Captain Lakshmi Sehgal was born as Lakshmi Swaminadhan on October 24, l914 in Chennai. The revolutionary freedom fighter who was the leader of the all-woman Rani of Jhansi regiment of the Indian National Army.
Lakshmi was a rebel since her childhood. She first rebelled against the demeaning institution of caste system in Kerala and had participated actively in nationalist programmes of the burning of foreign goods, including her clothes and toys and picketing of liquor-vends.
She did her MBBS in 1938 and diploma in gynaecology and obstetrics in 1939. Three years later, in 1940, she went to Singapore and opened a clinic there for poor migrant labourers from India.
Inspired by the revolutionary ideology of Netaji, she joined Rani of Jhansi Regiment of the Azad Hind Fauj in 1943 and fought the Second World War on the side of the Axis Power against the British Army. She was also appointed a cabinet member in the temporary Azad Hind government.
On 8 July 1943, Sahgal had started recruiting other women into INA. Soon a regiment of 1500 women trained as soldiers was ready. In the Provisional Government of Azad Hindi formed by Bose, Sehgal was appointed as a minister and handed over the portfolio of Women’s Affairs and Rani of Jhansi Regiment. Subash Bose was equally overwhelmed to find a woman to lead the regiment.
Thereafter, Dr Lakshmi Swaminadhan would become Captain Lakshmi, leading to the conflation of a life-long identity with historical events. She was the only woman member of the cabinet of the Provisional Government of the Azad Hind, led by Bose.
In 1984, she went to Bhopal with a medical team after the gas tragedy. Her commitment to secular values in the face of adversity was displayed on numerous occasions. She confronted frenzied mobs during the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 on the streets of Kanpur, ensuring the safety of Sikhs in and around her clinic.
She joined the Communist Party of India-Marxists (CPI-M) in 1971 and became a Rajya Sabha member in 1989. She also contested Presidential election in 2002 and lost to APJ Abdul Kalam. She was honoured with Padma Vibhushan in 1998.
The lion-hearted woman revolutionary passed away at the age of 97, after suffering a cardiac arrest on 23 July, 2012.