Bhikaiji Cama

Bhikaiji Cama

Infobox revolution biography
name=Bhikhaiji Rustom Cama
lived=September 24, 1861 – August 13, 1936
placeofbirth=Bombay, India

alternate name=
movement=Indian independence movement
organizations= India House, Paris Indian Society,Indian National Congress

Bhikhaiji Rustom Cama (Gujarati: ભીખાજી રૂસ્તમ કામા, Hindi: भीखाजी रूस्तम कामा, also Madam Cama, Madame Cama) (September 24, 1861 - August 13, 1936) was a prominent figure in the Indian Nationalist Movement.

Bhikhaiji Rustom Cama was born Bhikai Sorab Patel on 24th September, 1861 in Bombay (now Mumbai) into a large, well-off Parsi family. Her parents, Sorabji and Jaijibai Patel, were well-known in the city, where her father Sorabji Framji Patel - a lawyer by training and a merchant by profession - was an influential member of the Parsi community. The father doted on his little girl, and affectionately called her "Munni".Fact|date=July 2008

Like many Parsi girls of the time, Bhikhaiji attended Alexandra Native Girl's English Institution. Bhikhaiji was by all accounts a diligent, disciplined child, with a flair for languages and an interest in the personalities of the nationalist movement(s).

On August 3, 1885, she married Rustom Cama, a wealthy, pro-British lawyer with a desire to enter politics. It was not a happy marriage, and Bhikhaiji spent most of her time and energy in philanthropic activities and social work.

In October 1896, the Bombay Presidency was first hit by famine, and shortly thereafter by bubonic plague. Bhikhaiji joined one of the many teams working out of Grant Medical College (which would subsequently become Haffkine's plague vaccine research center), in an effort to provide care for the afflicted, and (later) to inoculate the healthy.

She contracted the plague herself, but survived. Severely weakened, she set sail for Europe for subsequent medical care and recuperation in 1902. In London, she received word that her return to India would be prevented unless she would sign a statement promising not to participate in nationalist activities. She refused, and remained in exile in Europe until shortly before her death (at Parsi General Hospital in Bombay) in 1936.

While in London, she served as private secretary to Dadabhai Naoroji, the first Asian to be elected to the British House of Commons, and the first to publicly demand independence from Great Britain.

In Paris she came in contact with other notable members of the movement for Indian sovereignty, and would come to clandestinely (in Holland) publish and distribute revolutionary literature for the movement. While in France, the British Government requested her extradition, but the French Government refused to cooperate. In return, the British Government seized Cama's inheritance. Lenin reportedly ref_label|Mody|1|1 invited her to reside in Russia, but she did not accept.

Influenced by Christabel Pankhurst and the Suffragette movement, Bhikhaiji Cama was vehement in her support for gender equality. Speaking in Cairo, Egypt in 1910, she asked, "I see here the representatives of only half the population of Egypt. May I ask where is the other half? Sons of Egypt, where are the daughters of Egypt? Where are your mothers and sisters? Your wives and daughters?"

Bhikhaiji Cama is best known for having unfurled a "Flag of Indian Independence" on August 22, 1907, at the International Socialist Conference in Stuttgart, Germany. That flag, a slight modification of the "Calcutta Flag", was co-designed by Cama, Veer Savarkar and Shyamji Krishna Varma, and would later serve as a template upon which the current national flag of India is based.

At the conference, she described the devastating effects of a famine that had struck the subcontinent, and made an appeal for human rights, equality and for Indian independence:

One nationalist legend involving Bhikhaiji Cama goes like this:

Another variation of the story (possibly true), goes like this:

Several Indian cities have streets and places named after Bhikhaiji Cama. On January 26 1962, the Indian Posts and Telegraphs Department issued a stamp in her honor. The Indian Coast Guard has a ship named after her.

ee also

Further reading

*"India’s 50 Most Illustrious Women" (ISBN 81-88086-19-3) by Indra Gupta

External references

* note_label|Mody|1|1
* []
* [ Biography of Bhikhaiji Cama at]
* [ Indian Post Commemorative Stamp] (see also: [] )

* Nationalist biographical summaries: ("Note": Some of the following references misspell Bhikaiji as Bhikaji:)
** [ Biography of Madam Bhikaji Cama ] at

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