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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 1, New Delhi, December 19, 2020

Jaya Dasgupta, an unsung warrior, is no more | Gargi Chakravartty

Saturday 19 December 2020, by Gargi Chakravartty

Jayashree Dasgupta, popularly known as Jaya, was a silent political activist throughout her life.

Jaya, born on August 15, 1939, belonged to a truly nationalist family, her father, Nirmalendu Mukherjee, being a well known Congress leader in West Bengal. In the humble setting of her home, a photo of Gandhiji used to hang on the wall.

Entering Ashutosh College, South Kolkata in the mid-fifties, she was soon drawn into Left politics and became an active member of the Bengal Provincial Students Federation. In the course of the student movement, she met Gurudas Dasgupta who she married later. Since then she was everywhere introduced as the wife of Gurudas Dasgupta, leader of Communist Party of India (CPI), eminent parliamentarian etc.

However, in her own right, she was a genuine and sincere political activist, never eyeing on either any position or power within the various mass fronts where she worked and the CPI of which she was a member till her end.

After her brief encounter in students and youth politics, she soon became involved in the bank employees’ movement as she used to work in the United Commercial Bank (UCO Bank) and also became the bread earner of the family. Here I like to stress along with the trade union movement and doing a 10 to 5 job, she looked after the family, brought up her daughter, giving her all the opportunities of a good education.

It is to her credit that her husband, a well-known leader of the party, was able to get space to carry on his political activities. He was a party whole-timer.

The entire burden of looking after the house or doing the domestic chores was shouldered by Jaya. She was never given the due respect and position within the various mass organisations or even within the party. Only at a very late stage, she became a leader of the AITUC’s Working Women’s Forum, which was formed in 2003 and was the first Convener of Shramajeebi Mahila Mancha, under the aegis of AITUC, West Bengal Committee.

After a long period of illness, when she suffered multiple ailments, she remained wheel chair bound for 12 years. During this period Gurudas Dasgupta gave full attention to her and slowly withdrew from active electoral politics. Their love and mutual understanding and admiration for each other was exemplary.

In the early hours of December 8, 2020, she breathed her last having become a victim of Covid pandemic in spite of her daughter Sohini and granddaughter Malini’s selfless total care.

History will never know Jaya’s dedication to the secular, progressive and communist movement, as many like her always remain in the background and unsung.

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