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Mainstream, VOL LI No 25, June 8, 2013

Doyen of Indian Feminist Movement

Sunday 9 June 2013, by D. Bandyopadhyay



Vinadi (Dr Mrs Vina Mazumdar) passed away in the wee-hours of May 30, 2013. There were other illustrious leaders of the Indian feminist movement prior to Vinadi but the singular contribution of Vinadi was to ensure political empowerment of women in India.

Daughter of one of the pioneer hydrological engineers of India, Vinadi was a born rebel. One of her personal habits—like chain-smoking in her prime age—was not so much addiction to tobacco as a sign of defiance of the patriarchal society where social norms for women were formed and enforced to indicate woman’s subjugation to male dominance. The removal of headgear (ghongoot/hijab) of women was for her a symbol of proclaiming a woman’s equality with man.

And yet, with all her rebellious traits she remained an essentially Indian woman whose foremost duty had been and even till the last day remained to her family in its old traditional style. It was a delectable amalgam of the traditional Indian womanhood and a defiant and aggressive rebel.

Her husband was a music lover. He could sing well. She ensured that he had a room to himself to pursue his hobby. While she was leading the women’s movement from the front, she never neglected her family and ensured that all her children were properly looked after and had good education. One of her daughters was a pugnacious trade union leader of the Left variety. But Vinadi always managed to have a harmonious family giving her children full liberty to pursue his or her line of thought.

She was an academic of a high order. She taught in different universities of India and was considered a good and conscientious teacher. Her singular achievement was to produce that famous Report on the Status of Women as the Member-Secretary of the Committee headed by Dr Phulrenu Guha, the redoubtable freedom fighter and an uncompromising Indian feminist. That Report charted out the future roadmap of India’s feminist movement. All the governments that followed did not have the courage to disown it, nor could they heartily enforce and implement it. That Report till date remains the shining beacon of the Indian women‘s movement.

She founded the Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS) and remained associated with it till the last day. Through her perseverance she could put Women’s Development Studies as a separate discipline under the Social Sciences group. With all her defiant instincts she remained a good family-maker, a good mother, a good teacher and a great benefactor of the poor and the underprivileged and, above all, a good friend.

I mourn her death and would miss her guidance and friendship in the remaining years of my life. There would be none today to rebuke me sternly in an affectionate language and indulgently praise me if I ever did anything worthwhile.

Architect of ‘Operation Barga’ during the Left Front Government in West Bengal, the author was Secretary (Rural Development) and Secretary (Revenue) in the Union Government. Now retired, he is currently a Member of the Rajya Sabha representing the Trinamul Congress.

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