Giving It Back

Shivnath Jha is working to improve the living conditions of the descendants of freedom fighters

From being a news hawker in the streets of Patna to writing for leading national dailies, Shivnath Jha’s life is a lesson in sheer grit and determination. Recently, he has been making news through his attempt at rehabilitating descendants of Indian martyrs through his book “1857-1947: Forgotten Heroes and Martyrs of India’s Freedom Movement”. He has succeeded in rehabilitating the descendents of Bahadur Shah Zafar, Tantiya Tope and Uddham Singh, all of whom were leading a life of deprivation, despite the existing government programmes to aid the families of freedom fighters.

However Jha tells us that the idea is not to criticise or blame the government. “In fact it is not related to the Government at all. Rather it is an effort to inculcate social responsibility and public knowledge about the freedom fighters martyred 1857 onwards.”

From 2002, the movement was initiated with the agenda of publishing a book at an interval of around one year to rejuvenate the lives of martyr’s descendents. Accordingly 30 descendents have been uncovered including Vinayak Rao Tope (Tantiya Tope’s descendent), Jeet Singh (Uddham Singh’s descendent) and Sultana Begum (Bahadur Shah Zafar’s descendent). At present efforts are being concentrated on rehabilitating Ram Prasad Bismil’s descendent. Jha recognises the provisions of pension for freedom fighters along with further benefits from both central and state governments but asserts that they are being usurped by a profit seeking minority leaving others in dire need to fend for themselves. Identifying a social responsibility here, he says, with regards to the system of education also, revolutionaries’ stories are increasingly moving out of the syllabi thereby limiting public knowledge of Indian history.

Socially, the movement has been received positively, particularly the internet has ensured wide publicity. Further, Jha believes that without any precedent, the movement remains unique. Recalling Jeet Singh’s sentiments on receiving the love of his countrymen when Jha and his movement succeeded in giving him Rs.11.5 lakhs, liberating him from the adversities of a labourer’s life, he reiterates that society needs to be more aware of these martyrs. It is our duty to ensure that their families do not live in conditions of poverty, obscurity or deprivation. When Vinayak Rao Tope’s children were able to settle down with jobs after receiving proper education, “the gratification they express that provides me with the social certificate to work harder further,” he says.


Leave a Reply