The unique feature of Mrinal Gore’s political work was that there was absolute clarity in her mind from the very beginning about the section of people who needed her attention, about the issues/problems that had to be addressed, and about the values that were to be upheld. She always worked for the poor and deprived. Her focus was on life’s basic needs and civic amenities. Her political work was based on the values of democracy, socialism and secularism. For her politics was the synonym for sacrifice not power. Morarji Desai, PM in the Janata Party government, wanted to make her the Health Minister in his Cabinet. But Mrinal Gore said that instead of being a minister, she would prefer, like all times, to work among the common people. In this way, she never lost sight of her mission and area of work.
She was particularly sensitive towards the issues related to women like gender equality, women’s rights and inter-caste marriage. She herself had entered into an inter-caste marriage in 1948 with the well known socialist leader keshav Gore. At that time she was only twenty. Ten years after marriage, Keshav Gore passed away in 1958. But Mrinal Gore continued her life of struggle, along with the CPI leader Tara Reddy and CPM leader Ahilya Rangnekar. When she joined the Assembly for the second time, Mrinal Gore drew public attention towards female foeticide through a private member bill. The ban on sex-selective abortions by the Maharashtra Assembly in 1986 was the consequence of Mrinal Gore’s serious efforts.
One of the very special features of Mrinal Gore’s personality was that she refused to believe that solutions lay in the passing laws. If the leadership is not serious to the peoples’ problems, merely passing laws will be of no use. She believed that human concerns and sensitivity is a necessary consideration for political leaders. Her own political struggle was always motivated by a humane and caring concern for the deprived masses of the country.
In the present times, socialist ideals and movement is going through a critical phase within India and also on the international scene. Crisis is witnessed even on capitalism, but the possibility of socialism emerging as an alternative to capitalism is extremely thin. The 3-4 Latin American countries which have successfully protested against imperialist capitalism are still in the grip of nationalist capitalism. The Arab revolution too does not carry the socialist dream in its womb. In such times, the passing away of a die-hard socialist leader like Mrinal Gore is definitely an irreparable loss. This is particularly true in India where all governments and mainstream political parties have become the facilitator of corporate capitalism and politics in itself has become synonym of bargaining.
It was her exceptional quality that during the last days when she was seriously unwell and nearly unable to walk, Mrinal Gore did not give up her positive frame of mind. She played an important role in the formation of Socialist Party in Hyderabad on May 28 2011. She was present in the meetings held in Mumbai to discuss the revival of the Socialist Party and extended her full support for the move. She said that she would be a natural member of the party following its formation.
This was my first meeting with her in person. She used to come to the sitting room on her wheel chair and expressed her views in a concise manner. One never had the opportunity for a detailed discussion with her, beyond the routine salutations. But it was adequate to leave a lasting impact of her personality in one’s memory. The last occasion on which I could meet her was on July 8, at the felicitation of Pannalal Surana in Pune. It was impossible to imagine that in week’s time she would be no more.
On July 19 , the Socialist Party organised a condolence meet in Delhi to pay respect to her. We had requested the press to cover the condolence meet. Not one among the print and electronic media arrived at the meeting. Most speakers at the meeting noted with anger that the country’s leaders and the media made hardly any note of her passing away. The press people or leaders who wrote or spoke on her demise called her a ‘social activist’ and not a socialist leader, which she really was. In his condolence message on the net, Prof. Kamal Nayan Kabra wrote that although he did not undermine the importance of film artists, it was beyond comprehension how the media that gone overboard to report the demise of cine star Rajesh Khanna, totally ignored the passing away of Mrinal Gore. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in calling her a social worker in his condolence message, deprived her of her political identity and struggle. It seems obvious that according to him there is no need for socialist politics in today’s India.
But Mrinal Gore is in no need of recognition and citations from political leaders and media. She was truly unique and self-effacing. Our deepest respects for Mrinaltai!
About the contributor: Dr. Prem Singh, a former fellow, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, teaches Hindi at Delhi University. He is also the General Secretary of Socialist Party (India).