Saturday, October 24, 2009

Capt. Lakshmi: From stethoscope to Sten gun

The name of this remarkable lady is Lakshmi Sahgal, nee Swaminathan. She is popularly known as Capt. Lakshmi though her official rank in the Indian National Army (INA) was Lt. Colonel. She commanded the Rani of Jhansi Regiment under Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. That was no ceremonial unit but one which fought on the Burma front for India’s freedom.

Lakshmi was born as the daughter of a leading Chennai lawyer, S. Swaminathan and AV Ammukutty (Ammu Swaminathan) a leading freedom fighter and social worker. Ammu belonged to the well-known Anakkara Vadakkath family in Palghat District, Kerala.

Lakshmi joined the Madras Medical College and obtained her MBBS Degree in 1938. After that she specialized in gynecology and obstetrics. Then she moved to Singapore in 1940 and soon became one of the leading practitioners there in her specialty. When Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942 Lakshmi concentrated on providing medical attention to the prisoners of war who included several Indians.

Netaji’s arrival at Singapore in 1943 was a turning point for Lakshmi. She joined him and was made the head of the women’s regiment which was given rigorous training before being sent to the front. She was also made the Minister in charge of women’s organization in the Azad Hind Government.

After some initial victories the INA was defeated along with the Japanese by the British forces. Capt. Lakshmi was captured. But when the British brought her to India, the public support for her was so strong that they had to release her.

Later Capt. Lakshmi married Colonel Prem Kumar Sahgal, also of the INA. They settled down in Kanpur. The former commander of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment started medical practice again for the aid of the displaced and the disabled during the Partition and the Bangladesh war. The President of India awarded her Padma Vibhushan in 1998.

Capt. Lakshmi entered politics and aligned with the Leftists. She was a Member of the Rajya Sabha. She contested for the post of President of India against Dr. Abdul Kalaam as a Left wing candidate but lost.

Lakshmi Sahgal reportedly still runs her clinic for the poor and the destitute. And today (Oct. 24) she turns 95.


An unreleased stamp of the

Azad Hind Government.

(Wikimedia Commons)

Photo of Capt. Lakshmi from the Web.

Related post:

Azad Hind


Kariyachan said...

A sincere portrait of a great personality who is a role model and epitome of selflessness and principle.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Thank you Kariyachan. Sadly, many people today don't know about Netaji, INA and Capt. Lakshmi.