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India’s First Woman Trade Union Leader: 5 Facts You Must Know About Anasuya Sarabhai

The more Anasuya learnt about the condition of mill workers, the more determined she became to organize them

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On 11 November 2017, Google celebrated Sarabhai's 132nd birthday with a Google Doodle.
On 11 November 2017, Google celebrated Sarabhai's 132nd birthday with a Google Doodle.
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Anasuya Sarabhai was the founder of the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association, and also initiated the women’s labour movement in India. Under Anasuya, the union worked for the welfare of workers, not against the mill owners. It was her personal concern for the workers and her open approach towards the mill owners that ensued a harmonious relationship between the workers and mill owners.

Her association had a non-confrontational attitude. In 1978, the union was representing 1.5 lakh workers of 65 textile mills in Gujarat. Ela Bhatt, the founder of SEWA, worked under Anasuya Sarabhai as a young college graduate back then.

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Here are 5 facts about Anasuya Sarabhai you must know:

1. She was married off at the mere age of 13.

Anasuya Sarabhai lost both her parents when she was only nine. She and her siblings were raised by their father’s younger brother, Chimanbhai Sarabhai. She was forcibly married off by her uncle at the age of 13. It was a brief and unhappy marriage, shortly after, she divorced her husband and returned to her family.

2. Anasuya was always determined to study.

After she returned home, she was determined to continue her studies. Her brother, Ambalal, completely supported her in this. In 1912, she left for England to continue her studies. There, after meeting suffragettes and Fabian socialists, she found her calling to serve the cause of social equality.

3. She opened schools, creches, toilets, a maternity home and a hostel for the dis-empowered section of the society.

After returning to India in 1913, she started working with the dis-empowered communities. She opened a school for poor students of all castes; she used to bathe and teach them herself. Following which, she started opening creches and toilets for women, a maternity home and even a hostel for Harijan girls in her home.

4. It took just one conversation to turn Anasuya’s attention to the cause of workers.

Describing the life-changing experience, Anasuya had once said:

“One morning, I was sitting outside in the compound combing out the children’s hair when I saw a group of 15 workers passing by as if in a trance. I called out to them, even though I did not know them well, and asked them, “What’s the matter? Why do you look so listless?’

They said: “Behen, we have just finished 36 straight hours of work. We have worked for two nights and a day without a break, and now we are on our way home.” These words filled me with horror. This was no different than the kind of slavery that women faced!”

She was shocked to horror! The more Anasuya learnt about the condition of mill workers, the more determined she became to organize them.

5. Anasuya Sarabhai fought against her brother, Ambalal, to sow the seeds for the trade union movement in India.

In 1914, when Ahmedabad was hit by a plague, the mill workers went to Anasuya and requested her to take up their cause. She advocated better wages and working conditions for the workers. She gave the mill owners 48 hours to meet her demands, after which the workers would go on a strike. This time, she had to battle the displeasure of her brother who was the then-president of the Mill Owner’s Association.

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It was a 21-day strike, at the end of which mill-owners agreed to pay higher wages to the workers. Thus, the seeds for the trade union movement in India were sown.

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Hinduism Acts As a Boundary for the Spread of Radical Islam in India: Chinese Media

The article called attention to the solid impact of Hinduism in India

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Hinduism in India
Hinduism in India. Pixabay

Sep 03, 2014: Muslims in India generally stayed unaffected from the radicalization of Muslim gatherings in different parts of the world in light of the strong impact of Hinduism in the nation, which has established a mark of itself by going past a religion to end up plainly as a lifestyle and a social establishment, said the state-run Chinese media on Wednesday.

Adulating Hinduism for helping India setting up an ever lasting attachment towards the religion among different sects, an article in Global Times, titled – “Hinduism tied to India’s geopolitical standing” said that Hinduism made India a boundary for the spread of radical Islam on the global geopolitical scene.

The article asserted that-

Why does it seem that Muslims in India have remained largely apart from the radicalization that has happened to Muslim groups in other parts of the world? Indian Muslims seldom have extreme organizations compared with groups in many other Asian countries. In the southern part of the Philippines, extremists backed by Islamic State have turned their occupied cities into horrible places. In southern Thailand, terror attacks staged by Muslim extremists take place almost every week.

The article called attention to the solid impact of Hinduism, the dominant religion of India while answering the question: Why does it seem that Muslims in India have remained largely apart from the radicalization that has happened to Muslim groups in other parts of the world? 

“Like many other religions, Hinduism has its extreme side, but for the most part, its more moderate side has the strongest influence. Perhaps it is this more moderate influence that has helped establish India’s lasting cohesion and is one of the reasons that the country has not separated”

Indians take pride in the Mughal Dynasty, the time of history which was built up by Muslims, not even by the Hindus, however, there was a strong Hindu influence in that time also.

“In the long history of India, Hinduism has gone far beyond a religion to become a lifestyle and social institution. Both its extreme and tolerant sides have constituted the foundation for its relationship with Muslims and this dual character is going to exist for a long time,” it said.

The consequence of this relationship has made India a hindrance for the spread of radical Islam on the global geopolitical scene.

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The article brought up that the absence of Islamic fanatics in India has established its role in Asia and it has been thought about by the US, Japan, Russia and European nations as well.

“In the future, India is sure to continue to stand out in geopolitical significance when it comes to increasing religious and ethnic conflicts around the world. Where China is concerned, this significance should not be ignored”, the article concluded.


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