The Life and Legacy of Madame Bhikaiji Cama
Bhikaiji Cama, her original name Bhikaiji Patel is also known by the name of Bhikaji, is also widely known by the name Madame Cama was an important figure in the Independence Movement of India along with being a political activist who believed in and preached the importance of women’s rights all her life.
Before going into the depths of her life, let us just remember her via her words which say, “This flag is of Indian Independence! Behold, it is born! It has been made sacred by the blood of young Indians who sacrificed their lives. I call upon you, gentlemen, to rise and salute this flag of Indian Independence. In the name of this flag, I appeal to lovers of freedom worldwide to support this flag.”
These were the strong words uttered by the frail Indian lady of her times, Madame Cama, who had the imminent fire burning inside her, high levels of confidence coupled with extreme patriotism for her motherland, INDIA! It was way back in the year 1907, in the third week of August, when this woman of substance raised her voice and the first version of the national flag of India (A tricolor of green, saffron and red stripes) at the International Socialist Congress meet at Stuttgart, Germany.
It was the time when the independence of India was way behind, and the world was not aware of the burning patriotism churning inside thousands and lakhs of the youth of India who were more than ready to lay down their lives for the sake of freedom of their motherland. It was also when the Britishers were tightening their reigns on the Indians that any revolutionary movement brought about bans, arrests for a lifetime, ordinances and whatnot!
Thus, it was not a mean feat what this Indian woman did in a foreign land, unfurling the first National Flag of India, where representatives from almost all countries were present. A bright, liberal, courageous Indian lady clad in a colorful sari was not a usual site, and her words shook everyone attending the meet that day. Such was the impact that this lady had on the world, and this was indeed something that we need to surely applaud her for. For taking our first national flag to the entire world to see!
Insights into the Life of Bhikaji Cama
Madam Cama belonged to an extremely rich Parsi business family in Bombay (now Mumbai), where she received her formal education and took an active interest in the political independence movement of India at a very early age. The year 1885 was important in Madame Cama’s life when she got married to Rustomji Cama, who was a well-known lawyer of those times, but due to her involvement in the socio-political issues of her marriage, she left for London from India.
Her Work for the Nation from Outside the Nation
While Madame Cama was way ahead of her time, even when she was away from her motherland, she fought for her country’s freedom in her way and continued the same till she breathed her last. She was a woman who helped an uncountable number of revolutionaries with materials and money across the sea in her middle and late years. She was a resident of London and then Paris. Her life can be more than inspiring for people who think that doing something for their nation is just about joining the armed forces today, while there are various other ways to serve the motherland that are far more difficult!
During the time that Cama was staying in London, she got in touch with Dadabhai Naoroji, another stalwart of the Indian freedom movement, and she began working with the Indian National Congress and came in touch with innumerous other Indian nationalists, including the likes of Lala Har Dayal, Shyamji Krishna Varma and many more and started addressing meetings in the nation.
It was just after her famous speech at the Stuttgart conference that she thought of relocating to Paris in the year 1909 as she heard rumors that the British authorities were thinking of deporting her from England as she was voicing her opinions to other nations to join in the movement of freedom in India and even trying to uplift the women rights aspect as well.
In Paris, Cama continued doing whatever she could to support the fire of the Indian national freedom movement, and her house became the headquarters for agitated Indians who needed refuge. She was the person who showed extreme bravery in helping Lala Har Dayal launch his revolutionary paper Bande Mataram (which was the mantra and the driving force behind every active young Indian blood at those times). Copies were later smuggled and supplied into Indian soil from London.
Madame Cama faced a lot due to the work she was trying to do for her countrymen back in India! Without fear, a lady as strong as steel withstood the three years when the French government imprisoned her due to her anti-British activities! It took place when World War I was going on, and Great Britain and France formed allies.
What else can you call this lady rather than a true-blood Indian who gave up her entire life working for the cause of the freedom movement of our nation, and yet, we choose to ignore her in our lives? Does this what she truly deserve? I guess not…
After her imprisonment, in 1935, at the frail age of 75, she was finally allowed to return to her motherland, where she breathed her last within some months.
A fearless woman hero of our nation, without whom maybe, the news and the happenings of the Indian freedom struggle would have been known to the rest of the world! Ultimately, her endless support and work helped India, where the Indians from foreign lands helped the revolutionaries with publishing and money too!
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