Patriots > Freedom Struggle under Mahatma Gandhi > Devi, Urmila
Devi, Urmila ( 1883 - 1956 )
Urmila Devi, sister of Deshabandhu Chittaranjan Das, was born at Telirbagh in Dacca on 3 February 1883, in an upper middle class Hindu Vaidya family. Her father Bhuban Mohan das was an eminent lawyer and Solicitor.

Born with the proverbial silver-spoon in her mouth, she had her early education at he Lore-to Convent School in Calcutta. Teenage found her married to Ananta Narayan Sen and burdened with the social and family duties of a wife and mother. But she continued her studies at home and applied herself so assiduously to the task that she acquired remarkable proficiency in both spoken and written Bengali.

She closely followed the fast-changing political scene of Bengal right from he days of the Swadeshi movement. In the ‘twenties her brother’s house was the hub and center of Calcutta, and here she came into contact with people of various shades and opinion, which was an education by itself. Among attracted to the quite-spoken Mahatma Gandhi, for whom religion and politics were one and the same.

In 1920 Gandhiji gave the call for non-violent non-cooperation. Her Husband’s death occurred the same year, and in her distraught state of mind Urmila Devi felt an urge to hold on to something. Non-cooperation was the answer. From 1921, when she joined the non-cooperation movement, till 1933, when at Gandhiji’s behest she toured South India to promote eradication of the evil of untouchability, she remained a close adherent of Gandhiji. Even her brother’s short-lived estrangement from the Mahatma could not interfere with her strong loyalty to Gandhiji.

Urimila Devi was among the first batch of women in Bengal to have defied the ban of selling Khadi during the non-cooperation movement. It was while calling for a hartaal to be observed on 24 December 1921, on the occasion of the arrival of the Prince of Whales in India, that she was arrested and sentenced to a term of imprisonment. On her release, she organized the Nari Karma Mandir to
act as the women’s wing of the non-cooperation movement and also to

undertake the work of national reconstruction. The association was banned as an unlawful organization soon after it was started. In 1926 she toured all over India accompanying the Congress President, Sarojini Naidu.

In 1930 she set up her Nari Satyagraha Samiti for picketing in front of shops dealing with foreign cloth. The Samiti was banned soon after for the offence of organizing a mammoth procession, in defiance of he Governments order, on the occasion of Deshabandhu’s birth-anniversary, and Urmila Devi was sentenced to six month’s imprisonment.

On her release in 1931, she vehemently upheld the right of the detenues for being represented on the Commission of Enquiry set up in connection with the Hijli outrage, and was arrested once again for presiding over a conference held in Howrah district in that connection. Later, she was placed under house-arrest on two occasions and was bound over for defying the order both the times.

After this hectic episode of her career she retired from active politics, although she kept herself in constant readiness to take up any work that Mahatma Gandhi assigned her. It was in that she went to South India in 1933 on Gandhiji’s Harijan mission, and, while there, succeeded in throwing open a temple in Malabar to the untouchables. In 1946, worn-out as she was physically, she unhesitatingly attached herself to Gandhiji’s party when he toured Noakhali in his peace mission.

The old campaigner was laid to rest on 10 May 1956. It may be said here that Urmila Devi did not wish, nor had any need, to shine in the reflected glory of her great brother, C.R.Das. That, of course, should not be taken to mean that her brother did not exert the influence of his powerful personality on Urmila Devi’s formative years. But the fact of the matter is that by her very nature and outlook she was cast in the mould which shaped such examples of India’s woman-hood as Sarala Devi Chaudhurani and Sarojini Naidu.

Author : Kshitis Roy