LUCKNOW, August 16 - Begum Hazrat Mahal of Avadh, a valiant freedom fighter, who upheld the glorious tradition of Indian womanhood, was appropriately honoured at a simple but solemn ceremony in the old Victoria Park on the Independence Day.
Information Minister Banarsi Das declared open the marble memorial which has been built by the State Government to perpetuate the memory of the Begum, who challenged the alien domination during the turbulent days of first freedom movement in 1857.
The memorial which was decorated with strings of flowers and illuminated with multi-coloured bulbs and neon tubes, consists of a marble tablet with four circular brass plaques bearing Coat of Arms of Avadh Royal Family.
The inaugural function which was attended by two great grandsons of the Begum and Transport Minister Muzaffar Hasan, Irrigation Minister Ram Murti, Social Welfare Minister Mahabir Prasad Srivastava and Cane Development Minister Dau Dayal Khanna, began with the recitation of poems paying homage to the Begum.
Mr. Banarsi Das, in his address said :
"Begum Hazrat Mahal was one of the bravest fighters for the independence of the country. She challenged the alien domination to the last breath of her life and upheld the glorious tradition of Indian womanhood by sacrificing her life for self-respect. She refused to accept any offer short of complete independence and let herself perish in the unapproachable regions of Nepal."
"The Freedom Struggle of 1857 was commanded in Oudh by a renowned Moulavi Ahmad Ullah Shah of Faizabad and the Begum, who at one time gained victory on all the strategic points except Lucknow and the Britishers were caught in a very critical position. The Begum used to come out in the field to inspire her soldiers to give a tough fight to the enemy. Her example inspired fighters for freedom for several generations."
The Information Minister dealt at length on the causes which led to the 1857 struggle and paid tributes to the memory of innumerable warriors who sacrificed their all at the altar of freedom and thus paved the way for coming generations to completely break their shackles of slavery.
He stated that in a disturbed state of affairs, the Begum not only administered the kingdom of Oudh but also directed the military operations against the technically superior British army. She organized forceful armed resistance at every point. But the defeat at Musabad in March, 1858, dashed all hopes and the Begum along with Moulvi Ahmad Ullah Shah was compelled to leave Lucknow. The Britishers employed their best diplomacy to force the Begum and her minor son, the crown-prince Birjis Qadar, to surrender but she refused to concede anything short of independence and remained a revolutionary up to the last.
In the morning an inspiring exhibition depicting the different phases of the first Indian Struggle for Freedom and its chief architects was inaugurated in the 'Pradarshini Bhawan' by Mr. A. A. Rizvi, Secretary, UP Advisory Board for the history of Indian Freedom Movement. The various documents, paintings, photographs, models, books etc. displayed in the exhibition presented vividly the story of the 1857 freedom struggle.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Amrit Lal Nagar, the well-known litterateur, paid glowing tributes to Begum Hazrat Mahal, Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi and other distinguished personalities of the freedom movement. He said that their courage and determination to liberate their country from the British would always inspire generations of ours to protect and preserve the freedom of the country.
Mr. Rizvi characterized the first freedom movement as the beginning of the evolution of an integrated India in which everybody, high or low, spared nothing to achieve the goal of Indian Freedom. He called it a real people's movement.
Other who spoke on the occasion included Mr. Bhagwati Charan Verma and Mr. Nayyar Qadr, the grandson of Birjis Qadr.
Earlier Mr. A.B. Malik Soochana Nideshak, performed the flag-hoisting ceremony on the "Soochana Bhawan".