Most of the Indian textbook is written by people who were not patriots & hence neglecting true Heros of Indian Freedom Struggle. Today we have discovered Such a story of Laxmi Indira Panda. She was among the countless Indians who fought for the country’s freedom.
Laxmi Panda was one of the youngest members of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army and the only Oriya woman to have enlisted.
Family Relocated to Burma :
British Government migrates thousands of laborers from Ganjam to Burma for rubber plantations and railways. Huge numbers of laborers had shipped out from the Gopalpur port and taken to Rangoon. From the period of 1880 to 1925.
Laxmi Panda’s parents too a part of this Migrant workers and worked in Railway being laid in Burma, Laxmi Rath was born sometime in 1930. She was born in a camp near Rangoon.
When the Japanese occupied parts of Burma in 1942, British air bombardments became a daily routine. Laxmi lost her both parents in one such attack of Britisher in Rangoon. The young Laxmi Rath and her younger brother were orphaned. The siblings were mute witnesses of the death of their parents.
The determination to retaliate the death of her parents made her go to the nearby I.N.A.Camp where she begged for enrollment in the Army. The frail, weak Laxmi was hardly fourteen years of age, and was refused by the Camp commanders. However she stayed put outside the Camp gates, and when Subash Bose came for inspection she blocked his way. She was personally taken aside to him, and her determination melted the hearts of the I.N.A. leaders.
Jhansi Rani Regiment:
She was taken in the Rani Jhansi Regiment under Captain Lakshmi Sehgal. Initially, she was given soft jobs of housekeeping and cooking, but the young Laxmi soon proved her mettle and won the hearts of her superiors. She trained in swordsmanship, shooting and espionage. As she was well versant with the Burmese Language, she was often sent across enemy lines.
Laxmi Panda recollected that Netaji personally gave her a new name “Indira”, to avoid confusing her with Captain Lakshmi Sehgal.
In this way, she was part of INA and was a witness of many fight against Britishers. Around 1945-46 they heard the death of Subash Bose.the young girl made her way back to Orissa, the home of her parents, a place that she had never seen, but only heard of.
(Image taken from eodisha.org)
Most of the journey from Burma was on foot, however, she remembers coming to Berhampur and with the help of a few I.N.A veterans got accommodation and work.
She married another I.N.A veteran Khageswar Panda in 1951. Her husband got a job as a driver in Hirakud, where the big dam was being built, and the next few years were spent happily.
Her troubles began after her husband died in 1976. Left all alone with an alcoholic son, she had to work as a domestic servant, a day laborer and a store attendant, working for her livelihood.
The Government of Orissa recognized Laxmi Panda as a freedom fighter. This recognition entitled her to a pension of Rs.1000/- every month. However, freedom fighter status had been denied to her at the Centre despite several INA veterans, including Captain Lakshmi Sehgal confirming her role.
The fact that she had never been to jail was a gap. The British Secret Service agents, who let the sick young girl go free from Chittagong harbour, did her a grave injustice. Had she been arrested, she would have been given a pension of at least Rs.15000/- per month, enough to meet her medical needs and keeping her no-good son’s extended family maintained.
(Laxmi Indira Panda Soldier of Azad Hind Fauj Working As Housemaid & Cleaning Utensils For Living In Odisha.)
It was a great effort of Shri Anil Dhir who fought behalf of Laxmi panda to gave justice to her in his last days. He wrote to the President of India, telling her of the situation of this poor lady. Finally after a lot of effort Laxmi Panda met the President of India at the Rasthrapati Bhavan on 12th August 2008.
Laxmi panda took her last breath on October 7, 2008. Laxmi Panda was given a State funeral. The Nation recognized her contribution, although it was very late.
On April 2017 the family members of Laxmi panda are recognized by hon PM Narendra Modi JI.