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A tireless crusader /Courage & conviction/ by Rashmi Talwar


Courage & conviction
A tireless crusader

As a young girl of barely twenty years in 1946, Kunti Paul set out to do social service and remained committed to the AIWC as member of the standing committee for nearly 40 years. That however did not deter her from lending her expertise and enthusiasm to other prominent associations at the time, says Rashmi Talwar

KUNTI Paul begged, cajoled, persuaded and performed an almost impossible task — that of convincing women (young and old to part with their jewellery and money.

As an exemplary gesture, Kunti first donated the gold bangles which her father had lovingly given her at the time of her marriage. She helped to collect gold and money equal to the weight of Jawaharlal Nehru who made a fervent appeal after the 1962 Chinese aggression, to help tide over the financial emergency. Since the rupee did not find many takers in the international markets at that time, gold was valued in exchange in order to help buy weapons and stabilise economy of a newly independent nation. At the forefront of the freedom movement, Kunti had laboured before the country faced gruelling events of Partition.

“It wasn’t an easy task,” she recalls, But it meant “freedom” call the word a magic potion or adrenaline that sustained the very existence of Indians at the time. Nehru had selected her for the daunting task, as she had proved her dedication and worth as the national president of the All India Women’s Conference (AIWC), a national body for women’s empowerment since pre-Partition years.

Thereafter, she went on to represent the country at the United Nations and spoke passionately on the plight of Indian women. Kunti has specifically focused on a woman’s predicament after her circumstantial or deliberate abandonment and her subsequent rehabilitation. She elucidated her viewpoint on the law and legal system to ensure shelter to women in cases of divorce settlements, widowhood, maltreatment and that of physical and mental abuse. Frail in health at the age of 77, as she presided over the local unit of AIWC’s annual function recently and surveyed its progress, she has lost none of her formidable spirit. She insists on walking without the support of a walking stick.

Not untouched by tragedy, Kunti had lost both her sons. While one of them had died in 1990, after fighting a prolonged battle with cancer, the other one Narbhir Paul an MLA in UP was killed by assassins in 2000. She immersed herself with the work of women’s uplift and empowerment and went on to complete her Masters in history at 60.

The AIWC has nearly 500 branches all over India, many of them were established with her help in north India. As a young girl of barely twenty years in 1946, she set out to do social service and remained committed to the AIWC as member of the standing committee for nearly 40 years. That however did not deter her from lending her expertise and enthusiasm to other prominent associations at the time.

She was a member of the habitat and environment quarter of a century since 1976. Having spoken at national and international seminars, she wrote several papers on environment and women’s problems. She remained an executive member of the Red Cross society, child welfare, blood bank society, cancer society, citizen’s peace committee. Having travelled all over major countries of the world she says: “Women’s problems remain the same throughout the world.” A member of the Punjab State Family Planning Board, the small savings scheme board, state social welfare advisory board Kunti guided the activities of grameen mahila sangh in villages. She helped to collect funds and amenities for defence forces during both the Pak aggressions and also helped in military hospital and organising women’s defence councils then the most threatening problem faced by India is “population explosion” and we should borrow the blue-print of family planning programme from China, with some valid modifications, to take a strong steps to stem the burgeoning population, she contends.

However, amazingly, her only dream which still remains to be fulfilled is to do her doctorate (Ph.D) in history.

First carried in The Tribune in 2003 http://www.tribuneindia.com/2003/20030413/herworld.htm#2

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