Ekushey Padak-winning activist Jharna Dhara Chowdhury, who sacrificed her life to the non-violent ideologies preached by Mahatma Gandhi, breathed her last in Dhaka on Thursday morning.
The prominent social activist was born on October 15, 1938 at Laxmipur.At the age of eight, Jharna Dhara fled to Assam in India with her family as communal riots broke out between Muslims and Hindus. In the riot, her house was burnt to ashes and many of her relatives were killed. She, however, returned to her village after the violence ended.
Jharna was moved by Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals of non-violence, self-reliance and community work, and decided to follow in his footsteps.
When she was 17 years old, Jharna along with her sister began a school for the under-privileged children. They would fast twice a week to save some money to buy books and other items for the children because they had no money to run the school.
But the school had to be closed down within a few years, after which Jharna Dhara became a full-time social worker. She lived and worked in Dhaka, Chittagong, Comilla and many other places of the country. Like many Gandhian followers, she stayed single to focus fully on her work.
In 1990, Jharna took over the responsibility of running the Gandhi Ashram Trust in Jayag, Noakhali.
Jharna Dhara Chowdhury also travelled frequently around villages in the Noakhali region to improve the lives of Dalits, who are at the bottom of the centuries-old Hindu caste system.In recognition of her work, Jharna Dhara Chowdhury received the prestigious Padma Shri award (2013), Gandhi Seva Puraskar (2010), Jamnalal Bajaj Award (1998) of India and Begum Rokeya Padak (2013), Ekushey Padak (2015) of Bangladesh.