Rajkumar Amrit Kaur was the first woman from independent India to join the Cabinet as Minister of Health and remained in that position for 10 year.
Political leader Rajkumari Amrit Kaur was mentioned among the 80 TIME Magazine’s Most Powerful Women. (Express file photo)
Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and freedom fighter Rajkumari Amrit Kaur are mentioned in TIME magazine’s list of 100 the most powerful women who defined the last century in a new project that aims to showcase these women who have often been overshadowed.
Who was Amrit Kaur?
Amrit Kaur was the first woman from independent India to join the Cabinet as Minister of Health and remained in this position for 10 year. Prior to serving as Minister of Health, Kaur was Mahatma Gandhi’s secretary. During these 10 years, she founded the Indian Council for Child Welfare. She also laid the foundation for the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Lady Irwin College in Delhi over the following years. Born into the Kapurthala royal family, she was educated at Oxford and returned to India in 315 , and began to be drawn to the work and teachings of MK Gandhi.
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Political leader Rajkumari Amrit Kaur was the secretary of the Mahatma Gandhi. (Express photo archive)
In 1936, hoping that more women would join the struggle for freedom, Gandhi wrote to her the following, I am now looking for a woman who will fulfill her mission. Are you that woman, will you be one?.
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Over the next few years, as Kaur began to interact with other freedom fighters such as Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Mahatma Gandhi, she abandoned her princely comfort and began to discipline herself by answering Gandhi’s call. The flames of my passionate desire to see India liberated from foreign rule have been fanned by him, she said. Besides joining the nationalist struggle for freedom, Kaur also started working on a number of other social and political issues such as the purdah system, child marriage and the Devadasi system. When the civil disobedience movement took off in the 1930 years, Kaur devoted his life to it. Independence activist Aruna Asaf Ali wrote about him, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur belonged to a generation of pioneers. They belonged to wealthy homes, but renounced their comfortable and sheltered life and flocked to Gandhiji’s banner when he called for women to join the national liberation struggle. Kaur was imprisoned after the Quit India movement and took a spinning wheel, the Bhagwat Gita and the Bible to prison.
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Also, while Kaur advocated for equality, she was not in favor of reservations for women and believed that universal adult suffrage would open the door women to enter the legislative and administrative institutions of the country. In light of this, she felt that there was no more room for the seat reservation.
She died in 1964, at the age of 75 year. While she was a practicing Roman Catholic, she was cremated according to Sikh rituals in the Yamuna.
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