Gandhi Journal Article-II ( MAY 2017 )
Gandhi on the role of women in freedom struggle
By Mahima C Acttuthan
The Indian freedom struggle has conventionally been associated with the organized nationalist movement of Satyagraha, non-violence and its major advocates-Gandhi, Nehru and Patel. This perception of the movement has lent to it a monochromatic and patriarchal nature. The organised resistance against the British in fact finds history in the 1800's, when in its infancy pioneers were not only male leaders, but also rebel female leaders like the Rani of Jhansi. However, with the progression of the struggle into a more structured and coherent movement, the role of women and their nationalist contributions also changed. The change, however, cannot be viewed as a linear transformation. Instead, it is a layering or fragmentation that makes the role of women and femininity during the freedom struggle a more complex phenomenon. This can clearly be seen in Gandhi's views on the role of women, where they are encouraged to embody the virtues of the mythological Sita-Draupadi and dismiss the more "situationally" accurate Rani of Jhansi symbol. Thus, this report will attempt to analyze the multifaceted role of the woman freedom fighter in India by contrasting her militant and autonomous contributions to her more passive and "domestic" contributions during Satyagraha. This will be done by contrasting female militant and revolutionary tendencies, as seen in the contributions of the rebel leader Rani Lakshmni Bai, with the Gandhian theory on women's role and contributions during the Satyagraha movement and its subsequent effect on the work of the Gandhian prototype, Sarojini Naidu. However, in studying Naidu's work it is apparent that she tried to rebel from Gandhi's narrowly defined characterization of woman. It is thus conducive to mention that it is difficult to solely view the contributions of the freedom fighters in terms of labels, which in turn renders this complex persona of femininity during the period.