Book talk on The Last Heroes: Foot Soldiers of Indian Freedom | Humanities & Social Sciences

Book talk on The Last Heroes: Foot Soldiers of Indian Freedom

Tuesday Seminar
P. Sainath
Date and Time: 
Tue, 28/03/2023 - 3:30pm to 5:30pm
03:30 PM to 05:30 PM
Lecture Hall Complex, Room 316


The celebrations around the 75th year of India's Independence seem devoid of any recall of who and what it was the Indian people fought against to win freedom and Independence. Official websites dedicated to the subject tell young readers nothing about what colonialism did to this country. Nor is there any debate on who won India its Independence. A bunch of returning Oxbridge elites? Or, as Gandhi observed, 'the people themselves'?

My new book The Last Heroes: Foot Soldiers of Indian Freedom records the life stories of 15 very ordinary Indians – representative of millions of others like themselves – and how they took on the British Raj. Farmers, labourers, cooks, couriers, homemakers, artisans, students and others played astonishingly courageous roles without ever gaining personally. They came from a diverse social spectrum: Dalits, Adivasis, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, OBCs, Brahmins, atheists...

What motivated these freedom fighters? And why do they tell us that Freedom and Independence are two different things? In 5-6 years, not a single one of them will be alive. Our younger generations will never get to meet, talk to, listen to, ever engage with anyone who fought for their country's Independence. How do we address that loss?


Palagummi Sainath is founder-editor of the People's Archive of Rural India (PARI). A journalist and reporter for over four decades, he has covered rural India for over 30 years. His new book, The Last Heroes: Foot Soldiers of Indian Freedom, is about the last fighters in India's struggle for Independence.

After an MA in history from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, 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.

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, UNFAO's Boerma Prize, Amnesty International's Global Human Rights Reporting Prize, the European Commission's Lorenzo Natali Media Prize, and the Ramnath Goenka Journalist of the Year award. He is deeply involved in the training of journalists and has been teaching journalism at the social communications media department of 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, a unique online site on rural India. 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 7 years, PARI has won over 50 journalism awards. Sainath lives in Mumbai.

His previous book, Everybody Loves a Good Drought is now in its 60th reprint.