Nirmala Deshpande

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Nirmala Deshpande
Late Nirmala Deshpande.jpg
Born (1929-12-19)19 December 1929
Nagpur, Maharashtra, India
Died 1 May 2008(2008-05-01) (aged 78)
Known for Social activism
Religion Hinduism

Nirmala Deshpande (Devanagari: निर्मला देशपांडे) (October 19, 1929 – May 1, 2008) was a noted Indian social activist who had embraced Gandhian philosophy. She devoted her adult life to promotion of communal harmony and service to women, tribal people, and the dispossessed in India.[1][2]

She was awarded Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award of India in 2006.[3]

Early life and family[edit]

Deshpande was born to Vimala (विमला) and Purushottam Yashawant Deshpande (पुरुषोत्तम यशवंत देशपांडे) in Nagpur on October 19, 1929. Her father was the recipient of a Sahitya Akademi Award in 1962 for his work in Marathi Anamikachi Chintanika (अनामिकाची चिंतनिका).

She did MA in Political Science from Nagpur, India, She also studied Fergusson College, Pune. Thereafter, she served as lecturer in Political Science in Morris College, Nagpur.[4]

Social activities[edit]

Nirmala Desphande in 2007

Deshpande joined Vinoba Bhave's Bhoodan movement in 1952. She undertook a 40,000-km journey on foot --padayatra—across India to carry Gandhi's message of Grām Swarāj. She recognized that it was difficult to practice Gandhian principles, yet believed that doing so was the only way towards a truly democratic society.[5]

Deshpande was known to be the spirit behind peace marches in Punjab and Kashmir when violence was at its peak in those states. Her peace mission to Kashmir in 1994 and her initiative in organizing India-Pakistan meet in 1996 were her two major public service achievements.[6] The Tibetan cause against Chinese suppression was also close to her heart.

In 2006, Deshpande championed clemency for Afzal Guru, who had been convicted of a terrorist attack on Indian Parliament in 2001. (The attack had resulted in the death of 13 people.)

Deshpande visited many cities in the United States of America on a tour organized by a prominent Indian American from Lansing, Michigan in the last few years of her life. She was member of a Rajya Sabha, when she died in her sleep in the early hours of May 1, 2008, in New Delhi at the age of 79.[4]


Deshpande authored several novels in Hindi, "Seemant", on the theme of women's liberation, and "Chimlig", based on Chinese cultural ethos, (one of which got a national award), some plays, and travelogues. She also wrote a commentary on Isha Upanishad and a biography of Vinoba Bhave.


Deshpande was a nominated member of Indian Rajya Sabha two times during August 1997- August 1997 and during 24 June 2004 to 2010.[7] Her name was considered for the Indian Presidential position in 2007.

Deshpande received the Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award (2005) and the Padma Vibhushan title in 2006.[8] She was a nominee for the Nobel peace prize in 2005.

Nirmala Deshpande ji also received first Banarsi Das Gupta "Rashtra Gaurav Puraskar" on Nov 5, 2007 in a function, present to her by Vice President of India Sh. Mohammad Hamid Ansari. in the presence of Smt. Sonia Gandhi (President UPA), Sh. Pawan Bansal (Cabinet Minister), Sh. Shriprakash Jaiswal (Minister of State), Sh. Bhupinder Singh Hooda (Chief Minister of Haryana), Sh. Santosh Bagrodia (Minister of State), Sh. Deepender Singh Hooda (Member of Parliament), Sh. Naveen Jindal (Member of Parliament), Sh. Ajay Gupta and many other VIPs at Balyogi Hall, Parliament of India, New Delhi.

She was conferred the Sitara-i-Imtiaz, one of Pakistan's third highest civilian honours, on Aug 13, 2009; the eve of Pakistan's Independence Day.[9]


  1. ^ "Veteran Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande is no more". Indian Express. May 1, 2008. 
  2. ^ "Nirmala Deshpande - a gutsy Gandhian". DNA (newspaper). May 1, 2008. 
  3. ^ "Padma Awards". Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. 
  4. ^ a b "Veteran Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande dead". CNN-IBN. May 1, 2008. 
  5. ^ "The never-say-die crusader". The Tribune. January 2, 2005. 
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ "Rajya Sabha members". Rajya Sabha secretariat, New delhi. Retrieved 2009-12-30. 
  8. ^ "A votary of peace and harmony". The Hindu. May 2, 2008. 
  9. ^

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