Book Review The Last Heroes P.Sainath

We fought for two things – For Freedom and Independence. We attained independence.

-‘Captain Bhau’, Ramchandra Sripati Lad,
Leader of Toofan Sena
Kundal, Sangli, Maharshtra
Why I picked this book?

The Last Heroes – Foot Soldiers of India Freedom by P.Sainath, was not a difficult choice to make. In fact, I was waiting for this book eagerly. I have read his last book “Everybody Loves a Good Drought” as a part of my executive MBA curriculum. I was impressed by the book and his writings and searched for who P.Sainath is and then came to know about him and his body of work. And since then, I admired and respected his work.  It was written by P.Sainath was a reason enough for me to read this book.

The book

The Last Heroes, as the name suggests captures the lives of some freedom fighters from various parts of the country who are our last connection to the pre-independence era. The book captures the stories of the men and women who fought with the Britishers for the freedom of our country. The book is a recollection of the young days of some of the freedom fighters who are still alive but mostly forgotten. The stories of the lives they lived and how they participated in the freedom struggle of India in the remotest parts of India at the call of Mahatma Gandhi. A few of them are still alive and some died in the last couple of years. The book is a tribute to many such freedom fighters who largely remained unknown, forgotten, and without any expectations from the government of Independent India.  

P. Sainath, takes the readers on a tour of the lives of people who were a part of the freedom struggle of India and have gone through many hardships. It is a telling tale of how the nation has forgotten its own freedom fighters but more inspiring is the spirit of these freedom fighters who never expected anything back. I know it is difficult to capture the lives of all the freedom fighters at a national level, as there were many. But it made me sad to hear the stories of the state’s apathy in some cases. The struggle that these freedom fighters have to go through in order to get a certificate to prove that they are freedom fighters. There are many who lived are living a life of poverty and sustaining themselves by working as domestic help. We could have certainly done better than this to our freedom fighters.

The proof of eligibility required in another mess. Another story. Its first demand is a copy of the order of your arrest. Or of your being proclaimed offender. How many poor Indians could ever have accessed such records even at that time, let alone twenty-five years after Independence? How many poor Indians underwent arbitrary detention without any such orders being processed?

All this aside, it was a great experience reading about the exploits of these freedom fighters and the childlike spirit with which they were telling these stories. Everyone was proud of what they did for their country, and some of them worried about the current situation the country is facing. Many of these freedom fighters were still active after the Independence fighting against injustice and for a just cause. Many of them close to a hundred years of age lent their support to the farmer’s protest and the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act 2019) because they felt it was a right and just thing to do. Most of the these ordinary men and women were emotional about the fact that someone remembers them and will document about them. They were happy about the fact their contribution is acknowledged.

The Last Heroes is a time machine that takes you back to the 1930s-40s and you see this time through the eyes of aging heroes of our freedom struggle. With them, you go on a journey and get a glimpse of their lives. It brings smiles, joy, pride, respect, tears, frustration, agony and so many emotions while reading about these Last Heroes of our freedom struggle.

A must-read for everyone to know and understand the contribution of ordinary men and women in the freedom struggle of India.  

About The Author

Palagummi Sainath is founder-editor of the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI). He has been a journalist and reporter for 42 years, covering rural India full time for thirty of those. With an MA in History from JNU, Sainath joined the United News of India in 1980. In 1982, he became foreign editor of The Daily and deputy chief editor of the weekly Blitz in Mumbai. In 1993, he left Blitz to work full-time on reporting rural poverty. He was rural affairs editor of The Hindu from 2004 to 2014.

Our Verdict

The Last Heroes is a must have and must read book for everyone who is interested to know about the ordinary men and women who were part of India’s Freedom struggle. It is tribute to many unknown and unsung heroes of India’s freedom movement.

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