Dividends of Rashtra Sevika Samiti’s three years struggle
Asim Kumar Mitra
Finally, the heritage Roy Villa in Darjeeling, where Sister Nivedita had breathed her last on October 13, 1911, will be converted into a centre of excellence, and would be called the Ramakrishna Mission Nivedita Educational and Cultural Centre. It is true that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s initiative resulted in an exchange between the state government and the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) whereby the latter handed over the Roy Villa to the state. The state, on its part, gave the Tenzing Norgay Youth Hostel to the GTA.
It is worth mentioning here that a continuous and relentless effort had been put forward by the Rashtra Sevika Samiti to take over the said Roy Villa for making it a befitting Memorial of Sister Nivedita as she had sacrificed her whole life for the welfare of India and for uplifting the standard of Indian women in the field of women empowerment. Under the leadership of Pramiltai Medhe, the Rashtra Sevika Samiti was pursuing this effort since the 125th birth anniversary of Sister Nivedita.
Only in the month of December last year, Pramiltai along with Asha Sharma met the newly elected President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee and tried to impress him with their heartfelt eagerness to take over Roy Villa at Darjeeling and to renovate the burial of Sister Nivedita as we all Indians owe a duty to that great sanyasini. The President, on his part, promised that he would take up the matter with the state government.
Later on, Shanta Akka, the present head of the Rashtra Sevika Samiti, along with Sunita Haldekar, Mahua Dhar etc. visited Darjeeling and Shanta Akka asked the local Sevikas to meet Shri Bimal Gurung, head of GTA, and try to get things done. Swami Suhitananda, general secretary of Ramakrishna Mission, had lamented by saying that it took more than hundred years to uphold the proper memorial for that great soul.
Although this background was missing in the utterances of Chief Minister or other leaders present at the function at Darjeeling on 16th May, 2013, people are happy that at long last Mamata Banerjee had kept their sentiment. An agreement was signed between GTA principal secretary Ram Das Meena and West Bengal information and Cultural Affairs Department joint secretary Piyali Sengupta in the presence of the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, GTA chief executive member Bimal Gurung and Swami Suhitananda at the Roy Villa on 16th May paving the way for the Nivedita Centre.
While the Cultural Affairs department will be handing over Rs. 1 crore for the renovation of the Roy Villa, the Chief Minister has asked the North Bengal Development ministry to hand over the same amount to GTA for the upgradation work of the youth hostel located on Dr. Zakir Hussain Road in Darjeeling. Mamata Banerjee informed that Ramakrishna Mission had plan to put up a permanent exhibition on Sister Nivedita’s life and works to perpetuate her memory. Apart from this a computer training centre, a joint entrance coaching centre, to facilitate the IAS and IPS examinees of hill areas there will be a coaching centre, work as a campus of Vivekananda University of Belur, building up of self-help group of women etc. will be taken up by this centre. GTA has requested to start a girls’ school for hill-girls. As Ganesha was to Vyas Deva while he was writing Mahabharata, Sister Nivedita was to Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose while he was doing his research on plant life. Sister Nivedita had done a lot to empower the women of India. She had a huge contribution in the national freedom movement. Acharya Bose took her to Darjeeling as she was unwell. Acharya made an arrangement for her stay at Roy Villa which was owned by Dwarka Nath Roy, husband of Jagadish Bose’s sister in law. Nivedita had taken ill at that time and in no time it took a serious turn. Renowned doctor of Calcutta Dr. Nil Ratan Sarkar was present at Darjeeling at that time but his treatment could not help her and she breathed her last on October 13, 1911 in this building. She was just 44 years old.
“It is a historic moment and we are signing a historic document, Sister Nivedita had dedicated her life for the downtrodden. This building was under the games and sports department of the GTA. We thank Gurung for handing over this building to the state government,” said Mamata. She further said, “While the facilities will be looked after by the Ramakrishna Mission, the building and infrastructure will be under the state government’s information and cultural affairs department.”
At the first stage Left Front government of the state had turned down the request to take over the building “Roy Villa”, then 20 years back the request of Ramakrishna Mission’s request to GNLF head Subash Ghising was also found the same fate. That way Mamata Banerjee could claim the full credit for implementing such a great project. Recently, Roy Villa housed the Gorkhaland personnel voluntary force Repeated attempts by the state go0vernment to remove the Gorkhaland personnel camp from the premises had failed. Finally, the camp was removed on May 14— the day Mamata arrived in the Hills.
In this connection, the Kolkata edition of Hindustan Times had coined the incidents of Sister Nivedita’s life in the following words :-
Margaret Elizabeth Noble was born on October 28,1867 in the town of Dungannon, Ireland.
In November, 1895 she met Swami Vivekananda who was then visiting London.
Inspired by Swami Vivekananda she arrived in Kolkata on January 28, 1898.
On March 11, 1898, Swami Vivekananda organised a public meeting at Star Theatre at Kolkata to introduce Margaret Noble where she expressed her desire to serve India.
On March 17, 1898, she met Sharada Devi, wife of Ramakrishna Paramahansa who greeted Margaret affectionately as “khooki”.
On March 28,1898, Swami Vivekananda formally initiated in the vow of Brahmacharya (lifelong celibacy) and gave her the name of Nivedita (the dedicated one) becoming the first Western woman to be received into an Indian monastic fold.
On October 13, 1911, she breathed her last at Roy Villa.”