When we talk about the Constitution of India, it is the founding fathers who we always address. No one talks about the women who helped in drafting the constitution which guides our legislation and judiciary today.
This Republic Day, we are reminiscing the contribution of women who were founding mothers of the Constitution of India. If you do not believe us, believe the Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud, who recently explained why he used the expression ‘founding father and mothers’ in his 2018 Constitution Bench judgement in Govt. of NCT of Delhi v. Union of India.
Let’s pay a tribute to those unsung heroes.
Sarojini Naidu (1879-1949)
Sarojini Naidu was a poet, feminist and political activist. She always advocated for women’s emancipation, anti-imperialistic ideas and civil rights. She was the first-ever Indian woman to be elected as the President of the Indian National Congress.
Naidu played a crucial role in the independence struggle of India. In 1912, she published an anthology titled In The Bazaars of Hyderabad. It remains to be a book of her most popular compositions.
Born in 1912, Dakshayani belonged to the Pulayar community and was among the first generation of people who ever received formal education. She was the one who called for decentralisation of the draft of the constitution presented by Dr BR Ambedkar in November 1948.
Velayudhan asserted her opinion on implementing non-discriminatory provisions through public education. She also said the Constituent Assembly must take a resolution to always endorse condemnation of caste discrimination. She said, “The working of the Constitution will depend on how people conduct themselves in the future, not on the actual execution of the law.”
Begum Aizaz Rasul (1909-2001)
Begum Aizaz Rasul was the only Muslim woman to be a part of the Constituent Assembly of India that drafted the Constitution. Between the years 1969 and 1971, she served as the Minister of Social Welfare and Minorities. In 2000, she received the Padma Bhushan award for her contributions.
Hansa Jivraj Mehta (1897-1995)
Hansa Jivraj Mehta was a feminist, social activist, independence activist, writer, reformist and educator. She was a part of the Advisory Committee and Sub-Committee which drafted the fundamental rights as we know today. Between 1947 to 1948, she was selected to change the language of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in which she highlighted the need for gender equality.
Leela Roy (1900-1970)
Leela Roy was a radical leftist politician who did a lot of social work. She was a part of the Constituent Assembly, fought for the rights of education for girls, encouraged women to develop their skills and amplified the need for vocational training. She began publishing Jayasree in 1931, the first ever magazine in India that was edited, written and managed by women.
Durgabai Deshmukh (1909-1981)
Durgabai Deshmukh was not only a part of the Constituent Assembly but also the Planning Commission of India. She was an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi. She was the first woman to be elected as the chairperson of the National Council on Women’s Education which was established in 1958 by the Government of India.
Ammu Swaminathan (1894-1978)
Ammu Swaminathan was a political activist and social worker. She was only 13 when she got married to a man who was 20 years older than her. Under the tutelage of her husband, she got fluent in various subjects, especially English. She was given the title of ‘Mother of the Year’ in 1975 during the inauguration of International Women’s Year.
Renuka Ray (1904-1997)
Renuka Ray was a member of the All India Women’s Conference and received the Padma Bhushan in 1988 from the Government of India. In 1959, she headed the committee on Social Welfare and Welfare of Backward Classes. She wrote a book, My Reminiscences: Social Development During the Gandhian Era and After.
Kamla Chaudhry (1908-1970)
Born in Lucknow, Kamla Chaudhry actively participated in freedom movements against the Britishers. Not only was she a part of the Constituent Assembly, but after the Constitution was drafted, she was also selected to be a member of the Provincial Government of India.
Purnima Banerjee (1911-1951)
Purnima Banerjee was a part of the Constituent Assembly between 1946 and 1950. In her short life, she worked closely with farmers and people living in rural parts of India.
Rajkumari Amrit Kaur (1887-1964)
Amrit Kaur was associated with the Indian Independence Movement for a long time. She also held the position of Sports Minister and Urban Development Minister. During the drafting of the Constitution, she supported the proposal for the Uniform Civil Code in India. She stood for the protection of religious rights, advocated for universal franchise and opposed affirmative action for women.
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Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit (1900-1990)
Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit served as the ambassador to the Soviet Union between 1947 and 1949. She was the first woman to hold a position in the cabinet in the pre-independence era.
Annie Mascarene (1902-1963)
Annie Mascarene was a lawyer and Member of the Parliament of India. She was the first woman to serve in this position post-independence of the country. During the drafting of the Constitution, she was part of the committee that looked into the Hindu Code Bill.
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Sucheta Kriplani (1908-1974)
Sucheta Kriplani was a freedom fighter. She sang Vande Mataram in the Independence Session of the Constituent Assembly only a few minutes before Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru delivered the ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech. In 1949, Kriplani founded the All India Mahila Congress.
Malati Choudhury (1904-1998)
Malati Choudhary was among the 15 founding mothers of the Constitution of India. However, she did not agree with the ideologies of many members. She stressed the role of education, specifically for adults and people living in the rural parts of the country.