Wednesday 30 May 2018

Nivedita : The Queen of the Indian Freedom Movement -1

यतो धर्म: ततो जय:

The title may confuse many, even the serious readers of the Indian Freedom Movement. While there is not much confusion in the minds of political leaders who have enjoyed political power since independence about who is the king of the Indian freedom movement, there can be endless debate on the subject. While Gandhiji is regarded officially as the most acclaimed freedom fighter, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose will definitely win hands down in Bengal, Punjab and quite a few other places. Many veterans of the defence forces also tend to side with the latter group against the Nehruvian protagonists in this matter.

Let us now turn to another side of the story. We all know that Indian women played a big role in the freedom movement. Starting from Laxmibai of Jhansi, there had been many such women including Anne Besant, Sarojini Naidu, Aruna Asaf Ali, Sucheta Kripalani, Nelli Sengupta and the firebrand revolutionaries like Shanti-Suniti, Bina Das, Matangini Hazra, Kalpana Dutta, Pritilata, Laxmi Segal and many others. But there had been never a serious debate on whom the title of 'queen' of the Indian freedom movement can be bestowed. After a detailed study and assessment, the answer can be found. There is only one lady, in my view, on whom this title can be awarded. She is none other than Margaret Elizabeth Noble. Yes, it is Sister Nivedita (1867-1911), the ardent disciple of Swami Vivekananda, an Irish by birth and brought up in England, who came to India in 1898 at an age of thirty only and established a girls' school in Kolkata. However, her all-round contribution to the Indian freedom movement has never been properly assessed.

She was a born revolutionary. Before coming to India she was already well-known for her writing and new methods of children's education. She established a school near London at an age of 24 and was very much influenced by her father, Samuel Noble who was a priest with a dream of success of the Irish revolution. The course of his life, however, completely changed after she met Swami Vivekananda in November 1895 in London. Two years later she arrived in Calcutta in February 1898. She was possibly the first Christian lady who got herself converted to the Hindu faith and became a staunch Indian nationalist. She established a girls' school in North Calcutta, but she always felt that her Guru and Master, Swami Vivekananda, though a religious leader, always dreamt of a free India. She was a prolific writer and orator. All the leaders of the time like
Balgangadhar Tilak, Bipin Pal, C. R. Das, Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, Lord S. P. Sinha and Rabindranath Tagore became her friends and admirers. So were the English intellectuals like Samuel Kerkham Ratcliffe, the then editor of The Statesman, Lady Minto and others. She became close to the firebrand revolutionaries of the early 20th century, many of whom got their inspiration from Vivekananda's writings which Nivedita spread across the country.

After Vivekananda's death on 4 July 1902, Nivedita's association with the freedom fighters and Indian political leaders increased. She travelled all over India and gave lectures in which she called for total upliftment of India and spread the message of Swamiji's 'Man-making' ideal. Pioneer revolutionary, Aurobindo Ghosh (later Sri Aurobindo of Pondicherry) formed a committee to unite various splinter groups of firebrand revolutionaries operating in different parts of India. Nivedita along with C. R. Das, Suren Tagore and others were members of this committee. She once remarked 'In Ireland, we have a saying that England yields nothing without bombs, every reform has to be wrested from government' (Agni Yug by Sailesh De, Purna Prakashan). In 1905 when Lord Curzon divided Bengal, Nivedita criticized the move saying 'Shame on my country of origin. But we shall continue to struggle'. Thus Nivedita got actively involved in politics by preaching an idea of dynamic religion. She used to say: 'The ideal struggle would come through non-violence as preached by our sages, but are we capable of it?. . . The man who does not strike because he is weak commits a sin.

To Be Continue..

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