The eleventh Inspirational Woman that we have today with us is Malati Choudhary.
Malati Devi Choudhury was an Indian civil rights and freedom fighter.
Malati’s family originally belonged to Kamarakhanda in Bikrampur, Dhaka, (now in Bangladesh), but her family members had settled in Simultala, Bihar. Her maternal grandfather was Behari Lal Gupta, ICS, who became the Dewan of Baroda. Her first cousins on her mother’s side of the family were Ranajit Gupta, ICS, a former Chief Secretary of West Bengal, and Indrajit Gupta, the famous parliamentarian and former Home Minister of India. Here eldest brother, P. K. Sen Gupta, a former Income Tax Commissioner, belonged to the Indian Revenue Service, and another brother, K. P. Sen, a former Postmaster General, was from the Indian Postal Service.
Being the youngest child of her parents, she was a darling of all her brothers and sister. Her mother Snehalata was a writer in her own right, and had translated some works of Tagore, as is seen from her book Jugalanjali.
After her marriage, Orissa became her home and her area of activities. The Chaudhuris settled in a small village named Anakhia, now in Jagatsinghpur District of Orissa, where her husband started improved sugarcane cultivation. Apart from agriculture, establishing rapport with the surrounding villages was their main concern. In their concept and scheme of rural reconstruction, people are at the center of activities. Their development depended on their empowerment, which was again the result of education. They started adult education work in the neighbouring villages. Soon came the Salt Satyagraha, and they jumped into the movement. As activists they used principles of education and communication in creating a conducive environment for Satyagraha. Even as prisoners, they taught fellow prisoners, organized choral singing and disseminated Gandhiji’s teachings.
In February 1933 the Chaudhuris organized the Utkal Congress Samajvadi Karmi Sangh, which later became the Orissa Provincial Branch of the All India Congress Socialist Party.
Proverbial courage, sheer dynamism and a strong zeal to fight for the rights of the oppressed and have-nots were the dominant features of her character. She was frank and outspoken, and was never afraid to speak up. In 1934, she had accompanied Gandhiji in his “padayatra” in Orissa. After a daylong walk, he was obviously too tired to visit a Harijan village which was in his itinerary. The villagers, who had waited long, were disappointed, but were prepared to forgive Gandhiji for the minor lapse. Malati Choudhury did not spare Gandhiji, and told him point blank, “Bapu, you have not done the right thing.” Gandhiji apologized, and cooled her down with his disarming smile.
She was arrested several times (in 1921, 1936, 1942) with other women independence activists like Sarala Devi, Ramadevi Choudhury and others and was sent to jail.
Even before Independence, she had established the Bajiraut Chhatravas at Angul in Orissa in 1946, and the Utkal Navajeevan Mandal, also at Angul, in 1948.
She played a central role in the peasants uprising in Orissa in the 1930s. She, with the help of others, established the Utkal Provisional Kisan Sabha. The inaugural session of the same, held in Cuttack, was a landmark because it was here that a resolution was passed for the abolition of the Zamindari system. Several Kisan Committees sprang up post the same.
She led the Krisaka Andolan to save poor farmers from the abuse of landowners and moneylenders. It is believed that her speeches and presence proved to be critical in mobilising people against the government during the Dhenkenal, Bhuban and Nilakanthpur shooting incidents. The shooting happened against demands put by local groups to abolish forced labour and to demand just forest laws and civil liberties.
Malati’s involvement in the peasant movement was not only limited to meetings. She also organised literary campaign along the farmers. She financed the publication of an Oriya weekly called Sarathi that talked about the conditions of farmers under the Britishers.
On 9th December 1946, she was selected as a member of the Constituent Assembly of India and she became the President of the Orissa Pradesh Congress Committee. She was one of the women who helped draft the Indian Constitution.
When Emergency was proclaimed in 1975 Malati protested against the dictatorial policies of Indira Gandhi and her government. This resulted in her imprisonment.
Malati Devi passed away in 1997 at the age of 93.
During her lifetime, Malati Devi Choudhury received massive recognition and several praises in the form of awards. These included The National Award for Child Welfare in 1987, Jamnalal Bajaj Award in 1988, Utkal Seva Sammaan in 1994, and The Tagore Literacy Award in 1995.
Image Source: Wikipedia
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
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