LRS interviewed several women activists of Purogami Mahila Sangathan who had prepared for and participated in the March 8 rally, in which thousands of women and men participated. Here is the report as narrated by them.
This rally was different from the previous one’s in the sense many organizations had come together and been working for this over almost a year as active members of the Centenary Committee for International Women’s Day. The meetings and discussions we had on various issues that affected women across sections, the public events that were organized across Delhi, among students, working women, jhuggi dwellers, all of this helped us to work in a united manner in preparation for this March event.
The statement we prepared together, the mobilization work we all did was reflected in the fact that 1000s took to the streets. The spirit and enthusiasm was high. It is no small thing that over 30 organisations working on the question of women came together. What came out very clearly was that this situation, this social system that kept alive the oppression of women had to change. The leaflet that we issued together on this occasion, explained the main issue of the history of International Women’s Day and appealed to all women and men to continue and step up the struggle against price rise, for health care, universal PDS and food security, for guaranteed livelihood, fair wages and good working conditions, equal pay for equal work for women and men, social security for domestic and unorganized workers, against Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and all repressive laws, against all forms of violence on women including state organised communal violence and state terrorism. We brought to public notice that we recognize and acknowledge that genuine emancipation of women is possible only in a society where other inequalities and injustices also cease to exist, and that we have to link the struggles of other sections oppressed by patriarchy, class, caste, and religion. Thousands of copies of the leaflet were distributed along the route of the demonstration.
The demonstration was disciplined and the participation was wide and very good and filled with militant spirit. One thing that struck was that a large number of young people participated. They outnumbered the older generation and this augurs well for the future. The demonstration turned into a huge rally, and as we all gathered at Jantar Mantar, representatives of all the participating organizations contributed in one way or another. Speakers at the rally pointed out that the call to celebrate March 8 as International Women’s Day had been issued a hundred years ago by communist women, who saw the road to emancipation of women in the struggle to overthrow the capitalist system of exploitation and usher in socialism. Representatives of different organisations raised their voice against the outright attack on the workers and poor of our country as a result of the huge price rise and destruction of the public distribution system, the proposed amendments to labour laws to deny the rights won by working women and men through struggle and sacrifice, attacks on women on the basis of caste and community, the growing violence against women, state terrorism and black laws such as AFSPA in Kashmir and the North East. Songs hailing the struggles of women and oppressed masses against oppression and injustice was welcomed. A skit performed by school girls of a slum colony, depicting how the spiraling prices of food and other essential items are causing immense hardship to workers and their families was applauded and appreciated by one and all.
When we spoke, we did not mince our words! As PMS we pointed out that the present political system is not really a democracy and this system only takes care of the big capitalists; we are sidelined and kept out of the political process and power, deprived of the right to make decisions or initiate laws about issues that affect our daily lives. Those guilty of committing the worst atrocities on women are never punished because the culprits in most cases enjoy powerful state support and political patronage. What justice can be expected when the accused, the prosecutor and the judge are the same, i.e. the state? What use it to have some women in power in the present system? Our president is a woman, but she as commander in chief of the army is responsible ultimately for hundreds and thousands of women raped and killed in the north east and Kashmir. What good is it that we have a Chief Minister in Delhi who is a woman, who cannot even provide for basic necessities such as sanitation and safe toilets for women? We said what we have always stated over this year and before that the united struggle of women and men, to bring about a change in the political process and establish political power of the working people, men and women can only ensure that we as women can be truly emancipated!
We feel that what we have started as a centenary committee has to continue throughout this year and in the years to come. We have to keep on working at building consciousness among more and more women, this is hard work no doubt – but it has to be done. We have to organize women in every section, we have to lead in each and every struggle, we have to be clear what politics we are taking to the people, the politics of clear understanding on how this system is organized, who is responsible, and what actions need to be taken. It is our consistent work in the last year or so that has won us recognition and respect. There is no doubt in our minds that we will carry on until we achieve total success!