Who Was Bhikaji Cama? We Tell You In Women’s History Month

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There’s an area in Delhi called Bhikaji Cama Place. But ask anyone who that was, and chances are you’ll get blank looks. Here’s a quick look at who she was.

Bhikaji Cama’s story is an inspirational one. Born into an affluent Parsi family in 1861, she was drawn toward political issues from a very early age. She grew up in an environment where the Indian nationalist movement was beginning to gather steam, and she was very influenced by it. However, ironically, she married Rustomji Cama, a well-known pro-British lawyer. Needless to say, it was not a happy marriage – since Bhikaji was ideologically opposed to the British rule and their exploitative ways.

Then, in 1896, came a great famine followed by a devastating plague – and it changed Cama’s life. Bhikhaiji joined the teams which were working to save the victims. Soon after she too contracted the deadly disease. Though she survived, it left her weak and frail. In 1901 she left for Britain for treatment. Little did she know, that coming back to her beloved land would prove to be a long and difficult task.

While in London, Bhikaji met some prominent crusaders of India’s freedom – like Shyamji Krishna Varma and Dadabhai Naoroji, then president of the British Committee of the Indian National Congress. The meetings would change the course of her life. Bhikaji supported these leaders and was also instrumental in the founding of the Indian Home Rule Society in February 1905.

Bhikaji’s actions did not go down well with the British. She was told that she would not be able to return to India unless she signed a statement promising not to participate in nationalist activities. Bhikaji refused.

She then moved to Paris. Here she co-founded the Paris Indian Society and started to rally the cause of India’s freedom. Her Paris-home slowly became a shelter for world revolutionaries. On 22 August 1907, at an International Socialist Conference in Stuttgart, Germany, Bhikaji unfurled the – Flag of Indian Independence. This was 1907 – a good forty years before India would achieve freedom! It was a laudable feat. After Stuttgart, Cama travelled to the United States of America in an effort to raise awareness about the India’s fight for independence.

Cama spent her life away from her homeland, ironically, for the love of her land. She finally returned when she was old and ailing and died shortly after, on the 13th of August 1936.

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