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Mainstream, VOL LV No 50 New Delhi December 2, 2017

Renu Chakravartty’s Birth Centenary Observed in New Delhi

Saturday 2 December 2017

A largely attended public meeting was held at Ajoy Bhavan, the CPI headquarters in New Delhi, on November 25, 2017 to observe the birth centenary of Renu Chakravartty that fell on October 21, 2017. It was presided over by CPI General Secretary S. Sudhakar Reddy and those who spoke on the occasion were President of the National Federation of Indian Women Aruna Roy, NFIW General Secretary Annie Raja, Deputy General Secretary of the CPI Gurudas Dasgupta, CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, CPI leader D. Raja, AITUC leader Amarjeet Kaur. A message from veteran Communist Jolly Mohan Kaul, who resides in Kolkata and knew Renu Chakravartty since the late 1930s and early 1940s, was read out.

S. Sudhakar Reddy briefly touched upon Renu Chakravartty’s life history and mentioned how she became a Communist while she was in England for higher studies. He also pointed out that former CPI General Secretary Indrajit Gupta had once said Renu Chakravartty was instru-mental in his becoming a Communist. He specifically referred to Renu Chakravartty’s inter-vention in Parliament during the debate on the Chinese aggression in 1962 that brought out her role as an effective parliamentarian.

Aruna Roy mentioned Renu Chakravartty’s painstaking work in building the Mahila Atma Raksha Samity in Bengal in the 1940s and the NFIW in the 1950s and 1960s. She underlined the need for ensuring 50 per cent reservation for women in the legislatures and Parliament as a tribute to the departed leader.

Annie Raja spoke of the contribution of Renu Chakravartty in the drafting of several legis-lations, notably the Hindu Code Bill, in the 1950s.

Gurudas Dasgupta recalled how he came in touch with Renu Chakravartty during his student days and mentioned her deep association with the common people, the peasantry and working class despite coming from an affluent family. He also recounted her work as a trade unionist in the IISCO factory of Burnpur while being in Parliament.

Sitaram Yechury said Renu Chakravartty had entered Parliament in 1952, the year he was born. He spoke of his infrequent meetings with her at the New Delhi residence of CPI leader Gita Mukherjee, the well-known MP from West Bengal, and mentioned her sense of humour that was witnessed in Parliament. He insisted that her capacity to mix with the common people was because of her Communist background.

Jairam Ramesh dwelt at length on the importance of the Left in today’s India and asserted that had the Left parties not withdrawn the support they extended to the UPA-I Government, the country would have been spared the BJP rule of Narendra Modi at the Centre. He emphasised the need for not just a common minimum programme that helped the Congress members and Communists to work together both in the United Front Government (1996-98) and the UPA-I Government (2004-08) but a “common maximum programme” for cooperation between the two in future. In this context, he reminded what Jawaharlal Nehru told young IFS officers and probationers in the 1950s: that the real danger to India came not from Communists but the communalists.

D. Raja recalled his meetings with Renu Chakravartty and her son during her major heart surgery at Vellore Medical College Hospital in 1973 and spoke warmly of her role in building the women’s movement in the country.

Amarjeet Kaur highlighted Renu Chakra-vartty’s role in the trade union and working class movements and how she herself had profited from her conversations with both Renu and Nikhil Chakravartty since 1972. Dwelling on the current situation she underscored the imperative necessity to fight the RSS fascists through the unity of Left and democratic forces and defeat the machinations of the former by ousting the Narendra Modi Government from power.

In his message to the meeting, 97-year-old Jolly Mohan Kaul, who was at one stage the Secretary of the united CPI’s Calcutta District Committee, mentioned Renu Chakravartty’s important contri-butions in the Lok Sabha after her election to the Lower House of Parliament from the largely rural constituency of Basirhat in 1952 and 1957 and from the working class area of Barrackpur in 1962.

“Then it was a very different Parliament from the present one we now see,” he opined and focussed on the significant contributions of Renu Chakravartty, Prof Hiren Mukerjee and Indrajit Gupta in Parliament of those days. “It pains me to see what Parliament has become today with frequent disruptions leading to the House not being able to function for days together. Instead of debates and arguments, muscle power seems to be the quality that is required to hit the headlines in the media,” he added.

He further narrated an incident in the rural interior of South Bengal to (a) project the Communist base among the poor in those days and (b) underline how Renu Chakravartty, coming from a wealthy family, could fully associate herself with the common people in the countryside and work among them without any complaint.

He concluded by observing that “in the history of the Party, and particularly in the history of the women’s movement, two names stand out—the names of Renu Chakravartty and Manikuntala Sen”. The latter was Jolly Kaul’s wife and compatriot till she breathed her last several years ago; she was an outstanding speaker in Bengali and a reputed legislator, a distinguished Leftist figure in the 1950s.

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