#RepublicDay: A tribute to the heroines of the Indian independence movement

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Before we could become a republic, India had to overthrow its colonial oppressor in a battle that lasted nearly a century, fought equally by members of both sexes. Our history books have little or nothing to say about the courageous women who fought alongside their male counterparts.

So, today, as you’re watching the parade and enjoying your holiday, take a minute to pay homage to these amazing women who stood up against all odds and deserve to be remembered as heroines.

1. Bhikaji Cama

Bhikaji Cama was one of the pioneers of the Indian independence movements, one of India’s first feminists and a natural born rebel. Sadly, now she is mostly famed for buildings and roads named after her.

Highborn to a Parsi family, Madame Cama married a pro-British lawyer but went against him every chance she got.

In 1896, she worked closely in aiding those afflicted by the bubonic plague epidemic in Bombay. While inoculating those stricken with the disease, she fell ill herself. Eventually, she went to England to seek treatment.

While she was in London, BKC received a letter letting her know she could not return to India unless she promised to stop helping the Nationalist movement. She refused and remained in exile in Europe.

But exile didn’t slow BKC’s roll. She met Indian nationalists in Europe, helped publish the Indian Independence Manifesto in Holland, and hoisted the Indian flag at the International Socialist Conference at Stuttgart in Germany, 1907. She donated most of her money to build orphanages for girls.

Even away from her homeland, she managed to incense the Raj so much that the British government demanded her extradition while she was living in Paris. The French refused, and the colonial government confiscated her inheritance.

 

2. Rajkumari Amrit Kaur

Born into the royal family that ruled Kapurthala (a princely state post independence,) Rajkumari Amrit Kaur’s journey as a staunch Gandhian and advocate for social welfare began shortly after the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.

The killings motivated her to take a more active part in the Nationalist movement in Punjab, but this princess traveled across India speaking on the cause. She was twice jailed — once along with Mahatma Gandhi during the Dandi March or the Salt Satyagraha on 12 March 1930. Seven years later, the British arrested her on sedition charges while in the Northwest Frontier Province of Bannu where she had gone to champion the Indian National Congress’s cause.

A Gandhian for life, Kaur renounced her material goods and lived in Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram.

Known as a fierce champion of social equality, Kaur spent most of her time fighting for gender equality and upliftment of Harijans. In 1938, she was elected as the president of All India Women’s Conference. She was also the first woman member of Hindustani Talimi Sangh.

Rajkumari was, even more, active in social work than in politics. She spent most of her time championing education for women and was equally concerned with the upliftment of Harijans.

Post independence, Kaur became of India’s first Cabinet Ministers overseeing the Health and Sports Ministry. She was also responsible for starting the construction of the All India Medical Institute (AIIMS.)

 

3. Tara Rani Srivastava

Not all the women who actively participated in India’s independence movement were high born. A vast majority of them were middle-class women like Tara Rani Srivastava, the Braveheart of Siwan district.

Born in Saran near Patna, Bihar, Tara Rani and her husband Phulendu Babu were active participants in the Quit India movement. In the 1930s, when Gandhi called upon the newly married couple, Tara and her Phulendu organized a huge crowd to march to Siwan police station and hoist the Indian national flag on its roof.

Phulendu was shot during the procession, but Tara remained staunch. Reportedly, she bandaged his wounds and kept going forward. By the time she returned, he had succumbed to his bullet injuries.

 

4. Abadi Bano Begum

Fondly called Bi-Amma, Abadi Begum was one of the first Muslim women to speak out against the Raj, and that too from behind purdah. Her speech before the Muslim League during a meeting in 1917 was one of the most touching calls for unification and independence.

“Hindus and Muslims are the two eyes of India,” she reportedly said while calling for friendship between the two communities.

Most people don’t know that she invented the “Gandhi cap.” She also collected over 40 lakhs during the freedom movement — money that went on to fund the struggle.

A widow at the age of 30, Bi-Amma overcame many obstacles. Though she was not an educated woman, she sincerely believed in the benefits of higher education for Muslims. Her son Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar went on to co-found the Jamia Milia University and was the leader of the Khilafat Movement.

 

5. Sucheta Kriplani

Perhaps one of the most well-known freedom fighters, Sucheta Kriplani was UP’s first woman Chief Minister and founded the All India Mahilla Congress in 1940.

She worked closely with Mahatma Gandhi during the partition riots as well as the independence movement. She was one of the few women who were part of the subcommittee that watched over the drafting of our constitution. Kriplani was the first person to sing the national anthem Vande Mataram on 15th August 1947 in the Constituent Assembly.

 

Special Thanks to our Pyjama Partners

Clothing:

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All clothes worn by our models for this shoot were provided by 11.11 clothing, a Delhi based design company that claims it “dissolves the distinction between daywear and evening wear” to create “an identity which is never under or over dressed for any situation.” You can see more of 11.11’s effortlessly chic wares on Facebook.

Accessories:

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The jewellery worn by the models in this post are designed and sold by Purab Pashchim. The company takes pride in its jewels that are “handmade with love to accentuate the elegance and confidence of a chic woman.” Follow their work on Facebook.

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The glasses worn by Sabah were provided generously by Pataaka accessories. The label makes eyewear and funky accessories.Check them out on Facebook.

Photography

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Karishma Bedi is a Delhi-based photographer, full-on gunda, and a member of the Sisterhood of travelling pyjamas. You can follow her work on Instagram and Facebook.

Models

The PyjamasSohaya Misra and Avantika Mehta; Karishma Bedi; Chetna Chopra; and Saba Ishtiaq.

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