Noted Author, Activist and Feminist Scholar, Dr. Ilina Sen, aged 69 passed away this day (9th August 2020) after a long battle with Cancer.
Though she is best remembered for her activism with mine trade workers’ unions against corporatization and tribal rights, she has been an ardent scholar as well. She authored many books including Inside Chattisgarh: A Political Memoir, Sukhvasin: The Migrant Woman of Chattisgarh, A Space within the Struggle. Her contribution to feminist scholarship is notable as she has been an active participant of the Women’s Movement in India since the 1970s and has written extensively about political participation and livelihood of women. She has also served as the Head of the Department at the Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University (MGAHV).
She was the Convenor of the 13th Indian Association for Women’s’ Studies National Conference on ‘Revisiting Marginalities, Challenging Hegemonies: Re-envisioning Gender Politics’ which was organized at her university campus in Wardha, Maharashtra. She was a Member of the Executive Committee of the Indian Association of Women’s’ Studies between 2008-2011 and President of the committee between 2011 -2014.
Dr Ilina and her spouse Dr Binayak Sen established Rupantar, a Non-Governmental Organization that provided alternative health care to people in remote areas. They trained, deployed, and monitored community health workers across 20 remote villages in Chattisgarh. This has been lauded as a successful model to provide healthcare in remote areas. Over the years, the NGO branched out to address other social issues including food security, violence against women, and alcohol abuse.
Dr. Ilina had also been a powerful voice against Salwa Judum and the civilian vigilante groups popularly known as Koya Commandos in Chattisgarh. She noted in one of her interviews that “Salwa Judum for its agenda of ground-clearing. It was also a movement to get rid of the people because the government wanted to give the mineral-rich land to mining corporations. Salwa Judum had led to huge abuses of human rights, including sexual violence against women. “Anyone who tried to take a position against that was persona non grata in state of Chhattisgarh…anyone who opposed the Salwa Judum was branded a Maoist sympathizer.”
An interview of Dr. Ilina Sen about her works, activism, academic engagement, and comments about the present-day women’s movement in India can be accessed here.