Introduction to Captain Laxmi Sehgal
The world is full of legends. Some of them die and get forgotten, but some make up the world’s history. They had connections with the history writers because their deeds couldn’t go unnoticed. Did you know that doctors could also be in combats and come out legends?
The same hands that feel the heartbeat, the soft touch that assures recovery, could also turn out to handle heavy combat machineries like revolvers and rocket propellers.
I am talking about Captain Lakshmi Sehgal. She was an iron lady, one of India’s few female freedom fighters.
Captain Sehgal joined the INA (Indian Independence Struggle) as a young student pursuing medicine at college. That didn’t pull her back. Her focus and determination were on being a part of the freedom fighters.
Considering her career path and gender, many would expect her to be at home praying or doing something else but not targeting hand grenades and firing guns at the battlefields.
However, she made her decision, and that was on period. Today we look into her story and know the deeper details concerning her.
Birth and Early Life
Captain Sehgal was born on the 24th of October in 1914. Her father, S. Swaminathan, worked as a lawyer and a prominent activist during the Indian pre-independence era. His other name was Ammu Swaminathan.
Lakshmi was a brave little girl who always did what her heart was at peace with. In other words, she always followed her heart.
Growing up in a family an activists and lawyers, she developed a solid anti-British administration attitude. Being surrounded by social activists, a defiant effort to acquire freedom and self-governance gave her a good setup for her chosen path.
Like a normal human being, she made a mistake by getting into marriage at a very tender age. She firstly married a pilot known as P.K.N Rao. However, she realized her mistake and decided to go back and finish her MBBS.
This time, she was more focused and with greater dreams. She went to Singapore at the age of 26 years, where she joined the India Independence League. While in Singapore, she did not only contribute to the independence team but also helped the less privileged in society and helped out with medical services. She was a package of value to her colleagues. She could help give first aid to the injured soldiers, which gave a lot of credit.
In 1947, fate did its thing, and Lakshmi met a soldier of the Indian Army, Prem Sahgal, and fell in love. This time, she felt she was ready and due for marriage.
At least this time, the union was not a mistake, and it worked. Her new husband was one of a kind and loved her unconditionally. At an interview, while she still lived, she once confessed that her husband was the kind that gives all to their loved ones.
Later on, she noticed that Subhash Chandra had intentions to set up a female brigade that would participate in the Indian fight for independence against the British. She was impressed by the idea and requested to meet with Subhash Chandra and collaborate in making the all-female regiment.
Interestingly, the women gave the initiative a positive response and joined. It was then that Sehgal was made the captain of the group. She upheld that title, Captain Lakshmi, up until she passed away. She never dropped the identity even after India got its independence.
Captain Lakshmi grew up in a very stable family. Her father was a lawyer and a social activist. So basically, she had a good life.
Her passion and focus were always on being a part of making a difference in the community. She was kind, brave, and fearless. Her passion for social activism saw her join the freedom fighters at a young age. She even got married at a tender age but quit the marriage later.
Lakshmi was a well-educated lady with an MBBS degree. She studied at the Madras Medical College and acquired her degree in 1938. She had specialized in Gynecology.
Her role in the INA
Rani of Jhansi was a group of females who would participate in the fight for freedom and independence for India. Subhash Chandra and Lakshmi formed this regiment. She later assumed the position of the captain of the group.
Her courage and fearlessness were written all over her, and Subhash Chandra could not help but make her the regiment’s captain. All her later life, she was known as Captain Lakshmi.
Sehgal was a fighter and captain of the all-female regiment and helped with attending to the fallen soldiers and treating their wounds. She was dedicated to giving her all towards acquiring freedom and self-governance.
Captain Lakshmi was also in charge of recruiting new members into the regiment. She recruited around 1500 female soldiers into the INA by 1943.
The Azad Hind Fauj
Azad Hind refers to the first independent provisional administration established in India. It was officially announced on the 21st of October 1943. Today, India commemorates this day every year on the same day. 21st of October.
Mohan Singh originally set up the Azad Hind in 1942. It’s just a name given to the INA (Indian National Army). After Mohan established it in 1942, it died, but Subhas Chandra revived it.
The Azad Hind was formed during the second world war. The army was to help India get its full independence.
It was then that Lakshmi met with Chandra Bose. She was interested in his idea of formulating an all-female regiment to help in the fight for freedom and independence.
The majority of countries acknowledged the existence of the Azad Hind. These included Japan, Germany, Croatia, Burma, Indonesia, Italy, etc.
Her Political Career
It might interest you to know that Captain Lakshmi was a freedom fighter and a prominent politician in her later days after independence.
It all started with her daughter Subhashini, who had already joined the CPI in the early 70s. She appealed to her mother, Captain Lakshmi, from Jyoti Basu to do medical supplies for the refuge’s camps in Bangladeshi. This caught her attention, and she moved to Calcutta.
She had packed clothes and medicines for the people refuging at the borders. She sent her application to join the CPI(M) when she came back. This was just the ideal time for her to join.
I mean, she was 57-year-old then and did not need to be paid a lot. This time she worked with the interest of helping and not earning or accumulating wealth.
Later on, in 1981, she and a few other dignitaries joined hands in establishing the AIDWA. She facilitated a lot of AIDWA activities and campaigns.
When the Bhopal gas tragedy happened in 1984, Captain Lakshmi and a few other medics went to the city to help out with treating the victims. A year after the tragedy, she wrote and published a report regarding the effects of gas on expectant mothers.
She again demonstrated her love for peace and freedom later during the anti-Sikh chaos in 1984, which resulted in the killing of Indira Gandhi, the presiding prime minister.
Lakshmi got into the streets to confront and discourage the anti-Sikh riots. She made sure that no Sikh around her clinic was attacked whatsoever.
In 1996, Captain Lakshmi was put behind bars for facilitating a campaign against the miss world contests in bang lore.
Captain Lakshmi Bids for the presidency
As always, Lakshmi’s courage and determination were unstoppable. Surprisingly, she decided to run for the presidency in 2002 even she lost the elections against A.P.J Abdul Kalam.
Afterward, she initiated campaigns across India, publicly admitting that she lost the elections. She, however, scrutinized a political framework that was corrupt and unbothered by the fast-growing injustice and poverty in the country. She remains the first woman to vie for the presidency in India.
Captain Lakshmi could instill delight and potential in everyone she met – her colleagues, activist groups from her organization, patients, relatives, and peers.
Captain Lakshmi left a great and lasting legacy to the nation and its citizens as a resistance fighter, devoted medical doctor, and exceptional leader of India’s women’s liberation movement. She spent almost all her life fighting for freedom and rights for the people of India.
Captain Laxmi died in 2012, on the 23rd of July, just a few minutes before noon at Kanpur. Records have it that she died of a heart attack. Sehgal died at 97-years.
Her body was not cremated as per traditions. It was donated for research at medical college for research purposes. We are not certain about this, but records have that this was her request before she died.
Captain Laxmi left her two daughters, namely Anisa Puri and Subhashini Ali. She had three grandchildren by the time she died.
Captain Lakshmi lived a life of selflessness. She did things to better the lives of the people around her. In that connection, Lakshmi didn’t get a lot of awards. Records have it that she managed to get only two awards.
- Padma Vibhushan- Awarded by the presiding president of India, K.R Narayanan.
- Honorary Doctorate- awarded by the University of Calicut
Interesting facts about Captain Lakshmi
She was a doctor and a military
First and foremost, being a medical doctor and a soldier in the National Army thrills. Note that a doctor and a Military soldier have two different personalities. Balancing both of these personalities can be quite challenging.
However, to Lakshmi, nothing seemed complicated about the whole thing. She easily balanced the two professions perfectly. She membered how she used to help injured soldiers on the battlefields nurse their wounds and injuries. That made her a very important component of the INA.
She got married Twice
First, Lakshmi got married at a very young age could not stand the conditions. Later on, the marriage dissolved, and she returned to her home to continue her studies. Sehgal noticed she had made a big mistake by discontinuing her studies for marriage.
Lakshmi went back and later on attained her MMBS degree in Gynecology. Later on, when she moved to Singapore, she met Prem Sahgal, a soldier in the Indian Army, and married him.
She once ran for the presidency
In 2002, Lakshmi’s courage and determination pushed her into running for the presidency in India. She had a vision of transforming the country into a better place free of corruption, poverty, and injustice. However, her loss against Abdul Kalam Shattered her dreams. She admitted her loss.
She established and facilitated relief camps for refugees
The Bangladesh crisis was becoming hotter, and residents were fleeing and seeking refuge from the neighboring communities. When Lakshmi decided to put up relief camps along the borders to help out the refugees. Here she offered different basic needs like clothing and medical health care.
On a different occasion in 1984, Lakshmi demonstrated her care for humanity when she and a few other medics went to Bhopal after the fire tragedy to help out with treating the victims. She later wrote a report that outlined the long-term hazards of gas on expectant mothers.
She advocated for peace and freedom
Fighting for Indi’s independence to forming different movements to push for justice and freedom in the country made up Lakshmi’s life.
When the anti-Sikh riots kicked in, she got into the street campaigning for peace and confronting the mobs demonstrating against the Sikhs. She stood firmly against the riots and protected all the Sikhs around her clinic from being attacked.
She Founded the AIDWA (All India Democratic Women’s Association)
In 1981, AIDWA was formed and publicly announced. She and a few dignitaries in the country laid the foundations of the movement and pushed it into existence. Under AIDWA, Lakshmi launched and ran a nationwide campaign against the miss world contests in Bangalore. They later arrested her.
Some people accomplish a lot in their lives that it is difficult to recall their contributions to humanity. Lakshmi Sehgal is an example of never allowing her desire to represent her nation to die.
Sehgal witnessed it all, the administration, India’s independence, and the country’s transition over time, and she did her responsibility with zeal. Her experience has indeed been pretty inspiring; We still have a lot more to learn from it.