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Captain Lakhsmi Sehgal, a revolutionary fighter of the INA (Indian National Army), a doctor, and politician, didn’t stop devoting herself to the cause of the country even after India got independence.
“The fight will go on”, Sehgal said to a young filmmaker from Berkeley who was making a documentary on her life. Her struggle as a revolutionist in the INA under the direction of exemplary Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose is well known. But there is always the other side of a coin.
She was trained in using rifles, bayonet charges and hand grenades along with other potential cadets of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment, an integrated wing of INA. Captain Lakshmi was arrested in May 1945 by the British Army who kept her under house arrest in the jungles of Burma till March 1946.
After returning to India, she married Captain Prem Kumar Sehgal, an eminent leader of INA in March 1947. When the couple moved from Lahore to Kanpur, she immersed herself in her medical practice among the flood of refugees from Pakistan. She earned enormous gratitude and faith of both Hindus and Muslims.
Lakshmi’s daughter Subhashini joined CPI(M) (Communist Party of India, Marxist) by the early 1980s. She drew her mother’s attention to an appeal of Jyoti Basu (the chief minister of West Bengal at that time) for medical experts to employ them in Bangladeshi refugee camps.
Captain Lakshmi served in the border areas for five weeks and also donated clothes and medicines for the refugees. She was 57 years old then, and for her, joining the Communist Party was like coming back home. Her thinking was always communist as she never wanted to earn a lot of money or acquire enormous property or wealth.
In the year of 1981, Captain Lakshmi was one of the founders of AIDWA (All India Democratic Women’s Association is the women wing of the Communist Party).
After the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in 1984, she with her devoted medical team to conducting a survey in the city and after a year she reported the long-term effects of the gas on pregnant women. During the anti-Sikh riots she was out on the streets of Kanpur, confronting the anti-Sikh mobs. And she also ensured no Sikh or Sikh establishment in the area of her clinic was attacked. She was arrested for the participation in a campaign led by AIDWA against the Miss World Competition held in Bangalore in 1996.
Captain Lakshmi was nominated as the presidential candidate for the Left in 2002, in which Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam would win the post. She had driven a ground rattling campaign across the country addressing overstuffed public meetings. Having frankly admitted that she did not stand a chance of winning, she utilized the platform to inspect a political empire which cultivated poverty and injustice in the country. She motivated the mass by delivering spectacular and influential ideologies of her master Netaji. Her speeches, social activities, encounters with fellow party members and common people, political strategies were greatly influenced by the principles of Netaji which she inculcated in her mind and soul while working with him.
Captain Lakshmi had the power of bringing joy and optimism to all whom she met including co-workers, patients, family and friends. Her life was an inextricable part of the 20th to the early 21st century India, of struggle against British bondage, the achievement of independence and nation construction over 65 years. In this drastic historical transition, she had always been the spine of poor and neglected section of the society. Each stage of her life represented a new dimension of her political evolution.
As a young medical student drawn to the freedom movement, as the commander of the all-woman Rani of Jhansi Regiment of INA, as a doctor treating the refugees religiously, a member of CPI (M) conducting campaigns for political, social and economical justice, Captain Lakshmi fought against all odds with her indomitable zest for a better India.
She did justice to the role of a freedom fighter, devoted medical practitioner and a miraculous leader of women’s protest in India. She left the country and its people with a trail of her legacy of sacrifice and service, which the modern generation of India must nurture.
Captain Lakshmi Sehgal passed away 6 years ago in Kanpur on 23rd July 2012, just short of 98 years, after a long and well lived life.
Image source: Youtube
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