Bhikaji Cama also known as Madam Cama
Bhikaji Rustom Cama, (also known as Madam Cama) was one of the prominent leaders of the Indian Independent movement. Her contribution to the Indian freedom struggle is remarkable.
Madam Bhikaji Cama was the first person to unfurl the first version of the Indian flag on foreign soil in Stuttgart in Germany where an International Socialist Conference was being held.
Early Life of Bhikaji Rustom Cama
Bhikaji Rustom Cama was born on 24 September 1861, to an affluent Paris Zoroastrian family in Bombay. Her father, Sorabji Framji Patel, a merchant was an influential member of the Parcy community
From her childhood, she was very active and disciplined with an ability to learn different languages. She studied at Alexandra Girls’ English institution.
In 1885, at the age of 23, she married Rustom Kama, who was a wealthy pro-British lawyer. but her involvement with socio-political issues arose differences between the couple. She engaged herself in social and philanthropic activities.
In 1896, the Bombay Presidency was severely affected by famine and bubonic plague. She made a lot of effort to take care of the affected people. But unfortunately, she was affected by the plague and became very weak.
In 1902, Cama was sent to Britain for medical care.
Madam Cama’s Contribution to the Freedom Struggle:
During her visit to London, Bhikaiji Cama met Shyamji Krishna Varma, who was well known for the fiery speeches he gave in Hyde Park. She also met Dadabhai Naoroji, the president of the British committee of the Indian National Congress and was greatly influenced by his patriotic thought.
In 1905, she supported the Indian Home Rule Society formed by Shyamji Krishna Varma.
In England, Kama was told that to return to India, she would sign a statement promising not to participate in national activities. She refused this proposal and relocated to Paris.
In Paris, she founded the Paris Indian Society along with Muncher Shah Burjorji Godrej and S.R. Rana.
Together with another Indian diaspora fighting for Indian sovereignty while in exile, Kama wrote, published, and distributed revolutionary literature to give fuel to the movement.
The poem Bande Mataram and later Madan’s Talwar, which was banned by the British Government in India, was smuggled to India through the French colony of Pondicherry.
In 1907, Bhikaiji Cama attended the second Socialist Congress at Stuttgart, Germany, where she speeches about the catastrophic effects of famine and crippling taxes that had struck the Indian economy badly. She demanded from Great Britain human rights, equality, and autonomy. During this event, she unfurled the flag, which later became the foundation for the Indian national flag. This was the first time that an Indian flag was unfurled in a foreign land.
Her speech at Stuttgart, Germany in 1907 about the devastating effects of British Colonialism and its devastating effects on the Indian economy including constant famine and crippling taxes was remarkable. During this event, she unfurled the “Flag of Independence”. This was the foundation of an independent flag, which was designed by Bhikaiji Cama and fellow activist Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. The flag of independence would be the base of the current national flag of India.
The first tricolor flag of India
She was the first Indian to unfurl the tricolor flag on foreign soils which consists of green, yellow, and red colors with Bande Mataram written in the middle.
Based on the Calcutta Flag, she designed the flag along with the support of Shyamji Krishna Varma. The green color of the flag represented Islam, yellow Hinduism, and red fields represented Buddhism respectively. The symbol sun and the moon represent Hinduism and Islam respectively. The eight lotuses represent the eight provinces of British India.
On the evening of 1st July 1909, William Hutt Curzon Wyllie, an aide to the Secretary of State of India was assassinated by Madan Lal Dhingara at the Imperial Institute, South Kensington, where he and his wife were attending an event organized by the National Indian Association. Several key activities residing in Great Britain were arrested. At that time Bhikaji Kama was in Paris
The authorities in London began to suppress Indian nationalists living there.
They want to deport Madam Cama from England, but she moved to Paris and allowed her home to become a CenterPoint for those participating in Indian independence.
She gave her full support to Har Dayal, to launch his revolutionary paper Bande Mataram.
During the First World War, Great Britain and France became allies, the French authorities confined her as a prisoner for her anti-British activities. However, she maintained active contacts with Indian, Irish, and Egyptian revolutionaries and linked up with French Socialists and Russian leadership.
Till 1935, Bhikaiji Cama’s exile in Europe continued. She was paralyzed by a stroke. The British government was forced to allow her to return to India as the petition was based on medical grounds and Madam Cama promised to not undertake any independence-related activities.
In November 1935, Cama along with Sir Cowaji Jehangir, who had petitioned on her behalf, arrived at Bombay. But within a few months, on 13th August 1936, at the age of 74, Bikhaji Cama passed away at the Parsi General Hospital.