Malati Devi (1904-1998)
Malati Choudhury was an another towering and glittering women freedom fighter of Odisha. The name of Malati Devi have cought the imagination of Odisa people not because she was a great writer, not because she was a political thinker, but because she was a man of immense simplicity and openness.
She was born in an aristocratic family in Calcutta on 26th July, 1904. She was the daughter of eminent Barister Kumuda Nath Sen and Snehalata Sen. Being the youngest child of her parents she was dear to all her brothers and sisters. After compliting her education at Shantiniketana, she married Nabakrushna Choudhury in 1927. There after she bid a good-bye to Calcutta and come to Odisha.
Here both of them joined in the Gandhian movement and lead a eventful carrier in our freedom struggle. Even in times of individual satyagraha Gandhiji selected Malati Devi to carry on Satyagraha in Odisha. 9 For which she was arrested. But nothing perturbed her. When the last Gandhian movement, quit India movement, was broke out in 1942, she contributed immensely to make it grand success. She was arrested in 1942 for participating in quit India movement and remained in jail up to 1945.
She had established Baji Rout Chhatravas 1946 and Utkal Navajivana Mandala in 1948 at Angul. 10 The Baji Rout Chhatravas had its genesis in the Prajamandala movement and started provide residential and educational facilities to the children of the freedom fighters. Established in the memory of a 12 years old boy Baji Rout, who refuse to give way to the Britishers on Brahmani river by boat. The Chhatravas had become institution of national importance. The Utkal Navajivana Mandala was a voluntary organization of repute engaged in rural development and tribal welfare in Odisha.
When Nuakhali, a village in Bengal was in the grip of communal riots, Malati Devi joined with Gandhi and visited the riot affected areas of Nuakhali. There she worked with Gandhi in untiring zeal and Gandhiji used to call her “Tofanee”11 for such activities even Rabindranath Tagore affectionately called her “Tofanee”
After Independence, Malati Devi was a member of constituent Assembly of India and as the president of Utkal Pradesh Congress Committee tried her best to emphasize adult education in rural reconstruction.12
When her husband, Nabakrushna Choudhury became the chief minister of Odisha from 1951-55, she did not like to stay in the government quarter’s in Bhubaneswar. She adopted the life of dedication and lived at Angul among the poor and destitute. She highlighted the plight of the schedule caste and tribes.
Padayatras become the most effective instruments for these women to reach to the people. Influenced by Gandhian ideology, She decided not to take part in politics but should work for the people. She had joined in Bhoodan Movement of Acharya Vinova Bhave.13
She had organised the Krusaka Andolan as the part of freedom struggle against zamindars and money lenders. She had also encouraged women to fight superstitious beliefs for their own empowerment. She was awarded with many honours and titles of National importance for promoting Gandhian values and for her social work.