In the crowd of countless people, whose valour and unwavering perseverance got us freedom, were several women whose stories could not feature in the mainstream narrative of the freedom struggle. Nevertheless, some of them found recognition and honour through their portrayals in the national postage stamp. Here, we explore 7 such women on postage stamps and their extraordinary contributions to the freedom of India.
Rani Gaidinliu: a Naga-Queen
When she was just 13, Gaidinliu joined the Heraka movement. This was a movement which started with the aim of reviving the Naga tribal religion but later developed into a full-fledged political movement seeking to end the British rule and establish a Naga Raj. Considered as an incarnation of a local goddess, Gaidinliu soon emerged as the political and spiritual leader of the movement. Being an extraordinary guerrilla fighter, she led many rebellions against the British forces, and spent 14 years in jail. After independence, she continued to work for the upliftment of the Nagas. She received the title of “Rani” from Jawaharlal Nehru, and was also conferred with Padma Bhushan.
Durgabai Deshmukh was a rebel right from her childhood; she left her school when she was just 12, protesting the enforcement of English-medium education. At the age of 15, she freed herself from the bindings of a child-marriage. She was a lawyer, social worker and a politician, who successfully established social welfare laws and institutions. She was also a member of the Constituent Assembly and later became a member of the Planning Commission and the first chairperson of the National Council on Women’s Education. Her struggle for women empowerment and education won her many accolades.
Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur
Born into an aristocratic family, Amrit Kaur became interested in politics from an early age partly because of her father’s close association with many leaders of the Indian National Congress. After the bloody massacre of Jallianwala Bagh, she was drawn to the Gandhian ideology and soon began to participate in the national movement. Apart from her political acumen, she also showed a remarkable passion for social service, and worked throughout her life for women empowerment and the improvement of health and education sectors. She went on to become a member of the Constituent Assembly and the first Health Minister of India.
Aruna Asaf Ali
Born into a prominent Bengali Brahmo family from Punjab, Aruna joined politics after marrying Asaf Ali, a leader in the Congress. She actively participated in the public processions during the Civil Disobedience movement. Her activities landed her in Tihar jail, and there she launched a protest against the inhumane treatment of political prisoners. However, Aruna exhibited her bravery when she hoisted the Congress flag in Bombay, despite the ceaseless police firing, and thus, commencing the Quit India Movement. People lovingly began to call her ‘Grand Old Lady of the Independence Movement’. For her exceptional contribution, she was awarded the Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan and International Lenin Peace Prize.
Subhadra Kumari Chauhan
Although known for her emotionally loaded poetry written in the Veer Ras, Subhadra Kumari Chauhan was also a freedom fighter, who, along with her husband, actively participated in the Gandhian movements from 1921 onwards. She became the first woman satyagrahi to be court arrested. After independence, she became a member of the Legislative Assembly of Madhya Pradesh, but soon after, passed away in 1948.
Born into a prominent family from Sialkot, Subhadra Joshi joined politics during her college days in Lahore. As a student, she was drawn to Gandhi’s ideas and soon became an active
participant in the Quit India Movement. An ardent secularist, Joshi staunchly condemned the communal violence that followed the Partition, and helped set up various peace volunteer organizations to fight off the communal forces and help in the rehabilitation of refugees.
Joining Congress in 1923, Rukmini Lakshmipathi participated in the Vedaranyam Satyagraha, a movement in Tanjore district based on Gandhi’s Dandi March. She was jailed for a year which made her the first woman prisoner in the Salt Satyagraha. Later on, she served the state assembly of Madras in various capacities.
It is interesting to note how certain historical figures and certain episodes from history are commemorated through postage stamps and other means while others fade away in the abyss of time. Can you think of other women freedom fighters who deserve a stamp in their name?
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