Activist Ranjana Nirula, who brought issues faced by working women to focus, dies at 75

Activist Ranjana Nirula, working committee member and former Treasurer of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), died in Delhi on Monday, aged 75. Nirula had been unwell for a few months with Crohn’s disease, but died of complications from Covid-19.

Friends and activists remember her as a “committed Marxist and feminist”, who brought “quality, commitment and depth to everything she did”.

She was introduced to the Left movement as a student in the United States, and was active in the anti-Vietnam war movement. “She came back to India in the early 1970s and joined the Left movement here. She became a full-time CITU member in 1978. She would work in working-class colonies and among factory workers in South Delhi and Faridabad,” said Tapan Sen, general secretary, CITU.

One of the founders of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) in Delhi, Nirula was also a member of the Delhi State Committee of CPI(M), apart from being the Working Editor of the journal titled ‘The Voice of the Working Woman’.

In 2009, when CITU formed the All-India Coordination Committee of ASHA workers, she became its first convenor. “She entered the scene in the 1970s, when issues of working women and middle-class women were not considered issues, and took them on, like how banks did not have separate toilet facilities for women. What was also remarkable about her was that she was at the helm of affairs and held top posts that were usually held by men and broke the glass ceiling… She was very caring and approachable and also critical at the same time,” said A R Sindhu, National Secretary, CITU.

“A staunch advocate of women’s equal rights, a fearless critique of communal fascistic forces, Ranjana was a very affectionate and caring leader who was particular in the cadre development. Her departure is a great loss to the trade union movement in India,” said Sen.

“Ranjana has guided many activists in the movement. She was very affectionate and always reached out to people whenever they needed help. Her ever-smiling face, warmth, enthusiasm and determination will be missed by all of us,” said Malini Bhattacharya, president, AIDWA.