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Remembering Trupti Shah - Tributes from Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan), Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) and Narmada Bachao Andolan

27 May 2016

print version of this article print version - 27 May 2016


The women’s movement, the environmental cause, the struggle for justice has lost a voice that never flinched from standing up for victims of exploitation, injustice and violence. Trupti Shah (54) left us on May 26, 2016 in Vadodara after a valiant battle against lung cancer.

Trupti, an economist by training, centered her lifelong activism primarily on women’s issues, constantly drawing its intersections with development, environment, communal strife, caste, labour and human rights issues.

With parents, Thakorbhai Shah, a known labour union leader and mother Suryakanta Shah, active in public life, Trupti was drawn into people’s struggles very early in her life.

Trupti always attributed her initiation into activism to her parents. In her own words, “I inherited the spirit, ‘not to tolerate any injustice’ from my father who left his career as journalist and Gandhian ideology to fight against injustice and became a Marxist-Trotskyist and Trade unionist. Along with him and other younger comrades from the Communist League, a Trotskyist group, I witnessed or participated in most of the major movements that emerged in Gujarat in the 1970s. My involvement in the women’s movement has its roots in these experiences.’’

Her first experience of people’s movement was in 1973 when she was just 11-years old. She, with five other girls was detained in the state home of children for three days for participating with the elders in the anti-price rise movement that started in Vadodara to protest Rs. 1 hike in milk prices. She was soon to actively participate in the ensuing Nav Nirman Andolan and anti-Emergency movement. A product of Maharaja Sayajirao University’s distinctive academic atmosphere from her kindergarten studies, Trupti was to plunge into the women’s movement from her student days. And that turned into her lifelong passion.

As a young 18 year old, unlike most other Gujarati youth, she became active in the Communist League (CL), the Indian section of the Fourth International, which supported autonomous women’s movement world over. Dr. Vibhuti Patel, one of the leading activists of the Communist League was to mentor Trupti’s initiation in the autonomous women’s movement. Dr. Neera Desai, a renowned sociologist and feminist, too was a major influence on Trupti’s young mind and her work for women’s rights.

When the nationwide movement for reopening the Mathura Rape Case seeking amendments in legal provisions related to rape was started, Trupti was a part of the forum, Narishoshan Virodhi Samiti(Committee to Resist Exploitation against Women) to be initiated in Vadodara. Disenchanted with the apathy of women political leaders towards gender based violence, she participated as perhaps the youngest delegate in the first conference of Autonomous Women’s Movement organised in Bombay in 1980. The proceedings sharpened the need in her to start something afresh in Vadodara for women’s rights. And so she resolved: ‘there is a need to have an autonomous women’s organisation in Baroda which will uphold the interest of women above all other issues and political affiliation.’ And the rest of her life became a persistent effort towards building such an organisation.

An effort of several years and like-minded friends resulted in Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan) an initiative led by the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda students in 1984. The overriding consciousness resulted in an organisation by women and for women with the long term aim to work towards a society free from inequality, injustice and atrocity - a society where women enjoy equal status and recognition as human beings. Resisting communal forces and fundamentalists of all hues, in striving to uphold the principles of equality and non-discrimination, soon became central to all Sahiyar’s initiatives.

Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan) is a feminist group in Vadodara. She was one of its founder members. Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan) works for women’s rights and strives to create awareness among society on women’s issues. She was involved in awareness programmes like street theatre, organising workshops, training, participatory research and publication on behalf of the organisation. She was also involved in counseling of adolescent girls and women and providing legal support to them.

Her concerns were not limited to only women’s issues. She brought gender perspective to other public concerns such as environment, civil liberties, human rights, anti-communalism and all just causes.

She was involved with several social / voluntary organisations since her student days and undertook community work and social awareness work through these organisations.

One such organization being Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), an organisation working on the issues related to environmental rights and awareness. As also a part of PSS, Trupti brought in her impeccable research and analytical skills and her understanding of human environment in identifying and studying the rampant environmental degradation and displacement of adivasis in the name of development for land grabbing and privatization. The concerns highlighted by her have found their expression in the changing environment over time, which only goes to showcase the depth of her understanding. Her thorough approach and holistic understanding of environmental issues, helped in preparation for legal action, an important aspect of her action-oriented approach.

She was also involved with People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), as well as the Radical Socialist.

Trupti brought her expertise and sensitivities of women’s rights to other struggles and every major social upheaval that she responded to – during the anti-Narmada dam agitation, the anti-nuclear protests at Mithivirdi area, the fight against industrial pollution in Gujarat, the 2002 Gujarat Carnage, the various government undertaken slum demolition drives, and raised environmental concerns in Gujarat from time to time including in respect of the Statue of Unity project, Garudeshwar Weir project and the recent Vishwamitri Riverfront Development project, flagging the environmental violations, livelihood issue and damage being caused by the projects.

Her academic association with MSU continued simultaneously; in various capacities - as a researcher, teacher, and as academic coordinator with the Women’s Studies Research Center and later in the faculty of commerce and faculty of social work as well.

She infused her academic expertise in her activism, translating it into action-oriented work at the grassroot level. Whether she was involved in preparing training manuals for NGOs, reviewing exercises, conducting training programmes, community programmes, she combined her academic brilliance with radical activism. She constantly flagged concerns and violations of all kinds with a rare passion.

She earned her Ph.D. for her thesis, “Economic Status of Women in Urban Informal Sector – A study of Baroda City” from MSU in 2000.

She continued to write extensively, with her unwavering faith in the collective women’s movement. She took great satisfaction in the four part: ‘Nari Andolanno Itihas’ (History of Women’s Movement), a series of books on the History of women’s movement in 4 parts in Gujarati, Published by UNNATI and Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan), (2011).

During her last days, she was most concerned about the violations in the Vishwamitri Riverfront Development Project case, especially related to the river’s bio-diversity, environmental degradation, loss of livelihoods. Her concern to her last breath: behno na adhikar ni vaat loko nathi sambhadta….nadi, Paryavaran ni vaat loko samjhe to saru-People are apathetic to women’s rights….it would be good if they understand the issue of river, environment.

She is survived by her fellow comrade, activist, friend and companion, Rohit Prajapati, who has been her partner in her efforts and pillar of support, and her son, Manav, amongst other family and friends.

Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan) and Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS)

National Office : 6/6 Jangpura B, New Delhi – 110 014 . Phone : 011 2437 4535 | 9818905316
E-mail: napmindia at | Web :

Trupti Shah : A Tribute

New Delhi, May 27, 2016 : National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) mourns the death of comrade Trupti Shah, feminist, environmentalist, and human rights activist. Born in to a family of activists, she went to jail at the age of 11, in anti price-rise movement in 1973, later got involved during the Nav Nirman Andolan and struggles during the time of Emergency. She was committed to the question of women’s equality and against the violence and couldn’t tolerate any form of injustices. She was part of many agitations as a member of the Communist League – Indian Section of the Fourth International. A turning point in her own thinking came after attending the founding conference of the Autonomous Women’s movement in Bombay in 1980. In her own words,

“I could feel the stark contrast in the way of functioning, the concerns and almost every thing between the Autonomous women’s movement and the local forum – Nari Shoshan Virodhi Samiti – in Baroda. Unable to articulate my observations and feelings I declared in the last plenary session of the conference that, “we need more young blood, young girls’ in our organisation in Baroda.” This was a hilarious move as I was perhaps the youngest delegate in this national conference.

This was a turning point in my life. A decision was made, ‘there is a need to have an autonomous women’s organisation in Baroda which will uphold the interest of women above all other issues and political affiliations.’ And rest of the life became a persistent effort towards building such an organisation.

It took several years of efforts along with like-minded friends, students from the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda to initiate the Sahiyar Stree Sangathan in 1984. The consciousness of the secondary status of women through our experiences of women at home and in the public sphere and the influence of the autonomous women’s movement were two important factors that had strengthened our urge to start an organisation by women and for women with the long term aim to work towards a society free from inequality, injustice and atrocity – a society whose women enjoy equal status and recognition as human beings.”

She and Shiyar fought many battles since then. For Narmada Bachao Andolan, what specifically remains etched in memory is the fact that in 90s Gujarat, in a completely polarised society on question of Sardar Sarovar Dam, she along with a few others stood firm with NBA. She and her group Sahiyar along with a motley group of people portrayed the same courage in aftermath of 2002 riots, which not only engaged itself in the relief work, but also worked tirelessly to build bridges between communities, establish peace and continue to fight for the justice for the riot victims.

She left us all at 9.15 p.m. on May 26, 2016. She battled lung cancer that was detected in October 2014. Rohit Bhai and family could not honour her last wishes to donate her body to the hospital as Hospital authorities refused to accept due to her critical illness. She continued to work even till last day. Cancer could slow her down but not break her. She leaves behind a wide body of work, commitment, grit and a team of dedicated activists.

We remember our last meeting with her, on March 27th in Ahmedabad, when some of us came together to celebrate collective struggles and remember time spent together. We were all touched by the sheer greet, determination and her love for life. Life of Trupti and Rohit, as a couple, continue to be an inspiration for many.

Our heart goes out to Rohit Bhai and their Son Maanav and the wider activist community who will feel the loss everyday. Trupti Behn you are in our thoughts and memory and we will miss you in our struggles. Rest in Peace and Power !

(Read her life story in her own words for Zubaan Poster Women Project, dt July 25, 2011

Medha Patkar - Narmada Bachao Andolan and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM); Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Shankar Bhai, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan; Prafulla Samantara - Lok Shakti Abhiyan & Lingraj Azad – Samajwadi Jan Parishad - Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, NAPM, Odisha; Dr. Sunilam, Aradhna Bhargava - Kisan Sangharsh Samiti & Meera – Narmada Bachao Andolan, NAPM, MP; Suniti SR, Suhas Kolhekar, Prasad Bagwe - NAPM, Maharashtra; Gabriele Dietrich, Geetha Ramakrishnan – Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, NAPM, TN; C R Neelkandan – NAPM Kerala; P Chennaiah & Ramakrishnam Raju – NAPM Andhra Pradesh, Arundhati Dhuru, Richa Singh, Nandlal Master - NAPM, UP; Sister Celia - Domestic Workers Union & Rukmini V P, Garment Labour Union, NAPM, Karnataka; Vimal Bhai - Matu Jan sangathan & Jabar Singh, NAPM, Uttarakhand; Anand Mazgaonkar, Krishnakant - Paryavaran Suraksh Samiti, NAPM Gujarat; Kamayani Swami, Ashish Ranjan – Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan & Mahendra Yadav – Kosi Navnirman Manch, NAPM Bihar; Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmatgar, J S Walia, NAPM Haryana; Kailash Meena, NAPM Rajasthan; Amitava Mitra & Avik Saha, NAPM West Bengal; Bhupender Singh Rawat – Jan Sangharsh Vahini & Rajendra Ravi, Joe Athialy, Vijayan M J, Madhuresh Kumar and Shabnam Shaikh – NAPM, Delhi