A Great Punjabi Woman – Sushila Chayn 1923-2011

Sushila Chayn née Sharda, who passed away in October 2011 at age 88, was a Punjabi communist activist and leader of the [East] Punjab Istri Sabha. She devoted her entire life to the cause of national freedom, workers movement and the emancipation of women.

Born to Hindu reformist Arya Samaji parents of Pathankot she came into contact with Bibi Raghbir Kaur who was a Kirti-Ghadar Party member of Punjab State Legislative assembly, and became a political activist moving to the communist party headquarter in Lahore in 1941. At the time, she also worked amongst women in the district of Montgomery.

She displayed her organising skills in the kisãn peasants conference held in Fatehgarh Korotana in Ferozepur (now in Pakistan). Then she was deputed to work in Kangra district. This was the time when she got married to a party activist Chayn Singh Chayn. Along with Tahira Mazhar Ali, Vimla Dang and other Punjabi socialist women she worked day night collecting funds and other support for the victims of Bengal Famine.

A few yeas later in 1947 when the united Punjab was dismembered, Punjabi communists began to organise peace committees thus saving hundreds of Muslim, Hindu Sikh men, women and children from sectarian violence. Sushila was an important part of it, and later worked tirelessly in rehabilitating women victims of partition.

After 1947, the Chayn couple moved to Jalandhar and they both participated in the 1959 peasants’ anti-betterment levy agitation – Khush-hasiyati tax morcha.

She was the first ever woman panch of her village panchayat council in Daduwal. Till the end Sushila tackled the social problems at the grassroots level – dowry, domestic violence, casteism and inter-caste marriage.

Sushila is survived by her husband and their daughter Savita.

Sushila Chayn’s picture taken by Amarjit Chandan in Jalandhar, 1986.
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