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Women's rights leaders to recall anti-colonial resistance of Karnataka's anti-British Rani

By Our Representative 

As many as 50 women's rights groups and civil society organisations, including Gujarat activists from Ekal Nari Shakti Manch, Maldhari Mahila Vikas Sangathan, Stree Jagruti Samiti, Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan and Anhad, have decided to celebrate the legacy of Rani Chennamma, known for her courageous resistance against the British rule about 200 years ago.
Briefing newspersons on the plan to hold a women's rights rally and day-long programme on February 21 at Kittur, Karnataka, where Rani Chennamma ruled, Gujarat rights leaders told newspersons in Ahmedabad, at the end of the function, a Kittur declaration, to be called, "I am Rani Chennamma Too!" will be released in order to exhort people to safeguard the Indian Constitution and democracy, and defeat the forces of hatred.
"While we all know about Rani Laxmibai's valiant fight against the British duing the 1857 war of independence, people in many parts of India know little about Rani Chennamma, who fought in the same spirit much earlier", said Dev Desai from Anhad, briefing Gujarat media about the proposed campaign.
Chennamma was born on 23 October 1778 in Kaakati, a small village in the present Belagavi District of Karnataka. Her father Desai Dhulappa Gowdaru trained her in horse riding, sword fighting and archery from a young age. She married Raja Mallasarja of the Desai family at the age of 15 who already had married to Rudramma and had a son called Shivalinga Rudrasarja.
Raja Mallasarja died in 1816, leaving Rani Chennamma with a son. This was followed by her biological son's death in a battle 1824. Her stepson Shivalinga Rudrasarja became king, he too died out of illness. He had no children hence she adopted Shivalingappa during his illness.
"Rani Chennamma was left with the state of Kittur and an uphill task to maintain its independence from the British", said a media communique. "She made the adopted son Shivalingappa heir to the throne. This irked the East India Company, who ordered Shivalingappa's expulsion. The state of Kittur came under the administration of Dharwad collectorate which notified Kittur to accept the British control."
The communique added, this led her to begin an armed resistance against the British East India Company in 1824 to retain control over her dominion. She defeated the Company in the first revolt killing John Thackeray. One of the few female rulers who fought British colonisation, she continues to be remembered as a folk hero in Karnataka as an important symbol of the Indian independence movement.
A fearless warrior, she stands tall as a symbol of resistance against the British rule. Embodying love for freedom and self-respect, this year 2024 marks 200 of her revolt against British imperialism", the communique stated, pointing out, the idea to celebrate the occasion was initiated by Anhad and the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), which recived support from and the Karnataka Rajya Mahila Dourjanya Virodhi Okkuta.
"Within a short time a large number of women's groups and independent citizens have joined hands to commemorate 200 years of this revolt against oppression and to carry forward the legacy of struggle against tyranny, injustice and repression to safeguard the constitution, secularism and democracy", it added.
"Prominent women activists from across India are expected to participate in the event", Noorjaha Diwan of the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan told media, adding, the Kittur declaration would be released in state capitals and district headquarters across the country, to be distributed among women networks... We are hoping to reach out to more than 50 lakh women across India."

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