Millions of ordinary people made this country’s freedom struggle possible – and it was mainly rural Indians who rose in some of the greatest uprisings against the British Raj.

But many of us know little of these extraordinary freedom fighters, and even less about the women among them, whose collective efforts eventually gave India its Independence from colonial rule.

In this episode of PARI Podcasts, P. Sainath, PARI’s founder editor, talks about one of his most memorable experiences as a journalist – when he met Demathi Dei Sabar in Purena village of Paikmal block in Odisha’s Bargarh district, in 2002.

‘Salihan’, as she was called, was an Adivasi woman from Nuapada district of (the then) Orissa, who led a fierce revolt in 1930. She chased away the British officers who had shot her father (targeted for his anti-Raj activities) in front of their home in Saliha village. Armed with only lathis, Salihan, then 16, and her friends attacked the raiders and drove them away. “They destroyed our homes, our crops. And they attacked my father. Of course, I would have fought them,” she said. 

You can read P. Sainath’s account of the interaction here: When Salihan took on the Raj

Himanshu Saikia composed the music and edited this episode.
Samyukta Shastri

Samyukta Shastri is the content coordinator at the People’s Archive of Rural India. She has a bachelor’s degree in Media Studies from the Symbiosis Centre for Media and Communication, Pune, and a master’s degree in English Literature from SNDT Women's University, Mumbai.

Other stories by Samyukta Shastri
Vishaka George

Vishaka George is a Bengaluru-based journalist who has worked with Reuters as a business correspondent. She is a graduate of the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, and is keen on covering rural India with a special focus on women and children.

Other stories by Vishaka George