New Delhi: The Indian Coast Guard’s newly commissioned ship, ICGS Kanaklata Barua, has been named after a 17-year-old freedom fighter from Assam who died during the Quit India Movement in 1942. The ship is the fifth in a series of fast patrol vessels (FPV) belonging to the Coast Guard.
Her story of grit and gallantry has a legendary status in Assam — from schools being named after her to a life-size statue that adorns a park in the state.
Led a ‘death squad’
Barua was born to Krishna Kanta Barua and Korneswari Barua on 22 December 1924 at Barangabari village of Gohpur sub-division in Sonitpur district. Orphaned at the age of 13, she dropped out of the third standard to take care of her siblings.
This was the time when the freedom struggle was gaining momentum in Assam, and more and more women were taking part in the movement.
Many of these women became members of what were then known as the ‘Shanti Bahini’ and the ‘Mrityu Bahini (a death/suicide squad)’. While the Shanti Bahini worked to maintain peace, members of the Mrityu Bahini prepared themselves to face death while hoisting the national flag in police stations.
Barua wanted to join Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Azad Hind Fauj, but wasn’t allowed because she was a minor. While Mrityu Bahini, too, comprised members aged above 18 years, Barua’s zeal to serve the country made her an exception, and she was inducted. She was subsequently made the leader of the women’s cadre of the Mrityu Bahini.
On 20 September 1942, Barua led a group of nearly 5,000 people to hoist the national flag at Gohpur police station. When stopped by the officer-in-charge of the police station, it is said that Barua told him to do his duty while she carried on with hers. The teenager was shot dead from point blank range following a squabble with police personnel.
Barua, however, made sure the flag did not fall to the ground and did not let go until another volunteer, Mukunda Kakoti, took it from her. Both Barua and Kakoti succumbed to bullet injuries that day.
Barua’s sacrifice became a source of inspiration for many women and she went on to become a “symbol of patriotism of Assamese womanhood”.
The ship named after Barua was commissioned in Kolkata last week and has been built by the state-owned Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Limited.
Earlier, an FPV named after Barua was decommissioned in 2017 after 20 years of service.
The other four in the series of FPVs are ICGS Priyadarshini (named after former PM Indira Gandhi), ICGS Annie Besant (reformer-activist), ICGS Kamala Devi (named after social reformer Kamala Devi Chattopadhyay), and ICGS Amrit Kaur (activist-politician).
@IndiaCoastGuard Fast Patrol Vessel Kanaklata Barua commissioned 30 Sep 20 at #Kolkata by Shri Jiwesh Nandan, IAS, Additional Secretary, MoD through video conferencing from #Delhi in presence of DG K Natarajan DGICG, CMD M/s GRSE & dignitaries of MoD pic.twitter.com/c7ffZ3SeuF
— Indian Coast Guard (@IndiaCoastGuard) September 30, 2020
FPVs are suited for patrolling, maritime surveillance, anti-smuggling, anti-poaching operations, for fishery protection, as well as rescue and search missions.