Women at War

Subhas Chandra Bose and the Rani of Jhansi Regiment
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Published:March 15, 2018

Among the more improbable events of the Asia-Pacific Theater in World War II was the creation in Singapore of a corps of female Indian combat soldiers, the Rani of Jhansi Regiment (RJR). They served under Indian freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose in the Indian National Army.

Because the creation of an Indian all-female regiment of combat soldiers was a radical military innovation in 1943, and because the role of women in today’s broader context of Indian culture has become a prevalent and pressing issue, the extensive testimony of the surviving veterans of this unit is timely and urgent. The history of these brave women soldiers is little known, their extraordinary service and the role played by Bose remains largely unexplored.

In the years since the RJR surrender in 1945, the story of Subhas Chandra Bose and the Rani Regiment of female combatants as signature symbols of both the national fight for independence and of Indian women’s struggle for gender equality has taken on aspects of myth. Lengthy interviews with the veteran Ranis together with archival research comprise the evidence that separates the myth of the Bengali hero and his jungle warrior maidens from historical fact, and this resulting book presents an accurate narrative of the Ranis. The facts are nearly as impressive as the legend.

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Product Details
  • Subject: Military History
  • Hardback : 344 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1682473155
  • ISBN-13: 9781682473153
  • Product Dimensions: 6 X 9 in
  • Shipping Weight: 24 oz
  • "Which should we admire more: the intellectual liveliness that led to this book; the scholarly meticulousness that demanded the fullest possible research, including seeking out surviving witnesses; or the remarkable combination of objectivity with a sympathetic sensitivity to the people and their motivations? Vera Hildebrand has vividly brought to life a set of Indians and an almost forgotten scene of our history important for better understanding our whole freedom movement." —K. Shankar Bajpai, former Indian Ambassador to Pakistan, China, and the United States, and Secretary, External Affairs Ministry
  • "Netaji Subhash Bose is much more than an Indian icon, but nowhere does this leader appear in all his granularity than when he raised a women's fighting regiment against the British empire, while remaining strangely paternalistically protective of them. Vera Hildebrand uses the perfect blend of history, empathy, and a scholar's detachment to paint a detailed picture of one of the most important leaders of India's freedom movement. Her portrayal of the Ranis opens a window into a movement that is the stuff of legend, but peopled by humans. That's why this book brings a tear and a smile, and is a must read." —Indrani Bagchi, Diplomatic Editor, The Times of India
  • "Women at War is an exciting account of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment, who went against societal tradition and instead signed up to fight British colonialism. Young, unmarried girls broke with home, family, and tradition to face the enemy—who could have imagined such a cause? The beautifully written text brings the Ranis, who remain an inspiration to us all, to life." —Lina M. Fruzzetti, Brown University
  • "This accurate, insightful, and rigorous history of Subhas Chandra Bose and the Rani of Jhansi Regiment uncovers a remarkable episode in Indian and Asian history. The members of the RJR have had an influence on India’s consciousness and subsequent development far out of proportion to their military utility or the brief life of this regiment of women combat soldiers. Hildebrand ably chronicles this early example of Indian women creating agency for themselves in extreme circumstances." —Shivshankar Menon, Foreign Secretary and National Security Advisor, Government of India
  • "Rarely does a book come along that adds so much to our historical knowledge in one go. Vera Hildebrand combines the acuity of a detective with the discipline of a scholar to uncover an episode that would otherwise have been lost in fragments. By bringing to life in a riveting narrative the forgotten story of Subhas Chandra Bose's all-female Rani of Jhansi regiment, Hildebrand has memorialized important details in the fascinating, but otherwise less well remembered, military campaign for India's independence. A remarkable achievement." —Ashley J. Tellis, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Vera Hildebrand has a PhD in Indian history and culture from Georgetown University. She is a senior research fellow at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies at University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Previously, she taught at Harvard University and University of Copenhagen.

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