The Bharatiya Janata Party has announced the construction of a 100-feet tall statue in Uttar Pradesh of Uda Devi, a Dalit freedom fighter, who fought in the Indian War for Independence in 1857. A park and a memorial dedicated to the Pasi icon is also being planned.
The BJP secured the support of the Pasi community in the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections and the 2017 Assembly Election in the state. The BJP has 6 MPs and 23 MLAs from the community.
MP from Mohanlalganj, Kaushal Kishore, while addressing a meeting of social representatives of the party’s Scheduled Caste Morcha, urged the Pasi community to donate iron for the construction of the statue of the Dalit icon.
“The entire Pasi community was categorized as a criminal by the British. Since then the community fought against them,” he said. “We will search for the land in Lucknow for installing a 100-foot tall statue of Uda Devi. We will also reach out to the state government to expedite the process,” he added.
The story of her martyrdom goes that she approached Begum Hazrat Mahal, the Queen of Awadh, to enlist for war against the British East India Company on seeing the anger of the people against them. The Queen helped her form a women’s battalion under her command. Her husband was also a soldier in the Queen’s Army. When news of her husband’s martyrdom reached her ears, she vowed to avenge his death.
And so it happened that during the Battle in Sikandar Bagh in November 1857, after issuing instructions to her battalion, she climbed a tree and started shooting at the advancing British troops. After a moment of bewilderment, the Brits noticed that the bullet wounds had a downward trajectory indicating that there was a sniper around who was killing their men.
The troops were then ordered to shoot at the trees and at least one of the bullets found their intended target. Uda Devi dropped to the ground, lifeless. But not before she had brought down 32 British soldiers, all on her own. The British discovered that the sniper was a woman only after they killed her. It is believed that even the Brits bowed their heads over her dead body in recognition of her valour and astonishing feat.
William Forbes-Mitchell, in Reminiscences of the Great Mutiny, writes of Uda Devi: “She was armed with a pair of heavy old-pattern cavalry pistols, one of which was in her belt still loaded, and her pouch was still about half full of ammunition, while from her perch in the tree, which had been carefully prepared before the attack, she had killed more than half-a-dozen men.”
The anniversary of Uda Devi’s martyrdom is still celebrated every year on the 16th of November by members of the Pasi community.