Remembering Revolutionary Freedom Fighter Bhikaji Cama

Bhikaji Cama was an indomitable freedom fighter who contributed greatly to the early years of the Indian freedom struggle and also fought for the place of women in society. A dedicated nationalist, she brought the Indian struggle to international attention. Although she was exiled for thirty-five years, she spared no effort in her quest for freedom. On his birthday, a look back at his turbulent life often forgotten from the pages of history.

She attended an English school

Bhikaji Cama was born on September 24, 1861 into a common Parsi family. Her father, Sorabji Framji Patel, was a famous merchant who was at the forefront of business, education and philanthropy in the city of Bombay and her mother was Jaijibai Sorabji Patel. She attended English institution Alexandra Girls in Mumbai. Since childhood, she had an aptitude for languages. She was exposed to the early stages of the Indian freedom struggle and was deeply thrilled by it.

In 1885, she married Rustomji Cama, a well-known lawyer. He was a wealthy lawyer and aspired to enter politics. Her involvement in socio-political issues led to differences with her husband. While Rustomji Cama admired the British, loved English culture, and believed they had done India and its growth story a great deal of good, Bhikaji was a nationalist at heart. He came to believe that the British had ruthlessly exploited India for their own benefit. Much to her husband’s disdain, she became actively involved in nationalist efforts and philanthropy.

His activism

She devoted a great deal of time to social work. In 1896, bubonic plague broke out in the Bombay Presidency. She joined one of the teams working at Grant Medical College to help the team working to save plague victims. Hundreds of people were dying in Bombay and she too caught the deadly disease. Although she recovered, it left her in poor health. He was recommended to go to England for treatment in 1902 due to his deteriorating health.

During her stay there, she met Dadabhai Naoroji, an ardent critic of British economic policy in India, and began working for the Indian National Congress. Cama also worked with other Indian nationalists, including Lala Har Dayal and Shyamji Krishna Varma, and addressed several meetings in London’s Hyde Park.

She roared and she flew away

When she intended to return to India, she was informed by the British government that her return to India would be prohibited unless she signed a declaration agreeing not to participate in nationalist activities. She refused to make such a promise and remained in exile in Europe. From there she moved to Paris and with Singh Rewabhai Rana and Munchershah Burjorji Godrej. She co-founded with them the Indian Society of Paris. Together they worked to broaden the message for independence, spreading revolutionary texts like Vande Matram and Talwar of Madan. She also helped the revolutionaries in every way imaginable, be it with money, materials or ideas.

On August 22, 1907, Madame Bhikaji Cama became the first person to raise the Indian flag on foreign soil in Stuttgart, Germany.

Calling for human rights, equality and independence from Britain, she describes the disastrous effects of a famine that struck the Indian subcontinent.

“Behold, the flag of independent India is born! It was made sacred by the blood of young Indians who sacrificed their lives in its honor. In the name of this flag, I call on freedom lovers everywhere to support this struggle. She also participated in the Socialist Conference in Germany.

The Role of Women in Nation Building

Bhikaji Cama also advocated for the position of women in the country’s freedom struggle. Speaking at a national conference in Cairo in 1910, she said, “Where is the other half of Egypt? I only see men who represent half the country! Where are the mothers? Where are the sisters? We must not forget that the hands that rock cradles also build people”. She believed that women had an important role to play in the struggle for freedom and she also advocated for their rights. Her idea of ​​emancipation from British rule was the only thing more important than her quest for the liberation of women in all walks of life. She once told two Parsi women who were advocating for women’s suffrage that they should “Work for Indian freedom and independence. When India is independent, women will not only have the right to vote but all other rights.

Death

Cama remained in exile in Europe until 1935, when, seriously ill and paralyzed from a stroke she had suffered earlier that year, she petitioned the British government to be allowed to return home. she.

Knowing that she was unable to engage in the struggle for freedom, she was granted permission to return to India after 33 long years. She died in 1936, due to deteriorating health. After her death, her assets were bequeathed to the Avabai Petit Orphanage for Girls.

Her legacy reminds us of the early stages of the struggle for freedom and the rebellious women who valiantly fought for her over the years.

Thelma J. Longworth