The national President of All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) and former member of the central committee of the CPI (ML) Liberation Srilatha Swaminathan passed away in the morning of 5th Feb. 2017 at Udaipur, Rajasthan. Comrade Srilatha Swaminathan suffered a brain stroke on last Sunday and was brought to Udaipur where she was admitted to the ICU of Chaudhary Hospital in Hiran Magri area of Udaipur district.
Comrade Mahendra Singh Chaudhary, her husband and state secretary of CPI (ML) Liberation and other leaders of the party were with her. Her condition was improving and she was responding well to the treatment but she suffered a cardiac attack and passed away early Sunday morning.
Comrade Deepankar Bhattacharya, All India General Secretary of CPI(ML) has described her death as a great loss to the party as well as to all left democratic movements of which she had been a strong pillar. He said that she was like a bridge between the party and a wide range of democratic movements across the country which she espoused due to her widespread awareness and empathy for the people. Comrade Deepankar arrived in Udaipur on Sunday morning. He had come to meet Srilatha Swaminathan but got the news of her demise as soon as he arrived early morning in Udaipur. He said that CPI(ML) will do everything to carry forward the legacy of Srilatha Swaminathan.
Srilatha Swaminathan has been a fire brand leader of the masses and did a lot towards empowerment of the Adivasis, small peasants, labour and workers of the region. Born on April 29, 1944 at Chennai, she belonged to an illustrious family. Her father Mr. Govind Swaminathan was a barrister at the Supreme Court of India, her grandmother Ammu Swaminathan was a member of the constituent Assembly and was elected five times from Chennai a member of Parliament. Captain Laxmi Sehgal of INA was her aunt who contested the Presidential election against APJ Abdul Kalam as ajoint opposition candidate, another of her aunts Ms. Mallika Sarabhai has been a world renowned Bharat Natyam dancer.
After her graduation from Chennai, Srilatha joined National School of Drama and earned a degree from there. Later she went to London and got a one year diploma in theatre from there. In 1973 she met Comrade Mahendra Singh Choudhary at Delhi in a meeting and later they got married in 1976 when Comrade Mahendra Chaudhary was underground. In 1975 when internal emergency was declared by the Congress government, she was arrested and put in Tihar jail. She remained in Tihar Jail for ten months.
In 1977 after the emergency, Srilatha and Mahendra decided to make Rajasthan their second home. For about a year she worked with Seva Mandir, an institution founded by Mohan Singh Mehta who knew her mother too. Later she moved to Ghantali, a small village which was in Banswara district then, She stayed there for many years and led strong movements against forcible displacement of tribal people particularly the oustees of Mahi dam and also the Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada river. She organized hotel workers, slum dwellers, bonded labour and farmers. The Rajasthan Kisan Sanghathan was a formidable force which led the peasants to a strong struggle against feudal oppression, loot of the tribal people and peasants by the trading class as well as against the police and forest officials.
Srilatha was the President of Rajasthan Kisan Sangathan for some years and in her leadership the peasant uprising at Hadmatiya took place. She was appointed Supreme Court Commissioner twice -once for the bonded labour in Rajasthan and then for the oustees of Narmada dam. Srilatha Swaminathan joined CPI (ML) in 1972 and was elected to be a member of the central committee in 1997. She remained a member of the central committee for fifteen years when for health reasons she requested the party to free her from this responsibility in 2013. She also served the party organizations as the Vice President of AICCTU and President of AIPWA. Since 2011 she had been confined to bed but she did not leave her field in the village Ghantali and was living there where she suffered a massive brain stroke on 29th Jan and was moved to Udaipur for treatment.
According to Comrade Shanker Lal Chaudhary, member state committee of CPI(LM) her cremation will take place on Monday at Ashok Nagar Crematorium, Udaipur.