RENU CHAKRAVARTY, COMMUNISTS IN INDIAN WOMEN'S MOVEMENT, People's Publishing House, New Delhi, pp227, Rs 12.50.
SINCE the 1970s there has been a steady growth in the number of studies on the social and economic aspects of the situation of women in India. However, it was only during the past two years that the role and participation of women in various movements has become a key question in the analysis of the position of women in India. Initially, the focus was confined to certain social reform movements and to movements led by Gandhi and the Indian National Congress, which had taken up issues such as women's right to property, education, legal status in marriage, suffrage and women's political participation. Although this focus has not changed, more attention is now being directed towards the movements which questioned the social and economic basis of a society founded on inequality and exploitation. A new feature in this debate on the perspective of the movement for women's emancipation is the demand for "autonomous" women's organizations being made by bourgeois "women's rights" groups and many social scientists. It is in this context that the book under review assumes importance.
The 16 chapters cover a broad range of struggles during 1940-1950. These include the anti-imperialist and anti-fascist struggles in Bengal, the anti-feudal Tebhaga peasant movement, the Telengana peasant struggle, the Punnapra-Vayalar struggle against the Travancore princely order, the struggles of working class women, the Warii Adivasi revolt and the campaign on the Hindu Code Bill. The last three chapters deal with communist women's work within the All-India Women's Conference, the formation of the Women's International Democratic Federation and a review of communist women's participation in movements. However, we get a detailed account only of the anti-imperialist and anti-fascist struggles in Bengal, for the author was herself a participant in these.
In 1938, there was a growing mass movement for the release of political prisoners, particularly those kept in the Andamans and Deoli camps. Students were in the forefront of this movement and the All-India Students Federation (AISF), a broad-based students' organization,led it. Although a large number of girls participated in meetings and demonstrations, very few of them were members of the Federation. Backward social ideas and taboos kept girl students away