Remembering the ideals Netaji stood for and brooding over farmers’ plight after Republic Day violence

The farmer leaders are left bewildered and shocked at the bizarre turn of event on and after Republic Day

Remembering the ideals Netaji stood for and brooding over farmers’ plight after Republic Day violence

Humra Quraishi

With focus on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, I recall my meetings and interview with his close aide, Captain Lakshmi Sahgal. This was in the summer of 2002 when she was named by the Left as its candidate to contest for the post of President of India. She was then around 88 years but looked much younger and fit. One of the reasons for this could be that she was busy the entire day. She was vice - president of the All India Democratic Women’s Association. And as a trained medical doctor/ gynaecologist, she was busy treating patients all through the mornings. Evenings and afternoons she spent doing charitable work in Kanpur’s industrial area. Why had she decided to settle down in Kanpur? In reponse to this question she told me the details of her life

Daughter of activist Ammu Swaminathan and criminal lawyer S. Swaminathan, she completed her medical education in Madras before leaving for Singapore. That is where she met Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in 1943. And that changed the entire course of her life. She quit her job, joined the Indian National Army, and she was captured and jailed in Burma. After she was released, she married Prem Sahgal who was then working in the New Victoria Mills (Kanpur). And with that came a complete change in her life. Settling down in Kanpur, running a charitable clinic, looking after the industrial workers, mazdoors and their families. In fact, till the very end she was reaching out to all those who needed medical assistance and support.

During the course of the interview, I asked her to comment on the prevailing situation in the country and how Netaji would have reacted if he was amongst us. And she told me that he couldn’t have visualized we would be in this condition.

She’d added, “he was totally against the Partition, dead against it. He was sure it would mean doom and would lead to further partitions. He had made his views very clear to Pandit Nehru and also to Mahatma Gandhi …But none of us would have ever imagined that we would be reduced to this mess where the poor have become poorer, and communalism and corruption have become rampant…looking at the terrible conditions prevailing in the country today, I can only say it is very unfortunate.”

Commenting on the plight of the mill workers and mazdoors and also on the condition of women, she said, “The new economic policy has been a tremendous setback for the women of this country. With the closure of mills they are moving towards the unorganized sector, where they are the last to be hired and the first to be fired. One can see the steady decay all around. Obviously, all this will affect women. I really feel the middle-class stops sitting mute and starts reacting to the happenings around. Netaji really believed that women must be given full empowerment and that would be the only solution.’

On the condition of the minorities in the backdrop of the 2002 Gujarat pogrom, she’d hit out, “It was shocking. Look at the level of communalism in Gujarat, where people have to change their names to survive or to get medical aid. The way the minorities are getting treated there is shocking.”

The farmers’ movement

Coming back to the present day India and the farmers’ mass movement. It seems that the farmer leaders are left bewildered and shocked at the bizarre turn of event on and after Republic Day. Perhaps, they would be going through history books, reading the relevant details to any mass movement or call it by any of the milder terms --- rebellion or revolt or agitation or uprising, and grasping the very basic vital core fact that hostile elements are planted to disrupt and discredit and much more along the strain!

Leaving you with Nida Fazli’s verse ‘Distance’. The great poet died on February 8, 2016.


This distance which stretches

Between you and me

Eternal tale,

With no beginning

And no end

The agony of journey’s

Ring of every breath

You exist nowhere

Nor do I

The quest is tinted whim,

The caravans of movements

Fill the space

This distance which stretches

Between you and me

Is the quest

Is the prayer

Is the Lord.”

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