventeen people are inscribed on a monument to the uprising. Her name is not among them.

The government of India would never accord Salihan respect as a freedom fighter. This book does.

In the next five or six years, there will not be a single person alive who fought for this country's freedom. The youngest of those featured in this book is 92, the oldest 104. Newer generations of young Indians will never get to meet, see, speak or listen to India's freedom fighters. Never be directly told who they were, what they fought for.

In the seventy-fifth year of Indian Independence, most books, especially those for younger people, mainly focus on the names of a few select individuals as having brought this nation into being. There are still some fine textbooks around that do look at the struggle for freedom and Independence in a sensible and explanatory way. But those are being savaged and rapidly replaced in state after state with appalling fabrications that don't qualify as history, let alone as textbooks.

In the political and public domain today, the freedom struggle itself is being dated back 800 years. That kind of retelling of India's fight for freedom gives fiction a bad name. Meanwhile, those who fought for that freedom are vanishing. As many as six of those who feature in this book have died since May 2021. But some of the others whose stories appear here are very much alive and around. Sadly, that can't be for more than a few years.

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