Thursday 22nd February 2024,
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Defaming the Hindu Sacred Feminine ( Part 2 )

Defaming the Hindu Sacred Feminine ( Part 2 )

Women in the forefront for India’s Freedom Struggle

It is commonly held that the arrival of the British created new opportunities for women and greatly increased their rights. What is conveniently forgotten is that women in Britain did not even get the vote until 1918, and full equality in areas such as pay, housing, employment, finance and public life took many painstaking years to achieve until well into the twentieth century. Their great feat was said to have been the abolition of sati: self-immolation of widow on funeral pyre of her deceased husband. In fact in the ninth century it was condemned by Medhātithi’, commentator on the Manusmirti. In the seventh century Harshavardhana’s court poet Bana condemned it both as suicide and as a pointless and futile act. Bhakti movements such as the Alvars in the eighth century and the Virashaivas in the twelfth also condemned the practice. The Maratha peshwas also made some moves against the rite. So India’s women did not welcome the British colonialists as liberators as our anti-Hindu secularists would have us believe. As with all such imperialists the motivation and aim was plunder and conquest. Unsurprisingly this elicited often heroic resistance in which India’s women took an active part.

Resistance in Punjab

 Bibi Rajindar Kaur, or Rajindan, was a Sikh princess and first cousin of Raja Amar Singh of Patiala In 1778 the latter was her defeated by Hari Singh of Sialba. It was Bibi Rajinder Kaur who led 3,000 soldiers to rescue him. She also defended the city of Patiala against Maratha attacks. Bibi Sahib Kaur was a princess of the same state who became its prime minister in 1793 and also led armies in battle against the British, being one of the few Indian women to win battles against them. In 1802 the holy city of Amritsar was itself defended from the armies of Maharaja Ranjit Singh by Mai Sukhlan, widow of Sardar Gulab Singh Bhangi of the Dhillon Jats who ruled the region. Ranjit Singh had married Mehtab, the daughter of Sada Kaur and Gurbaksh Singh Kanhaiya. Sada Kaur played an important role in uniting different Sikh forces under the command of Ranjit Singh to drive out the Afghan invader Shah Zaman. She also became a close advisor of Ranjit Singh and guided him in becoming the most powerful Sikh ruler and led her forces to take Lahore in 1799. Maharaja Ranjit Singh himself employed the Zenana Corps a detachment of one hundred and fifty warriors, the prettiest girls from Kashmir, Iran and the Punjab, magnificently dressed, armed with bows and arrows and mounted on horseback.

By now the British were taking over India. Resistance to their imperial might came from many quarters. Yet how many people are aware that encroaching British rule was challenged by women on the battlefield? Begum Samru was of Kashmiri descent and a nautch girl courtesan who married Walter Reinhardt Sombre, a mercenary soldier from Luxembourg. The Begum, though only of short stature, wore a turban and rode on horseback as she led her troops to battle. So invincible did she seem that the superstitious spread the word that she was a witch who could destroy her enemies just by throwing her cloak towards them. On the death of Reinhardt she succeeded to lead the principality he had carved out; Sardhana near Meerut. She has been India’s only Roman Catholic head of a princely state and commanded an army of both European and Indian troops. The British East India Company even considered her a threat to its territorial ambitions in India. Her palatial building still stands in Chandni Chowk, New Delhi and is now owned by the State Bank of India.

Resistance in Karnataka

Kitturu Rani ChennammaKitturu Rani Chennamma (October 23, 1778 – February 21, 1829) was the Queen of Kittur in Karnataka, southern India. In her youth she received training in horse riding, sword fighting and archery. She became queen of her native kingdom and married Raja Mallasarja, of the Desai family, and had one son; after her son’s death in 1824 she adopted Shivalingappa, and made him heir to the throne. The British East India Company did not accept this and ordered Shivalingappa’s expulsion, using a policy of paramountcy and complete authority (doctrine of lapse officially codified between 1848 and 1856 by Lord Dalhousie), but Chennamma defied the order. Rani Chennamma sent a letter to Governor at Bombay to plead the cause of Kittur, but Lord Elphinstone turned down the request leading to all out war. The British tried to confiscate the treasure and jewels of Kittur (valued around Fifteen Lakhs of rupees) and attacked with a force of 200 men and four guns, mainly from the third troop of Madras Native Horse Artillery. In the first round of war, during October 1824, British forces lost heavily with St John Thackeray, Collector and Political agent, killed by the Rani’s forces. Two British officers, Sir Walter Elliot and Mr. Stevenson[ were also taken as hostages. Rani Chennamma released the hostages with an understanding with Chaplin that the war would be terminated. But Chaplin treacherously continued the war with even more soldiers. Chennamma fought fiercely with the aid of her lieutenant, Sangolli Rayanna, but was ultimately captured and imprisoned at Bailhongal Fort, where she died on 21 February 1829. Sangolli Rayanna continued the guerrilla war up to 1829 until his capture, but it was in vain, and was caught due to treachery and hanged. Chennamma was born 56 years before the 1857 rebel Rani of Jhansi, and was thus the first woman to fight against British governance and the kappa tax. Her legacy and first victory are still commemorated in Kittur, during the Kittur Utsava of every 22–24 October. On 11 September 2007 a statue of Rani Chennamma was unveiled at the Indian Parliament Complex by Pratibha Patil, the first woman President of India. Her statues are installed at Bangalore and Kittur also. Rani Chennamma’s samadhi or burial place is in Bailhongal taluk, but is in neglected state with poor maintenance and the place is surrounded by a small park maintained by Government agencies.

Women in India’s First War of Independence

Rani_Avanti_Bai_,_a_lodhi_warrior_queen_in_1857While the British conquered areas once ruled by the previous colonial power, the Mughals, they of course went beyond to subjugate almost the entire subcontinent. That rule was challenged in 1857.

Among the Indian leaders of this incipient independence movement was Rani Avantibai or Avanit Bai Lodhi, widow of Vikramaditya Singh, the ruler of Ramgarh. In what is now Madhya Pradesh. When he died, leaving his wife with no heir, the British placed Ramgarh under their administration. Avantibai thus raised an army of four thousand and personally led it against the British in 1857. When, after a few months’ struggle, she saw that her defeat was imminent, she killed herself with her own sword. Also prominent in trying to oust the British East India Company was

Begum Hazrat Mahal. Born Muhammadi Khanum, she had been sold by her parents to the court of Awadh (Oudh) where she was trained as a courtesan. But she was raised to junior wife of Awadh’s last ruler, Wajid Ali Shah. When the British forced the latter’s exile to Calcutta she took charge of the affairs of state and during 1857 led her army against the foreign power, capturing Lucknow and declaring her son  the nawab and urging unity of all Indians:

“To eat pigs and drink wine, to bite greased cartridges and to mix pig’s fat with sweetmeats, to destroy Hindu and Mussalman temples on pretence of making roads, to build churches, to send clergymen into the streets to preach the Christian religion, to institute English schools, and pay people a monthly stipend for learning the English sciences, while the places of worship of Hindus and Mussalmans are to this day entirely neglected; with all this, how can people believe that religion will not be interfered with?”

With her defeat the Begum sought exile in Nepal where she died in 1879. On 15 August 1962, she was honoured at a simple yet serious ceremony in the old Victoria Park where a marble memorial built by the state Government in the memory of the Begum as she played a very crucial role during the era of the first freedom movement in 1857 was announced as open. Independent India honoured her further when it issued a commemorative stamp in the honour of Begum Hazrat Mahal on 10 May 1984.

Jhansi Ki RaniThe 1857 revolt dubbed The Mutiny by the British led to that most famous Indian woman warrior and ruler of them all; Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi. In the British report of the battle which took Gwalior, Hugh Rose commented that Rani Lakshmibai is “personable, clever and beautiful” and she is “the most dangerous of all Indian leaders”.

Lakshmibhai’s women’s army included her favourite combatant, Jhalkaribai. Born into a poor Koli or Kori (from which we get the term ‘coolie’) family, she rose from ordinary soldier to a position of advising the queen and participating in vital decisions. After her mother died, Jhalkaribai’s father raised her as a boy, training her in horse-riding and combat. She garnered notoriety in her region when she killed a leopard in the forest with a stick she used to herd cattle.Such was her loyalty and courage that at the height of the battle of fort of Jhansi, she disguised herself as the queen and fought on the front to let the queen escape safely out of the fort. Her fate remains a mystery but her life has become immortalised in folklore and songs of the Bundelkhand region in central India. Recently Jhalkaribai has become an icon in the struggle against caste discrimination by the Bahujan Samaj Party, emphasising her as a hero of the masses. The death anniversary of Jhalkaribai is celebrated as Shahid Diwas (Martyr Day) by various Dalit organizations annually. But her significance is recognised beyond these narrow interpretations. The movement for a separate state of Bundelkhand uses her image as a symbol of Bundeli identity. he Government of India’s Post and Telegraph department has also issued a postal stamp depicting Jhalkaribai.

 Rani of Jhansi Regiment INARani of Jhansi has become an enduring symbol of Indian nationalism. Indeed a regiment honouring  her name was formed by Subhas Bose’s Indian National Army in 1942, composing mainly teenage volunteers from Malaya’s rubber plantations. One such soldier was Puan Sri Janaki Athi Nahappan, also known as Janaky Devar. She came from an affluent Tamil family in Malaya yet was only 16 when she responded to Bose’s call for an armed force with which to liberate India. In fact she became second in Command of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment. After the war Janaky became a welfare activist and helped John Thivy form the Malayan Indian Congress and was one of the first women who fought for Malayan independence. He later became a senator in Dewan Negara of the Malaysian parliament.

Women in Armed Resistance to Imperialism

Lakshmi Sahgal actually served as an officer within the INA, having already played a prominent role in the Indian Independence League and helped run a clinic for poor migrant Indian labourers in Singapore. She became Captain Lakshmi of the all-female Rani of Jhansi regiment. After independence, Sahgal joined the Communist Party of India in 1971 and Lakshmi Sahgalrepresented it in the Rajya Sabha. That same year she organised relief camps and medical aid in Calcutta for refugees who streamed into India from Bangladesh. 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. n 1998, Sahgal was awarded the Padma Vibhushan by Indian president K. R. Narayanan.

She was still seeing patients regularly at her clinic in Kanpur in 2006, at the age of 92. She died in 2012 at the age of 97. Her daughter Subhashni Ali also became a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and is part of its central committee. In addition Ali is an active trade unionist, is president of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, and represented Kanpur in the Lok Sabha in 1991.

This example set by Janaky mirrored how women in India themselves did not take the reimposition of British rule meekly. Rani of Jhansi was merely the precursor to more brave daughters of holy Mother India. Pritilata Waddedar was a revolutionary nationalist from Bengal, when that region stood in the vanguard of Indian nationalism at the dawn of the twentieth century.

Bust_of_Pritilata_WaddedarAfter a brief stint as a school teacher, Pritilata joined a revolutionary group headed by Surya Sen. She led a 15 man team of revolutionaries in a 1932 attack on the Pahartali European Club, which had a sign board that read “Dogs and Indians not allowed”. The revolutionaries torched the club and were later caught by the British police. To avoid getting arrested, Pritilata consumed cyanide and died. A trust named Birkannya Pritilata Trust (Brave lady Pritilata Trust) has been founded in her memory and considers her to be “a beacon of light for women”.  Pritilata’s birthday is celebrated by the trust in different places of Bangladesh and India every year. Bangladeshi writer Selina Hossain calls Pritilata an ideal for every woman.

Kalpana Datta also originated from Bengal. She joined the Chhatri Sangha (Women Students Association) in 1929. She joined the armed resistance movement led by Surya Sen, which carried out the Chittagong armoury raid in 1930. While he was captured she managed to go underground and evade arrest until 1933. Released in 1939 she joined the Communist Party of India, marrying its general secretary Puran Chand Joshi.

Sucheta Mazumdar was born into a Bengali family settled in Ambala. She became a Professor of Constitutional History at Banaras Hindu University and in 1936 married socialist, Acharya Kriplani and became involved with the Indian National Congress. Active in Quit India, Sucheta Kriplani accompanied Gandhi when he visited Naokhali in Bengal after it suffered communal carnage in 1946. She was one of the few women who were elected to the Constituent Assembly and was part of the subcommittee that drafted the Indian Constitution, as well as becoming part of the subcommittee that was handed over the task of laying down the charter for the constitution of India. After independence Sucheta Krilpani continued to make milestones. She was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1952 and 1957 from New Delhi constituency and served as a Minister of State for Small Scale Industries. In 1962, she was elected to the Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Sabha from Kanpur and served in the Cabinet in 1962. In 1963, she became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the first woman to hold that position in any Indian state.

The Active Role Played by Women in the Freedom Movement

Aruna_asaf_aliAruna Ansaf Ali was active in the Indian National Congress and was arrested for participating in Gandhi’s Salt March. In 1932, she was held prisoner at the Tihar Jail where she protested the indifferent treatment of political prisoners by launching a hunger strike. Her efforts resulted in an improvement of conditions in the Tihar Jail. With the arrest of Congress leaders following the launch of Quit India movement on 8 August 1942 Aruna Ansaf Ali presided over the remainder of the party session and hoisted the Congress flag at the Gowalia Tank maidan. Police responded by firing on the assembly.

Hence Aruna was dubbed the Heroine of the 1942 movement for her bravery in the face of danger and was called Grand Old Lady of the Independence movement in her later years. An arrest warrant was issued in her name but she went underground to evade the arrest and started underground movement in year 1942 . Her property was seized and sold. In the meanwhile, she also edited Inquilab, a monthly magazine of the Congress Party, along with Ram Manohar Lohia. In a 1944 issue, she exhorted youth to action by asking them to forget futile discussions about violence and non-violence and join the revolution. The government announced a reward of 5000 rupees- for her capture. At Gandhi’s exhortation she surrendered but earned his ire for supporting the Indian naval mutiny of 1946, feeling that it would unite Hindus and Muslims in a common cause.

After independence she left Congress for the Socialist Party, and then the Communist Party of India. In 1954, she helped form the National Federation of Indian Women, the women’s wing of CPI but left the party in 1956 following Khrushchev’s disowning of Stalin. In 1958, she was elected the first Mayor of Delhi. She was closely associated with social activists and secularists of her era like Krishna Menon, Vimla Kapoor, Guru Radha Kishan, Premsagar Gupta, Rajani Palme Dutt, Sarla Sharma and Subhadra Joshi for social welfare and development in Delhi. She and Narayanan started Link publishing house and published a daily newspaper, Patriot and a weekly, Link the same year. Aruna Asaf Ali was awarded International Lenin Peace Prize for the year 1964 and the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1991.She was awarded India’s second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan in her lifetime in 1992, and finally the highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, posthumously in 1997. In 1998, a stamp commemorating her was issued. Aruna Asaf Ali marg in New Delhi was named in her honour. All India Minorities Front distributes the Dr Aruna Asaf Ali Sadbhawana Award annually. Right up until he death in 1996 Aruna was known for her frugal and simple lifestyle, even using public transport.

Bhikhaiji Rustom CamaBhikhaiji Rustom Cama first came to prominence in 1896. From an affluent Parsi family, Cama joined the volunteer relief teams helping the victims of famine and bubonic plague that hit Bombay presidency. Weakened by contracting plague herself, she was sent to Britain for medical care in 1901. She was preparing to return to India in 1902 when she came in contact with Shyamji Krishna Varma. Through him, she met Dadabhai Naoroji, then president of the British Committee of the Indian National Congress, and for whom she came to work as private secretary. Together with Naoroji and Singh Rewabhai Rana, Cama supported the founding of Varma’s Indian Home Rule Society in February 1905. In London, she was told that her return to India would be prevented unless she would sign a statement promising not to participate in nationalist activities. She refused and instead relocated to Paris where she helped to found the Paris Indian Society. Cama wrote, published (in Holland and Switzerland) and distributed revolutionary literature for the movement, including Bande Mataram (founded in response to the British ban on the poem Vande Mataram) and later Madan’s Talwar (in response to the execution of Madan Lal Dhingra). These weeklies were smuggled into India through the French colony of Pondicherry. On 22 August 1907, Cama attended the International Socialist Conference in Stuttgart where she described the devastating effects of a famine that had struck the Indian subcontinent. In her appeal for human rights, equality and for autonomy from Great Britain, she unfurled what she called the “Flag of Indian Independence”, the basis of the modern Indian flag. Influenced by Christabel Pankhurst and the Suffragette movement, Bhikhaiji Cama was vehement in her support for gender equality. Speaking in Cairo in 1910, she asked:

“I see here the representatives of only half the population of Egypt. May I ask where is the other half? Sons of Egypt, where are the daughters of Egypt? Where are your mothers and sisters? Your wives and daughters?”

Cama’s stance with respect to the vote for women was however secondary to her position on Indian independence; in 1920, upon meeting Herabai and Mithan Tata, two Parsi women outspoken on the issue of the right to vote, Cama is said to have sadly shaken her head and observed:

“Work for Indian’s freedom and [i]ndependence. When India is independent women will not only [have] the [v]ote, but all other rights.”

With the outbreak of war in 1914 Cama was interned for a time in Vichy. Cama remained in exile in until 1935, when, gravely ill and paralysed by a stroke that she had suffered earlier that year, she petitioned the British government through Sir Cowasji Jehangir to be allowed to return to her homeland. Writing from Paris on 24 June 1935, she acceded to the requirement that she renounce seditionist activities. Accompanied by Jehangir, she arrived in Bombay in November 1935 and died nine months later, aged 74, at Parsi General Hospital on 13 August 1936. Several Indian cities have streets and places named after Bhikhaiji Cama, or Madame Cama as she is also known. On 26 January 1962, India’s 11th Republic Day In 1997, the Indian Coast Guard commissioned a Priyadarshini-class fast patrol vessel ICGS Bikhaiji Cama after her, while the Indian Posts and Telegraphs Department issued a commemorative stamp in her honour.

Kamaladevi ChattopadhyayKamaladevi Chattopadhyay was of Chitapavan Brahman background. She returned from study in England in 1923 to join Gandhi’s social uplift movement, the Seva Dal. Here she was placed in charge of the women’s section of the Dal, where she got involved in recruiting, training and organizing girls and women of all ages women across India, to become voluntary workers, ‘sevikas’. Her work was further enhanced when in 1926 she met the suffragette Margaret E. Cousins, the founder of All India Women’s Conference (AIWC), and was inspired her to run for the Madras Provincial Legislative Assembly. Thus she became the first woman to run for a Legislative seat in India.

Though she could campaign for only a few days, she lost only by 200 votes. Undeterred, the following year, she founded the All-India Women’s Conference (AIWC) and became its first Organising Secretary. The AIWC of course  grew up to become a national organization of repute, with branches and voluntary programs run throughout India. During her tenure, Chattopadhyay travelled extensively to many European nations and was inspired to initiate several social reform and community welfare programs, and set up educational institutions, run for the woman, and by women. Notable was the formation of Lady Irwin College for Home Sciences in New Delhi. In 1930 she joined Avantikabai Gokhale as the only 2 women as part of Gandhi’s Salt March in manufacturing salt on the Bombay beachfront. Kamaladevi even went up to a nearby High Court, and asked a magistrate present there whether he would be interested in buying the ‘Freedom Salt’ she had just prepared. On 26 January 1930 she captured the imagination of the entire nation when in a scuffle, she clung to the Indian tricolour to protect it. Then she courted arrest by trying to sell packets of contraband salt in the city’s stock exchange. In 1936 she became president of the Congress Socialist Party and spoke out against Gandhi’s’ decision t exclude women in the Dandi Salt March. With partition in 1947 Kamaladevi set up the Indian Cooperative Union to help with rehabilitation, and through the Union she made plans for a township on cooperative lines. Gandhi again opposed her and yet without state help she nevertheless managed to establish the township of Faridabad on the outskirts of Delhi, rehabilitating over 50,000 refugees from Pakistan.

20040116001609302Working indefatigably she helped the refugees to establish new homes and new professions. For this they were trained in new skills and she also helped setting up health facilities in the new town. Her greatest legacy in this endeavour was reviving traditional handicrafts. Concerned that Nehru’s modernisation policies of western-style mass factory line production  threatened cottage industries and especially the employment of women, Kamaladevi established series of crafts museums to hold and archive India’s indigenous arts and crafts that served as a storehouse for indigenous known how, including the Theatre Crafts Museum in Delhi. She instituted the National Awards for Master Craftsmen, and her enterprising spirit lead to the setting up Central Cottage Industries Emporia and All India Handicrafts Board. She was the first chairperson of the latter. Kamaladevi was also active in reviving the arts. In 1964 she started the Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography (NIKC), Bangalore, under the aegis of Bharatiya Natya Sangh, affiliated to the UNESCO. Also affiliated to UNESCO was yet another body she set up, the Sangeet Natak Akademi. In addition Kamaladevi set up the National School of Drama. UNESCO honoured her with an award in 1977 for her contribution towards the promotion of handicrafts. Shantiniketan honoured her with the Desikottama, its highest award. UNIMA (Union Internationals de la Marlonette), International Puppetry organization, also made her their Member of Honour.

The Government of India conferred on her the Padma Bhushan (1955) and later the, the Padma Vibhushan in 1987, which are among the highest civilian awards of India. She also received the Ramon Magsaysay Award (1966) for Community Leadership, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship, Ratna Sadsya, the highest award of Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama, given for lifetime achievement in 1974. Today, the World Crafts Council gives two awards in her memory, the Kamaladevi Awards and the Kamala Sammaan, for exceptional craft persons or to individual for their outstanding contribution to the field of Crafts, while the Crafts Council of Karnataka gives the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay Vishwakarma Awards each year to noteworthy crafts persons. For over three decades now, Bhartiya Natya Sangha has been awarding the ‘Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya Award’ for the best play of the year. In 2007, the Outlook Magazine chose Kamaladevi amongst its list of 60 Great Indians.

Gandhi with Rajkumari Amrit KaurRajkumari Amrit Kaur cast away all luxuries and comforts and spent her life in the service of India’s people, dressing in the native raw cotton garments known as khadi, and taking up the Spartan lifestyle at Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram from 1934, serving as his secretary for 16 years. The daughter of Raja Harnam Singh, a Sikh convert to Christianity  from the princely house of Kapurthala, and  a Presbyterian mother from Bengal, Amrit Kaur worked tirelessly from the age of 20 to free India from foreign rule. In 1930, Amrit took part in the salt campaign. In 1934, she joined the ashram as one of Gandhiji’s secretaries.

During the Quit India Movement of 1942 she led many processions and courted arrest . Deeply concerned about the welfare of children, women and sports for the youth, she worked towards the betterment of education facilities and the eradication of child marriage and purdah system. She was one of the founder members of the All-India Women Conference in 1927, was appointed its secretary in 1930 and became its president in 1933. Amrit Kaur championed the cause of universal suffrage, and testified before the Lothian Committee on Indian franchise and constitutional reforms, and before the Joint Select Committee of British Parliament on Indian constitutional reforms.


She stressed that women must be given opportunities to work outside the four walls of their homes. On the plight of women she said:

The abolition of early marriage and purdah…will remove two of the main obstacles in the way of the spread of female education. Needless to say that the position of the widows in Hindu homes, marriage laws and the laws relating to the inheritance of property by women need radical alteration.

In the realm of educational reform, we have urged ever since our inception that there should be free and compulsory education. Again, as far as proper facilities for the female education are concerned until such time as universal, free and compulsory primary education as well as an adequate supply of infant and girls’ schools equipped with trained women teachers are introduced, we must continue to do our utmost to have the system of education in our existing institutions changed.

Guard of Honour for Dr. Rajkumari Amrit Kaur at All-India Women's Conference, MadrabTo this extent Amrit Kaur undertook many endeavours. She served as the Chairperson of the All India Women’s Education Fund Association and in the Executive Committee of Lady Irwin College.

She attended the UNESCO conference in London and Paris in 1945 and 1946, respectively. After independence Amrit Kaur became Minister of Health and in this capacity initiated many projects to improve the health of her fellow Indians.

She was a strong force behind the establishment of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and became its first president , using her position to elicit financial from New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Germany and the USA. he and one of her brothers donated their ancestral property and house (named Manorville) in Shimla to serve as a holiday home for the staff and nurses of the Institute. Amrit Kaur served as the Chairperson of the Indian Red Cross society for fourteen years during which time the humanitarian outfit pioneered much work in the hinterlands of India.

She initiated the Tuberculosis Association of India and the Central Leprosy Teaching and Research Institute in Madras. She also started the Rajkumari Amrit Kaur College of Nursing. Her ability and intellect was admired so extensively that she was elected president of the World Health Assembly in 1950. Thus she became the first woman as well as the first Asian to hold this post.  From 1957 until her death in 1964, Amrit Kaur remained a member of Rajya Sabha. Between 1958 and Kasturba1963 she was the president of the All-India Motor Transport Congress in Delhi. Until her death, she continued to hold the presidencies of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the Tuberculosis Association of India, and the St. John’s Ambulance Corps. She also was awarded the Rene Sand Memorial Award.

Mahatma Gandhi’s own wife Kasturba worked closely her husband in fighting for civil rights and Indian independence. After Gandhi moved to South Africa to practice law, she joined him and was active in the Phoenix settlement near Durban. During the 1913 satyagraha against working conditions for Indians, Kasturba was arrested and sentenced to three months hard labour. On returning to India, she sometimes took her husband’s place when he was under arrest. In 1915, when Gandhi returned to India to support indigo planters, Kasturba accompanied him and taught hygiene, discipline, reading and writing. To be Continued

Part One can be read below link

Defaming the Hindu Sacred Feminine ( Part 1 )


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About The Author

Ranbir Singh : Writer and lecturer, HHR chairman : BA (Honours) History, MA History from School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London : , Have lectured previously at De Montfort University, London School of Economics, Contributor to various political and human rights discussion outfits.

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