Veteran revolutionary women’s leader of the party Comrade Geeta Das breathed her last on 24 October at her daughter’s house in Santoshpur, West Bengal. Comrade Geeta Das, popularly known among her comrades as ‘Geetadi’ was 78 years old and was suffering from several age related ailments. Geetadi hailed from Kotalipara in Faridpore district of East Bengal, presently Bangladesh. She studied till class VIII in the face of tremendous poverty and completed the Matric degree after marriage. Her unswerving courage and dedication towards studies was evident from her completion of basic teachers’ training with the distinction of being first class first even as she was raising her child and living in a hostel. She joined the Calcutta Corporation School as a teacher and retired from her job in 1996.
Geetadi came from a family where many members were associated with the Left movement. From the time when the undivided Communist Party of India worked in Bengal, many Left activists used to visit to her house and she grew up inculcating values of the Left from an early age. She also married a Left activist Dilip Das. During the Naxalbari movement, when the entire state and national politics was reeling under the spring thunder, her four siblings joined the movement and she continued to support the struggle steadfastly inspired by the spirit of revolution. In the 70s she used to act as a courier between the party and the incarcerated comrades which often affected her family. But nothing could stop Geetadi’s commitment to the party and her love for her comrades. Her autonomy as a woman was manifest in her denunciation of many feudal anti-women religious customs and rituals in her own life. She used to say that women should first rid themselves of these everyday forms of discrimination. The short-statured, tireless and ever inspiring Geetadi was always prompt in her actions against all incidents of injustice or discrimination.
In the 80s she was the state and national leader of the Indian Peoples Front (IPF). Before CPI(ML) started functioning as an open party, she was the organizer and the secretary of the Bengal Progressive Women’s Association (PWA). In 1994, when AIPWA was constituted nationally, she was elected the national secretary of the organization. She was also a member of the Central Control Commission of the party for fifteen years.
She was noted for her intervention in challenging the Shankaracharya of Puri in 1994, infamous for his anti-women and anti-Dalit statements claiming that ‘women and shudras have no right to read the Vedas.’ Geetadi stormed the meetings of Shankaracharya when he visited Kolkata in 1994 after he objected to a woman scholar reading from the Vedas during a talk, and unequivocally conveyed the message that casteists and misogynists like the Shankaracharya of Puri had no place in a civilized society. Geetadi became one of the leading voices for Bandi Mukti Andolan (Movement for the Release of Political Prisoners), and for justice in the Bantala rape case, the Singur land struggle and against all forms of state repression. Irrespective of ideological differences, Geetadi played an important role in uniting different organizations and individuals in joint platforms and struggles especially on issues of women and gender discrimination. Her amiable demeanor and pleasant nature earned her respect and friendship across diverse sections of activists and intellectuals. As the Editor of Pratibidhan, the Bengali organ of AIPWA, her role was crucial in incorporating intellectuals like Mahashweta Devi, Nabanita Dev Sen, Maitreyi Chattopadhyay and others in the editorial board.
Age could never stop the spontaneous and youthful struggle of Geetadi against all forms of oppression. As a speaker, she used to earn the respect of her audience and as a human being the love of her comrades. Against all forms of inequality and injustice, Geetadi remained an uncompromising warrior who will inspire generations of Left and women activists. Comrade Geeta Das will continue to inspire us forever in the actual fields of struggle. Long Live Com. Geeta Das.