The peasant agitation that has been going on the border of Haryana and UP with Delhi at Singhu, Tikri, Ghazipur, Chilla, Dhansa, Bahadurgarh, etc. marked 18th January as “Mahila Kisan Diwas” (Woman Peasant’s Day). This day was marked to recognise the exemplary partnership of women peasants in the ongoing agitation and their unprecedented contribution to every aspect of this movement.
On this day women were in commanding positions in all activities from conducting the stage to security. Under their command, programs of the day were very well conducted without interruptions and in a peaceful manner.
Women have been very active in the mobilization in their villages against the farm bills since the summer and while more and more women join the protest camps at the Tikri and Singhu borders, many others continue to organize in the local areas as well as run their family farms, while other family members participate at the Delhi borders.
Purogami Mahila Sangathan took part in the dharna at Pakoda Chowk in Bahadurgarh with their slogans – “Long live the Mahila Kisan Diwas”, “Long live the unity of workers and peasants” and “Repeal all three anti-farmers Acts”. Women who had come from Haryana, Punjab, UP and other states actively participated in the dharna. A representative of Purogami Mahila Sangathan also addressed the gathering along with other speakers. All speakers explained how the government has passed these laws to serve the narrow interests of the big companies. It wants to line the pockets of those who are eyeing the land of the peasants. They said that our struggle will continue till these laws are repealed.
In the course of hearing on the farm laws, on 11th January, the Chief Justice of India had asked why women and the elderly were “being made to participate” in the dharna, and even suggested that the Court may pass an order in this regard! Many women participating in the dharna and all over the country rejected this suggestion. They declared that they were at the protest because they have always fought shoulder to shoulder with the men against injustice. They would not return till the laws were repealed.
The Purogami Mahila Sangathan speaker pointed out that in the existing system, the situation of the peasants does not improve with one government replacing the previous one. All governments are directed by the big monopoly houses and they say one thing while doing something altogether different. Policies are decided by the monopoly houses and are based on further exploitation of workers and peasants. This system works to benefit only a handful of monopoly houses – it is not loktantra but poonjitantra. She said that we, the toiling majority are today fighting a dharm yudh. This war is between the exploited and the exploiters. The ruler has failed to discharge its responsibility towards the ruled. Such a ruler and such a system will have to be uprooted. The State that cannot ensure the prosperity and security of its people has no right to remain in power. We have to advance the struggle for the nav nirmaan of the system. We must establish a new political power which will ensure that people are the decision-makers and which will guarantee prosperity and security for all.
Meeting on Mahila Kisan Diwas (Women Peasants’ Day) at Gurudwara Sri Nanak Darbar Trust, Thane
The call of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha to celebrate 18th January 2021 as Mahila Kisan Diwas was taken up enthusiastically all over India. In Thane, a meeting of local activists was held at Gurudwara Sri Nanak Darbar Trust, to celebrate the day. A large number of women and men across communities participated in this meeting.
Ms. Dawinder Kaur Khalsaji, the President of the Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, welcomed everyone. Answering queries about the Kisan Andolan, Dawinder Kaur explained that the three anti-peasant laws will adversely affect the peasants, people in general and specifically women. She urged everyone to support the demand for repeal of the three laws as well as the demand for guaranteed MSP for all crops. She elaborated on the role of the women in the agricultural work in Punjab and their active participation in the dharna.
Chairperson Parvin Kaurji spoke about the fighting spirit of the women peasants. The Supreme Court said that women should not protest. However, if women can bear children, work outside and also look after their homes, why can’t they protest in the streets? The Supreme Court has set up a committees even though the peasants never asked for judicial intervention.
Unmesh Bagwe from Thane Matdata Jagran Abhiyan assured everyone that the citizens of Thane stand with the protesting peasants. The struggle is not only of peasants but also of workers, and we should stand with them all.
A member of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind reminded those present that many people from the armed forces have joined the’ protest. The government should feel ashamed that some soldiers have even returned their hard-earned medals.
Anu from Lok Raj Sangathan explained how the three laws will affect not only the peasants but everyone in this country. She saluted all the people who have gathered in Delhi in this cold weather – the elderly, the youth, and the mothers with little kids in their arms, to fight for their rights. We should support them wherever we are. Workers in various sectors are also fighting against privatization. The youth stand with the peasants and workers.
Even though the mainstream media is trying to distract us, youngsters can see the reality on YouTube and other digital channels. We can see how peasants are working together at the protest sites, how food is being prepared for thousands of people every day, how elderly men and women have joined the protests. This struggle is for our rights and everyone should fight for it.
A member of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind expressed her solidarity with the peasants. She explained how the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 will enable the stocking of essential commodities, which was earlier illegal. This will affect common people extremely adversely because food prices will zoom upwards to absolutely unaffordable levels.
Asifa Shirazi from Jamaat-e-Islami Hind said that our fight is for our rights and for the truth. The experience of her friends from Iraq, Myanmar and her own experience in Iran stand testimony to the generosity of the Sikh community. Muslims have already been called terrorists during the anti-CAA protests. Now the media is doing the same to the protesting peasants. There are peasants and workers from several states at the protest; there are elderly people, kids, teenagers who have left their homes and their studies. It is our duty to support and speak up for the peasants wherever possible.
Vandana Tai from Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti said that the women peasants have reminded us that women are no less than men. She also saw women in large numbers at the Shaheen Bagh protests. Tai sang a song about a woman who participates in community activities and morchas0. She said that there should be more programmes like this.
Girish Bhave from LRS agreed with Vandana Tai that women’s participation in protests has increased especially in the last two years. He was of the view that the peasants’ protest has highlighted two fundamental subjects: food and the Republic. The laws are made without asking us. If the government thinks something is for our benefit, why don’t they ask us first? What is this Republic that doesn’t consult with its people? First they make a law forcefully, and then when crores of people take to the streets to protest, they ask us to take permission for the protest! For the first time since 1947 there are borders within the country. We cannot travel to our own capital city. The government has resorted to digging up roads instead of building them. Electric wires which are installed at the borders are now being thrown on the roads to stop protestors. What kind of democracy is this? Every day thousands of people are on the streets for various reasons: Anti-CAA protests, privatization, agri-laws, labour codes, migrant workers going home. We should work to change this system.
Girish pointed out that peasants at Delhi border have presented a vision of a new society. Singhu border is the safest place in this country for women. Any woman can walk there at any hour. At the protest, everybody sits together and eats together. Nobody is asked their caste or religion.
A member of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind concluded the meeting by condemning the fact that the government is calling the peasants terrorists, when, in fact, they provide food to society. She choked while recounting the news of an elderly peasant’s death while he was moving some barricades in Delhi. The peasant should have been at home resting, but he had to come to the streets to fight for his rights. She assured the meeting that their organisation will always stand by the peasants. This protest is not only of the Punjabis, it is everyone’s struggle and we are all in it together.