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  • Driti Gundana

Labanya Prabha Ghosh: An Unsung Hero of India

India fought boldly and fearlessly against the British to attain freedom. Uncountable individuals were the key to the careless freedom we obtain today. Many of the names we are aware of include Mahatma Gandhi, Subash Chandra Bose, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, and Tania Tope. However, apart from these, there were numerous people who were involved in the British struggle. One such person hidden behind society’s facade is Labanya Prabha Gosh.


HER CHILDHOOD

Labanya Prabha Ghosh was born on 14 August 1897. Her father, Risi Nabarun Chandra, was a freedom fighter and a school teacher. Nonetheless, Labanya never walked the corridors of a school and was taught by her father at home. When she was barely 11 years old, she was married off to Atul Chandra Ghosh, who hailed from Purulia and was a prominent figure in India’s fight for freedom. In 1921, her father was detained by the Purulia District Government for his involvement in Mahatma Gandhi's Non-Cooperation Movement. There are no records to show for how long he was held captive.


Following his release, Labanya’s father and her husband together created the 'Shilpashram', an organisation in Telkalpara, Purulia, which functioned as a centre for revolutionaries and other members of the Indian National Congress who hailed from that area. Various freedom fighters like Subhas Chandra Bose, Chittaranjan Das, and Mahatma Gandhi conducted meetings on several occasions at this venue. Labanya Prabha Ghosh herself got very involved with the organisation’s work, related to the freedom movement.


LABANYA’S CONTRIBUTION TO FREEDOM

Popularly called Manbhum Janani (Mother of Manbhum) by the people of Purulia, in 1926, Labanya Ghosh was elected to the District Congress Committee from the Manbhum district, which included Purulia at the time. In fact, she was the first woman chosen as a member of the Lok Sevak Sangha in Purulia. Meanwhile, Gandhiji’s 1930 Salt Satyagraha Movement was creating ripples across the country. In support of this movement, Labanya played a major role by organising similar marches locally. In 1941, she joined the Satyagraha Movement and was arrested by the British. She organised a Flag Satyagraha (Pataka Satyagraha) at Konapara in 1945. Despite being incarcerated several times by the British authorities, she did not relent.


Labanya’s father was the founder-editor of Mukti, a bi-weekly Bengali newspaper. Launched in 1925 and published by Manbhum, Mukti was an influential revolutionary publication that played an important role in the independence struggle. Labanya’s work did not stop with India achieving independence in 1947. Post-independence, in the 1940s and 1950s, she led the Bhasha Andolan (Bengali Language Movement) in the erstwhile Manbhum district against the obligatory imposition of Hindi over Bengali after independence. She was imprisoned several times and even fined by the Bihar government for her acts of protest. As a result of the Bhasha Andolan, Purulia was split out of Manbhum district (in Bihar) and annexed to West Bengal.


Even though Labanya Ghosh was only home-schooled, she wrote several articles for Mukti, and after her husband’s demise in 1969, she became its Editor, and also took over the functioning of Shilpashram. In 1957, she was elected to the Purulia Assembly Constituency as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA). Records show that during the Emergency in 1975, Labanya Ghosh was arrested by the West Bengal Government, although the reason was not clear.


Labanya Prabha Ghosh was a prominent woman revolutionary from Bengal and spent much of her life fighting alongside other nationalists for India’s freedom. However, the latter part of her life was one of misery and abject poverty, with her failing eye-sight, difficulties in speech, and economic hardships. She passed away on 11 April 2003.

Bibliography:

  1. N.a “Labanya Prabha Gosh” indian culture.gov. n.a. Web. 17th Mar, 2022. <https://indianculture.gov.in/node/2801048>


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