|Indian freedom fighter and revolutionary. Madam Bhikaiji Cama.en.wikipedia.org|
In the early days, Indian women were relegated to the back bench and were not allowed to participate in social activities associated with men. Participation in social activities was just a dream for women in the area of freedom fighting, though they had the guts and high spirits to take their cudgels against foreign one. In a way, as in many parts of the globe, the women were considered weak and unfit for political participation or public life. Not withstanding all these barriers, social restrictions and taboos, there were many courageous Indian women who donned the role of men, fought with them side by side, proved their worth and left a lasting mark in Indian history. Their contributions give inspirations to younger generation of women.
|"Flag of Indian Independence"raised by Ms.Cama- 22 Aug 1907. in Stuttgart, en.wikipedia.org|
When the freedom struggle for India became a matter of pride and a serious issue with so many leaders like Gandhi, Gokhale, Tilak and others leading the forefront, Madam Bhikaji Cama (24 September 1861 – 13 August 1936), a Parsi woman from Gujarat daringly without any hesitation whatsoever, flew the Indian National Flag at the Socialist Convention held in Stuttgart, Germany on the 3rd of August of 1907. This flag was a tri-colored one having green, saffron, and red stripes with eight lotuses and was designed by Veer Vinayak Savarkar and other hardcore freedom fighters. She appealed to the international community for gender equality, equal rights and autonomy for India from the British rulers.
Her brave adventure amidst risks took place exactly 40 years before the Indian independence when the national flag proudly fluttered on Delhi's Red Fort and ramparts of many Indian cities on 15th August,1947. As a radical, she dedicated her entire life to the cause of Indian freedom from the British yoke. Being a socialist, she was more interested in seeing Indians in nook and corner of India breathe free air, and be free from iron shackles put on them by foreign rulers. A great revolutionary, as she was, she took so much pain to publish revolutionary literature, spreading the message of freedom and instilling confidence in the people to fight against the unjust British, who used every strategy to hold on to India at any cost. She did not depend on public subscription for her patriotic work, instead she spent her own money on publication of literature, etc.
|Madam Cama and Barrister Sardarsingh Rana in Paris. .www.savarkar.org|
Bhikai Sorab Patel, born on 24th September 1861 in an affluent Parsi family of Bombay, instead of focusing her attention to her family business, took a different path that was at variance with other family members. Her father Sorabji, a lawyer by training and a merchant by profession, was an influential member of the Parsi community. A student of Alexandra Native Girl's English Institution, Bombay(now Mumbai) she took keen interest in India's freedom in her early life itself. Her marriage to Rustom K.R.Cama, a rich and handsome lawyer interested in social work, did not enthuse her. Because of conflicts of interest and ideology, the companionship did not last long. Now she had begun to focus more attention to social service and when Bombay and adjacent areas were experiencing bubonic plague epidemic (1896), an unexpected natural calamity, risking her health, she along with the team from Grant medical College, Bombay helped the victims and nurtured them back to life. She undertook inoculation and rehabilitation work on a large scale and, in the process, she herself contracted the dreaded disease but luckily she survived. Subsequently she moved over to England in 1902 for medical care and rest. Finally she settled down there, however, she never stopped to support Indian freedom fighters. She particularly supported Veer Savarkar and his book on the history of the first Indian War of Independence. She helped Indian leaders by sending revolutionary magazines to India, which were not available otherwise. Besides she used to give emotional speeches on India's freedom at Hyde park and was in close touch with Indian community leaders such as Dadabhai Naoroji,who was the first Asian to be elected to the British House of Commons, Singh Rewabhai Rana, et al The British at last found her a source of trouble and in 1905 decided to take action against her. When they told to sign an undertaking that she won't get involved with Indian freedom struggle, she refused and the British rulers in India did not allow her to return to India. Later she migrated to France in the same year, from where her freedom struggle continued with out any interruption. She founded Paris Indian Society along with Singh Rewabhai Rana She also visited other European countries in support of India's freedom. As the French government refused her extradition request made by the British, her estate in India was confiscated. In the WW I France and Britain became allies and Cama was sent to Vichy, central France where she was interned. At last when she became too old and weak to stay abroad, she came back to India and died on the 13th of August, 1936, 11 years before India became a free country.
Coming from a rich family with healthy financial background, till her last breath she could have led a cozy and comfortable life, enjoying the perks as other rich women would do in her position. Instead, she strode the tough path ever undertaken by a woman, that too all through her life, she fought for free India with a single mind and dedication. Indeed she was truly a brave woman through out her life and made a name for self in the history of Indian freedom struggle.
01. There are streets in many North Indian cities named after Madam Cama.
02. On 26th January 1962, the Indian Posts and Telegraphs Department issued a stamp to acknowledge her work and give her honor. The Indian Coast Guard consists of a ship that has been named after her.
03. Madam Cama's life gave inspiration to African American writer and intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois in writing his 1928 novel 'Dark Princess.'