Lakshmi Sahgal, an indomitable figure in India’s fight for independence, left an indelible mark on the nation’s history with her unwavering courage, determination, and unflinching dedication. Born on October 24, 1914, in Madras (now Chennai), Sahgal’s life story is a testament to her relentless pursuit of freedom and justice. Her contributions to the struggle for India’s independence and her subsequent endeavors exemplify the spirit of resilience and activism that continues to inspire generations.
Lakshmi Sahgal’s journey began in a family that valued education and social reform. Growing up in an environment that fostered a strong sense of patriotism and justice, she was deeply influenced by her parents’ commitment to social equality and the betterment of society. This foundation led her to pursue a medical degree at the prestigious Madras Medical College, where she excelled in her studies and demonstrated her passion for serving the people.
Sahgal’s life took a pivotal turn when she decided to join the Indian National Congress and actively participate in the struggle for India’s independence from British colonial rule. Inspired by the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and his call for nonviolent resistance, she became an ardent advocate for civil disobedience and the overthrow of British dominance. Her involvement in protests, rallies, and movements marked her as a dedicated freedom fighter who fearlessly challenged the oppressors.
Lakshmi Sahgal’s legacy gained prominence during her association with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army). She embraced Bose’s call to action and joined the Rani of Jhansi Regiment, a women’s military unit within the INA. Sahgal’s leadership skills and military acumen earned her the title of Captain and later Colonel, making her one of the highest-ranking women officers in the INA.
The Rani of Jhansi Regiment, comprising brave women from diverse backgrounds, was a groundbreaking initiative that challenged conventional gender norms and paved the way for women’s active participation in the struggle for freedom. Sahgal’s leadership in the regiment demonstrated her commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment, even in times of war.
Following India’s hard-fought independence in 1947, Lakshmi Sahgal’s dedication to social justice remained steadfast. She continued her medical practice and took up various initiatives to uplift marginalized communities, focusing on healthcare, education, and women’s rights. Sahgal’s belief in equality extended to her efforts to eliminate discrimination in all forms, be it based on caste, creed, or gender.
Sahgal’s commitment to social change led her to engage in politics as well. She contested in India’s presidential elections in 2002 as an independent candidate, advocating for a more inclusive and egalitarian society. Her decision to enter the political arena was a reflection of her lifelong dedication to causes greater than herself and her persistent desire to create a better world for all.
Lakshmi Sahgal’s life embodies the essence of courage, resilience, and unwavering commitment to justice. Her role as a freedom fighter, a military leader, a medical practitioner, and a social reformer showcases her multifaceted contributions to India’s journey toward independence and progress. Her legacy continues to inspire individuals around the world, reminding us that the pursuit of justice and equality is a responsibility that transcends generations.
As India forges ahead into the future, the spirit of Lakshmi Sahgal remains a guiding light, igniting the fire of change and encouraging us to stand up against oppression and injustice. Her life story serves as a poignant reminder that the pursuit of freedom and equality is a collective endeavor that requires determination, sacrifice, and the unwavering belief that a better world is possible.
Written by Musalapalli Geetika, B.Tech CSE 2nd Year