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So who really spearheaded India's Freedom Struggle? Millions of ordinary people-farmers, labourers, homemakers, forest produce gatherers, artisans and others-stood up to the British. People who never went on to be ministers, governors, presidents, or hold other high public office.
They had this in common: their opposition to Empire was uncompromising.
In The Last Heroes, these footsoldiers of Indian freedom tell us their stories. The men, women and children featured in this book are Adivasis, Dalits, OBCs, Brahmins, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. They hail from different regions, speak different languages and include atheists and believers, Leftists, Gandhians and Ambedkarites.
The people featured pose the intriguing question: What is freedom? They saw that as going beyond Independence. And almost all of them continued their fight for freedoms long after 1947.
The post-1947 generations need their stories.
To learn what they understood. That freedom and independence are not the same thing. And to learn to make those come together.
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.
Sainath has won over 60 national and international reporting awards and fellowships. These include the Fukuoka Grand Prize 2021, the World Media Summit award 2014, the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2007, Amnesty International's Global Human Rights Reporting Prize and the Ramnath Goenka Journalist of the Year award. He has been teaching journalism at the Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai, for three decades, and also at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, since 2000. He was McGraw Professor of Writing in Princeton in 2012.
In December 2014, Sainath launched PARI. Publishing in 14 languages, PARI is an independent multimedia digital platform, whose reporting mandate is to cover every region and section of rural people. In seven years, PARI has won over 50 journalism awards.
Sainath lives in Mumbai.