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A Tribute to India’s feminist icon - August 2019

Updated: Aug 18, 2022

“Hum Bharat ki beti hai

Ab utha chuki talwar

Hum marne se nehi darti

Nehi peeche pao ke dharti

Agey hi agey barhti

Kas kamar hui tayyar”

The years between 1943 and 1945 saw the coming together of around 1500 Indian women in Burma, Malaysia and Singapore to form the Jhansi of Rani Regiment , the all female brigade of the Indian National Army, the first of it’s kind in Asia. Under the leadership of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, women from all religions, castes and socio-economic backgrounds came together to share the same food, fate and fight for India’s independence.

The Jhansi of Rani Regiment was the child of the psyche, personality and politics of Netaji, a testimony to his ideal of equality of all the genders. The call for a ‘total mobilization’ of Indian women transcending their limited role of giving speeches, writing songs etc., was given by Manawati Arya, a teacher from Rangoon and a Jhansi of Regiment recruit. Bose responded favourably and gave Arya a mandate to set up a full fledged Women’s Department at the Headquarters and named her the First Secretary.

Netaji’s personal psychological development motivated him to devote his life to the nationalist cause and he believed that the attainment of his goal was possible by mobilizing our powerful mothers, daughters and sisters. Netaji tapped into the collective psyche of Indian women in a powerful merging of historical consciousness, feminist initiative and nationalist fervor.

Netaji’s commitment to women’s rights is indisputable and was always seen in his speeches. ‘In a society where women are not respected, all efforts come to naught.’ He firmly believed and was a catalyst for female education, economic independence and an option to not marry for women while opposing child marriage, purdah, dowry and prohibition of widow remarriage. His mobilization of women for the Jhansi of Regiment is a manifestation of his ideal of equality, which was feminist in nature and revolutionary in expression.

This independence day, this is a reminder of the vision of women empowerment of Netaji. Saluting our feminist icon, here are a few lines from the famous poem ‘Tu khud ki khoj mein nikal’ :

Jo tujh se lipti bediyaan Samajh na in ko wastra tu

Ye bediyaan pighaal ke Bana le inko shastra

tu Bana le inko shastra tu.

We today firmly need to follow his ideals of equality. Anything that is written on him is like showing a candle to the sun. And even the sun will someday cease to exist. Remember then, to replace it. Be the saving grace. This is what Netaji wanted. This is what Netaji desired. Rise women!

Let us rebel and empower one another.

- Preetha Bose.

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