Monday, July 23, 2012

Lakshmi Sahgal

File:Lakshmi Sahgal.jpg

Lakshmi Sahgal (or Sehgal) (Tamil: லட்சுமி சாகல்;Malayalam: ലക്ഷ്മി സൈഗാൾ; 24 October 1914 – 23 July 2012) was a revolutionist of the Indian independence movement, an officer of the Indian National Army, and the Minister of Women's Affairs in the Azad Hind government. Sahgal is commonly referred to in India as Captain Lakshmi, a reference to her rank when taken prisoner in Burma.

Early life
Sahgal was born Lakshmi Swaminathan in Chennai (previously known as Madras) on October 24, 1914 to S. Swaminathan, a lawyer who practiced criminal law at Madras High Court and A.V. Ammukutty, better known as Ammu Swaminathan, a social worker and independence activist from the prominent Vadakkath family of Anakkara in Palghat, Kerala.[1]

Sahgal chose to study medicine and received an MBBS degree from Madras Medical College in 1938. A year later, she received her diploma in gynaecology and obstetrics.[2] She worked as a doctor in the Government Kasturba Gandhi Hospital located at Triplicane Chennai.[1]

In 1940, she left for Singapore after the failure of her marriage with pilot P.K.N. Rao.[1] During her stay at Singapore, she met the members of Netaji’s Indian National Army.[1] she established a clinic for the poor, most of whom were migrant laborers from India.[citation needed] It was at this time that she began to play an active role in the India Independence League.

The Azad Hind Fauj
In 1942, during the surrender of Singapore by the British to the Japanese, Sahgal aided wounded prisoners of war, many of whom who were interested in forming an Indian liberation army. Singapore at this time had several nationalist Indians working there including K. P. Kesava Menon, S. C. Guha and N. Raghavan who formed a Council of Action. Their Indian National Army or Azad Hind Fauj however received no firm commitments or approval from the occupying Japanese forces regarding their participation in the war.[3]Later years

It was against this backdrop that Subhas Chandra Bose arrived in Singapore on July 2, 1943. In the next few days, at all his public meetings, "Netaji" spoke of his determination to raise a women's regiment which would "fight for Indian Independence and make it complete".[citation needed] Lakshmi had heard that Bose was keen to draft women into the organisation and requested a meeting with him from which she emerged with a mandate to set up a women’s regiment, to be called the Rani of Jhansi regiment. Women responded enthusiastically to join the all-women brigade and Dr. Lakshmi Swaminathan became Captain Lakshmi, a name and identity that would stay with her for life.[3]

The INA marched to Burma with the Japanese army in December 1944 but by March 1945, with the tide of war turning against them, the INA leadership decided to beat a retreat before they could enter Imphal. Captain Lakshmi was arrested by the British army in May 1945, remaining in Burma until March 1946, when she was sent to India – at a time when the INA trials in Delhi heightened popular discontent with and hastened the end of colonial rule.[3]

In 1971, Sahgal joined the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and represented the party in the Rajya Sabha. During the Bangladesh crisis, she organized relief camps and medical aid in Calcutta for refugees who streamed into India from Bangladesh. She was one of the founding members of AIDWA in 1981 and led many of its activities and campaigns. She led a medical team to Bhopal after the gas tragedy in December 1984, worked towards restoring peace in Kanpur following the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 and was arrested for her participation in a campaign against the Miss World competition in Bangalore in 1996[3]. She was still seeing patients regularly at her clinic in Kanpur in 2006, at the age of 92.[3]

In 2002, four leftist parties – the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Revolutionary Socialist Party, and the All India Forward Bloc – nominated Sahgal as a candidate in the presidential elections. She was the sole opponent of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who emerged victorious.[4]. Cap Lekshmi Sahgal breathed her last on 23 July 2012.

Personal life
Sahgal married Colonel Prem Kumar Sahgal in March 1947 in Lahore. After their marriage, they settled in Kanpur, where she continued with her medical practice and aided the refugees who were arriving in large numbers following the Partition of India.

The Sahgals' daughter, Subhashini Ali, is a prominent Communist politician and labor activist. According to Ali, Sahgal was an atheist. The filmmaker Shaad Ali is her grandson

On 19 Jul. 2012, Captain Lakshmi Sehgal suffered a cardiac arrest. She passed away on 23 July 2012 at 11:20 A.M. at the age of 97 at Kanpur. [6][7] Her body was donated to medical research. [8]

In 1998, Sahgal was awarded the Padma Vibhushan by Indian president K. R. Narayanan.

1 comment:

Rahul said...

May God rest her soul in peace. A true human being, a true Indian and a true solider.