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AHILYA RANGNEKAR (1922-2009)


Ahilya Rangnekar was a freedom fighter and politician. She was born in Poona. She was the youngest among eight children. As a young girl, she organized a demonstration of girl students to protest the death of Mahatma Gandhi’s secretary, Mahadev Desai, in British custody at the Aga Khan Palace. She was jailed for three months at Yerawada where she hoisted the Indian tricolour inside the jail premises. The Communist leader B.T. Ranadive was her elder brother. She graduated from college and joined the Communist Party of India in 1943 and was active in the movement for a united Maharashtra and with the Girni Kamgar Union. In 1943 also she was one of the founders of the Parel Mahila Sangh, later the Janwadi Mahila Sangh, part of the All India Democratic Women’s Association. She later became the national working president of the AIDWA and in 2001, she became its patron. In 1945 she married P.B. Rangnekar. She was involved in the Navy Ratings Mutiny of 1946. She fasted for twenty one days during the railway strike of 1948. From 1961 to 1980 she was a corporator of the Bombay Municipal Corporation.

She was known as ‘ranragini’ (firebrand) for her participation in the 1972 ‘rolling pin marches’ against price hikes, protests for the rights of tribals, anganwadis and labourers. She protested the Emergency and was jailed along with Durgabai Bhagwat (q.v.) and Jaywantiben Mehta in Arthur Road Jail. She was elected to the Lok Sabha in the 1977 election. She was a member of the Lok Sabha from 1977-1980, representing Mumbai North Central constituency. In 1975, she was elected to the general council of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions and in 1979, she became its vice president. From 1983 to 1986 she was the secretary of the Maharashtra state unit of the CPI (M), and of the party’s central committee from 1978 to 2005.
 
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