A tribute to Mohini Giri: A Stelwart of Women’s rights and Peace

mohini giri

Mohini Giri left this world on 19 Dec 2023. Tributes poured in from all those who knew her. Large number of people from across the different paths of life expressed their condolences through coming physically and through their messages. Mohini Giri was an eighty five year old youth, who passionately worked for society till her last. She was an eminent social worker and daughter-in-law of former President of India V V Giri.

At a time when wars and conflicts have been dominating in this world, one should know that after the India-Pakistan war in 1971, Mohini started visiting hospitals to meet soldiers and their families. She observed that for widows of martyrs, there were many challenges including dignity, livelihood, shelter and support for their children. Mohini briefed these findings to Indira Gandhi and this led to the government’s support to widows of armed forces martyrs through free education of children, allotment of plots and gas agencies etc. 

Later, Mohini Giri also established the War Widows Association to extend healing touch to widows of martyrs besides what the army or government were doing for them. Stood in front of all such lines, it was she who was famous for her courageous visits to various places in protection of women’s rights during her tenure in National Women Commission as a chairperson and worked extensively to provide autonomy to commissions. 

I met Mohini ji around the year 2017 and since then she has been supportive to Aaghaz-e-Dosti through her participation and her inspiring messages. She was fond of music, arts, social work, reading everything that actually makes a person an enlightened human being. When we were organising a program of peace march, it was she who offered her Guild of Service office space for Aaghaz-e-Dosti Delhi to Wagah Peace yatra inaugural program. 

When relations between India and Pakistan created a scenario of fear above South Asia, Mohini Giri, Nirmala Deshpande and Syeda Hameed along with other like minded women founded Womens’ Initiative for Peace in South Asia and led a bus full of 40 women social workers to Pakistan where it was welcomed by hundreds of women activists in Lahore holding candles in their hand. This gesture was followed by a bus full of around 64 Pakistani women activists to India led by Asma Jahangir welcomed in India by hundreds of women holding flowers in their hand. 

Mohini Giri established Maa Dham in Vrindavan for widows. She travelled there time to time from Delhi despite her age, invited them to Delhi in many programs and managed to bring some happiness in their lives. She remained active for all causes of peace building and human rights from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. She established Rahat Ghar in Jammu and Kashmir to support children who lost their parents in militancy. 

For her efforts, she was recognised by India’s third highest civilian award Padam Bhushan in 2007, but the actual recognition she received is placing herself in the hearts of thousands of people and touching numerous lives. A film by Meera Dewan was made recently titled ‘Still we rise: The Passion and Compassion of Mohini Giri’ showcased fifty years journey of Guild of Service and also showcased initiatives of Guild for widows of Kargil War martyrs and the wives and children of those who went missing during kashmir insurgency. While showing the work of Mohini Giri for widows through her Maa Dham in Vrindavan, Meera Dewan says that the film attempts to reflect positive interpretation and transformation of stereotypical terminologies into action. Mohini’s wide vision encompasses the rich contribution of every faith to the cause of universal peace.

Her last rites were done at Delhi’s Lodhi road crematorium on 21 Dec 2023. There has been the presence of many who didn’t know each other, but they all were there as they knew and were in touch with Mohini Giri.

We offer our tribute to this great social worker and her departure from this physical world would only be remembered through celebration of her ideas and her actions which shall remain in society and in the hearts of people.

Ravi Nitesh is a freelance writer and founder of Aaghaz-e-Dosti Peace Initiative. He tweets at @ravinitesh

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