Capt. Lakshmi Sahgal
IT was a very special meeting of the central executive committee of AIDWA that was held in Kanpur, UP on October 16-17, 2004. Kanpur, home to Capt Lakshmi Sahgal, was selected as a venue because CEC members wanted to celebrate the fact that Capt Lakshmi Sahgal, veteran freedom fighter and one of its founders was going to complete 90 years of an eventful life much of which has been spent in the service of the country and of the poor, especially poor women a few days later on October 24.
In the late evening of October 16, after the day's business ended, Capt Lakshmi joined the CEC members for a joyous celebration. As she entered the hall, the spontaneous display of love, affection and respect by all the AIDWA leaders present was amazing. She, of course, responded with her characteristic warmth, enthusiasm and infectious smile!
Brinda Karat, AIDWA general secretary, greeted Capt Lakshmi on behalf of all AIDWA members and herself and recalled having known her dear "Mashi Ma" since she was a young student 12 years of age. She said that even then, Capt Lakshmi's capacity to treat people as members of her own family impressed her. Working in the same organisation many years later was, therefore, a wonderful experience. She said that whenever she felt depressed or overwhelmed by the misery and pain all around, Capt Lakshmi was always able to lift her spirits with her total commitment to the cause of revolution.
Mythily Sivaraman from Tamil Nadu, Kalindi Deshpande and Pramila Pandhe from the AIDWA centre, Srimathi from Kerala, Rekha from West Bengal, Chhaya from Tripura, Zarina and Madhu from UP, Sumitra from Rajasthan, Sandhya from MP, Punyavati from AP, Kiran from Maharashtra, Sudha Bindu from Bihar, Vimala from Karnataka, Ashalata from Delhi all greeted Capt Lakshmi on behalf of their state committees and members and paid tributes to her many inspiring qualities of compassion, courage and laboriousness. Perhaps the most moving comment came from Chhaya who said when poor tribal women in Tripura suffered gang-rape in Ujan Maidan and State repression had forced hundreds to leave their homes, Capt. Lakshmi came to the state and visited remote hamlets and huts, staying with the poor families and sharing their hardships.
This demonstration of solidarity went a long way in boosting the morale of the victims and in inspiring the activists to pursue the struggle with renewed energy.
Finally, Capt Lakshmi thanked all those present and said that working in AIDWA had given her a great sense of fulfillment and much satisfaction and happiness. She said that AIDWA members should only wish for one thing for her and that was that she should be able to work as long as she lived because without work her life was meaningless.
Subhashini Ali, AIDWA president, concluded the meeting.