In her distinguished public life as freedom fighter, social worker and political activist, Captain Lakshmi Sahgal considered her association with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, as leader of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment of the Indian National Army, the most glorious period, historian and Netaji’s grandnephew Sugata Bose has said.
Mr. Bose told The Hindu that what emerged from several discussions he had with “aunty Lakshmi” was an “unswerving loyalty to Netaji as a leader and to his ideas.”
Professor Bose said Ms. Sahgal often spoke about the raising of the regiment that the Japanese initially thought was a waste of arms and ammunition, the first guard of honour to Netaji by a few members of the regiment clad in saris, and the recruitment of rubber-plantation workers to the regiment.
“Aunty Lakshmi had told me that though the slogan of the INA was Chalo Delhi, Netaji wanted her and the Rani of Jhansi Regiment to lead the march to Kolkata once the INA arrived here,” Professor Bose recalled.
He said Ms. Sahgal imbibed the idea of service to humanity from Netaji, and as a doctor, she served the disadvantaged sections.
The former parliamentarian and Netaji’s niece, Krishna Bose, said Ms. Sahgal’s role as commander of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment was “unparalleled and unheard of in the freedom struggle.” “She had told me that even the British were taken aback after finding such a large number of women in the INA.”
Ms. Bose once asked Ms. Sahgal about her decision to join Left politics. She came up with a straightforward answer. “Ms. Sahgal told me that Netaji had always emphasised working for the people, and in post-Independence India, she found no other option than joining Left politics, where she can work for the people.”
The Bose family members said her death was a personal loss to them, and they also felt a sense of pride to be “associated with a woman of her stature.”
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has mourned Lakshmi Sahgal, saying the work the freedom fighter did to help the hapless people during the Bangladesh war will remain etched in everyone’s memory.
“I deeply condole the demise of Lakshmi Sahgal — freedom fighter and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s comrade in the Indian National Army,” she said. “I pray to God that her soul rest in peace.”
The Jharkhand State secretariat of the CPI(M) has expressed profound grief at her death.
‘A gender disaster’
Kochi Special Correspondent writes:
The former Supreme Court judge, V.R. Krishna Iyer, has said the death of Captain Lakshmi Sahgal is a loss to the women’s movement in India. “A great lady is gone,” he told The Hindu. “Her death is a gender disaster.”