Comrade Lakshmi Sehgal: A true Communist Patriot : Ritansh Azad
Socialist India is publishing this article by Ritansh Azad on the glorious life of Lakshmi Sehgal, at a time when the Hindutva forces are trying every trick to appropriate the rich patriotic tradition to which she belonged. Ritansh is a journalist, a songwriter , a rapper and more than all of that an activist in the youth movement, working with the responsibility of Delhi State Committee member of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI).
Today is the birthday of Captain Laxmi Sehgal who was the Minister of Women Affairs in Azad Hind Fauj. She played an important role in the fight against British Imperialism. After independence in 1971 she became a part of Communist party of India (Marxist) and represented the party in Rajya Sabha. She was one of the founding members of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) and helped to build it up from scratch. As a practicing doctor she was part of the team which went to help the victims of Bhopal Gas tragedy in 1984 .She worked for resorting peace after the anti Sikh riots of 1984 in her home town of Kanpur .She was also nominated as the Left’s candidate for president in 2002.
Capt Lakshmi who was born into an illustrious family from Kerala and was brought up in Madras where she excelled in her studies as a brilliant student. Her parents were freedom fighters dedicated to the nation, her father a brilliant lawyer and her mother a social worker and campaigner for women’s rights. From her childhood, Capt Lakshmi was brought up with values which cherished India’s freedom. This dedication remained with her through her life. Her parents marriage was inter caste one and Lakshmi as a young student fought against caste prejudice often clashing with the ideas held by her contemporaries in school and college. She completed her MBBS degree in 1938 and then in 1940 decided to travel to Singapore. It was while she was working there as a doctor that she became actively involved in the work of the India Independence League which contributed greatly to India’s freedom struggle. She was introduced to Subhash Chandra Bose in 1943 and was invited by him to set up the Rani of Jhansi women’s brigade under his overall command. She became the leader of this legendary brigade and was inducted by him into the provisional cabinet of Azad Hind as the only woman member. She played a heroic role and saved many lives by her courage as leader of the INA. She was captured by the British and brought to India in 1946 where he was given a heroine’s welcome.
She married Prem Sehgal who was also a leader of the INA working with Subhash Chandra Bose.
After independence, Capt Lakshmi set up her practice in Kanpur. She became the beloved health saviour of lakhs of poor women of Kanpur whom she would provide medical services without any charge. She was devoted to her patients and there was hardly a day when she did not work in her modest clinic. Even on the day before her heart attack, regardless of her frail health she was at the clinic meeting patients, such was her dedication.
In 1971 when huge numbers of refugees came from what was then East Pakistan, the Peoples relief Committee in West Bengal gave a call for doctors to help. Com. Jyoti Basu also issued a call. Capt Lakshmi answered his appeal and spent several months working with the refugees providing them medical relief.
It was after this experience that Capt Lakshmi decided to join the CPI (M). She became a member of the Kanpur and later the UP State Committee of the Party. She was a champion for women’s rights and shouldered the responsibility along with other great communist women leaders of mobilizing women for their rights. She was a founder member of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, travelling the length and breadth of the country as the organisation’s Vice-President.
She believed strongly in the need for a Socialist revolution and she lived her ideals. She was extremely modest about her many achievements, always encouraging young people into leadership roles. She was the beloved role model of young people throughout country.
She understood the dangers which the communal forces posed to the national unity and sovereignty. In an interview that she gave in 2002, while she was contesting for the Presidential post, she outlines with remarkable clarity.
“The greatest threat the country is facing presently is the communal violence unleashed by the fundamentalist forces. To combat this should be our first priority. Increasing poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and attacks on not just minorities but other weaker sections like dalits have to be combated.
India has become a country only of the rich. While the rich are becoming richer by the day, the poor are getting poorer. It is ironic that while food stocks in the godowns are overflowing, the numbers of starvation deaths are increasing in the country.
The people have to think of this situation and participate in the struggles for achieving an egalitarian Indian society.”
This assertion was based on her own experiences in the INA and the freedom struggle.
“ We in the INA were dead against the partition of India. We were hoping to establish an egalitarian society and definitely not today’s very very rich and very very poor society. We saw an India in which health and educational needs of the entire population would be taken care of. Our own cottage and small scale industries would be made to thrive, making India self-reliant. We also envisaged an India which would forge close links with the Asian and Middle East nations instead of the western powers. All in all, we had a vision of a socialistic pattern of society.
We did not want to allow the communal forces to capture the minds of the people. There was this most celebrated case against INA prisoners in mid 1944, in which three officers of INA- Shahnawaz, Dillon and Sehgal- were tried by the British. They thought that by picking one from each community, they could teach that community a lesson. They never realized that it would have the effect of uniting all the Indians and that this case would become a symbol of this unity.”
Today when the communal forces who were condemned by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose are trying to appropriate him .We as communists should tell the world again that who were the real heroes of Indian National Army. Who were the people who actually fought British Imperialism and who later fought American Imperialism unlike those who licked boots of both. The story of Comrade Laxmi Sehgal tells us that communists are the true anti imperialist patriots who fight for the poorest from start to end. Unlike the ones who are involved in pure jingoism in the name of nationalism.
Lal Salam to Comrade Laxmi Sehgal!