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Janaky Devar when she was young and just joined the INA

Puan Sri Janaki Athi Nahappan, also known as Janaky Devar, is a founder member of the Malaysian Indian Congress and one of the earliest women involved in the fight for Malaysian (then Malaya) independence.

Janaky was only 18 when she heard Subhash Chandra Bose’s appeal to Indians to give whatever they could for their fight for India’s Independence. Immediately she took off her gold earrings and donated them. She was determined to join the Indian National Army. There was strong family objection especially from her father. But after much persuasion, her father finally agreed.

She is among the first Indian women to join the Indian National Army organised during the Japanese occupation of Malaysia to liberate India. Having been brought up in a well-to-do family, she initially could not adapt to the rigours of army life. On her first day, the food served made her cry.

However, she gradually got used to military life and her career in the Regiment took off when she ranked first in the officer’s examinations. She became Second in Command of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment, which was the women's wing of the Indian National Army. She later came to be the author of the book on the unit.

After World War II she emerged as a welfare activist.

Janaky found the Indian National Congress's fight for Indian independence inspiring and joined the Indian Congress Medical Mission in then Malaya. Through her involvement with the mission, she visited rubber estates throughout the country and learned much about the plight of the Indian community in early Malaya. This experience made her aware of the need for some political organisation within the Indian population in Malaya.

In 1946, Janaky helped John Thivy to establish the Malayan Indian Congress, which was modelled after the Indian National Congress. The party saw Thivy as its first president. Later in life, she became a distinguished senator in the Dewan Negara of the Malaysian Parliament.

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