(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 08, 2013
In Memory of Comrade Shyamali Gupta
Shyamali Gupta died as she had lived, ever thoughtful about
At the time of her death, she was a member of the Central
Committee of the
CPI(M), a secretariat member of the Party in
Even her last few days were in the service of the AIDWA that she had helped to build and strengthen for so many decades. She was travelling to attend the tenth national conference from Kolkata to Bodhgaya when she suffered a fall. As always with Shyamali di she made light of her injuries even though there was a marked bump and swelling on her forehead. She cheerfully went through her duties as president of the organisation, hoisted the flag and made the introductory remarks opening the conference.
However in spite of her protests that she was fine, it was obvious that she required rest and a more thorough medical check up than what was available. She had been ailing for some time and had been under treatment, cutting down on her work, so we thought it would be best if she returned to Kolkata.
We requested her to once again address the conference before she left. She made an excellent, impassioned, politically sharp speech.
She got a standing ovation. Never fond of a public display of emotion, she raised her hand in a half salute, a sweet smile acknowledging the love and respect of the delegates. She left without any fuss not wanting to disturb the conference, reaching Kolkata safely where she underwent a series of tests. It was on the last day of the conference, after the election of the new central executive committee and just as the new team of office bearers was being announced, that I got the call from Shyamali’s utterly distraught daughter-in-law, “Ma has left us.”
Her last moments were peaceful. She was watching television, resting in her room at her home, waiting to be picked up for another test, when she suffered a cardiac arrest that took her life. It was almost as though she had waited for the conference to be over, for the work to be done, before she left us, thoughtful to the end. She was 68 years old.
di was a bright student graduating from Jadvapur with a degree
relations and getting her M.A. in Political Science from
She was a militant activist in the Bengal Provincial Students
participating in many of the mass movements in the fifties and
sixties as a
teenager. She joined the undivided communist party in 1963
when she was just
18, and then later the CPI(M) when it was formed a year later.
2013 marked the
fiftieth year of her Party membership. She married Comrade
Shankar Gupta in
1966. He was teaching at that time in
her life, in the positions of leadership that she attained,
whether because of
her own experience in those Bankura days or because of her
nature, she showed tremendous personal care for cadre, their
problems, always intent on finding a solution. In her busy
workday, she never
ever turned down a request from an activist who needed her
advice. It was this
quality of sensitivity and understanding that made Shyamali di
a figure to turn
to for a solution for hundreds of women activists and leaders
not just in
Bengal, but in different states of
faced the grief of the loss of her husband in early 1983. By
then she had been
working with the Ganatantrik Mahila Samity. It was Comrade
then secretary of the
was formed in 1981 and as the state secretary of its strongest
di within a few years had taken on many national
responsibilities. She started
travelling to other states, and took specific charge of
very early on, the importance of training women to take on
the panchayat level.
work in states like
In all the leading posts she held, Comrade Shyamali Gupta had this great capacity to listen and discuss differing opinions, with an intrinsic democratic sense. But at the same time, once a decision was taken she was a stickler for discipline and expected others to be as serious as she always was in implementation. She was an anchor, a most reliable guide in taking steps which were right for the organisation.
communist, she dedicated her life to work for the Party in all
she shouldered. She was deeply concerned about the terror
unleashed against the
Left movement which did not spare women cadre. As president,
she took the
critical issues facing the movement in West Bengal to other
organising solidarity conventions and meetings across
concerned herself in organising study circles and classes
especially for women
cadre. She worked hard to draw more and more women into the
trying to ensure that they got the recognition and
deserved. She read widely and was a prolific writer. She had
to her credit on a wide range of subjects from a study of
women in panchayats
to editing a volume of early women writers of
I had worked together for many decades. At one time we were
together, along with Mythily Sivaraman. The three of us worked
on many policy issues, helping to fashion AIDWA's position on
under the leadership of our founding stalwarts like Suseela
Rangnekar, Kanak Mukherjee, Vimal Ranadive, Papa Umanath. We
wrote notes to each other, but almost always worked out a
Even though she continued to stay and work from
In the last year or so, Shyamali di started suffering from the loss of her memory. She was unable to work as she used to and this bothered her. She was a strong independent woman and she fretted at her forced increasing dependence because of her deteriorating health. I sat at the back of the stage listening to what was her last speech at the tenth conference of AIDWA. It was deeply moving, her will power, her strength, her commitment, her love for the organisation she had helped to build which was reflected in her every word. I assisted her into the car for her journey home, she leaned through the window, a hug and a farewell kiss. She passed away two days later.
will be greatly missed by thousands of women activists and
We offer them our deepest condolences. They should know that their mother, our comrade Shyamali Gupta will live on in the struggles of women for justice.