Remembering Captain Lakshmi | India’s freedom fighter and activist

June 23 marks the death anniversary of Lakshmi Sahgal, fondly called as Captain Lakshmi. She led the all-woman regiment in the Indian National Army and the Minister of Women’s Affairs in the Azad Hind government. Both were formed by Subhash Chandra Bose.

Lakshmi Sahgal is an ardent freedom fighter and a social activist. She was born as Lakshmi Swaminathan to Ammu who was a social worker and fought for India’s freedom as well. She grew up watching her mother’s struggle and was an activist right from her young age.

She studied in Queen Mary’s College, later joined medicine in Madras Medical College. After finishing her MBBS, she studied a diploma in gynaecology and obstetrics. She was practising medicine in Government Kasturba Gandhi Hospital.

In 1940, she got married to pilot P.K.N. Rao. Her marriage was a failure and in fact, to run away from the same, she moved to Singapore. During her stay, she opened doors for the treatment of poorest of the poor and Indian migrants.

The veteran freedom fighter Rash Behari Bose after multiple meetings came up with India Independence League in order to gain the support of the Japanese to fight for the Indian Independence. Later, an army was formed under Captain Mohan Singh along with a few prisoners. In the final meeting, Rash Behari Bose called Subash Chandra Bose and handed over the leadership of both the Army and the Independence League.

During the surrender of Singapore by the British to the Japanese, Dr Lakshmi treated the prisoners from the war and came to know about Subash Chandra Bose’s idea of forming an all-women army. Thus, the Rani of Jhansi regiment was formed with all-women. They went through rigorous training including weapon training.

Later, she was the only woman member of the cabinet of the Provisional Government of the Azad Hind, led by Bose.

In 1945, she was arrested by the British army. A year later, she was brought back to India. She continued fighting for the freedom and she also gathered funds for the prisoned soldiers. In 1947, in the month of March, the other prisoners were released including Colonel Prem Kumar Sahgal, who served along with her in the INA. She went on to marry him and of course, the fight continued until the Independence.

Post Independence, Captain Lakshmi’s fight changed. Working towards the women empowerment became her part and parcel of life. She also continued seeing patients.

In 1971, during the Bangladesh war, she worked at the border areas of Bongaon for six weeks, saw patients who were injured during the war. During the Bhopal gas tragedy, her team took care of injured patients. She ensured the safety of Sikhs in and around her clinic during the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 on the streets of Kanpur. She continued seeing patients until 2006, at the age of 92.

In 1971, she joined politics and was the sole opponent of APJ Abdul Kalam. The latter won the election.

She died of a cardiac arrest causing brain stroke on 23 July 2012 in Kanpur at the age of 97 after suffering from a prolonged sickness.

Undoubtedly, Captain Lakshmi was an inspiration beyond a generation.

Related posts

PM Modi calls for all-party meeting to discuss Ladakh situation


Indian army: Government sanctions permanent commission to women officers


ICC to assess player’s on-field gestures for George Floyd killing in ‘case to case’ basis

Gomesh Shanmugavelayutham

Born on this day- August 3, Sunil Chhetri


Leave a Comment