The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) expresses profound grief at the passing away of Comrade Ahilya Rangnekar, former member of the Central Committee and veteran leader of the Party. She was aged 87. She died in Mumbai today.
As a young student, Ahilya joined the freedom struggle fired by the anti-imperialist zeal. She organised a demonstration of girl students to protest the death of Mahatma Gandhi's secretary, Mahadevbhai Desai in custody at the Aga Khan Palace. She was arrested and convicted for three months and lodged at the Yeravada jail where she hoisted the Indian tricolour on the wall of the jail.
In 1943 Ahilya began working among the textile workers of Mumbai. She joined the Communist Party the same year. She played a pioneering role in founding and building the democratic women's movement in India. She was one of the founder members of the Parel Mahila Sangh in 1943 which organised food for the striking sailors during the revolt by the Royal Indian Navy (RIN) ratings in 1946. Ahilya was one of the founders of the All India Democratic Women's Association. Later on she was elected as its national working president.
She was one of the leaders of the Samyukta Maharashtra movement for linguistic reorganisation of the state of Maharashtra. Along with many other communist leaders, she was detained by the Government of India under the Defence of India Rules at the time of the India-China border conflict. In 1972 she along with Mrinal Gore and others led the famous anti-price rise movement in the state. She was the first women leader to be arrested and put behind bars during the hated Emergency in 1975.
Comrade Ahilya served the Communist Party with utmost dedication and distinction for more than six decades. She was secretary of the Maharashtra State Committee of the Party between 1983 and 1986. She was elected to the Central Committee of the Party at its Jalandhar Congress in 1978 and stepped down in 2005 owing to age and ill health.
She was in jail for more than seven years and remained underground for two years.
She was continuously elected to the Mumbai Municipal Corporation from 1957 to 1977. In 1977 she was elected to the Lok Sabha from Central Mumbai.
Her simplicity and affable nature endeared her to her comrades and the people. Her sterling qualities as a leader earned her all round love and respect. In her death the Party has lost one of its outstanding leaders. Her life and work will continue to inspire many generations to come.
The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) pays respectful homage to her memory. It conveys its heartfelt condolences to her two sons Ajit and Abhay and other family members.