Veteran social activist, scholar, rationalist, and a stalwart of Marathi literature and theatre Pushpa Bhave passed away late on Friday night. She was 81.
Known for her tremendous contribution to social movements in Maharashtra over six decades, including the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement that led to the formation of the state, Bhave, who spent her last days in a wheelchair after her legs were amputated following aggravated diabetes, succumbed to her prolonged illness. She was cremated on Saturday morning. She is survived by her octogenarian husband Anant Bhave.
Remembered as frank and fearless, Bhave, a professor of Marathi and Sanskrit, was fondly called Pushpa Bai, by her students and on the field, where she participated and led several social movements, including agitations against the Emergency in 1975, protests against inflation alongside prominent women socialist leaders like Mrinal Gore and Ahilya Rangnekar.
Bhave backed movements like Dalit Panthers, Andhashradda Nirmulan, Hamaal Panchayat and women’s rights movements like Devdasi Mukti across the country. She is remembered for standing up to the Shiv Sena that was at the time led by its supremo Bal Thackeray, in connection with the Ramesh Kini murder in 1996, throwing her weight behind his widow Sheela, who lived in Bhave’s neighbourhood in Dadar.
Her courage that had inspired many earned her the moniker ‘the Iron lady of Mumbai’.
Dalit writer and activist Arjun Dangle, a founding member of Dalit Panthers, said, “Her contribution as Marathi literary and theatre critic was tremendous. She was a voracious reader and an intellectual but she was not the very serious kind. Whenever we met, she would love to talk. Her simplicity was a part of her charm. She would mostly be wearing an off-white saree.”
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