ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Death and Desire in Times of Revolution

This paper engages with the choices made by Pritilata Waddedar (1911-32), a member of the Chittagong-based Indian Republican Army, who died on 24 September 1932 after successfully leading a siege on the Pahartali European Club in Chittagong. Pritilata has long been accorded iconic status as a virangana in nationalist historiography. Her dying statement has been studied by historians to understand whether and how the politicisation of women in anti-colonial struggles resulted in a reordering of gender relations. This article engages with the complexity of Hindu women's participation in militant anti-colonial struggles by problematising the choices made by them. It attempts a decentring of knowledge by exposing to scrutiny areas of "private" experience of women in "public"/"political" movements through a reading of the writings of Pritilata, Kalpana Dutt and Surya Sen.

The first draft of this paper was read at a seminar of the Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata in October 2008. Subsequently, comments from Modhumita Roy, Jasodhara Bagchi and Shefali Moitra enriched the draft. Swati Ganguly suggested the title of this article. Subhasish Mukherjee, Rajib Kundu, Amit Kumar Suman, Ruchira Goswami and Aveek Sen helped variously. Over the years, conversations with Kalpana Dutt’s youngest sister Maitreyee Roy, her husband and well-known Marxist critic the late Ajit Roy and their daughter Nandini Roy helped in more ways than can be accounted for.

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