Why was Asghuri Begum burnt alive by the British in 1857?

Saquib Salim

The British Army led by Major Sawyer attacked Thana Bhavan, a town in Muzaffarnagar liberated by the Indian revolutionaries during the First War of Independence, in October 1857. They were amazed to see that, unlike their European counterparts, women in the villages surrounding the town were actively taking part in the armed battles. As a measure to terrorize the women, Sawyer captured Asghuri Begum, who was organizing a band of women for fighting the British, and burnt her alive.

In the annals of history in general and feminist history in particular the First War of Independence should be written with golden words. While Rani of Jhansi and Begum Hazrat Mahal led armies against the foreign rulers, rural women in Muzaffarnagar organized themselves into armed bands to fight the British Army.

If Sawyer thought that by killing Asghuri publicly in one of the most horrendous manners he could instill fear among Indian women, he was wrong. In other parts of Muzaffarnagar Habiba and Jamila persuaded women to take up arms to serve the motherland. Both of them were later captured and hanged.

However, many other nationalist women remained untouched. Bibi, Noori, Rahimi, Ranberi, Shobha Devi, Umuda, Raj Kaur, and several brave women embraced martyrdom on the battlefield.

Mam Kaur, Bhagwani, and Asha Devi were also hanged for taking up arms for freeing their motherland.

These are just a few of the names among hundreds of women revolutionaries who have survived into our records after brutal repression by the British and later neglect from the Indians as well. It is our national duty that we do not let their names erase from national consciousness and tell Europe that much before they could imagine a women’s combat force our women fought their mighty British Empire under their leadership.

Source: Awaz The Voice

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