MY FAVOURITE HEROINE OF INDIAN HISTORY MADAM BHIKHAJICAMA
A century in the history of a nation is not a long period. But when we try to remember our heroes or heroines we go beyond this period either to the period of Muslim invasions or the olden periods of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Thus Sita, Draupadi or Jijabai and Ahalyabai would come to our mind. There were many like Chennamma, Rudramba, Mayannalla, and Yakka in the South. Padmini is remembered is Rajasthan. Reaching the 19th century we remember Jhansi ki Rani Laxmi Bai. She sacrificed her life fighting the British in the first war of independence in
Only four years after this war was born a bright star in Bombay in an affluent (very rich) Parsi family in Bombay in 1861. The father was so rich that he left 13 lakhs rupees to each of his eight daughters. After the 1857 was there was a resurgence of a new class of freedom fighters-educated middle class Indians influenced by Western ideas. Although Bhikhaiji belong to this group she was influenced by the spiritual revival and reawakened pride in ancient heritage by Swami Dayanand and Vivekananda,
Bhikhaiji was a religious lady. But she was keen interest in politics—so much so that she was called the ‘Mother of Indian Revolution’. She was very much impressed by Bal Gangadhar Tilak. She was married to Rustamji Cama a leading Barrister of Bombay, who believed in the benevolent rule of the British. Bhikhaiji disagreed with him violently. Ultimately they separated. She could not desert the national cause even to save her marriage.
In 1902 when she went to London he met Dadabhai Naoroji the ‘Grand Old Man of India’. But being a moderate she was not influenced by him. Still it was through him that she came in contact with revolutionaries like Sardar Singh and Shyamji Krishnaverma. She worked actively with Shyamji, S.S. Rana, Vir Savarkar, LalaHar Dayal and Birendranath Chattopadhayaya. She proved an excellent organizer and would deliver fiery speeches at London’s Hyde Park condemning British atrocities in India.
The national flag of India was unfurled in the 1929 session of Congress in India. But it was originated by Cama in August 1907. She attended the International Socialist Congress attended by delegates from 25 nations at Stuttgart. At the end of her speech she unfurled the tricolour flag in green, yellow and red with Bande Mataram on the middle band. Later on the flag was smuggled to India. She was the precursor of the concept of passive resistance of Gandhi. She had said in a speech, “By passive resistance. We are a peaceable people and inarmed. We could not rise and battle if we would. We are preparing our people for concentrated resistance. All that is needed is unity and organization.”
In a way Madam Cama was leading a life in self exile. She was not allowed to come back to India. She fought seriously the case of Vir Savarkar, but could not save him. He was sentenced and transported to Andaman’s. She of course felt disgusted. She sent money to Savarkar’s family regularly. She ultimately came to conclusion that it was necessary to use violent methods to achieve independence. She said, “Struggle for Freedom calls for exceptional measures.” Once she said, “We want back our own country. No English Oak waited in India. We have our own noble banyan tree and our beautiful lotus flowers. We do not want to imitate British civilization..…. We will have our own which is higher and nobler.”
Madam Cama firmly believed in the idea of “one nation, one
language, one people.” Her motto was “Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.” Cama scarified a comfortable life to live in dingy boarding houses for the cause of freedom for her country. In 1935 she was allowed to return to India too old to be an active threat – was taken straight to the Parsi hospital. After lingering there for eight month the brane lady passed away on August 16, 1936 leaving an indelible mark on the history of Indian revolution for the freedom of the country.