The role of women has always been undervalued in the spy world, always undermined in terms of recognition. Unfairly so, It’s the world that needs women.—Helen Mirren
Today, Women in India have taken up different kinds of career roles and have established themselves in every walk of life. They have dawned Astronaut to Cab Driver and Teacher to Spacecraft scientists roles with ease. But Pre-Independence Indian society was more contented to give her role of ‘Goddess’ and ‘Homemaker,’ Leave aside looking her in the shoes of military spy agent. But great souls define their yardstick to excel and achieve it despite all odds they have to encounter. One such personality is Saraswathi Rajamani, First ever women and youngest spy of India, to take up the responsibility of spying British military and officers’ camps for the intelligence wing of Indian National Army-INA, led by Netaji Subash Chandra Bose. She was injured in the leg by a bullet while rescuing her comrade from British police. The permanent limp caused by this injury is accepted by her as a medal for her service in INA. The journey of Saraswathi Rajamani from a passionate child with patriotism inbuilt to become the Lieutenant of Rani Jhansi Brigade in INA is an enthralling one.
Rajamani was born in the year 1927 in an affluent mining business family at Rangoon in Burma. Though her parents were from Trichy in Tamil Nadu, to avoid apparent arrest by British rulers for engaging in Freedom struggle, the family had migrated to Burma. Rajamani’s parents had a liberal outlook and encouraged their child to take up arts and sports without any conservatism. Her father was a staunch supporter of Indian Freedom struggle and was a regular donor to the cause of Freedom movements led by various wings.
Inspiration from Bhagat Singh
Rajamani was only 10 when she came to know about the News of Bhagat Singh being hanged by the British administration. Her parents were very much upset on hearing this News on Radio. Rajamani’s curiosity to know about Bhagat Singh’s life story got intensified. As she learned about the sacrifice of Bhagat Singh, Her zeal to fight British grew further, and she started practicing rifle shooting at her backyard to drive away British.
Meeting Mahatma Gandhi Year-1937
Mahatma Gandhi once came to the palatial house of Rajamani in Rangoon as a courtesy visit to acknowledge the support rendered by her father to Freedom Movement. Everyone in the house was excited to meet Mahatma; All greeted Gandhiji except little 10-year girl Rajamani who was missing. Everyone started searching for her, and curious Mahatma too joined them in the search operation. Rajamani was busy practicing and sharpening her shooting skills in the garden. Gandhiji was shocked to see the gun in a child’s hands.
He questioned Rajamani, “Dear, why do you need a gun?”
A crisp reply came from the child—“To shoot down the Britishers.”
Gandhiji tried to convince the little girl to employ Non-violent methods to defeat the British, But little Rajamani was unconvinced, She Replied: “Looters should be punished so also the Britishers who are looting India.” The impact of Bhagat Singh’s death was enormous on this girl’s mind; she was convinced of using aggressive strategy to defeat British.
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Visits Rangoon
It was the time of Second World War, and Netaji visited Rangoon to gather momentum to INA’s activities and collect funds for its operations. Rajamani had the opportunity to listen to the fiery and spirited speech of Netaji, Which urged the people with slogan—“ Tum Mujhe Khoon Do Or Main Tumhe Azadi Dunga’” (Be Ready to give your blood, I will promise you Independence). Rajamani was then only 15 Years old; she got inspired by Netaji and started collecting his speeches and photographs in the form of newspaper clippings. Most importantly Netaji’s speech made her donate all diamond and gold jewelry in her possession for the cause of freedom struggle.
Netaji came to know about huge donations from a teenager and went to her house for returning the jewels, thinking that she would have donated due to her innocence. When Netaji revealed the same to her father, He had no other reply other than a smile. Whereas Rajamani was stubborn to accept the jewelry back and she replied: “It is mine and not my Father’s, I have donated it to the cause of freedom movement.” Netaji Bose was totally convinced with the girl’s conviction, and he accepted the donation wholeheartedly.
Soon he gave a new prefix to Rajamani’s name as ‘Sarswathi’ because she possessed the wisdom of Goddess Saraswathi. From then onwards, Rajamani got a new name as Saraswathi Rajamani.
Saraswathi Rajamani did not contend with just donations to INA. She was inclined to join INA force as an active member. Bose was convinced with her commitment and INA inducted Rajamani and four of her friends to INA intelligence wing as spy agents. She was only 16 years old when she joined INA, and thus we remember her as Youngest Women Spy of India.
In the Role of Spy: Year- 1942
In the midst of Second World War, Saraswathi Rajamani and her friends started spy operations in British officers’ houses and camps in disguise of errand boys. For the operations, she was using code name as ‘Mani.’ Her team carried out spy operations continuously for two years and helped INA to make strategic decisions.
Once during the operation, one of her colleagues was caught by British officers. Rajamani dared to rescue her colleague by entering officer’s place in a disguise of a dancing girl and similar to the scenes in the movie she drugged the officer and succeeded in escaping from the enemy camp. But while fleeing away, Rajamani was injured by a bullet in her leg. The determination to escape from enemy made her climb a tree and spend three days on the tree top until enemies’ comb operation was over. For this brave act, Rajamani was awarded a medal by the Japanese emperor. She was also promoted to Lieutenant in Rani Jhansi Brigade of INA. In recent Interviews, she has said that the Permanent Limp caused by a bullet wound as a Medal for her accomplishments in INA.
Post Independence Scenario
After Second World War had come to an end, INA was abandoned. Rajamani’s family came back to India living back all their wealth and started leading a penury life. For many years, Saraswathi Rajamani led a solitude life in a rented house in Chennai and relying upon freedom fighter pension to meet daily needs. Her only companion is a radio and photographs of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose.
In spite of all hurdles, she is leading a meaningful life by collecting old clothes from the public, stitching them and donating to poor and needy sections of the society. Also during 2006 Tsunami in Chennai, this brave lady donated funds for the relief fund through her pension. Fortunately after drawing media attention Ms. J. Jayalalitha, the then C.M of Tamil Nadu allotted a flat and 5 Lakhs rupees Cheque on June 21st, 2005 to this veteran freedom fighter.
A 16-year-old girl who donated all her wealth to the cause of the nation, sacrificed her youth for freedom movement spends her entire old age on penury and gets a flat allotted at the age of 85 in her people run Govt. is the paradox of life.
Even after 70 Years of Independence, We are still struggling to identify our freedom fighters who sacrificed their life and career for the accomplishment of ‘AZADI,’ is a shame on our authorities. It is a high time such unsung heroes of the Nation are given due respect, failing to do so will be a blunder on our part.