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01 Jun 2020, Edition - 1784, Monday

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India News

“ Raja Ram Mohan Roy was the first ever feminist from India”

Indrani Thakurata

Feminism might arguably be the the most popular movement towards Women Empowerment, however it won’t be wrong to assert that the roots of women empowerment in this country were sown by Raja Ram Mohan Roy. When Google paid tribute to him on his 246th birth anniversary, I couldn’t help but think of his relevance in today’s India. Being an influential social-religious reformer, he was instrumental in implementing a ban on Sati Pratha, in which the widow used to immolate herself on her husband’s pyre or took her own life in another fashion shortly after her husband’s death. He also crusaded against social evils such as polygamy, child marriage, caste system, infanticide and illiteracy etc. It was he who first demanded property inheritance rights for women.

When I travelled to Bristol for my higher studies, I knew that it will be lonely and perhaps I will see very few people from the subcontinent. And I wasn’t completely wrong in assuming that. But strangely, I found my connect with Bristol after learning about Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s last few years here. In 1830, he travelled as the Mughal Empire’s envoy to the UK to ensure that Lord William Bentinck’s law banning the practice of Sati was not scraped. He lived and died of meningitis in a village near Bristol on September 26, 1833. It is remarkable that Google celebrated his 246th birth anniversary four days back, acknowledging his contribution as a social reformer. He was rightly called the the Father of the Indian Renaissance, who paved the way for a modern India. “He was way ahead of his time. He was a non conformist, he didn’t believe in rituals. He fought with his parents to stand up for his conviction. The social turmoil that we see because of religion was shunned by him back then. Almost 200 years ago, he stood against Sati, and was championing women’s right to marry and property. Salute to this visionary,” says Sudeshna Saha, an HR Manager.

Noted Singer, Soumita Saha says,“One needn’t be a woman to practice feminism”, says the songbird, whose latest single Ishq was a hit internationally. “Feminism is all about equality and I must say that Raja ji was the first ever feminist from India”, she adds.

“In the era of raising daughters like sons, we do not impart feminist values to our sons. Raja ji should be the role model for every male in this country. It feels astounding to be from the state where a legend like Raja Ram Mohan Roy was born”, Soumita says. In 2004, Raja ji was ranked number 10 in BBC’s poll of the Greatest Bengali of all time.

He was also an eminent educationist. He believed education to be an implement for social reform. Towards this, he set up the Hindu College at Calcutta in 1817.Raja Ram Mohan Roy also pioneered Journalism in India. Journalism’s role in a democratic society is crucial. He first published a newspaper named “Brahma Patrika” and later became the editor of ‘East India Gazzette’. His most popular journal was the Sambad Kaumudi. It covered topics like freedom of press, induction of Indians into high ranks of service, and separation of the executive and judiciary. “We all know the crucial role media plays in a democratic society. I have been associated with this profession for a couple of years. I truly appreciate the the mammoth influence media leverages over the society”, concludes Soumita.

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