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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 31, July 26, 2014

Vidya Munsi Is No More

Saturday 26 July 2014

Vidya Munsi breathed her last at the age of 95 in the morning of July 7 at Kolkata. She was not only a leading figure in the Indian women’s movement but also one of the country’s veteran journalists. She was indeed the first woman journalist in Kolkata.

Born in a Gujarati family deeply influenced by Gandhism in Bombay on December 5, 1919, Vidya Kanuga was a brilliant student. She stood first among girl students and third in the general category in the Matriculation exami-nation and joined the I.Sc. course in Bombay’s Elphinstone College before sailing for England to study medicine.

But by the time her preparation for pre-medical exam began there, the Second World War had broken out. Instead of returning to India, Vidya entered the King’s College (New-castle) in Durham University. This was when she came in touch with the communist ideology and joined the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1942. In 1945 she attended the Women’s International Democratic Federation’s conference in Paris as a girl student representative of the All India Students Federation.

On her return to India in 1949 she began editing in Bombay the AISF organ The Student along with a student leader of these days,     Sunil Munsi. In due course they married and shifted to Kolkata in 1952. That is when she became a full-time correspondent of the Blitz weekly published from Bombay. Her investi-gative reports attracted the attention of many readers.

Vidya was mercilessly beaten up alongwith other journalists by the police in 1953 while covering the movement and demonstrations against the hike in tram fares. Subsequently she gave a testimony before the Justice P.B. Mukherjee Commission set up to probe the police lathi charge.

From 1955 she plunged into the women’s movement and became a prominent leader of the National Federation of Indian Women as also the Paschim Banga Mahila Samiti. She was a member of the State Women’s Commission set up by the West Bengal Left Front Government for several years up to 2001. In 2006 came out her book In Retrospect: Wartime Memories and Thoughts on Women’s Movement.

She is survived by her husband Sunil, daughter Urmimala and grandson Aditya.