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#RIP- Vidya Munshi, First Working Women Journalist, relentless activist, and Veteran Communist leader

PIC: Subhendu Chaki, telegraph


Veteran Communist leader, scholar and writer, Vidya Munshi, passed away on Monday in Kolkata. She was 94.

Arguably the first  working woman journalist of t he country, Ms. Munshi was born in Mumbai in 1919 and worked in various newspapers and magazines, including The Blitz.

She stood first among women in the school-leaving examination and left for England to study medicine.

In 1942, Ms. Munshi joined the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and took part in several programmes of the Communist party in Europe, mainly against the violence and cruelty committed by fascist forces.

In 1945, on behalf of All India Student’s Federation, the student’s wing of the Communist Party of India (CPI), Ms. Munshi participated in an eventful women’s conference (World Federation of Democratic Youth) in Paris.

Ms. Munshi headed the board that publishes the CPI’s mouthpiece, ‘Kalantar’ for several years and was an active member of the party. She headed State Women’s Commission till 2000. She documented her life, the political upheavals and the shaping of women’s movements of her time in great detail in a brilliant memoir, ‘In Retrospect. War-time Memories and Thoughts on Women’s Movement.’

Many important leaders, including members of various political parties, paid their last respects to their favourite ‘Vidya-di’ on Monday afternoon. Her last rites were performed in a city crematorium.


Arguably the first woman journalist of the country, Vidya Munshi Munshi was born in Mumbai in 1919 and worked in various newspapers and magazines.

Below is excerpts from her interview to telegraph in 2006 by Rajashri Dasgupta

Vidya Munsi sits for hours on her chair, reading carefully through sheaves of paper. In the darkened room, with only her face visible, her silver hair pulled back in a tight bun, she looks almost like a painting by Vermeer. She peers through her thick spectacles and uses a magnifying glass to read in the light of the reading lamp. Occasionally, she stops and leans forward to make notes with her left hand. One observes, speechless, that there is absolutely nothing that can deter the indomitable Vidya Munsi, not even a cerebral stroke that paralysed the right side of her body four years ago.

The first working woman journalist of Calcutta, Vidya Munsi is now 87 years old. But her memory is crystal clear even now. She runs me through her student life in Mumbai before World War II, the influence of her father who was a well-known criminal lawyer, her love of books, her induction into the Communist Party in England, her experience as a journalist and her deep commitment to and involvement in social and political causes. Every debate, every issue of the women’s movement that saw her in the forefront in the streets of Bengal and in solidarity with movements in Vietnam, Cuba or the former Soviet Union, is etched clearly in her memory.

Vidya-di, as she is affectionately called, was barely 18 years old when, ranking first among girl students in the matriculation examinations, she set off alone for England to study medicine. Her maternal grandmother stood by her against family resistance, saying, “Why should she not go’ Her father has the money, the girl has the courage.” Courage she certainly had. Vidya Munsi, nee Kanuga, had left home to become a doctor, but politics occupied all her attention and in 1942, she joined the band of Indian Communists in the UK when the Communist Party was still illegal in India. She has never looked back since.

In her book, In Retrospect. War-time Memories and Thoughts on Women’s Movement, Munsi has captured vividly the spirit of the times and the important phases of her political life ‘ the war years spent in England and in the headquarters of the World Federation of Democratic Youth; her visits to different countries as a representative of the women’s movement after Independence ‘ and some important events and debates on women’s problems in India.

Unfortunately, the articles written during her 10-year stint as a reporter from 1952 to 1962 have not been included in the book. At that time, she was the Calcutta correspondent of Blitz, a Bombay weekly critical of government policies and excelling in investigative journalism. One of her ‘scoops’ was on two Canadian pilots who were to fly from Hong Kong with gold and drop it on an island in the Sunderbans, which was then to be smuggled into Calcutta. Another of her major stories that made headlines was on the Chinakuri mine disaster in Asansol where hundreds of miners were killed; the famous playwright and actor Utpal Dutt went on to script the tragedy into a chilling play,Angar.

On her return from the UK after the World War, Munsi married Sunil Munsi, a geographer and editor of the now-defunct journal, The Student. There she was groomed as a reporter. A Gujarati by birth, Munsi learnt to write Bengali many years later. 

In subsequent years, Munsi, a former member of the National Council of the Communist Party of India, endeared herself to women as she found common cause with them. Her majestic 5’ 7” frame could be spotted leading huge demonstrations against dowry or rape or women’s right to work. She was equally comfortable taking part in heated debates on the new feminism that developed in India since the 1980s.

Her non-sectarian attitude and her ability to work with women from different organisations on a common platform will perhaps be remembered by many.

In fact, Munsi took the battle right into the lion’s den. The Communist Party is not known to easily give women a voice or space. To the discomfort of some party bosses, Munsi advocated that women’s issues “was a running battle ‘ a priority ‘ with all other battles” and that socialism itself would not automatically solve women’s problems. A close colleague remembers that at a conference when some leaders lamented that young women were not joining the movement, Munsi retorted that if the party patriarchs did not mend their ways, even the older women would be forced to leave.




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#India – Imminent threat of arrest and harassment of Journalist Sheeba Aslam Fahmi #66A #FOE

4th December 2013

The Chairperson

National Human Rights Commission

Manav Adhikar Bhawan,

Block-C, GPO Complex, INA,

New Delhi – 110 023.

Fax: 011-24651329



Dear Sir,

Sub: HRD Alert – India – Urgent Appeal for Action – New Delhi: Imminent threat of arrest and harassment to Ms. Sheeba Aslam Fahmi, writer / journalist / activist – Reg

We are now writing to express our grave concern regarding imminent threat of arrest and harassment of New Delhi based journalist, feminist activist and human rights defender Ms. Sheeba Aslam Fahmi for expressing her opinion over social media which are supposedly ‘anti-national’.

Source of Information on the Incident:

A communication dated 3 December 2013 from the Asian Human Rights Commission.

Media Reports


About the Human Rights Defenders under attack:

Ms. Sheeba Aslam Fahmi is a reputed writer, journalist, social activist and a regular panellist in news channel debates. She uses social media as a medium to express her views and opinion as a part of her journalism.

The Perpetrators:

Mr. Pankaj Kumar Dwivedi, son of Mr. M.P. Dwivedi

Date of Incident:

August 26, 2011, threat – on-going

Place of Incident:

New Delhi, India


According to the information received, Ms. Fahmi received an unidentified email colouring her writings as ‘anti-establishment’ and ‘anti-national’ and warned her of dire consequences if she does not stop. She made a formal complaint at the Jama Masjid police station in New Delhi under section 66 (A) of India’s Information Technology Act in August 2012. Consequently, a FIR (No. 47/12) was registered by the police in the case. It was found during investigation that said email was generated from the laptop of one Mr. Pankaj Kumar Dwivedi, son of Sh M.P. Dwivedi and was transmitted from the MTNL Internet connection with IP address Mr. Dwivedi later admitted that he sent the email to Ms. Fahmi. The message in the email reads as follows:

“’Friday, August 26, 2011 9:44 AM subject **Warning*** Warning* **Warning ***Warning ***Warning* **Warning ***Warning ***Warning*** Sheeba Aslam, stop posting Anti­Indian and Anti­National comments on Facebook. Stop immediately. Otherwise be prepared for its consequences. ***Warning*** Warning*** Warning* **Warning ***Warning ***Warning***Warning***.

“As per section 66 A of The Information Technology Act, the message is grossly offensive and criminal in intent having menacing character and the sender is liable to be charged for prosecution under section 66 (A) of The same Act. However, the defense argued that the email was sent as a comment of objection to her opinion and did not, therefore, amount as ‘information’ as provided under section 2 clause (v) of the Information Technology Act, 2000. Acting on this argument, Metropolitan Magistrate has discharged Mr. Dwivedi from the charges under section 66 (A) of Information Technology Act 2000 and observed that the postings/publication of Ms. Fahmi attract the provisions of Indian Penal Code under section 153 (A), 153(B) and section 295 A . He, then, directed the police to register a separate FIR against her and investigate the publication as published by her on social media. He also ordered the police to file the compliance report that was to be submitted by November 16, 2013.

However, Ms. Fahmi came to know this development only through media on December 3, 2013 and she was informed by the police when contacted personally that the police authorities will act on the order only after the conclusion of the election in Delhi which is scheduled on December 4, 2013.

Background Information:

The use of cyberspace in India is regulated through the Information Technology Act 2000, amended in 2008 and 2011. Freedom of speech and expression is constitutionally guaranteed in India. However, this protection ceases when the opinion is expressed through cyberspace. If an opinion is published in a newspaper, then it is covered by article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution. However, if the same in posted online, it will be covered by the Information Technology Act. Any message transmitted via the cyber space is considered as ‘communication’ and not as ‘publication’. Section 66 A of The Information Technology Act reads as follows:

“Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc.­ Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device,­

(a) any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character;


(b) any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction,

insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, persistently by making use of such computer resource or a communication device; or

(c) any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages, hall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.


We, therefore, urge you to immediately take necessary steps to ensure that:

  • A stay order on the non-bailable warrant against Ms. Fahmi is passed
  • The perpetrator is prosecuted for threatening Ms. Fahmi and violating her freedom of expression
  • All human rights defenders in India are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment in all circumstances.
  • Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by India is guaranteed

Looking forward to your immediate action in this regard,

Yours sincerely,

Henri Tiphagne

Honorary Working Secretary


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IBN7 journalists attacked by Asaram supporters in Jodhpur, injured #WTFnews #arrestdhongibaba

Swati VashishthaCNN-IBN | Posted on Aug 31, 2013

Jodhpur: Self-styled godman Asaram‘s supporters on Saturday allegedly attacked CNN-IBN sister concern IBN7’s reporters Bhawani Deora. Another IBN7 video journalist have also been injured in the attack.

This happened as Bhawani was reporting the updates in connection with thesexual assault case against Asaram. In fact, earlier on Friday, Asaram failed to catch a flight to New Delhi, after he was prevented from entering the airport due to a clash between his enraged supporters who smashed TV cameras and other equipment carried by reporters waiting for him, sources said.

ALSO SEE Sexual assault case: Asaram skips police deadline, arrest imminent

As news about the Gujarat High Court not entertaining his plea for an anticipatory bail spread, Asaram suddenly left his ashram for the airport, to catch his flight.

IBN7 journalists attacked by Asaram supporters in Jodhpur, injuredOn Friday too, Asaram’s enraged supporters smashed TV cameras and other equipment carried by journalists in Indore.

However, due to a scuffle between Asaram’s supporters and TV news cameramen waiting at the airport over recording his sound bytes, his supporters could not enter the lounge to catch the flight.

ALSO SEE Sexual assault case: Police team leaves for Indore to arrest Asaram

Later, his supporters fought with reporters again and even resorted to pelting stones at the media, while Asaram’s whereabouts were not known, sources said.

Meanwhile, the arrest of Asaram now seems imminent after he missed the deadline to appear before the Jodhpur police for questioning in the sexual assault case of a minor girl. The self-styled godman sent a fax to the police saying he will not be able to depose before them for questioning.

ALSO SEE Is self-styled godman Asaram above law?

According to reports, Asaram has reached his Indore ashram. The Jodhpur police have dispatched a team to Indore. Sources say Asaram is likely to be arrested after the questioning. Security has been tightened in the city. Rajasthan senior police officers have asked for protection for their team from the Madhya Pradesh Police.

Indore police have said that they will allow the arrest of Asaram if Rajasthan Police provides evidence against him. The police the law and order situation is under control.

The police on Friday refused to grant any extension to him. The police say they have several teams monitoring Asaram’s whereabouts to ensure that he does not escape.

“We have received a fax from Asaram’s ashram saying that he wants more time as there has been a death in his family. He claims he isn’t well. We have decided not to give him any more time. Our teams will leave Jodhpur to investigate the matter soon. If he is found guilty, he will be arrested. He has no defence,” Jodhpur DCP Ajaypal Lamba said.

Asaram had applied for a transit anticipatory bail application filed by him in the Gujarat High Court which he later withdrew after the court indicated that it would not grant him bail.

Asaram is accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old schoolgirl and inmate of his ashram. The 16-year-old minor’s father said his daughter is still depressed over the incident and explained why they went to Asaram in the first place despite knowing there were so many accusations against him.

“We thought he is a great man and we should become his followers,” the survivor’s father said.

(With additional information from PTI)


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