Remembering Rani Ma Ila Mitra

Published : 17 Oct 2021 08:50 PM | Updated : 21 Oct 2021 02:10 PM

Today is the 96th birth anniversary of comrade Ila Mitra, the legendary leader of Nachol Farmer's Revolution (Peasant Movement of Nachol) Rani Ma (Queen Mother) of the Santals. On this day in 1925 Ila Mitra was born at Bakutia village in present Jhenaidah district. She was the eldest child among three daughters and three sons of her parents. Her father Nagendra Nath was a senior government officer. Due to this she got to spend much of her time in Kolkata with her father. 

She studied at the reputable woman educational institute 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  in Bangla from Kolkata University in 1957. She joined with the communist political party in 1941 when she was only 18 years old. She studied Marxism and thus she rose to higher ranks in the party.  Due to study of Marxism, she attracted in communist party. Comrades want to change society and that is why I joined the communist party, she said about her interest the communist party. After joining the communist party she got married to Ramendra Nath Mitra one of main organizer of communist party in 1945. She then changed her name from Ila Sen to Ila Mitra. 

Read more: Bangladesh beats India, Pakistan in hunger alleviation

After the partition in 1947 farmers had organized movement in different places. The Nachol farmer movement is one of them which occurred in the beginning of 1949 and lasted till the first of 1950. The Nachol farmer revolution was a part of the Tebhaga andolon (Tebhaga movement) which occurred in 1946 to 1947 and became widespread extensively in 19 districts. 

Since 1930 the farmers started a movement against oppression of Zamindar and Jotdars. In the area of Nachol, the Jotdars used to keep half share from farmers and cultivators used to get half share. Due to this farmers demanded two-thirds share and they offered the land owners one third share. Another matter is for harvesting, processing as well as for preserving paddy from 20 Ara land (locally count Ara in Borendar area) the laborers and farmers got only three Aras. The objective of the movement was to ensure that, out of the total yield, cultivators get two-third share, and jotdars get one-third, and for 20 Aras harvest and process paddy the laborer get seven Aras. Due to this kind of 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 rallies and street meetings at Nachol, Shibgonj and at Godagari.  She also organized Santal women for movement. Particularly Santal community was the main force of the Nachol  farmers movement.   

  The local farmers Santal and other adivasi along with other  communities Muslim and Hindu farmers had united against injustice of jotdars. It needs to be mentioned that a large number of Santal farmers joined this movement. The Santal farmers of Chapainowabgonj stood unitedly against various kinds of oppression by the jotdars and money lenders. At that time Ila Mitra helped organize them. Along with her comrade Ramendra Nath Mitra, Matla Majhi, Shikh Ajahar Hossain, Animesh Lahiri and Brindabon Shaha and others also helped the farmers be organized. But 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 Rahanpur 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 Santal 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

 She released from jail in parole in mid-June in 1954. Till today, farmers remember Ila Mitra for sacrificing her life for the 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 to get united against land grabbers.  

Rakhi Mrong is a  writer and Human Rights Worker

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