Madame Cama was the fiery patriot who first unfurled India’s flag at an international assembly. She turned away from a life of luxury and lived an exile – to serve her country. And the mighty British Government grew afraid of her.
Madame Cama, Veer Savarkar and some other patriots met and designed that tricolor flag in 1905. It was flown first in 1905 in Berlin and next in 1907 in Bengal.
The tricolor flag contained green, saffron and red stripes. In the green stripe at the top there were eight blooming lotuses. India was then divided into eight provinces and the flowers represented these provinces. The words ‘Vande Mataram’ in Devanagari script across the central saffron strip of the flag were a salutation to Mother India. In the red stripe at thebottom there was a half-moon on the right and the rising sun on the left. Red represents strength, saffron represents victory; and boldness and enthusiasm are represented by green. “This flag was designed by a distinguished selfless young Indian patriot” said Madame Cama. She was referring to Veer Savarkar.
In August 1907, she learnt that the International Socialist Conference would be held in Stuttgart ‘in Germany. Madame Cama got a golden
opportunity to expose to worldview the conditions in enslaved India. A thousand
representatives from several countries of the world attended the Conference. When
India’s turn came, Madame Cama ascended the rostrum. She was wearing a colorful saree. She had an attractive personality. Dignity shone in the face. The representativeâ€™s thought: ‘She is an Indian princess.’
Madame Cama spoke about the sorrows and the poverty of lakes of Indians who were suffering silently.
‘One-fifth of mankind lives in India. All lovers of freedom should cooperate to free these people from subjection.’ This was the gist of the resolution, she boldly placed before the conference. She condemned the British Government which was looting from India thirty-five million pounds every year. She explained how the Indian economy was growing weaker day by day because of the lawless imperialists sucking the blood of India. At the end of her speech she unfurled the Indian flag and said:
“This flag is of Indian Independence. Behold it is born! It has been made sacred by the blood of young Indians who sacrificed their lives.I call upon you, gentle men, to rise and salute this flag of Indian Independence. In the name of this flag I appeal to lovers of freedom all over the world to cooperate with this flag.”
As if held by magic, the whole assembly stood up and honored the flag. Madame Cama was the lady who first unfurled the Indian flag, in a foreign land, in the presence of representatives of many countries! “It is my practice to speak under the flag of my country” – she would say and unfurl the flag before she spoke at any function.
After the conference in Germany concluded she came to America. To gain the support of the people there for the sacred cause in which she was engaged she had to start a campaign. In New York she explained her objects to press reporters who met her and they were full of praise for her. She told the reporters that lakes and lakes of people in India,although illiterate and suffering from hunger, loved their country. There was confidence and hope in the voice of Madame Cama when she said that Indians would attain independence within a few years and live in liberty, equality and brotherhood.
It was 28th October 1907. The Minerva Club had organized a meeting at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. The speaker was Madame Cama. In her speech she said that Indians should be given the political right to vote.
“People here may know of Russia. But they may not know much about conditions in India. The British Government is adopting the practice of destroying people who are educated and can think, or of sending them to jail. They are torturing the people and driving them to hospitals in jails. We desire a peaceful atmosphere and not bloody revolution. By proceeding in a non-violent manner as far as possible we have to overthrow despotic rule” said Madame Cama. Also Madame Cama spoke at several places. She may be called Mother India’s representative to the United States of America.
In 1914, when the First World War began, Madame Cama’s activities to gain the country’s freedom became intense. The leading articles in the press condemning the autocratic rule of the British grew sharper.
To the Indian soldiers fighting for the British, she gave a warning in the following words:
“Children of Mother India, you are being deceived. Do not take part in this war. You are going to fight and die, not for India, but for the British.The British have put shackles on Mother India’s hands; think how they can be removed. If you help the British, you will tighten the shackles.”
She herself would visit army camps in Marseilles. There she would meet Indian soldiers and ask them to keep away from the war. Questioned she: “Are you going to fight for those who have imprisoned your mother?” Return the arms, she would preach.
The French were allies of the British. Therefore the French Government must have been dissatisfied with the propa- ganda carried on by Madame Cama. The French Government warned Madame Cama that she was carrying on false propaganda against the British.
Madame Cama passed away on 13th August 1936. She had fought for India’s freedom. That freedom dawned eleven years after her death.
In a sense Madame Cama’s life abroad where she fought for India’s freedom was like living in obscurity. She sacrificed her life for the motherland. Even during the last moments of her life she urged repeatedly: “To gain freedom from subjection stand up against all difficulties.” “He who loses freedom will lose virtue. Opposition of tyranny is obedience to God’s command” said Madame Cama; she practiced what she preached.