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Nellie Sen Gupta

Nellie Sen Gupta


Calcutta, 1933

Born Edith Ellen Gray, she was brought up in Cambridge where her father worked at a club. She fell in love with Jatindra Mohan Sengupta, a student at Downing College, who lodged at her parental home. She married him despite parental opposition and came to Calcutta with him.
Jatindra Mohan Sengupta started a very successful career as a lawyer in Calcutta and joined the Indian freedom struggle in 1921. He became close to Mahatma Gandhi besides being the Mayor of Calcutta for three terms and the head of the Legislative Assembly. Nellie joined her husband in participating in the Non-Cooperation Movement. After his imprisonment during the Assam-Bengal Railwaymen's strike, she forcefully protested against the District authorities imposition of a ban on assembly, addressed mass meetings and courted arrest. She defied the law by selling Khadi(hand spun cloth) door to door. In 1931 she suffered four months' imprisonment at Delhi for addressing an unlawful assembly. Her husband was imprisoned in Ranchi and died in 1936.
Many senior Congress leaders were arrested on the eve of the Calcutta Session of 1931. President-elect Madan Mohan Malviya was arrested en route. As a result Nellie Sengupta was elected in his place, becoming the third woman and the second European-born woman to become Congress president.

She was also elected as an Alderman in 1933 and 1936. She was also elected on a Congress ticket to the Bengal Legislative Assembly in 1940 and 1946.


After independence, she chose to live in East Pakistan in her husband's hometown of Chittagong on the specific request of Pandit Nehru who asked her to look after the interests of the Hindu minority in East Pakistan. She was elected unopposed to the East Pakistan Legislative Assembly. She was a member of the Minority Board and remained an active social activist. When Bangladesh came into being in 1971 she continued to live in Chittagong and was well cared for by the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rehman.

In 1972 she broke her hip and through the intervention of Smt Indira Gandhi she was brought to Calcutta where she was operated on and all medical expenses were paid for by the Indian government.

She was accorded a tremendous welcome in Calcutta . She died there in 1973.

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