Last month marked the 69th year since India’s Constitution came into power. While it may be a document on paper, our Constitution is the keeper and protector of the rights, responsibilities and values that shape us as a country. Its chief architect – the great Babasaheb Ambedkar – is revered by millions around the world. But seldom do we talk about the others who played a role in creating it, especially the women.
Here’s a look into some of the inspiring women who helped shape our Constitution and nation:
Velayudhan’s life and work were inspired by movements to end casteism in Kerala. As the first and only Dalit woman to be elected to the constituent assembly in 1946, she wanted to ensure a “new framework of life” through the Constitution. She was also determined to end the institutional oppression of those considered as lower-castes and wanted the Constitution to grant rights to the oppressed.
The only woman chairperson of the Constituent Assembly, Deshmukh put forth that Hindustani (a combination of Hindi and Urdu) should be the national language of India. A politician, social worker, lawyer and freedom fighter, Deshmukh was also a member of India’s Planning Commission.
A noted freedom fighter, Gandhian, social worker and politician, Ray was a member of the Constituent Assembly for one year, and served as a Lok Sabha member as well. She tirelessly fought for women’s rights and equal inheritance for women in matters of parental property.
Rajkumari Amrit Kaur
Amrit Kaur was the first Health Minister of India, and the first female Cabinet Minister of India. She was a member of the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights and the Sub-Committee on Minorities and marked her name in history as one of India’s most illustrious women.
Hansa Jivraj Mehta
On “behalf of the women of India”, Hansa Jivraj Mehta presented the national flag to the assembly just a few minutes after Independence. She was in the constituent assembly for 3 years, and she played a role in framing the Indian Women’s Charter of Rights and Duties and fought for the uniform civil code.
Other leaders such as Sarojini Naidu, Purnima Banerjee and Vijaylakshmi Pandit served on the Constituent Assembly as well. Find out more about the 15 female architects of the Indian Republic through this much-needed project.