Sucheta Kriplani, India’s first woman chief minister, was a fearless fighter for the country’s independence. Born on 25 June 1908 in Ambala, Sucheta’s keen interest in politics took root at a young age, when British rule was at its peak.
After she graduated from college in Delhi, Sucheta decided to participate in the freedom movement and became one of Mahatma Gandhi’s closest disciples.
She was also responsible for a collective that has survived and grown stronger since India’s Independence — the All India Mahila Congress.
“Thousands of women have participated in the various struggles of the Congress, but women had not been properly organised so far, and there was no woman’s organisation, parallel to, or as part of, the Congress’s organisation,” she said in an interview in 1974.
In 1947, on the eve of Independence, she sang Vande Mataram before Nehru’s famous ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech in the Independence Session of the Constituent Assembly. She was also one of the 15 women to be elected to the Constituent Assembly.
Finally, in 1963 — even before Indira Gandhi took office — she became chief minister of the United Provinces (present day Uttar Pradesh), which she ruled until 1967. It was a remarkable feat given the small number of women in politics during her time.