|Died||20 September 1942 (aged 17)|
|Movement||Indian Independence movement|
Kanaklata Barua (22 December 1924 – 20 September 1942), also called Birbala and Shaheed (martyr), was an Indian independence activist and AISF leader who was shot dead by the British police while leading a procession bearing the National Flag during the Quit India Movement of 1942.
Barua was born in the Borangabari village of the undivided Darrang district of Assam as the daughter of Krishna Kanta and Karneshwari Barua. Her grandfather Ghana Kanta Barua was a famous hunter in Darrang. Her ancestors were from the Dolakasharia Barua kingdom (Chutia vassal chiefdom) of the erstwhile Ahom state who relinquished the Dolakasharia title and continued retaining Barua title. Her mother died when she was only five and her father, who remarried, died when she reached thirteen. She went to school till class three but then dropped out to take care of her younger siblings.She dropped out of school after third grade due to scarcity of money and tough life.
She was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, Kiran Bala Bora, Ambika Kataki Aidew, Bishnu Prabha Rabha, Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, among others. After Gandhi gave the call of Quit India Movement, she started secretly meeting at the nationalistic camp as a teenager. She and her brother Rajanikanta successfully convinced their family to let them join Quit India movement. She joined the newly established 'Shanti Bahini'(Peace Force) which was established by Assam Provincial Congress Committee to guard villages at night and keep peace during protests. Barua joined the Mrityu Bahini('Death Army'), a death squad comprising groups of youth from the Gohpur sub division of Assam, which was formed by Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, in line with Gandhi's 'Do or Die' call. On 20 September 1942, the Bahini decided she would hoist the national flag at the local police station. A procession of unarmed villagers were led by Barua to do so. The police under Rebati Mahan Som the officer in-charge of the police station warned the procession of dire consequences if they proceeded with their plan. Undeterred by the police, the procession continued marching ahead when the police fired upon the procession. Barua was shot and the flag she was carrying with her was taken up by Mukunda Kakoti who too was shot at. Both Barua and Kakoti were killed in the police action. Barua was only 17 years of age at the time of her martyrdom.
The Fast Patrol Vessel ICGS Kanak Lata Barua of the Indian Coast Guard, commissioned in 1997, is named after Barua. A life size statue of hers was unveiled at Gauripur in 2011. Her impassioned speech before her death, remains a source of inspiration for many. She laid down her life for the freedom of the country at the age of 17 years.
Her story was retold in director Chandra Mudoi's film, Epaah Phulil Epaah Xoril. The Hindi version of the movie, titled Purab Ki Awaz, was also released to reach a wider audience.