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Friday, March 9, 2012

International Women’s Day : Honouring Women of India and their Contributions to the cause of the National Flag, (updated)

IWD on March 8 is celebrated by women's groups around the world. This date is also commemorated at the United Nations. When women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate their Day, they can look back to a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.
 International Women's Day is the story of ordinary women as makers of history; it is rooted in the centuries-old struggle of women to participate in society on an equal footing with men. During the French Revolution, Parisian women calling for "liberty, equality, fraternity" marched on Versailles to demand women's suffrage.
The idea of an International Women's Day first arose at the turn of the century, which in the industrialized world was a period of expansion and turbulence, booming population growth and radical ideologies. (Source
  Flags and Stamps Honours 'Women of India' and their Contributions to the cause of the National Flag of India
Sister Nivedita
Perhaps, the first serious attempt at flag-making in India came from a woman - Sister Nivedita(1867–1911) - an Irish devotee of Swami Vivekananda. Born as Margaret Elizabeth Nobel in Northern Ireland. Swami Vivekananda inspired her to come to Calcutta to spread education among Indian women. Sister Nivedita actively participated in the Swadeshi (Swadeshi standing for a political movement to attain ‘self-sufficiency’) movement and greatly contributed towards Indian nationalism.
  Sister Nivedita conceived the idea of the national flag during a visit to Bodh Gaya in 1904, in the company of Jagadish Chandra Bose and Rabindranath Tagore. She was inspired by the vajra (thunderbolt) sign, a symbol of Buddha, that implies ‘the selfless man’. It was the weapon of Lord Indra and is a symbol of strength. It is also associated with the Goddess Durga. According to legend, vajra was created from the bones of Rishi Dadhichi. It is a symbol of supreme sacrifice.

Sister Nivedita died in 1911 in Darjeeling; her epitaph aptly reads, ‘Here reposes Sister Nivedita who gave her all to India.’ 
   Bhikaiji Rustom Cama
 A strikingly similar flag to the 1906 Calcutta flag (Bande Mataram flag), with minor deviations, was waved by Bhikaiji Rustom Cama on 22 August 1907 at the Second International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart, Germany. Waving the flag Madame Cama declared,
This flag is of Indian independence. Behold it is born. It is already sanctioned by the blood of martyred Indian youths. 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 all over the world to cooperate with this flag in freeing one-fifth of the human race.
 Madame Cama wrote in a leaflet titled ‘Bande Mataram – A Message to the People of India’ (1908) ;
This flag of Bande Mataram, which I wave before you, was made for me by a noble selfless young patriot [Hemchandra Kanungo], who is now standing at the bar of the so-called court of justice in our country. What a mockery to talk of justice and jury! 
 In the 1984 edition of Hemchandra Kanungoe’s book “Banglai Biplab Prachesta’ (first published in June 1928) Gaurishankar Bhattacharya wrote in his introduction that it was Hemchandra who made the Flag in Paris as per request made by Madam Cama and Shyamji Krishna Varma.
 Dr Bhupendranath Dutta (1880-1961), who researched in great details about the genesis of the Bande Mataram flag in his book Bharater Dwitiya Swadhinater SangaramAprakashita Rajnaitik Itihas, wondered how a flag which was conceptualized and made in Calcutta could again be surfaced with such stunning similarity in far away Europe unless there was a common link between the two.   Dr Dutta hinted it was Hemchandra (Das) Kanungoe, who made the flag for Madame Cama. According to Dr Dutta’s findings Khasi Rao, the revolutionary brother of Madhav Rao, a general in the army of the Baroda state, had gone to Switzerland to undergo military training. Khasi Rao took with him a small replica of the Calcutta Flag given to him by the Bengal Congress leaders in 1907.
 After World War I she had to remain in exile and was allowed to return to India only when her health deteriorated in 1935. Madame Cama quietly passed away in Bombay (Mumbai) on 16 August 1936, unsung and unmourned. The undaunted lady wrote for her tombstone in French and Gujarati, ‘Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God’—her most befitting epitaph. 
 Madam Cama’s flag was clandestinely brought  into India and kept it at a secret location in Bombay. In 1937. G.V. Ketkar, grandson of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and former editor of  the Kesari and Tarun Bharat retrieved the original flag from the secret place receiving tips from Indulal Yagnik of Gujarat. The framed flag is preserved for public viewing in the Tilak Museum of Maratha and Kesari Library in Pune.
India’s first female prime minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi, paid her tribute in her ‘Foreword’ to the book Madame Cama – Mother of Indian Revolution by Dr Panchanan Saha: ‘We remember specially her bold action and pioneering work to popularise our national flag. It is the tricolour she unfurled which was adopted with some alternation by our freedom movement.’
 Aruna Asaf Ali (Ganguli)
 During Quit India movement on 9 August 1942, following the arrest of most of the prominent leaders, Aruna Asaf Ali (Ganguli), came forward and unfurled the Purna Swaraj flag at the Gowalia Tank Maidan to announce the commencement of the Quit India movement. The raising of the flag by Aruna Asaf Ali provided the spark that ignited the Quit India movement. She became an iconic figure for thousands of youths who rose to emulate her. Forty-five years later, on 9 August 1987, Aruna Asaf Ali reenacted the flag hoisting ceremony at the same venue in Bombay, renamed August Kranti Maidan to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of India’s Independence.
 Kanaklata Barua
 On 10 September 1942, at Barangabari under Gohpur Police Station in the district of Darrang (at present Sonitpur) a young girl named Kanaklata Barua from the village of Barangabri led a procession of unarmed villagers under the Purna Swaraj flag. As soon as Kanaklata unfurled the flag she and her companion Mukunda Kakati were gunned down by the armed police. Their heroic sacrifice is still remembered with pride. On the same day at Dhekiajuli Police Station eleven unarmed villagers were gunned down by the armed police while trying to hoist the tri-color at the police station. Three teenage girls called Tileswari, Numali and Khahuli killed in this incident are especially commemorated by the locals. 
Kanaklata Barua has not yet been philatelically honoured by India post
 Matangini Hazra
 Matangini Hazra was known as ‘Gandhi-buri’(literally an old female version of Gandhi). At the age of seventy-three she joined the Quit India movement, as an active volunteer. On 29 September1942, while she was leading a procession at Tamluk in Midnapore, with the Purna Swaraj flag in her hands, a shower of bullets from the police felled her. While dying, she had held the flag high and had collapsed only when she had passed the flag onto the next marcher; the flag had remained unsullied.
 The sample of the ‘Tiranga with the emblem of Asoka Chakra’ which was presented by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in the Constituent Assembly on 22 July 1947, for adoption as Free India’s National Flag, that, so proudly we hail today, was prepared by Mrs Badr-ud-Din Tyabjee (her husband was the joint secretary in the Constituent Assembly and grandson of the great Tayabjee who was the president of the All India Congress party in 1887). 
Badr-ud-Din Tyabjee has not yet been philatelically honoured by India post
 Mrs Sarojini Naidu, the ‘Bulbule Hind’, was given the honour of making the final speech in the Constituent Assembly on 22 July 1947. And she concluded her long emotional speech by saying;
… Many of my friends have spoken of this Flag with the poetry of their own hearts.  I as a poet and as a woman, I am speaking prose to you when I say that we women stand for the unity of India. Remember this Flag there is no prince and there is no peasant, there is no rich and there is no poor. There is no privilege there is only duty and responsibility and sacrifice. Whether we be Hindus or Muslims, Christians, Sikhs or Zorostrians and others, our Mother India has one undivided heart and one indivisible spirit. Men and women of reborn India rise and salute this Flag.  I bid you, rise and salute the Flag.
 At the stroke of midnight on 15 August 1947, free India’s national flag was hoisted atop the Council House, renamed Parliament Bhavan in New Delhi. The flown flag was presented by Mrs Hansa Mehta representing the Flag Presentation Committee comprising of all the women members of the Constituent Assembly, as a gift from the women of India.
 Born in Surat, she was  a freedom fighter who made it her mission to free India. She actively took part in the freedom struggle and had to suffer imprisonment many a times.  Hansa Mehta was the first woman to be appointed Vice-Chancellor of a co-educational University in India. 
 Hansa Mehta has not yet been philatelically honoured by India post