Shocking! Sheetal Amte commits suicide

Shital Amte

It was indeed a deep shock for everyone, particularly who are in the field of social works, when the news of the suicide of Dr Sheetal Amte-Karajgi, the granddaughter of famous social worker, Baba Amte poured in from this afternoon. Sheetal injected poison in her body and killed herself at her Anandwan residence on Monday afternoon.

Sheetal, who was very active in social media, had been tweeting till about eight hours ago. In her last tweet carried an abstract painting on canvas, titled, “War and Peace.” A medical doctor with specialisation in the field of disability, Sheetal was working as Chief Executive Officer and Board Member of one of India’s leading non-profit, Maharogi Sewa Samiti, Warora . The samiti has built livelihood opportunities for several marginalized people, especially for those afflicted with leprosy, orthopedically handicapped, vision and hearing impaired individuals and primitive tribal populace since 1949.

However, she had raised some questions about the functioning of Anandwan ashram and made allegations about the irregularities in Maharogi Sewa Samiti— a trust controlled by her family members. She had uploaded a video on Facebook in this regard last week but removed the post within two hours. On the other hand, trustees of Maharogi Sewa Samiti—Dr Vikas Amte, Dr Prakash Amte, both the sons of late Baba Amte, and their wives, Dr Bharati Amte and Dr Mandakini Amte– issued a clarification, saying that all the allegations made by Sheetal were baseless and misleading. They also claimed that Sheetal was passing through a mental stress and frustration.

Sheetal was the founder of ‘Mashaal’ and ‘Chirag’, the exclusive leadership training programs for motivating medical professionals across India. She has recently set up a centre called ‘Nijbal’ for offering cradle to coffin services to people with disabilities in India. Nijbal worked towards prevention of disability, primary, secondary and tertiary education, vocational training and employment support, various types of counselling, sports and medical and physical rehabilitation services. She was also engaged in an ambitious project of making Anandwan a one of its kind ‘smart village’ in the country by making it technologically efficient, economically productive and environmentally sensitive. In January 2016, she was selected by World Economic Forum as ‘Young Global Leader 2016’ and later, was selected as a Member of World Economic Forum Expert Network on Humanitarian Response.

Anandwan has also served as a social laboratory for three generations of Amtes for experimenting with their social and economic philosophies. These experiments have yielded some of the most daring social and ecological programmes in India. Sheetal studied medicine, became a doctor, and joined her family working at Anandwan to continue her grandfather’s vision to serve the last man of the society. Her father Vikas, brother Kaustubh, uncle Prakash Amte and aunt Mandakini Amte are also doctors at the community and serve the underprivileged people of the backward region.

Soon after the news of her death hit the social media was abuzz with reactions to her alleged suicide, as public personalities and citizens expressed grief at the death of the social activist. Many even highlighted her last tweets and wondered how Sheetal must’ve been dealing with “trauma churning her soul”. Indeed it’s a very sad news, and the loss cannot be compensated. Her sad demise is irreparable!

M Charulata