[Solved] Discuss the role of women in the freedom struggle especially during the Gandhian phase

[Solved] Discuss the role of women in the freedom struggle especially during the Gandhian phase

Woman’s participation in India’s freedom struggle began as early as in 1817. Bhima Bai Holkarfought bravely against the British colonel Malcolm and defeated him in guerilla warfare.

• The role of Rani of Ramgarh, Rani Lakshmi Bai, Tapasvini Maharani in the War of Independence

(the Great Revolt) of 1857 was commendable.

• While women were involved in the political arena since the foundation of Indian national congress

days (Annie Besant started Home Rule League) and especially during the Swadeshi movement but

it was Gandhiji who initiated for mass participation of women in freedom struggle.

Role played by women in freedom struggle:

Before Gandhian phase:

  • Bhima Bai Holkar fought bravely against the British colonel Malcolm and defeated him in guerrilla warfare.
  • Maharani Velu Nachiyar (1730 – 1796) bravely fought with the British army decades before the 1857 Revolt. She probably remains the only queen to have defeated the British army successfully.
  • Gauri Parvati Bai who was queen of Travancore carried out reforms and emphasized on the need for education of girls thus in many ways helping women elevate from social and educational stigma.
  • The role of Rani of Ramgarh, Rani Lakshmi Bai, Tapasvini Maharani in the War of Independence (the Great Revolt) of 1857 was commendable.
  • During Swadeshi campaign their activities were limited to boycott of foreign clothand picketing of liquor shops. A nationalistic cult around Bharat Mata (mother India) started to emerge which further necessitated the role of women.
  • In the second phase of women participation, the idea of Home Rule and constitutionalism became dominant. Some western women played a significant role in this. Annie Besant, who became the first woman president of Indian National Congress, launched Home Rule movement.

During Gandhian phase:

  • Role in Gandhi led mass movement: Many women played a proactive role in Gandhian movements. Kasturba Gandhi imprisoned for participating in Quit India Movement and consequently died in Poona Jail. Vijaya laxmi Pandit actively participated in all civil disobedience movement (1932,1941) and got arrested. Similarly, Indira Gandhi organized ‘Monkey army’ of youths.
  • Social and Women Mobilisation: Women played an important role in mobilisation by leading from the front and through their writings. Prominent women like Aruna Asaf Ali was the leading figure of Quit India movement and edited journal ‘inquilab for mobilization. Similarly Raj Kumari Kaur was the founder of All India Women’s Conference.
  • Revolutionary movements: Some Indian women also took revolutionary steps against imperial rule. Kalapana datta was the prominent revolutionary leader and was part of Chittagong armoury raid. Rani Gaidineliu led the naga nationalist movement against British and known as ‘Queen of Naga’.
  • Raising voice of freedom at International level: Bhikaji Cama organized free India Society in UK and called as Mother India’s first cultural representative of USA. Vijay laxmi Pandit raised Indian voice at San Francisco UN meeting. Sarojni Naidu participated in round table conference along with Gandhi and Nehru.
  • As Indian National Congress leaders: Anne Besant, Irish lady and Sarojini Naidu emerged as an important national leader who later became the President of INC.
  • Women Organisations: In the third phase, women’s participation in Non Cooperation movement helped in incorporating women from all over India. Independent bodies of women such as Rashtriya Stree Sanghas were fused with District Congress Committees. It also saw inclusion of women from all sections – Hindu/ Muslim, widows, scheduled/marginalised sections.
  • Through participation in various movements: During Civil Disobedience, women volunteers participated in marches boycotts and prabhat pheris. Desh Sevika Sangh, patriotic groups within their association, was formed for passive resistance. Sarojini Naidu, Muhtulaxmi Reddy, Margret Cousins were put in jail. Bi Amma, the mother of Ali brothers addressed 6000 women to join men in picketing. In Andhra Pradesh, a vibrant Durgabai collected over a thousand devadasi to hear Gandhi’s speech.

In 1920, Sarojini Naidu joined the non-cooperation movement. Many women participated in this

movement by performing their domestic and social roles. Sarla Devi, Muthulaxmi Reddy, Susheela

Nair, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Sucheta Kripalani and Aruna Asaf Ali,Vijay LaxmiPandit are some

the women who participated in the Non – violent Noncooperation movement. They participated

in political protests, picketed shops selling foreign goods and organized Prabhat Pheri (singing

patriotic songs).

• Women’s participation in the national movement helped in breaking several of the old barriers of

tradition and custom. Women’s organization side by side raised their voices for removal of social

and legal disabilities.

• Role of few women have been discussed below:

a) Arun Asaf Ali was a radical nationalist played an outstanding role in the historic Quit India

Movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi on August 9, 1942, and was a prominent leader of the

underground movement.

b) Vijay Lakshmi Pandit represented India in many of the Conferences abroad. She attended numerous

public lectures and challenged the British dominated delegate’s rights to represent India therein. She

was a great fighter and took parts in many of the freedom movement.

c) Women like Kalpana Dutt, Preeti Lathawaddedar have been actively involved in revolutionary

activities as well like the Hindustan republic socialist association, Chittagong uprising, etc.

Revolutionary

Gandhian era featured large number of women who took part in Satyagraha in a non violent way. But there where many who followed the revolutionary way of struggle that included actively using arms to fight British imperialism.

Ex: The Chittagong armoury raid perpetuated by Surya Sen had major women participants in form of Kalpana Dutt and Pritilata Waddedar. Bina Das, a young student shot at the Bengal Governor during convocation.

Leadership

Women leaders were at the forefront of demand for self government or Swaraj. The Home Rule movement was one such movement that had woman at the helm.

Ex: Annie Besant launched the Home Rule League across India that advocated for self governance of the country along with Bal Gangadhar Tilak.

Communication

During the launch of Quit India movement, the British pre-empted and arrested all major Congress party leaders. This forced the cadre to go into hiding. Women played a major role in establishing communication between congress party workers.

Ex: Usha Mehta organised the Congress Radio, an underground radio station that functioned for some time during Quit India movement.

Participants in mass movements

Gandhiji’s mass movement would not have been successful if women did not participate actively. It was because of large-scale participation of women that movements like Civil disobedience and Quit India were successful.

Ex: Sarojini Naidu was actively involved in Salts satyagraha in Darasana. Similarly the Kheda satyagraha was successful due to active participation of women villagers.

Thus Women played an indispensable role in Indian freedom struggle ranging from a figure of common person to lead the Mass movement and such contribution is non measurable and non-quantifiable. In a book called Mother India, the writer Katherine Mayo criticised the Hindu men and slave like condition of women within the family. Nationalists and reformers were compelled to focus on families and making the domestic space non violent. Also this criticism bound Indian men and women together to national honour.

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