Man is a mortal creature. Every born is destined to die. But, there are people who leave behind indelible footprints. History adores them in golden words. “Aandolan:Ek Pustak Se” is a nation-wide movement to locate, identify and provide and dignified, if not luxurious, life to the descendants and bloodlines of the forgotten heroes and martyrs of India’s freedom movement through books. It was started in 2007 with the fourth generation descendants of Martyr Tatya Tope, Mr. Vinayak Rao Tope, who was running a grocery shop in Bithoor, about 20 kms from India’s industrial city Kanpur, closely associated with the Indian independence movement, especially the 1857 movement. It was at one time home to many of the rebellion’s most prominent characters including the Rani of Jhansi, Lakshmi Bai. During the British Raj, Bithur used to be part of Cawnpore district (now Kanpur) in the United Province. The last of the Peshwas, Baji Rao II, was banished to Bithur; his adopted son,Nana Saheb, made the town his headquarters. Bithur was captured by General Havelock on July 19, 1857. The town was laid waste by the British who razed Nana Sahib’s palace and the temples in the town in retaliation for the brutal killing of over 300 British men, women and children who had been lured out of their defences at Cawnpore with a promise of truce during the Sieze of Cawnpore.
Some of the most significant moments of Hindu religion and mythology are said to be created here, as being the place of the forest-rendezvous of Sita after Lord Rama left her, the birthplace of Lav and Kush, the site where the Ramayana was written.
Vinayakrao Tope now sells grocery items but earns a pittance — not enough for the sustenance of the entire family. He opened a small grocery shop. Earlier, he was able to get some food from his ‘jajmans’ (masters) by conducting religious ceremonies for them.
In May 1857, when the political storm was gathering momentum against the British rule, Tantya Tope fought along with Nana Saheb Rani Lakshmibai. He was tried by a military court and despatched to the gallows on April 18, 1859.
Moved by the plight of fourth generation descendants of Tantya Tope, a front-line leader and martyr of the 1857 Uprising, the then Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, on July 4, 2007, acted as a Samaritan, offered jobs to two daughters – Pragati and Tripti – of Vinayak Rao Tope, in Container Corporation of India Ltd (CONCOR).
In a sudden turn of fortunes for the family languishing in extreme poverty and squalor, Mr Vijay Darda, owner of Lokmat Group of Newspapers also granted financial assistance of Rs five lakh for them. Pragati was a teacher in the Laxmibai School on a salary of Rs 600 a month. Tripti, a graduate, was still unemployed.