I am Hanuman and India is my Rama: Sucheta Kripalani

by Ana Lopez

Veeranganao of India – Tina Doshi

A freedom fighter who became General Secretary of the Congress after independence, Minister of Women and Labor and became the first woman Chief Minister of a state in India…
Yes… This is about Sucheta Kripalani. First woman Chief Minister of India and Uttar Pradesh. Sucheta quit her job in 1939 and joined the struggle for Swaraj. Gandhi chose him as the personal satyagrahi of Uttar Pradesh in 1940. During the Quit India Movement of 1942, he went underground and did activities. Became a member of the Union Legislative Assembly in 1946, became a member of the Constituent Assembly in 1946, sang the National Anthem before Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s historic speech on August 14, 1947, became a Member of Parliament for the first time in 1948, became a Member of Parliament in 1952 and 1957, served as the Prime Minister in the Ministry of Small Scale Industries, from October 2, 1963. He remained the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh till March 13, 1967 and wrote an autobiography titled ‘An Unfinished Biography’.
Sucheta originally belonged to a Brahmin family of Bengal. Born on June 25, 1908 at Ambala, Haryana. Father Surendranath Majumdar was a medical officer. There was a sister named Sulekha. Sucheta and Sulekha Bey hated the British. A terrible incident happened in the childhood of both. At the behest of General Dyer, the Hichkar massacre took place in Jallianwala Bagh near the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab. Sucheta was eleven years old when the death spree took place in 1919.
Due to their hatred towards the British government, Sucheta and Sulekha Bey were keen to join the Azadi movement. Sucheta has written in her autobiography that ‘Prince of Wales came to Delhi after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. At that time, the students of our school were invited to welcome the Prince. After this incident we were very angry at our cowardice. Because of our cowardice we lost our sight.’
Even though Sucheta got out of sight in his childhood, but after growing up, he joined the freedom struggle and did such work that he rose in the eyes of the countrymen. After completing her studies at Indraprastha College in Punjab, Sucheta was about to jump into the freedom movement at the age of twenty-one, but her father and sister died in 1929. So the family responsibilities fell on Sucheta’s shoulders. Sucheta accepted a job as a professor at the Banaras Hindu University. However, he could not keep himself apart from the freedom movement.
Banaras Hindu University was a center of education as well as a stronghold of freedom fighters. Leader Jeevatram Bhagwandas Kripalani, popularly known as Acharya Kripalani, used to come frequently to get volunteers for the freedom struggle. Sucheta and Kripalani met during one such visit. Familiarity grew following the common goal of independence. They were attracted to each other’s thoughts.
Year 1938… Sucheta decided to join her life with Acharya Kripalani who was twenty years older than her. The family naturally protested. Gandhiji also showed no interest in this marriage. Although Sucheta had great respect for Gandhiji, he stuck to his decision. Kripalani was Gandhiji’s right hand. If she gets married, Gandhiji was afraid that Kripalani would leave the freedom movement. Sucheta said: If I do anything to destroy Kripalani’s freedom movement, it will be considered immoral and dishonest. Bapu, you think that if I get married to Kripalani, you will get two activists for the freedom struggle. Thus Sucheta and Kripalani got married.
After becoming Kripalani from Majumdar, Sucheta fully devoted himself to the freedom struggle. During this period, on September 3, 1939, the then Viceroy Lord Linlithgow announced that India was also involved in World War II. The Viceroy had not consulted with any political party before making this announcement, so Mahatma Gandhi launched a non-violent personal satyagraha in 1940 to protest the British government’s war policy.
Individual satyagraha means satyagraha against the policies of the government as an individual rather than a mass movement. It was decided that the satyagrahis selected by Gandhiji would go to public places one by one and give anti-war speeches and be arrested. It has also been decided that the satyagrahi will also inform the district magistrate about his satyagraha before the speech. Gandhi chose Sucheta as the satyagrahi of Uttar Pradesh. During this period, the women’s wing of the Indian National Congress had initiated the establishment of the All India Women’s Congress. Sucheta in December, 1940
Went for satyagraha in Faizabad district, but Sucheta was arrested before reaching the satyagraha site. Imprisoned for one year. Sucheta was kept in Faizabad Jail for some time. Then sent to Central Jail, Lucknow.
After being released from jail, Sucheta joined the national movement. In August, 1942, Congress convention was held in Mumbai. Sucheta attended along with Kripalani. The ‘Quit Hind’ resolution was passed unanimously. The next morning many Congress leaders including Gandhiji and Acharya Kripalani were arrested. Sucheta kept going underground. Broadcast news by running an underground radio station. However, the government found the location of the radio center and banned it.
While living underground, Sucheta raised a group of women volunteers. Started training women volunteers across the country. Created Women’s Committees in important cities of India. These committees worked to convey correct information about the Congress to the people. Along with this, women were also taught weaving in addition to spinning wheel. Meanwhile, Sucheta was arrested again in 1944. Sucheta was released from imprisonment in 1945 after spending time as an inmate of Patna and Lahore jails.
Meanwhile, the Noakhali massacre of October 10, 1946 took place. Sucheta went to Noakhali with Gandhi to do relief work. While distributing relief materials in the camp, Gandhi taught Sucheta an important lesson: We must not rob the refugees of their self-respect. Do not make them beggars.
Sucheta heard Gandhiji’s unspoken words that refugees were to be helped in return for work. Learned many life lessons from Sucheta Gandhiji. Let us hear the words of Sucheta in this context: I learned from Gandhiji that it is not enough to help people externally. Our effort should be such that people can help themselves, we can provide them strength.
Sucheta took Gandhiji’s teachings into his works. He entered politics after independence. Staying in the dustbin of politics, take care not to get splashed on your clothes. After independence, Acharya Kripalani formed his own party called Kisan Majdoor Praja Party after falling out with Nehru. Sucheta joined it, but later returned to the Congress. Despite being on opposite sides, the relationship of husband and wife remained sweet. There was never bitterness in it.
Sucheta retired from politics in 1971. He died three years later on December 1, 1974, but his patriotic words will forever echo in the atmosphere:
I am Hanuman and India is my Rama,
Opened the chest and saw, Hindustan is in the heart!

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