Rukmini Lakshmipathy (1891 - 1951)

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Rukmini Lakshmipathi

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Rukmini Laxmipathi (also spelled as Rukmani Lakshmipathi, Tamil: ருக்மிணி லக்ஷ்மிபதி) (6 December 1892 - 6 August 1951) was an Indian independence activist and politician belonging to the Indian National Congress. She was the first woman to be elected to the Madras Legislature and the first to serve as a minister in the Madras Presidency.[1]

[edit] Biography

Rukmini was born in Madras in an agriculturist family. Her grandfather was the landlord Raja T. Ramrao. She obtained her B.A from the Women's Christian College, Madras and married Dr. Achanta Laxmipathi.[2] In 1923, she joined the Congress. In 1926, she attended the lnternational Women's Suffrage Alliance Congress at Paris as the Indian representative.[3] For her participation (in 1930) in the Salt Satyagraha in Vedaranyam she was jailed for a year, becoming the first female prisoner in the Salt Satyagraha movement.[4] She contested and won a by election to the Madras Legislative Council in 1934.[5] She was elected to the Madras Presidency Legislative Assembly in the 1937 elections. On 15 July 1937 she was elected as the Deputy Speaker of the assembly. During 1 May 1946 - 23 March 1947, she was the Minister for Public Health of the presidency in the T. Prakasam cabinet. She was the first (and only) woman minister of the presidency.[6][7][8][9] Marshall's road in Egmore, Chennai has been renamed after her.[10] In her memory, a postage stamp was issued in 1997.[11]

[edit] References

1.^ Ramakrishnan, T (13 March 2010). "Historic moments, historic personalities". The Hindu. http://beta.thehindu.com/news/states/tamil-nadu/article244000.ece. Retrieved 8 April 2010.

2.^ Who's who in India, Burma & Ceylon (1941). Who's Who Publishers (India) Ltd., 1941. pp. 175. http://books.google.com/books?lr=&client=firefox-a&cd=74&id=MFyE_jYD43EC&dq=rukmani+lakshmipathi&q=raja+ramrao#search_anchor.

3.^ Seminar on Uplift of Women in South India in 20th Century and Suggestions for 2000 A.D.. Conferences, seminars, and workshops series. 5. Mother Teresa Women's University, Dept. of Historical Studies. 1987. pp. 83. http://books.google.com/books?id=D0AqAAAAYAAJ&q=rukmini+lakshmipathi&dq=rukmini+lakshmipathi&lr=&client=firefox-a&cd=32.

4.^ Roy, Kalpana (1999). Encyclopaedia of violence against women and dowry death in India,. 1. Anmol Publications. pp. 30. ISBN 9788126103430. http://books.google.com/books?id=0uFJjf6iVQwC&pg=PA30&dq=rukmini+lakshmipathi&client=firefox-a&cd=7#v=onepage&q=rukmini%20lakshmipathi&f=false.

5.^ Bhatt,, B. D.; Sita Ram Sharma (1992). Women's education and social development. Modern education series. Kanishka Pub. House. pp. 343. ISBN 9788185475547. http://books.google.com/books?lr=&client=firefox-a&cd=26&id=18OeAAAAMAAJ.

6.^ Justice Party golden jubilee souvenir, 1968. Justice Party. 1968. pp. 62. ISBN. http://books.google.com/books?lr=&client=firefox-a&cd=20&id=rCZYAAAAMAAJ.

7.^ Kaliyaperumal, M (1992). The office of the speaker in Tamilnadu : A study. Madras University. pp. 47. http://dspace.vidyanidhi.org.in:8080/dspace/bitstream/2009/4880/3/MAU-1992-055-2.pdf.

8.^ "Rukmini Laxmipathi". http://www.whereincity.com/india/great-indians/women/rukmini-laxmipathi.php. Retrieved 12 March 2010.

9.^ Frederick, Prince (4 December 2002). "Discipline, need of the hour". The Hindu. http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/mp/2002/12/04/stories/2002120400130200.htm. Retrieved 12 March 2010.

10.^ "In Chennai Today". The Hindu. 10 July 2005. http://www.hindu.com/2005/07/10/stories/2005071012690300.htm. Retrieved 12 March 2010.

She was born in an agriculturist family in Madras and was married to Dr. Achanta Laxmipathi. She joined the congress in 1923 and gave all her jewellery to Harijan Welfare Fund. She actively participated in Salt Satyagraha and had to undergo imprisonment for a year. She was elected to Madras Legislative Assembly in 1937, and served as Health Minister in T. Prakasan Ministry in 1946. She was a great social reformer and worked for the upliftment of women in society. She died on 6-8-1951

Rukmini Lakshmipathy was the first woman elected to the Legislative Assembly. She held the post of Deputy Speaker of the Assembly during the period July 1937 to October 1945. She also had the distinction of being the first woman Minister in the State when she became Health Minister in 1946 in the Prakasam Ministry

She was born in an agriculturist family in Madras and was married to Dr. Achanta Laxmipathi. She joined the congress in 1923 and gave all her jewellery to Harijan Welfare Fund. She actively participated in Salt Satyagraha and had to undergo imprisonment for a year. She was elected to Madras Legislative Assembly in 1937, and served as Health Minister in T. Prakasan Ministry in 1946. She was a great social reformer and worked for the upliftment of women in society. She died on 6-8-1951.

Rukmini Laxmipathi (1892-1951)

Rukmini Laxmipathi was born in an agriculturist family in Tamilnadu and was married to Dr. Achanta Laxmipathi. Rukmini was deeply influenced by national leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Sarojini Naidu, and C. Rajagopalachari. She joined the congress in 1923 and gave all her jewelry to Harijan Welfare Fund. She actively participated in Salt Satyagraha and had to undergo imprisonment for a year. She was elected to Madras Legislative Assembly in 1937, and served as Health Minister in T. Prakasan Ministry in 1946. She was a great social reformer and worked for the advancement of women in society. She died on August 6, 1951.

Source: Indian Postal Service, releasing a stamp to honor Rukmini Laxmipathi.

An epic march

Seventy years ago, this month, Rajaji undertook the historic march to Vedaraniam defying the Salt Law. This man of intellect and action emerged a national hero after the event. R. VARADARAJAN recollects.

BHARATA RATNA C. Subramaniyam's introduction to The Epic March to Vedaranyam reads: "The Cauvery basin had long echoed to the thud of marching armies, to the songs in praise of the imperial Cholas and of their heroic deeds in war. Rudan Kannar sang of the valour and victories of Karikal Cholan in his "Pattinappalai". Jayam Kondan wove a minor classic around the martial exploits of Kulothunga II. For the first time in history, the Chola country resounded to the march of an army different in every way from the royal armies of earlier epochs. It was an army which was not equipped with weapons of office and defence; unarmed it set out to meet the armed might of alien rulers. It harboured no hatred or ill will against the enemy; it faced his attacks without flinching and with heroic fortitude".

Seventy years ago on April 13, 1930, it started on its long march from Tiruchi to Vedaraniam under the command of Rajaji to defy the Salt Law of the British Government. Tamil poet Ramalingam Pillai heralded this war with a marching song: "Kathiyinri Rathaminri Yuddhamonru Varugudu" - here comes a war sans sword, sans bloodshed.

A climate of war to expel the British rule was building up rapidly in the country in the early months of 1930. The Lahore Congress session decided to launch a big All India Sathyagraha Movement. At this juncture, the Congress leaders did not know how exactly this was to be started but they left it to Gandhiji to decide on the nature of the movement. It had to be defiant and sacrifice-demanding; else it would not attract the "secret, silent, preserving band" of young men lured by violence. It had to be uncomplicated. Suddenly it flashed to Gandhiji to break the Salt Law. By taxing the manufacture and sale of the salt, the government was hurting "even the starving millions, the sick, the maimed and utterly helpless". Gandhiji envisaged that the people should make their own salt and deprive the government of the inhuman tax.

The Dandi March has become a historic episode in India's struggle for independence. It became the prelude for the epich march to Vedaraniam under the leadership of Rajaji. He had set about collecting men and resources. Only those ready for long prison terms, even for death, qualified for his march. For its destination he selected a point on the Tanjore seaboard, Vedaraniam: starting from Tiruchi, the marchers would walk about 150 miles. Vedaraniam's assets were convenient salt swamps and Vedaratnam Pillai, a salt merchant willing to host the Sathyagraha.

The eventual regiment - the 100 gems as they came to be called - included a man from each Tamil Nadu district, seven youth resigning handsome Bombay jobs, an engineering college lecturer and a railway official, the last two also sacrificing their posts. To the free India of the future, the group was to contribute an editor, an ambassador, a union minister and more. K. Santhanam, Mattaparai Venkatarama Iyer, G. Ramachandran, Vedaratnam Pillai among others took over the leadership of the camp one after the other following Rajaji's arrest.

This Salt Sathyagraha March, which started at Tiruchi on April 13, 1930 from the residence of Dr. T.S.S. Rajan, the newly elected Secretary of Tamilnadu Congress is now a well known chapter in the history of our freedom movement. But there are few things which stand out above everuthing else in this thrilling drama. The first was Rajaji's complete trust in the patriotism of the common people. As Rajaji led the Sathyagraha into Tanjore district, the "astute and energetic" Collector by name J. A. Thorne, ICS ordered the people not to receive the Sathyagrahis or entertain them with food and accommodation, under the threat of penal punishkment. He promised the Government an "ignominious failure" of the march. Thorne's warning against the "harbouring" - punishable by a six months sentence and a fine - were carried on Tamil leaflets, by beat of drum and in the press. Rajaji was shown this challenge appearing in the papers as he stepped out at the head of the marching column of Sathygrahis. Rajaji said that he knew this people better than a British ICS officer and their immemorial tradition of hospitality. The order, he predicted would enlarge the public's welcome. With a twinkle he added "Thorne and thistles cannot stem this tide of freedom."

The first open defiance of Mr. Thorne's orders was made by Sri Pantulu Iyer at Kumbakonam. Pantulu Iyer arranged a royal feast for the sathyagrahis and for this he was promptly put in prison. Pantulu Iyer's case stimulated the thinking of the people and produced novel ideas of entertaining the civil resisters and yet escaping Thorne. Wayside trees, besides protecting the sathyagrahis from the scorching summer heat, bent low to offer them of food packets that had been tied to the branches. In some places where the marchers had camped on the Cauvery river bed, they found indicators showing where huge containers carrying food lay buried. The roads were sprinkled with water in many places. There were welcome arches in some places and green leaf festoon everywhere. In the bargain, the police personnel were starved. The village people did not give them even a morsel of food or a cup of water to drink. The "menial staff" refused to carry out their routine duties of cleaning the latrines and sweeping the roads; barbers and washermen declined to render their services to the British establishment. The government offices and their families were in a lurch without these basic services of everyday life. Though a toe infection obliged him to walk barefoot for two or three days, Rajaji stood the journey well. In the thick of it he remembered to ask about the constructive work around the Tiruchengodu Ashram. Informed by Rajaji of Thorne's order and of the response of the public, Gandhiji had written back: "It is good that our hands and feet are tied so that we can sing with joy. God is the help of the helpless."

In every one of the speeches he made during the march, Rajaji spoke to the people on prohibition, khadi, removal of social disabilities, the inequities of foreign rule, the meaning and significance of the civil disobedience movement launched by Gandhiji and how people could support it. It was always an appeal to reason, not to emotion. He drove home his message through homely parables and through stories drawn from our traditional lore. From the point of view of the upheavel it created in the consciousness of the masses and classes alike, the Vedaraniam march takes it rank next to the Dhandhi march of the Mahatma.

An exasperated, Mr. Thorne has recorded his tribute to Rajaji for drinking the honey and escaping the sting. "Your plan was bold, but you forgot that we are in our own country" said Rajaji. Thorne smilled and replied "Yes, we have each tried to do our best and worst."

The arrangements the police had made to prevent Rajaji from disobeying the salt law and picking up salt was absolutely tight. But Rajaji outwitted them again. The struggle that followed the arrest of Rajaji had touches of epic grandeur. Stories of how volunteers guarded the salt they had gathered in the face of police brutality are endless. One volunteer refused to give the salt he had picked up even when his fingers were beaten to pulp by the police lathi. When the attempts of the police failed to break up a ring of volunteers guarding pots of "illicit" salt and when the police started beating them mercilessly, Srimathi Rukmani Lakshmipathy kept running round the ring to stand behind the volunteers to receive on her own back the lathi that was descending on them. The policemen are reported to have gone away tired and ashamed. The common people treated those who were part of the British establishment with revulsion Judge Ponnusamy Pillai, a contemporary of Rajaji in the Salem Bar, had to convinct Rajaji for flouting the salt law in his capacity as the Vedaraniam magistrate. He gave his verdict calmly, but when it came to signing the jail warrant, he broke down and wept.

The anticlimax of arresting and convicting Rajaji subdued the overconfident Thorne. Rajaji was not taken to the Vedaraniam Town Police Station and to the Magistrate Court. The salt office itself became the venue of the court and prison cell to honour Rajaji's stature and righteousness in defying the salt law. Magistrate Ponnusamy came all the way to the salt office "to hear the case" where a small room was made into a prison cell to detain Rajaji for a few hours until he was escorted on the train to Tiruchirapalli jail.

In his secret reports to Madras, Thorne admitted that Rajaji had "had something of a triumph" and noted too that Rajaji "throughout maintained excellent discipline among his followers, always adhered to nonviolence, and refrained from the arts of damagogy." "If there ever existed a fervid sense of devotion to the Government, it is now the defunct," stated Thorne. In turn, the Madras secretariat informed Delhi that the movement had "left in its wake a growing spirit of bias against government." Thus did the Raj acknowledge the purity and success of the struggle of Vedaraniam.

Rajaji emerged from the Vedanraniyam Sathyagraha as a national hero, taking his place along with Sardar Vallbhai Patel, with this difference that while the redoubtable Sardar was a man of action, Rajaji was both a man of the highest intellect and action at the same time. He drew from the people not only cooperation in action but allegiance to ideas.

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