Monday, November 10, 2008

That's in the name

Quick, how many women freedom fighters of India can you name? I could come up with five, after a bit of thought. When the question is extended to women freedom fighters from Madras, the count dropped sharply down to zero. No count can cover all those men and women who fought the British rule in their own small ways, every day, over and over again. Even so, it is particularly embarrassing to realize that the first woman political prisoner of the 20th century has been almost completely forgotten.

Rukmini Lakshmipathy had come to Madras circa 1915 to pursue her education at the Women's Christian College and had stayed on, captivated by the fervour of the Independence movement. She was active in the salt sathyagraha at Vedaranyam, which led to her first stint as a guest of His Majesty's government. She went on to become the Deputy Speaker of the state Legislative Assembly, the first woman to hold that position.

Apart from Marshall's Road having been renamed in her honour, the only other time when she is remembered is during the lecture in her memory at her alma mater. Still, that faded garland on her statue is a reassurance. There are people out there who remember this lady, on behalf of the whole city!

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