Remembering Ila Mitra the Rani Ma
Today is the 94th birth anniversary of comrade Ila Mitra, the legendary leader of Nachol farmer revolution (peasant movement) Rani Ma (queen mother) of Santal adivasi. On this day in 1925 Ila Mitra was born at Bakutia village at present Jhinadaha district. She was the eldest child among three daughters and three sons of her parents. Her father Nagendra Nath was a senior government Officer. That's why she got to spend much of her time in Kolkata with her father.
She was studied at the reputable Bethun School. She passed matriculation with a letter from this school in 1940. She passed her intermediate exams in 1942 and also passed B.A in 1944 from the same school. She did her MA from Kolkata University in 1957, some 14 years later after she was released from jail. Ssshe joined the communist political party in 1941. She studied Marxism and thus she rose to higher ranks in the party. After joining the communist party she got married to Ramendra Nath Maitra one of main organizer of communist party in 1945. She then changed her name from Ila Mitra from Ila Sen.
After the partition in 1947 farmers had organized movement indifferent places the Nachol farmer movement is one of them which occurred in the beginning of 1949 and lasted till the end of 1950. The Nachol farmer revolution was a part of the Tebhaga andolon (Tebhaga movement) which occurred in 1946 to 1947 and became wide spread extensively in 19 districts.
Since 1930 the farmers started a movement against oppression of Zaminder and jotdars. In the area of Nachol, the jotdars got two-thirds share, while only one-third got the cultivators, instead of half as in other districts of north Bengal. For husking rice from paddy, the laborers got only three Aras out of 20 Aras. The objective of the movement was to ensure that, out of the total yield, two-thirds share for the cultivator, and one-third for the jotdar, and out of 20 Aras of husked rice, the laborer received seven Aras. Due to this discrimination, famers started movement against jotdars.
The police tried to stop the famers movement but the communist leaders were at the forefront and it's was waved in Nachol farmers. At the beginning of Tebhaga movement Ila Mitra organized indoor meetings, mass ralleys and street meetings at Nachol, Shibgonj and at Godagari. She also was organized Santal women for movement. Particularly Santal community was the main force in the Tebhaga movement.
The local farmers Santal and other adivasi along with separate communities had united against injustice of jotdars. Among of them a large number of Santal farmers joined in this movement besides other farmers. The Santal farmers of Chapainowabgonj organized against various kinds of oppression by the jotdars and money lenders. At the time Ila Mitra helped to organize them. Along with her comrade Ramendra Nath Mitra, Matla Majhi, Shikh Ajahar Hossain, Animesh Lahiri and Brindabon Shaha and others helped to organize the farmers. But among of them Ila Mitra's role had become the centre of attention and Santal farmers too loved and respected her and named her Rani Ma (queen mother) of them.
At the time of the Tebhaga Movement, many Santal people migrated into India due to inhuman oppression by the police. Police arrested Ila Mitra from Rohanpur Rail station and sent her to Nachol Thana on 7 Janury in 1950 on charge of attacking and killing a policeman.
At the time of her arrest she was clad in a Saontal dress. The law enforcers were searching everywhere for Ila Mitra. In this situation she looked at her wrist watch to check time in an absent mind. Observing her unusual movements, the police challenged her identity. Responding to the challenge, Ila Mitra tried to speak in Santal language but she was not fluent in Santal. Unfortunately police confirmed that she is not Santal woman she is Ila Mitra and the police arrested her. After arrest the police tortured her brutally in jail. Ila Mitra did not hide about the inhuman torture against her by the police for shame and frightened.
Rather she has given a statement of oppression against her and this was published in a leaflet. After publishing the statement, people reacted angrily against the Pakistan police due to brutal oppression against Ila Mitra.
Till today, farmers remember Ila Mitra for sacrificing her farmers' cause and organized movement against jotdars. Till date the Santal, Oroan, Mahato, Mahali, Pahan, Munda, Paharia and other adivasi people are conducting movement against the land grabbers to establish their rights over land. They learnt from their Rani Ma Ila Mitra.
Rakhi Mrong is a writer and Human Rights Worker