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Tribute to Mrinaltai (1928-2012)
|by Vibhuti Patel|
Firebrand women’s rights activist and secular humanist socialist leader based in Mumbai, popularly known as “Pani Wali Bai” who had created waves during sixties, seventies and eighties by mobilizing women from local middle and working class women with protest rallies and raising issues concerning sanitation, water,, price rise, black marketing essential items, tribal women’s woes passed away on 17th July, 2012 in Vasai, Thane Dist at the age of 84 years.
Mrinaltai was mentored by her family to be a patriot at a very early age. She, quitting medicine, entered street politics in the forties, joining Rashtriya Seva Dal. Influenced by socialist ideals, she started Socialist Party, and began taking up issues concerning the marginalised strata of society. Along with her husband Keshav Gore she also fought for Goa Liberation and Samyukta Maharashtra Movement.
The couple in sixties made Goregaon the key hub of their social activism. In 1961, she won civic election in Mumbai and after a bitter and protracted struggle she managed to get a proper drinking water supply in the city earning a nickname, “Paniwali Bai.”A pioneer and visionary, Gore was one of the last of the Socialist pillars in Mahrashtra.
Mrinaltai, as she is respectfully referred was elected to Parliament on a Janata Party ticket in 1977. Gore belonged to that special set of women who took to politics in a period when it was virtually unthinkable for women to be involved in public work. For more than half a century, she had been involved with a series of organisations and leading protests both on the streets and in the corridors of power, focusing on women's rights, civil rights, communal harmony, and trade union activities.
In 2002, in a protest against price rise, Mrinaltai led a rally of hundreds of women brandishing rolling pins from Churchgate to Azad Maidan in South Mumbai. The first time she held a similar protest on the issue was in 1972.
Gore and other colleagues of her husband Keshav set up the Keshav Gore Smarak Trust, which supports community-centered activities and social awareness campaigns and actions after he died in 1958. In 1961, Mrinaltai contested the election for Bombay Municipal Corporation and won a seat in the Bombay Municipal Council. Fighting a hard battle, she eventually brought regular and adequate drinking water supply to the area. For this she earned the sobriquet 'Paniwali Bai'.
After the prices of essential commodities began skyrocketing, Gore was at the forefront in setting up in September 1972 the Anti-Price Rise Committee, which mobilised the largest-ever turnout of women since the Independence movement.
After the Emergency, in 1977, Gore was elected to Parliament on Janata Party ticket. In 1985, she became an MLA again and took up the issue of banning sex determination tests. States Dr. Ranjana Kumari, President of Women Power Connect, Delhi, “For those of us who were active in the women’s rights movement in the 1970s and 1980s, the arrival of Mrinal Gore and Pramila Dandavate on the Delhi scene was something of a stunner. They brought with them energy of mass mobilisation of women, for what could be called women’s concerns and going to their meetings in Chandni Chowk and other corners of Delhi organised by the Mahila Dakshata Samiti was an experience. It was a true political affirmation of women’s power.
Mrinaltai was warm, accessible clear-headed and gave many of us the entry into policy-making through their doors. One lesson that emerges from having people like Mrinaltai, Pramilatai and earlier Renukadee Chakravarty in Parliament is that their lobby is clearly the fearless feminist lobby — something that is dangerously lacking in the current membership of women in Parliament.
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