Author: Renuka Ray
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8185604789
In writing about her life and work, Renuka Ray also relates the momentous history of India, from her birth in 1904 to her death in 1997, encompassing the years of the growth and consolidation of the nationalist movement, to partition and independence, and the equally compelling post-independence period. As a member of the ruling elite, a close associate of Gandhiji, Rabindranath Tagore, Jawaharlal Nehru, Bidhan Chandra Roy, Durgabai Deshmukh, Vijayalakshmi Pandit and Indira Gandhi, and a participant in the political and social movements, she provides an insider’s view to the historical events she witnessed.
Born into a family of leading Brahmos, Renuka Ray was keenly involved in social reform. As a young girl of sixteen, she met Gandhiji at the special session of the Indian National congress in Calcutta in September 1920, and as she said, it changed my life. She was to remain a lifelong Gandhian, committed to his ideals, convinced to the end of her life that the way to rural development lay in Gandhian programmes that were infused with Rabindranath Tagore’s experiments at Sriniketan. She presents the many discussions she had with Gandhiji on several political issues, especially his opposition to partition, the changing character of the Indian National Congress, his attitude to Subhas Chandra Bose and so on, and Appendix I reproduces some of the letters he wrote to her.
Nominated to the Central assembly as a representative of the AIWC to discuss possible legal changes in the laws pertaining to women, Renuka Ray supported sir B N Rau’s Hindu Women’s Rights of succession bill. In the constituent Assembly, Ray also took a radical stand on the zamindari abolition bill and later opposed Jawaharlal Nehru on the compromise over land reform legislation as she saw it.
One of the most interesting parts of the memoir is the author’s discussion of the partition in the eastern region. As the minister for Rehabilitation and Relief, 1952-1957, in the cabinet of Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, West Bengal, the first woman to be appointed to any state cabinet, Renuka Ray analyses Central Government policy towards the Bengali refugee, summed up as niggardly. A close friend of Jawaharlal Nehru, the prime minister, who had negotiated the Liaquat-Nehru Pact of 1952 with Pakistan, she retains her independent judgment and provides a devastating critique of its effects. Primarily because there was no simultaneous exchange of population as in the Punjab, the crisis was underestimated by the Central government which, despite representation from West Bengal, refused to treat the two areas affected by partition equally and disbursed much smaller funds. In addition to the consequences of partition on West Bengal, Ray also analyses the legacy of Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy.
As political realities changed, Renuka Ray found that she was outmanoeuvred out of her Lok Sabha constituency by the new party machine that had other priorities. No longer an active politician after 1964, she refused to accept nomination to the Rajya Sabha since she had always opposed the creation of a second chamber, and concentrated on social work, building up organizations like the consumers Action Forum and the Women’s coordinating Council.
Offering a critique of government and society before she ends her memoir, she adds, it is only human to be dissatisfied with what we have done it is the very nature of the human spirit which hankers after what is unattainable that fills me with hope. It is indeed this human spirit that infused her life and provides a critical document of her times.
RENUKA RAY - FRONTISPIECE
FOREWORD - APARNA BASU
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION
A NOTE ON THIS EDITION
1920-The Dawn of A New Era
At the London School of Economics and Experience of rural work in India
The Central assembly and the Fight for Women’s Rights
Women in India
Quit India and the Bengal Famine
Partition of India
Constitution in the Making
And Still They Come
Travels Abroad and UN Experience
As Minister in B C Roy’s Cabinet
Nehru and the Lok Sabha days
Administration and social Development
APPENDIX I-SOME LETTERS
APPENDIX II-AMENDMENT ON ARTICLE 31