(1914 – 2012) – (Tamilnadu)
Lakshmi Sahgal (Aged 98) also known as Lakshmi Swaminathan, was born on October 24, 1914, in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. She was a revolutionary of the Indian independence movement, an officer of the Indian National Army, and the Minister of Women’s Affairs in the Azad Hind government. In India, she is commonly referred to as Captain Lakshmi, which was her rank when she was taken prisoner in Burma during World War II.
Lakshmi studied at Queen Mary’s College and later decided to pursue medicine. She received an MBBS degree from Madras Medical College in 1938 and a diploma in gynaecology and obstetrics a year later. She worked as a doctor at the Government Kasturba Gandhi Hospital in Triplicane, Chennai.
In 1940, after her marriage to pilot P.K.N. Rao ended in failure, she left for Singapore, where she met some members of Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army. Lakshmi learned that Bose was interested in drafting women into the organization and requested a meeting with him. She emerged from the meeting with a mandate to set up an all-women regiment, which she called the Rani of Jhansi regiment. Women were eager to join the brigade, and Dr. Lakshmi Swaminathan became Captain Lakshmi, a name and identity that would stay with her for the rest of her life.
The British army arrested Captain Lakshmi in May 1945, and she remained in Burma until March 1946, when she was sent back to India, at a time when the INA trials in Delhi hastened the end of colonial rule. In 2002, four leftist parties – the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Revolutionary Socialist Party, and the All India Forward Bloc – nominated Sahgal as a candidate in the presidential elections, making her the sole opponent of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who emerged victorious.
In 1998, Sahgal received the Padma Vibhushan award from Indian president K. R. Narayanan. In 2010, she was bestowed with an honorary doctorate by the University of Calicut. She passed away on July 23, 2012, in Kanpur, India.