Why Mahatma Gandhi choose Amal Prabha Das to manage his social work in the Northeast

Amalprabha Das was awarded Padma Shree Award in 1954. Mahatma Gandhi appointed Amal Prabha Das to supervise the work of the Kasturba Gandhi Memorial Trust in the Northeast

Amal Prabha Das was a social reformer who worked relentlessly for uplifting the condition of women in Assam. She was a Gandhian and set up countless ashrams to uplift the economic condition of women in Assam. She is the first Assamese woman to obtain a master’s degree in Science. She is the recipient of the Padma Shree Award 1954. And when the Government of India decided to honour her with the Padma Vibhushan award, Amal Prabha Das declined to accept it.

Early Life
Amal Prabha Das was born on November 12, 1911, to Hare Krishna Das and Hema Prabha Das in Dibrugarh, Assam. She completed her primary education at a local school. When she was denied admission to the local Cotton College, she moved to Bethune College in Calcutta where she completed her schooling in 1929.

She completed her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the Scottish Church College and later applied for a master’s degree in applied chemistry, becoming the first Assamese woman to obtain a master’s degree in science. When the British run Cotton College offered her a teaching job, she refused to accept the position.


Social Work
In 1934, Amal Prabha had the chance to interact with Mahatma Gandhi, who stayed at her house during his visit to Guwahati. The meeting influenced her greatly and motivated her to work for the welfare of the society.

Amal Prabha along with her mother visited the Maganbari Centre of Self Development at Wardha in 1939 to learn about the village reform activities. The family soon set up indigenous industries on their land in the Sarania Hills and began training the local people in small-scale industries and handicraft work.

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When Kasturba Gandhi died in 1944, Mahatma Gandhi set up the Kasturba Gandhi Memorial Trust. He appointed Amal Prabha to supervise its work in the Northeast. The Sarania Hills ashram was renamed as the Kasturba Ashram. “Yeh ladki chatur hain, kam kar sakti hain,” Gandhiji said about Amal Prabha when he visited the ashram in 1946. Later, the Kasturba Ashram helped establish 21 Gram Sevika Kendras in Arunachal Pradesh.

In 1950 when a devastating earthquake hit Assam, members of Kasturba Ashram and the Gram Seva Kendras helped in the relief work. Under the aegis of the Kasturba Ashram, Kasturba Kalyan Kendra was established at Lakhimpur to help those who were rendered homeless by the earthquake. She also set up Guwahati Yubak Sevadal to fight untouchability and worked closely with Vinoba Bhave’s Bhoodan Movement.

As India celebrates 70 years of independence, we bring you stories of women who were part of the Indian Independence Struggle. You might have heard about some of them but most do not find a mention in our history books or popular memory. These were ordinary women from all walks of life who managed to make extraordinary contributions to the cause of freedom. This series is our tribute to these women and their exemplary work. We bring you 70 stories of courage and valour over the next one week leading up to 15th August 2017. Write to us, if you have any names to add to this list. Email: inuthsocial@indianexpress.com

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