Dear comrades, friends and well-wishers,
This number of our newsletter may seem to you to be reserved for memorials and indeed it is. In these disease-ridden days when many of us are losing close family members and relatives all on a sudden, some of our best and dearest comrades, our foremost activists are also being snatched away from us by this pandemic. We remember them with love and gratitude for their enrichment of our movement. It is no relief to us to recall that but for the inhuman callousness and mismanagement shown by the rulers of the country, some of these lives at least might have been saved; some of the dire distress might have been lessened. It is not enough to feel sorrow, but it moves us to anger to think that we are witnessing not mere inefficiency, but the inevitable results of totally unprincipled collusion between the government and its corporate cronies for a limited number of high-ups to earn super-profits out of the people’s distress.
Only in turning this distress into anger shall we be able to appreciate in these our own times the example set for us in particular by two of our foremost leaders, each exceptional in her way, who had guided us since the early days of our organization. It is to these two, Mythily Sivaraman and Ranjana Nirula, whom we have lost recently, that we would like to pay special tributes in this number of our newsletter. I would only like to say here that while both Mythily and Ranjana had their distinctive contributions to our struggle, when one studies the trajectories of their activism from the early days, one finds some striking similarities between their lives as activists which also tell us something about the times in which they grew up as such.
Both of them had their initiation into political activism in the late 1960s while they were abroad, in the United States of America of all places! But America at that time was seething with youth movements against the Vietnam War and for equal rights for Black Americans. The two we are talking about were drawn inexorably into these movements, but their experience brought them outside the ambit of the bright careers they might have made had they settled down there; instead they decided to return to the country of their birth which was itself on the threshold of great changes at the time and neither of them ever flinched from the decision to dedicate their lives to communist activism.
Both of them chose that battle-scarred political field which brings you to the understanding that the intolerable social conditions in which we find ourselves can change only when exploited working women and men are emancipated from their chains. When they were drawn into the women’s movement too their earlier training as communist trade union organizers gave them that perspective into gender issues which sees emancipation of working people as a condition for genuine equality between men and women. In striving to bring justice to women, they taught AIDWA also to fight against the deeper social basis of injustice and inequality. Both were convinced of the importance of ideological work. When Mythily ran the organizational journal in Tamilnadu or enlivened the editorial board of Women’s Equality, when Ranjana gave patient and meticulous leadership to the publication and dissemination of The Voice of the Working Woman, they saw it as part of crucial political work, the task of turning the distress of suffering women and men into dedicated anger against social inequality. Even when they are no more with us, we pledge to take that task forward.
Malini Bhattacharya, President, All India Democratic Women’s Association