Noted academician, author, and social activist Ilina Sen passed away in Kolkata yesterday, August 9, due to cancer. 69-year-old Sen was known for being a staunch supporter of tribal rights and maintained strong associations with trade unions and Adivasis in Chattisgarh to ensure human rights and health care for them. She is survived by her husband, Dr Binayak Sen, and two daughters.

Partha Ghosh, CPI(ML) West Bengal state secretary, in a statement to the press, reportedly said, “Dr Ilina Sen was a face of the public health movement. Tomorrow, at 6 am, her last rites will be performed at Keoratala crematorium (in Kolkata).” Sen served as a professor in Maharashtra, first at the Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya and then at the Advanced Centre for Women’s Studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

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Ilina Sen’s Life And Works

Sen was most notably known for her work in the rural regions of Chattisgarh, along with her husband Dr Binayak, where they crusaded against human rights violations and set up a hospital together. She also fought relentlessly for his release, when he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2010 for alleged sedition and assistance to Naxalites in Chattisgarh.

Sen had authored two books, Inside Chhattisgarh: A Political Memoir and Sukhavasin: The Migrant Woman of Chhattisgarh, on the contested issue of human rights in Chattisgarh as well. Aside from activism focused on the downtrodden sections in Chattisgarh, Sen was also a fierce feminist who believed in equal rights for women, and as per public statements, “gave shape & direction to Women’s Studies” during her time as a professor. Her book The Space Within the Struggle was a detailed commentary on how women challenged patriarchy.

Also Read: Rural Indian Women Will Be Truly Empowered When They Get Equal Rights

Tributes Pour In For Ilina Sen

News of Sen’s death led to a flood of tributes from fellow activists, professors, as well as the general public that admired her. Scholar Salil Tripathi shared the news, writing, “India lost a brave warrior today. Salaam.” Author Nandini Sundar wrote, “Deeply saddened to hear that Ilina Sen passed away – her book, The Space Within the Struggle, was a huge inspiration when I was a graduate student.”

Her students also paid their last respects to her. A user wrote, “Pained to hear TISS Prof. Ilina Sen, an ardent believer of equality and social justice… passed away few hours back. I was fortunate to attend lectures by her.” Another user wrote, “I have no words left to express this condolence. I heard her in an informal discussion at my alma mater… in 2009.”

Image Credit: YouTube screenshot

Views expressed are the author’s own. 

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