13 August 1936
Death of Bhikaiji Cama
Bhikaiji Rustom Cama, also known as Madame Cama, independence activist, passed away in Bombay aged 74. She played a crucial role in the Indian freedom struggle abroad and was known as the ‘Mother of the Indian Revolution’. Read more about Bhikaiji Cama for the IAS exam.
- Bhikaiji Cama was born to Sorabji and Jaijibai Patel on 24th September 1861 at Bombay. She belonged to an affluent Gujarati-speaking Parsi family.
- She attended the Alexandra Native Girl’s English Institution and was said to be a diligent student. In 1885, she was married to Rustom Cama, a pro-British lawyer. Her husband’s loyal attitude towards the British and her own nationalist feelings led to an unhappy marriage.
- Madame Cama’s life changed in October 1896 when a terrible famine hit the Bombay Presidency. Thereafter, the region was also hit by an episode of the bubonic plague. Madame Cama plunged herself into social work and started providing care and relief to those affected. Unfortunately, she herself caught the dreaded disease but luckily survived. However, her health was adversely affected as a result of it. She was sent to London to recuperate.
- In London, she came in touch with several Indian independence activists such as Shyamji Krishna Varma, Dadabhai Naoroji and Singh Rewabhai Rana. She started working as Naoroji’s private secretary.
- She was to return to India but received a message from Britain which said that she would have to sign an undertaking that she would not take part in nationalist activities. Madame Cama refused to sign any such undertaking and so could not return to India.
- She went to Paris instead. There, along with Rana and Munchershah Burjorji Godrej, she co-founded the Paris Indian Society.
- She also authored, published and distributed revolutionary material from Paris. When the British banned the Vande Mataram, she composed the Bande Mataram. She also wrote Madan’s Talwar in reaction to the execution of Madan Lal Dhingra.
- A remarkable event took place on 22nd August 1907. The ‘Socialist Congress’ was taking place at Stuttgart in Germany. Madame Cama attended it and informed people of the terrible famine that had struck India and caused so many avoidable deaths. She also appealed for equality, human rights and autonomy from Britain. She also unfurled the ‘Flag of Indian Independence’ thus becoming the first person to hoist India’s flag on foreign soil.
- This flag, which was a modification of the ‘Calcutta Flag’ was designed by Madame Cama and Shyamji Krishna Varma. This flag became one of the models out of which the present Indian National Flag was designed.
- For her support to revolutionary activities, the British government asked the French government for her extradition, but was refused.
- Madame Cama was also a spokesperson for gender equality and women’s rights.
- She remained in France throughout the First World War but he stay was difficult there since Britain and France were now allies.
- She petitioned to the British government to allow her to return home in India owing to ill-health. In 1935, she agreed to relinquish seditionist activities and returned to her native land in November that year.
- She died none months later at the Parsi General Hospital, Mumbai.
- She left most of her wealth to charity.
- In 1962, the Indian government released a postage stamp in her honour. In 1997, the Indian Coast Guard commissioned a vessel after her, naming it ‘ICGS Bikhaiji Cama’.
Also on this day
1784: The Pitt’s India Act came into force.
See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.
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