A name that shines bright in the noble tribe of selfless patriots, who fought gallantly for the freedom of people in India – a set of brave hearts who, over years, have witnessed the rapid demise of values they once stood for. Capt. Lakshmi Sehgal- a lady who chose to be a fighter all her life, is fighting a new battle.
An MBBS doctor, Lakshmi Swaminathan, during the surrender of Singapore by the British to the Japanese, in 1942, aided the wounded prisoners of war, many of whom were interested in joining the Azad Hind Fauj. Soon she joined the Indian National Army – led by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, and became the chief of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment- an all women regiment- the first of its kind in Asia. The cadets of the regiment underwent military and combat training with drills, route marches as well as weapons training in rifles, hand grenades, and bayonet charges. The first qualified troop, numbering nearly five hundred, passed out of the Singapore training camp in March 1944. 200 more were also chosen for nursing training. The regiment, under the leadership of Capt. Lakshmi Swaminathan, participated in the successful Imphal campaign of the INA.
Years after the disbanding of the INA, Capt. Lakshmi Swaminathan, in 1947, married Col. Prem Kumar Sahgal, another brave officer of the Azad Hind Fauj. Years later, in 1971, Mrs Sehgal participated in active politics as a leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and represented the party in Rajya Sabha. During the Bangladesh crisis, she also organized relief camps and medical aid in Calcutta for refugees who streamed into India from Bangladesh. In 2002, the leftist parties of India nominated her as a candidate in the presidential elections. She, the sole opponent to A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, lost by 1 lakh to 9 lakh votes.
Recently, on June 19, Mrs Sehgal (97), was admitted to a hospital following a life threatening cardiac arrest and is presently being kept on life support system. Once a fearless doctor, a gallant comrade in its truest sense, a lifelong philanthropist and activist, a wonderful wife and a mother – Capt. Lakshmi Sehgal – we the people stand tall by you when you are fighting yet another battle. We pray for your good health.