Mira Datta Gupta
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|Mira Dutta Gupta|
|Died||1983 (aged 76)
Calcutta, West Bengal
|Alma mater||Bethune College, Calcutta|
|Occupation||Educationist and politician|
Mira Datta Gupta (Bengali: মীরা দত্ত গুপ্ত) (5 October, 1907 - 18 January, 1983) was a well-known freedom fighter, social worker, educationist, politician and activist on women's issues in Calcutta, India. She was a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in Bengal and then West Bengal for twenty years from 1937 to 1957, firstly representing Women's constituency in 1937, and then Bhowanipore from 1952 to 1957. She was the first MLA from Bhowanipore.
She was the daughter of Sarat Datta Gupta, IAAS, Accountant General of India (retd.) and Sarajubala Datta Gupta (née Sen). She was born on 5 October at her maternal grandparents' house in Dhaka. Her paternal ancestors owned substantial tracts of land in the Tarpasha side of Jainshar village in Dhaka district, which the family held until the second partition of Bengal in 1947. Her paternal relatives were however not significantly affected by the partition since most members of the family had been living and working in Calcutta since the end of the nineteenth century. In Calcutta she lived with her parents for the most part of her life at 41, Hazra Road.
Education and early influences
She was a brilliant student of St. John's Diocesan, Calcutta and Bethune College, Calcutta. She completed her MSc in mathematics at the University of Calcutta, coming first class second in the examination in 1930.
Her parents were greatly inspired by patriotic feelings and she too absorbed these ideas as she was growing up. Since her father was a senior government official, the police did not suspect her of being a revolutionary worker for a long time. She secretly kept documents and even arms and ammunition for revolutionary party workers at her family home in Hazra Road. During the Calcutta Riots of 1946 she gave shelter to both Muslim and Hindu riot victims. In this endeavour she had the active backing of her family members, including her parents. In the initial years of her political career, she was a member of the Indian National Congress, but later disillusioned by the INC, she joined the Forward Bloc.
The last decades of the nineteenth century and the start of the twentieth century saw the dawn of awakening of Indian women across India. Born in early twentieth century, Mira, like some of her contemporaries contributed towards the education and advancement of women in her province. As the vice principal of Vidyasagar College, Calcutta and the founder-principal of the women's section of Surendranath College, Calcutta, (appointed in 1931) she was very well known and also popular for her strong sense of discipline and academic standards. She retired from Surendranath Women's College in 1972.
She was the founder of many prominent women's organisations and educational institutions in West Bengal, India. She was among the founder members of the All India Women's Conference and All Bengal Women's Union.
She was a member of the Indian Congress Party between 1937 and 1946. She was elected four times (1937, 1942, 1946 and 1951) as Member of the state legislative assembly of Bengal, later renamed West Bengal. She was offered the post of Deputy Minister in the Cabinet of 1952 of the then Chief Minister, Bidhan Chandra Roy, which she declined.
Mira's reputation grew with her increasing involvement in the revolutionary movement. She was associated with Indian revolutionary groups, such as Anushilan, Jugantar and Bengal Volunteers. As a member of Bengal Volunteers she was the editor of the women's section of its magazine – Benu. While, initially she was put in charge of the organisation's South Calcutta Women's group, she later moved into a low profile role, choosing to work for India's independence secretly. In those days she used to donate her entire salary towards India's freedom movement to her party Bengal Volunteers. Around this time she also provided a channel for information between the revolutionaries who had to remain under cover and other members of the party. She participated in one of the important meetings of Bengal Volunteers held at Baranagar near Kolkata to discuss the group's activities in Midnapore and other parts of the state. From 1933, the police grew suspicious of her activities and she was placed under constant surveillance. In 1938, many party members such as Bhavani Bhattacharya and Ujjala Mazumdar were arrested in connection with the shooting of Governor John Anderson in Darjeeling district. Mira was cross-examined by the police for many hours in connection with this case. At this stage her father sent her away from Calcutta for two years to ensure her personal safety. She was very actively involved in fund raising activities during the Quit India Movement of 1942. In 1946, she was jailed for her nationalist activities. After her released from prison she became one of the first members of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's Forward Bloc.
She had a devoted following in the Ballygunge Constituency, all along the southeastern environs of the city, and was known for her social commitment. During the devastating Bengal Famine of 1943, she, along with co-Congress workers played a leading role in organising relief for famine victims.
Later, after independence, her many activities included relief activities for those affected by famines, floods, and also the rehabilitation of the homeless and economically weaker women.
In her post-retirement years, she served as an honorary justice of peace in the juvenile court in Kolkata and was a member of the Board of Film Censors in West Bengal. In 1958 she joined the Indian goodwill mission to China and later visited Berlin, Copenhagen and Moscow to attend developmental, educational and women's conferences. She was also a member of the Calcutta University Senate and the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education. She also contributed to the setting up of Patha Bhavan, Kolkata, a school named after the university school in Santiniketan.
She died of pneumonia on 18 January, 1983, at the age of 76.