KEEPING in mind the challenges before women, AIDWA has decided to organise a huge all India women’s protest rally in Delhi on September 4. The main issues are the increasing violence and brutality against women, especially girl children, growing unemployment, food security, the grim issue of starvation and malnutrition and the escalating communal and casteist attacks. The rally will be directed against the anti-women and anti-people policies of the BJP-RSS regime led by Narendra Modi.
The clarion call of the AIDWA CEC meeting that was held in Kolkata on July 13-15, was to mobilise thousands of women for this rally. This will be a mass action that is a follow-up of the Save India National Convention that was held in Delhi on December 8, 2017. Thousands of pamphlets, posters and stickers will be printed for this campaign. Short scripts for street plays which can be performed by women are being developed for this campaign. The CEC also decided that all women in the September 4 rally will stay back and participate in solidarity in the Mazdoor-Kisan Sangharsh Rally in Delhi on September 5. The central secretariat meeting was held prior to the CEC.
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
The frightening regularity with which women and young girls are being subjected to violence and abuse in various parts of the country, is a matter of serious concern. Gang-rape, abduction, physical and mental abuse, torture, threats of killing and rape are not isolated incidents. Instead they are a part of the larger systemic problem. Such incidents must be viewed in the current context where extra-constitutional and self-appointed vigilante groups are having a free rein and roaming scot-free after killing, lynching, murdering and looting people with impunity. They have taken the law into their hands and have derived tacit support and acquiescence from their political masters. Concerted efforts have been made in the recent past by certain political groups to show women their ‘true place’. With the political patronage of the BJP-RSS, there has definitely been a spurt in the number and brutality of such incidents against women.
It is important to remember that one of the prime agenda points of the BJP in the 2014 general elections was ‘women’s safety’. A spate of rapes of minors in the recent past has led to an eruption of rage, disgust and anguish all over the country.
Protests were organised all over the country against the heinous gang rape in Kathua. Demonstrations and torchlight protests were conducted in Kerala. Public meetings too were held in 200 areas with 200 to 1000 women participating in each meeting. A joint demonstration by women’s organisations was held at Parliament Street in Delhi. Protests were held in various districts in Haryana, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra. Protests were held in 26 districts of Tamil Nadu. A rally was held in Telangana. Demonstrations were held in 36 centres in Andhra Pradesh.
AIDWA organised a rasta roko against the rape of a 9 year old girl in Andhra Pradesh and demanded the arrest of the 60 year old culprit. AIDWA also demanded that the state government give Rs 10 lakh for rehabilitation of the survivor. AIDWA intervened in the case of a five year old girl who was raped by a 15 year old boy with the help of three other boys, all minors. As many as 18 rapes were recorded in just two months in Guntur district. The government has failed to prevent the explicit sexual content being circulated on social media and Youtube. A sit out was staged in front of the police station seeking rehabilitation of the victims. Torch-light rally to protest the rape of a minor was held in Maharashtra. Persistent struggles by AIDWA ensured the arrest of a school teacher (ashramshala) for sexually harassing a 10th class girl student.
AIDWA intervened in cases of honour crimes in Kerala and Himachal Pradesh. The Kerala state committee assured all legal and other help for the continuation of studies and future life of Neenu, the widow of Kevin. Nearly 500 women in Malappuram district protested against sexual abuse of a girl child in a cinema theatre. AIDWA delegation met the rape victim in Ghazipur, Delhi. This case was given a communal colour because the accused was from a madrasa.
AIDWA welcomed the judgment holding Asaram and two others guilty of the rape of a minor in August 2013. This is a victory for justice in a case which saw the use of violence and intimidation against the victim and her family. Nine witnesses were attacked, of which three died. The teenaged survivor showed exemplary courage in these extremely difficult and trying circumstances and is a symbol of the fight against sexual exploitation.
AIDWA condemned the shocking statement of the vice chancellor of AYUSH, Baldev Kumar Dhiman, making an astounding claim that ayurvedic medicine provides alternate techniques that can give desired results in choosing the sex of the baby even before conception. Not only does this display a completely unscientific mindset, it also violates the PcPNDT Act which makes it illegal to advertise or promote any method leading to sex selection. The deeply embedded RSS ideology that idealises the male over the female child is blatantly exposed. AIDWA strongly opposed these utterances by the vice chancellor and demanded that a case be lodged against him for flouting the PcPNDT Act. Due to the protests organised by AIDWA in various districts of Haryana, the vice chancellor had to issue a public apology and withdraw his statements.
INCREASING STARVATION DEATHS
The BJP government promised to control price rise but, in fact, prices of essential commodities are skyrocketing and the public distribution system has collapsed. The mandatory linkage of Aadhaar and the elimination of beneficiaries are resulting in starvation deaths. There is an unprecedented price rise of petrol, diesel and cooking gas.
AIDWA has organised struggles for the right to food security in many states. Actions against corruption and cheating by ration shop keepers have been undertaken in Maharashtra. Surveys regarding denial of food grains due to failure in biometric identification and deletion of data in the POS machines and struggles on these issues have forced the authorities to sanction supply of grain quota without biometric identification. Dharna was held at the office of the Food Commissioner in Delhi. Picketing at ration shops, demonstrations/ deputations at food supply offices were also organised. Gherao of godowns was organised in Bihar. Struggles were also organised in Jharkhand, Punjab and Uttarakhand.
AIDWA has been organising agitations in all the states against the anti-people, anti-women policies of the Modi government as well as the state governments. It has decided to study the concrete situation in villages and bastis to expose the false propaganda of BJP especially regarding Ujjwala Gas, Jan Dhan accounts, free homes and electricity connections.
The Modi regime promised two crore jobs per year, but has not provided jobs to even two lakh per year. In addition, demonetisation has resulted in the loss of 90 lakh jobs between October 2016 and October 2017. The government is not ready to ensure minimum wage and social security to unorganised labour and has also drastically curtailed allocation to MNREGA.
Large sections of women are being mobilised for the right to work and implementation of MNREGA in Kolar, Mandya and Gulbarga districts of Karnataka. District level conventions demanding payment of wages of MNREGA workers pending for two years and starting of MNREGA work were held in Hisar, Rohtak, Bhiwani and Kaithal in Haryana. Joint struggles with fraternal organisations demanding 100 days work and payment of unpaid wages were organised in 17 districts in Tamil Nadu. 21,664 women participated in these struggles. MNREGA issues have also been taken up in Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan.
Mother Groups are SHGs who have been given the contracts for cooking food for anganwadi children in Haryana. The Haryana state government has not paid their bills resulting in the savings of these groups being used up. Their days of work have been reduced to only three days a week thereby directly resulting in their earnings being reduced to half. AIDWA has started organising these SHGs and is holding struggles for their demands.
Struggles and campaigns on multifarious local issues were organised in the states namely on issues of drinking water supply and getting tap connections, access to widow pensions, social security schemes, loans for SHGs, land, rehabilitation of flood affected people, against superstition, anti-liquor agitations, electricity, old age pensions, corruption in the pensions for disabled, stoppage of pensions due to Aadhaar linkage, health, education and sports facilities.
The AIKS and CITU have given a call for a massive jail bharo struggle in every district of the country on August 9 against the anti-people policies and communal agenda of the Modi government. Lakhs of workers, peasants and agricultural workers will take part in the Mazdoor-Kisan Sangharsh Rally on September 5. AIDWA has resolved to actively participate in the jail bharo stir and Delhi rally.
The report on current developments for the period from March 25 to July 1, 2018 was placed by general secretary Mariam Dhawale. CEC members enriched the report with their valuable inputs based on their experiences in the states. The report was adopted unanimously.
AIDWA CEC congratulated the West Bengal state committee for the massive participation of women in the recent militant protest in Kolkata against TMC repression. A two day sit-in demonstration there expressed the strong anger of women against the TMC government. The sit-in was organised to protest atrocities against women in the state and ‘murder of democracy’ in the panchayat elections.
The CEC congratulated AIDWA vice-president K K Shailaja who is now the health minister, Government of Kerala, for the exemplary work done by the health department in controlling the dreaded Nipah virus. The efforts of the state government have earned accolades from international agencies, including the World Health Organisation.
The CEC decided to complete the survey of single, deserted and divorced women by July end. This survey aims to bring out the economic dimension, social stigma and sexual harassment faced by these women. The Jan Swasthya Abhiyan is organising a ‘People’s Health Assembly’ on ‘Right to Health and Right to Care’ on September 21-23, in Raipur, Chhattisgarh. The CEC decided that AIDWA representatives will participate in this People’s Heath Assembly.
AIDWA had formed a Trust in memory of its first general secretary, Sushila Gopalan. The CEC decided to hold a Sushila Gopalan Memorial lecture on December 19 every year. This lecture will be held jointly with the Indian School for Women’s Studies and Development.
The AIDWA 12th all India Conference is due in December 2019. The CEC planned the schedule of conferences at all levels before that. It was decided to step up the membership drive. A resolution on the attacks on higher education was adopted unanimously by the CEC. The next meeting of the CEC will be held on October 23-25, in Hyderabad.