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The Logical Indian community is deeply aggrieved to pen down this obituary of Mrs Indrani Sinha, who was born in 1950 and passed away due to a heart attack on 22nd August, 2015. Beginning her career as an English teacher in Kolkata, Sinha took to working on women’s issues. In 1987, she started Sanlaap, meaning dialogue, involving like-minded friends and professionals. It provided training for women’s self help groups to begin with.
Sanlaap’s motto, which is the first thing that one notices on visiting the website, is “Speaking of the Unspoken”. You can check out the website here:
The motto refers to the breaking of silence around the often unspoken sexual abuse and violence girl children, particularly embroiled in prostitution, face. When Sinha was pursuing her first study on such girls in 1989-90, she had to visit the brothels of Kolkata and its suburbs. It is here that she came across stories of women being tricked into prostitution, their dismal health conditions and almost daily torture. Despite all odds they had no way to escape as they feared the powerful prostitution mafia. That is when Indrani realized what her calling in life was – to work for their rehabilitation in mainstream society, provide education to them and to collaborate with the bureaucracy, police, legal system and local Panchayats to deal with the root cause of trafficking.
This strong, compassionate and courageous leader believed in networking with local officials and interacting with and educating local population in order to bring about a change in the mindset of people. She has worked with NGOs in Bangladesh and Nepal High Commission to prevent these girls from being sucked into prostitution again. Where government officials are unable to provide safe shelter to those rescued from the flesh trade racket, Sanlaap runs four shelter homes, housing 200 girl children and also HIV+ patients. It is strategic not to use any boards so that these girls are not stigmatized or discriminated.
The endeavours of Sanlaap have been recognized and it has received two national awards: an award for the best welfare organization in India in 1997, and a National Commission for Women award in 2000. In 2003 – 04 Indrani was invited by the United Nations Organization to work in their mission in war-torn Kosovo. However, the best reward, which cannot be quantified, is to see the rescued girls live comfortably and productively in mainstream society. It is this which motivates them to work against all odds, like threats of life from the prostitution mafia, withdrawal of funds meant for HIV patients on various pretexts and the debate regarding legalization of prostitution.
The formidable women that Indrani Sinha has been able to nurture through Sanlaap, will continue the admirable work even after her death. She has left a void which cannot be filled, but we wish her soul rest in peace, and hope her vision continues guiding her peers.