Nellie Sengupta, daring British woman and Indian freedom fighter

Nellie Sengupta (1886–1973)Veethi

Nellie Sengupta (1886–1973)Kamat's Potpourri
 When India was struggling hard to get freed from the British yoke, several European women, settled in India, gave their whole-hearted support to the Indian politicians, among them, a few  got involved directly and earned the ire of the British. These courageous women were very particular about ending the repressive British rule in India, for they themselves saw how the gullible Indian natives were being exploited by the colonial masters.

Nellie Sengupta (1886–1973), an English woman, took keen interest in India's freedom struggle  along with her Bengali husband and decided to fight for the Indian natives who were exploited by the British in every conceivable way. In order to get involved actively and  get better exposure with prominent Indian freedom fighters, she joined the Indian national congress and  fought for Indian Independence.  Hard working and assertive, she won the trust of countless  major  political leaders  and this provided a platform for her to express her zeal in India' s freedom . No doubt she got a chance to  become an elected president of the Indian National Congress at its 47th annual session at Calcutta in 1933.
Daughter of Frederick and Edith Henrietta Gray, her original name was  Edith Ellen Gray and  was brought up in Cambridge.  She fell in love with a young Bengali student
Jatindra Mohan Sengupta, son of a successful Indian lawyer from Chittagong.  In spite of  parental opposition to her marrying an Asian, she was quite resolute and   married Jatindra Mohan and returned to Calcutta along with him. Nellie had two sons by Jatindra - Sishir and Anil. It is quite amazing, being a western woman, she adopted herself to her husband's country and handled her role  with aplomb as a devoted wife, caring mother and a true Indian patriot and freedom fighter. Her energetic mind, interest  and savoir-faire made her indispensable to freedom fighter  close to her.

Called to bar after his return  to Bengal, India, Jatindra became a successful lawyer in Calcutta and developed good social contacts with a wide section of people, in particular,  freedom fighters and local politicians.  His political career began in 1911 as he was a delegate from Chittagong to  Bengal provisional Conference at  Fridpur. After giving up his practice, he joined the freedom struggle going on at that time  and soon became a dedicated worker and was close to Gandhiji and while he was in  Bengal Jatindra was quite helpful to him.  He used his political contacts wisely and became the Mayor of Calcutta for five  terms, besides he became  the head of the Bengal Legislative Council
Jatindra Mohan Sengupta. JHE Auctions

In 1921, Gandhiji's Non-Cooperation Movement became popular  across India and Gandhiji felt it was a way to rattle the British. Both Nellie and Jatindra took keen interest  and joined  the Non-Cooperation Movement of 1921. In 1923 he was elected to BLC  and in 1925 he became the president of Bengal  Swaraj Party after the demise of C. R. Das, a great freedom fighter and later became a leader of BLC.  Jatindra was jailed by the British government for  his participation in the  the Assam-Bengal Railway men's strike as he was the president of the labor union of the railways as well as Burmah oil company. During this tough time,  Nellie took her cudgels against  the District authorities  and expressed  her outrage over her husband's imprisonment and imposition of a ban on the assembly. She organized  mass meetings  regarding her husband' imprisonment and courted arrest.  To register her resentment, she purposely flouted the laws by selling home-made  Khadi (hand-spun cloth) door to door in Chittagong. In 1931 she  was jailed  for four months at Delhi. Reason: She was addressing an unlawful assembly in support of her husband.  Her husband Jatin  died in 1933 at Ranchi while undergoing jail term.

In the same year, when the Salt Satyagraha gripped the attention of the British,  to nip it in the bud, they  arrested  many senior Congress leaders including  Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya who was  the President-elect of the Congress.  This happened before the Calcutta Session of 1933. As there was no effective leader to head the session, the responsibility fell on  Nellie Sengupta who took the place of Malviya and became  the third woman, and the second European-born woman to be elected. Yet another credit was  she became an elected  Alderman to the Calcutta Corporation in 1933 and 1936. She was a member of 
the Bengal Legislative Assembly in 1940 and 1946 on Congress ticket. During the Second World War, when her attention was drawn  to  foreign troops' misbehavior, she never failed to condemn such acts.

After partition of India in 1947, she preferred  her husband's hometown of Chittagong (then Pakistan), in Bangladesh and stayed in his paternal house. Keenly involved in social welfare activities in Chittagong, she also took care of Hindu minorities problems there. She was elected unopposed to the post of  East Pakistan Legislative Assembly in 1954.   When Bangladesh was born in 1971, she remained  in Chittagong and in 1972 she broke her hip and came  to Calcutta  for medical treatment.  

Considering her selfless sacrifices and her major role in India's struggle for freedom with her husband, both state and central governments honored her lavishly.  Thorough out Jatindra's life, as a true wife, she was behind him and gave inspiration and moral support and did not mind risking her life and privation.  She died in Calcutta in 1973. Till her last breath,  she was loyal to India and lived the life of a worthy woman, taking care of the aspirations of her husband. No doubt, she won the esteem and admiration of Indians from all walks of life.