Shivnath Jha Highlights Forgotten Martyrs of India

NEW DELHI: Journalist Shivnath Jha has done what no Indian journalist, historian, or writer has done before.

After years of dedicated work and research which took him to obscure corners of India, Jha has come out with a coffee-table book titled `1857-1947: Forgotten Heroes and MARTYRS of India’s Freedom Movement.’

This book is the pictorial story of 207 forgotten heroes of India’s freedom movement, who were hanged, shot dead or died within the four-wall of jails and their 30 descendant families living in anonymity and abject poverty in the countryside And this book also highlights how soon after independence, an ungrateful nation cruelly forgot the memory and descendants of sung and unsung heroes who perished so that India could be free.
Jha, who worked with major English dailies in the Indian capital, took it upon himself to awaken India to the plight of the descendants of sung and unsung heroes of the Indian freedom struggle. has this question-and-answer interview with Jha:

1: What inspired you to do this book?
A: It was on March 25, 2006, when Bharat Ratna Shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan expressed his life-time desire to perform at the India Gate to serenade the martyrs, while cutting a 91-kg birthday cake and launching a book Monograph on Ustad Bismillah Khan, authored by me and my wife Neena Jha who is a teacher. We did our best, got permission from the Home Ministry of India for July 15, 2006. But his failing health – and fate – did not let the Ustad fulfill his life-time desire of having such a book on the descendants of heroes of India’s freedom struggle. He died on August 21, 2006. At that point, we decided to launch a movement Andolan Ek Pustak Se to locate, identify and provide a dignified life to the descendants of forgotten heroes and martyrs of our freedom movement between 1857-1947. So this book “indirectly” fulfills his desire.

2. How did you plan doing this book?
A: During the past seven years we located almost 30 descendant families living in anonymity and penury in the countryside.We planned, wrote, made a dummy and requested people to support the mission – both publication of the book as well as support the descendants financially. Several people, especially Managing Directors of several companies, supported us in providing dignified life to the descendants of the heroes of our freedom struggle.

3. How did you track the families of these forgotten heroes?
A: It required a lot of leg work and travel to far-flung areas and villages of India. After getting small inputs and being a reporter, I would visit them in their villages to find out the records. We cross-checked with official sources, villagers, panchayats and others. We got some of the historical events from District Gazettes of the respective districts.

4. How many places – and where – did you travel to get to these families?
A: We visited the remotest areas/districts (at least 40) of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and others. (News East West)