In the Age of Equality, it will definitely be an offense if we discard the major role played by the women in the freedom struggle in India. They might have been behind the cover compared to the tide of the male counter parts, but their contribution to a Free India cannot be ignored. What were the roles played by the true heroines of India? Ritushree Sengupta unveils the purdah in order to celebrate the so called ‘passive’ Indian struggle.
History of the tri-coloured revolution speaks mostly of men, allowing little space for the women contributors. Even if the long lost heroines of the freedom struggle have managed considerable amount of spaces amidst history text books and discursive academic processes, they however could not really make it as large as their male counterparts. History calls for justification in every phase, and the eulogizing of male patriots can partly be credited to the long narrative of patriarchy.
Kamala Nehru,organized small groups of women and picketed shops of liquor and foreign textiles during the Non Cooperation Movement(1921). She even marveled at inspiring millions of women towards the spirit of nationalism.
The Great revolt of 1857, marked the outburst of first women resistance against British imperial oppression, led by Rani of Jhansi, Lakshmibai. She not only dared to challenge the incorporation of the “Doctrine of Lapse”, but she did fight for her state and most importantly for her son’s monarchial rights. Almost a century later, stood up another woman named Kasturba, surname “GANDHI”, who despite her immense contribution in political activism as well as in promoting education, health, hygiene and discipline in the society could never really match up to the portrayal of her great husband. It would be a sheer misinterpretation to claim that Kasturba did as much as her husband, but considering her socio-cultural status as a woman, she did way more than she was expected to do.
The nightingale of India, Naidu overwhelmed by the protestations of partition of Bengal, joined the mass in its struggle. She tirelessly visited places and delivered lectures on social development, encouraging women to participate in the ongoing freedom struggle by arousing nationalistic feelings in them. She contributed towards the launching of Women’s Indian Association (1917) and she was the first woman to become the president of Indian National Congress. The sincere female protagonists of the Nehru household also stands as the potential contributors in the fierce struggle of independence. Kamala Nehru,organized small groups of women and picketed shops of liquor and foreign textiles during the Non Cooperation Movement(1921). She even marveled at inspiring millions of women towards the spirit of nationalism. The other phoenix from Nehru family was Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, the sister of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru also played a great role in Indian politics. She was the first woman to become cabinet minister and with intense sincerity she performed her utmost duties till death for the progress of nation. She was the first woman president of United Nations General Assembly and also the first woman ambassador to make her nation proud. A close associate of Mahatma Gandhi during the partition riots striking Indian society, Sucheta Kripalani emerged as a major figure of Indian National Congress. Her contribution as a member of the drafting committee of Constituent Assembly during the formation of the Constitution of India should always be remembered.
The question however still appears in various forms, is it just the biological identity that in guise determines a person’s contribution towards such a challenging path! May be that is the beginning point of our quest on this new lap of “one more year of Independence”, why are the heroines unknown still? Why are they not given their due position and status till today?
It would not be incorrect to assert that despite serious social, cultural, economical and of course political restrictions from which these brave heroines emerged, they did not get the same appreciation and acceptance as of their male co-patriots. The socio-political as well as gender limitations of these women were severe but overcoming all of that, they however did display immense strength and courage fighting all sorts of odd atrocities.
India has always enjoyed the status of a “mother-land” in every sense, and has been adored, celebrated and even worshiped to some extent. This fanaticism associated to the portrayal of the country in its core leaves a deep gulf to probe into. Like other much debated discourses, this too considers the recognition of the fact that the very idea of fighting for the nation is closely linked with masculinity, virility and other particular male traits. Unfortunately, these qualities were not overtly possessed by the female patriots and thus they were allotted comparatively lesser attention and recognition.
The question however still appears in various forms, is it just the biological identity that in guise determines a person’s contribution towards such a challenging path! May be that is the beginning point of our quest on this new lap of “one more year of Independence”, why are the heroines unknown still? Why are they not given their due position and status till today? The “Why” continues to live within us, haunting our socio-cultural as well as political narratives in every possible way!