The immortal Sarla Behn, who fought against her own country for India’s independence

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The immortal Sarla Behn, who fought against her own country for India’s independence

Prem Upadhaya

Bageshwar, Aug 15

There are countless great personalities who had sacrificed their lives in the freedom movement of India from British colonial rule and there are many poignant tales to be heard about their struggle and sacrifices. But the tale e of Catherine Marie Halliman, an English woman popularly known as Sarla Behn is exemplary. She fought for independence of India by going against her own country.

The flame of freedom movement which ignited in her on her reaching India following the struggle by the countrymen against her own country made Sarla Behn immortal

During the ‘Quit India’ Movement, she spread national consciousness from Laxmi Ashram in Kausani to the entire Kumaon region. She encouraged the freedom fighters by meeting the families whose family members were lodged in jails during the freedom movement. During this she travelled many places and kept the torch of the movement lit. Even today, Kausani’s Laxmi Ashram is a symbol and  saga of  her sacrifice and struggle inspiring so many generation by her indomitable courage and spirit.

Originally from England, Catherine Marie Halliman was influenced by the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi. In 1932, she reached India to meet him. On the advice of Mahatma Gandhi, she changed her name to Sarla Behn.

She came to Almora in 1941 and stayed at Chanoda Gandhi Ashram near Kausani. She actively participated in the movement for India’s independence along with doing social work.

Following Mahtma Gandhi’s ‘Quit India’ Movement in 1942, Sarla Behn helped organize and lead the movement in the districts of Kumaon. She travelled extensively in the area to reach out to the families of political prisoners encouraging them to continue their struggle against colonial rule. This act of her was a strong challenge  to the British rule, who could not believe that someone from their own country was fighting the freedom struggle against them with such assertiveness and commitment.

She was arrested and sent to Almora Jail. Later she was imprisoned in Lucknow jail where she spent almost two years.

After her release from jail, she came to Kausani. When finally it was decided after the Second World War that Britishers were going to leave India, she starting working to promote Gandhian ideology and women’s education. She founded the Kasturba Mahila Utthan Mandal (Lakshmi Ashram Kausani) in 1946. She also spread awareness about environmental protection, women empowerment and basic education to the girl child. She was the first person who campaigned to save the forest in the mountain.


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