Towards a Decisive Victory
in the Historic Battle for Women's Rights
The 23-year-old Delhi gang-rape victim finally succumbed to her injuries on 29 December morning after battling on bravely for 13 days. The unknown young woman will go down in history as one of India's most memorable martyrs for the cause of justice and freedom for India's women – freedom without the fear of violence and fetters of patriarchal domination.
If the government had thought that by transferring the 23-year-old victim of gang-rape to Singapore it would succeed in defusing the people's anger and diluting their action and resolve, it could not have been more mistaken. The news of the courageous fighter finally succumbing to her injuries in a Singapore hospital triggered a renewed countrywide wave of collective anger and mass mourning.
The government that betrayed shameful insensitivity to the brutal incident and the agitation that erupted in its wake is now desperate to score political points. Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, who never showed the courage and sensitivity to reach out to the protesters, were at the airport to receive the victim's body. The funeral was held in the shadow of high level state security away from the reach of the public. And the Delhi government has now come out with the announcement of a compensation of Rs 15 lakh and a job for a family member of the victim.
But the scar inflicted by the brutal gang-rape can surely not be healed with token gestures or pious platitudes. Rape is the most violent and sordid expression of a deep-seated prejudice and structural discrimination against women that defines mainstream society and culture in India today. That a Congress MP, who also happens to be the son of the incumbent President of India, could make such a vicious comment about women participating in the ongoing anti-rape agitation and then get away with an empty apology with the party refusing to take any action against him, comes as a shocking pointer to the misogynist mindset of the ruling elite. And the Indian state, the judiciary included, has little will to combat this mindset – on the contrary, more often than not, it behaves as a custodian of this mindset. No wonder then that India has such a high incidence of custodial rapes.
It should be remembered that the two key milestones of the anti-rape agitation in the last three decades were both related to custodial rape. The well-known Mathura rape case which galvanised women's organisations in the first frontal battle on the issue of rape was a shocking instance of a custodial rape condoned by the apex court. In fact it was the acquittal of the accused constables by the Supreme Court overturning the High Court verdict that triggered the first powerful wave of anti-rape protests in the country in 1979 and led to some stringent provisions in the anti-rape law by 1983.
The second powerful wave came in July 2004 in the wake of the rape and killing of Thangjam Manorama by the Assam Rifles regiment of the Indian Army. The women of Manipur drew the attention of the whole world with their bold protest, and this, together with the historic hunger strike of Irom Sharmila Chanu, has placed the call for the repeal of the draconian AFSPA firmly on the agenda of the democratic movement of the country. Indeed, the democratic movement has been increasingly aware of the fact that state and state-sponsored violence, from Kashmir to Gujarat to Chhattisgarh and beyond, has unfailingly been marked by the targeting of women for horrific sexual violence.
The ongoing agitation which has already galvanised the people on such an encouragingly big scale marks the third major milestone in the epic battle against violence against women in India. It is important to grasp and stress the linkages of the current phase with the previous phases in the history of the women's movement because the government is bent upon reducing it to a passing event to be buried under the bureaucratic framework of investigative committees and token legislative changes. Changes in rape laws and other laws dealing with women's rights, and more importantly with the mechanism of implementation and the justice delivery system, are of urgent importance and the government must be forced to adopt an inclusive and transparent democratic process in proper consultation with women's organisations to bring about much-needed and much-awaited changes in this direction. The issue of change in rape laws can certainly not be left at the mercy of a Parliament which has been busy holding back for the last two decades a legislation for one-third reservation for women in legislative bodies.
But the impetus generated by the December upsurge in Delhi and across the country cannot and must not be allowed to be lost in a battle exclusively concerned with legal provisions for justice to rape victims. For the first time in modern India, the issue of patriarchal violence against women has occupied the centre stage of the democratic movement with great force. In 2013, we must carry forward this great momentum towards a decisive defeat of all the patriarchal ideas and forces which fetter women's freedom and violates their dignity and democratic rights. Victory to the power of the protesting people that has begun to make its presence felt on the streets of India!
Make 2013 a Year For Freedom from Violence Against Women, For Women's Equality and Rights
On 29 December, following the death of the Delhi gang rape victim, thousands shared the pain and grief of the passing of that brave fighter... And strengthened their resolve to resist sexual violence and defend women's freedom and equality.
At Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, a very large number of people gathered in silence in the morning. After several hours, as the gathering grew in size, Asmita theatre group, RYA and AISA activists began singing songs of freedom. Chants for women's freedom and against moral policing and violence also began as the day progressed, enthusiastically taken up by young women and men too.
Women's groups that had marched from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar also formed a human chain and joined the gathering, after holding an impressive mass meeting at Jantar Mantar.
In the evening, a huge, silent procession marched with candles on to the Parliament Street and back. At the forefront of the throng were a huge number of young women. Tears could be seen in many of their eyes. The sea of candles and the solemn, saddened faces was a moving sight - and a silent rebuke to those in power who see these protesters as a security threat needing policing by RAF and armed gunmen...
At noon on the same day, the JNU students and teachers led by the JNUSU held a massive silent procession from JNU past Ber Sarai to the same Munirka bus stop where the brave girl and her friend had boarded the fateful bus. On the way they were joined by large numbers of common people, especially women, and at the bus stop they held a short public meeting.
On the evening of 30th December, AISA, RYA, AIPWA along with the New Socialist Initiative held a Walk for Freedom march throughout Delhi University, which was joined by more than a 1000 students chanting 'Hum kya chahte - azaadi' (What do we want? Freedom), highlighting women's freedom to be born, to be safe on buses and metros, to go to school and college, to study, work and speak their mind, to dress and choose partners as they wish, to be free of patriarchy and of khap diktats, to be free of the fear of sexual violence.
On 31t December, AISA and RYA along with Asmita theatre group, held a 'Reclaim Connaught Place' march, joined by hundreds of people. The police disallowed the march, so protesters marched to Jantar Mantar, chanting slogans and singing songs. At Jantar Mantar, a huge gathering adopted a pledge for the year 2013, the text of which is as follows:
Struggle to Make 2013 a Year
For Freedom from
Violence Against Women
For Women's Equality and Rights
On the very eve of the New Year of 2013, the life of a young woman was brutally cut short. This young woman with her dreams of education, of a job, of love and happiness, lives on in all of us. Her courage and dignity inspire us to resist the terrible discrimination, bias, and violence that eats into the heart of our society, and to demand justice and freedom for every woman. It takes courage to confront the government, the police and other institutions and demand accountability. It perhaps takes even greater courage to face and fight the daily discrimination and shackles that are imposed on women in our own homes and communities. We hope that we will find that courage in the spirit of that nameless young woman who lives on in our hearts."
"We pledge to make 2013 a year of resistance to gender oppression, discrimination, and violence. We pledge to support women's struggle in the home, in the community, on the streets, at the workplace and in public spaces for equality and rights. We pledge to speak out against gender bias and violence wherever we see it."
On the night of the 31st, more than thousand people responded to a call given by the JNUSU and JNUTA, and marched in a 'Reclaim the Night' procession from JNU past the Munirka bus stop to a public park where a cultural gathering was held.
Delhi Unit of Jan Sanskriti Manch organised a meeting on 28 December 'Against the Culture of Rapes: Oppression of Women and the Role of the State and the Society' in Delhi at Indian Women's Press Corp.
On the same day Hundreds of women and men assembled near Tammukkam Grounds in Madurai, Tamilnadu, and took a pledge to continue the struggle of women against patriarchy and paid condolence to the Delhi gang Rape victim and rape victims of Tamilnadu. They in a raised voice warned leaders of political parties and religious institutions who are bent upon making rules to be followed by Tamil women. Later, they marched towards Madurai Collecotrate with their Charter of demands.
AISA and AIPWA organized a convention against violence on women on 24th December, 2012 in Murshidabad, West Bengal. Convention emphasized the necessity of united struggle of women, students and youth against this violence. The program was conducted by Aritra Goswami of AISA. A painting exhibition by Anupam Roy on gender violence was also held on the occasion. Observing the Dhikkar Diwas, called by the CPI(ML) West Bengal state committee, hundreds of women and students-youths with posters, banners and red flags marched in the town.
Protest in Guwahati: In protest of sad demise of the victim of Delhi gang rape, AIPWA brought out a protest procession in Guwahati on 29 December, jointly with 16 women and cultural organizations. Women and men from different walks of life participated in the protest and demanded punishment for the perpetrators, enactment of a strong law against rape, to prosecute the case in a fast-track court, to ensure security of women everywhere. AIPWA, AIDWA and Nirjyatan Birodhi Aikya Manch (NBAM), Asom Lekhika Santha, Nari Mukti Sangram Samiti, Assam provencialised Bank Employees' Union (Women Cell), Asom Mahila Samata Society and cultural organization like Jana Sanskritik parishad (JSP), Asom Gana Sanmilan etc. Took part in the protest. The procession concluded in a mass meeting where AIPWA leader Junu Borah, Sumitra Hazarika (NBAM), Arati Dewan (AIDWA), Menaka Devi (Bank employee), Loknath Goswami (JSP), Dr. Dilip Borah (Prof. Gauhati University) etc. addressed the gathering.
Odisha State units of AIPWA and AISA protested against Delhi gang rape on 26th december, 2012 in front of the State Assembly in Bhabaneshwar. People from nearby districts of Puri, Khurda, Kendrapada and Bhubaneswar came to attend the rally. They criticised the failure of both State and Central government on security of women in the society and demanded exemplary punishment to the culprits, fast-track trial of the rape cases and justice to the rape victims.
On 24 December a RYA-AIPWA-
AISA protest march condemning the Delhi gang rape started from Subodh Mallick Square in Kolkata and culminated in a street corner meeting at Esplanade. It was well decorated and full of enthusiasm. The meeting was addressed by comrades Chaitali Sen of AIPWA and Ranjay Sen Gupta of AISA.
Ripples of Anti-Rape Protest in
Karnataka: AISA members went around HDKote town, enforced strike in many colleges on 24 Dec. 2012 against the gruesome Delhi gangrape and the subsequent crackdown on peaceful protestors by the police in Delhi. Hundreds of students led by Javaraiah (CPIML), Shivkumar (RYA) and Javara (AISA) marched on the streets and staged Rasta Roko in front of the HD Kote taluk office of Mysore district.
Students led by Prasad, Manju, Shasi and Prakash marched to the DC office at Davanagere and submitted a memorandum against the police repression on peaceful protestors in Delhi. Some of the Ministers present in the DC office came personally to receive the memorandum and engaged in debate with agitators.
Uttarakhand: Protests were held in many towns of the state on 19 December. AISA held a protest demonstration in Rudrapur against the Delhi gangrape. Activists shouted slogans in front of Uttarakhand minister Indira Hridayesh who was delivering speech in the annual function of Govt. PG College along with the local BJP MLA. Both of them did not even mention the heinous rape crime which has shaken the conscience of the country. When women activists of AISA went over the dais to ask why the minister prefer not to speak on the gandrape, they were to face police force. One women constable went even to the extent of misbehaving with AISA leader Dipika Bharti by saying that 'why the protest when she herself was not raped at least'. This led to more protest by students and scuffle with the police. Later, the college administration issued 'no entry' notice to AISA leaders Lalit Matiyali and Dipika Bharti. This incident led to another protest against college administration on 21 December. AISA activists held a protest and mass meeting on 22 December too in the main market of the town where an effigy was also burnt. AISA in Rudrapur again called for a citywide protest on 24 December on this issue.
In Pithoragarh, AISA leader and Students' Union President Hemant Khati led a protest demonstration againt Delhi gangrape on 20 December and burnt an effigy of UPA Govt. Another protest was held on 25 December which was attended by hundreds of students and other people. Protesters declared an all out war against patriarchal and anti-women attitudes of government and in society. They demanded more sensitive laws for women. This was also addressed by AIPWA leader Mina Bisht and RYA's Sushil Khatri.
AIPWA organised a dharna in Haldwani on 25 December and also raised cases of gender oppression, rape-murder in Uttarakhand. They condemned the state governement for their failure to nab the culprits on many rape cases occured in the region and blamed complicity of politicians in those cases. It was demanded to institute CBI inquiry into the rape cases occured in Haldwani in past years including ones of Sanjana and Priti who both were raped and murdered but the administration failed to take any successful action. A memorandum was submitted to the SDM on this issue.
Jute Workers Demonstrate
The workers of Nuddea jute mills (24 parganas north) organized dharna and demonstration in front of the mill gate from 12-14 Dec demanding to run the factory in all the three shifts and to engage all the workers still out of employment. It also demanded immediate disbursal of PF and the all the dues to the retired workers forthwith, to deposit ESI contributions timely and ensure medical benefit etc. This mill was closed for several years and was reopened on 13 Aug 2012 after a tripartite agreement was signed with BCMF(AICCTU) and other 9 TUs. After reopening the mill, the management violated the agreement and BCMF protested against all such anti worker steps. On 31st Oct , the management colluded with other unions and an anti-worker bipartite agreement was signed, keeping BCMF in the dark. All this aggravated the situation and the workers were highly agitated. BCMF took up the real issues of the workers and decided to organize dharna in front of the mill gate. On 12 Dec, the notice of diluting mandatory jute packaging order was burnt where hundreds of workers participated. On 14 Dec nearly 500 workers gathered, organized a militant rally and submitted a memorandum to the management. The participation of women from workers families was quite significant. AICCTU leaders Basudev Bose, Atanu Chakravarty, Nabendu Dasgupta, Shambhu Bandopadhay, Narayan Dey, Md. Jahim & Cpiml leaders Subroto Sengupta ,Sunita were present and addressed the workers.
Various programmes were held on 19-20 December in all the states by AICCTU and its affiliated Trade Unions in the wake of All India General Strike call of the joint platform of trade union centres.
A Convention was organised in Ranchi on 9 December jointly by central trade union organisations which was attended by hundreds of workers representatives. Comrade Suvendu Sen of AICCTU called for all out efforts to make the all India strike a great success. He said that corporate-politics nexus has intensified attacks on workers' rights and livelihoods and this must be resisted. This strike should give and opportunity to the working class of forcing the rulers to revert the regressive economic policies. It was decided in the convention to hold workers conventions in six centres and mass meetings at 100 places in the state before the general strike. On 18 December thousands of workers held gherao of Jharkhand Raj Bhawan and chakka jam on their demands as was decided by the All India Convention of Workers in Talkatora Stadium in Delhi held on 4 September.
AICCTU's performance in Joint Council of Trade Unions (JCTU) Jail Bharo in Karnataka on 19 Dec. 2012 was very impressive. AICCTU in Bangalore participated in good numbers and was relatively a bigger contingent in total participation. The rally marched to the PF Commissioner's office and the office was gheraoed. Leaders of all trade unions addressed the protestors in front of the PF office. Shankar, AICCTU Vice President, called upon workers to make 20-21 Feb. 2013 all-India strike a grand success. He also came down heavily on the UPA government at the centre and the BJP government at the state for their anti-workers policies. He also pointed out the increasing imperialist penetration in the internal affairs of the country. He condemned the World Development Report (WDR) 2013 that lamented on the stringency of labour laws to be responsible for increased informalisation and contractorisation. The WDR 2013 actually suggested India to unleash labour reforms in correspondence with labour market conditions and in order to give a free hand to multinationals and corporates to 'hire and fire' workers. In fact, WDR was so obvious in stating that the labour arena is one area which is not influenced by the neoliberal reform agenda for the past 20 years. Indian Labour Minister had to respond to the World Bank saying that the country is ready for 'necessary' reforms in labour front also. He called upon all trade unions and Left political forces and parties to join the struggle against any anti-worker reforms in the country. Bangalore convention was also addressed by CITU state secretary Prasanna Kumar, AITUC state GS Anantha Subbarao, TUCC president Shivshankar, AIUTUC leader Prakash among others. Hundreds of workers courted arrest at the end of the demonstration and were later released.
AICCTU organised Jail Bharao in the district headquarters of Koppal. Hundreds of workers staged arrest after the gherao of a central government office in Koppal. CITU organized separate programme at Gangavati in the same district. In Tumkur, AICCTU joined the all trade union protest in front of Tumkur BSNL office and courted arrest. In Mangalore, workers of RMC Readymix (India) Pvt. Ltd and Bharat Petroleum, participated in the joint demonstration. After a spirited sloganeering and a brief meeting with workers, including a sizeable number of women workers of CITU, the protestors courted arrest. In Mysore too, AICCTU joined the all trade union demonstration on the same day where workers from Lafarge A&C Pvt Ltd, joined the demonstration.
In Uttarakhand, AICCTU units held protests programmes on 19 December in Radrapur, Kashipur, Jaspur, Bajpur in Udham Singh Nagar District, in Okhalkanda and Nainital, Champawat, Tanakpur, Baheshwar, Pithoragarh, Bhikiasain and Almora. Industrial workers and large number of ASHA and Anganwadi Health workers took part in these programmes.
Edited, published and printed by S. Bhattacharya for CPI(ML) Liberation from U-90, Shakarpur, Delhi-92; printed at Bol Publication,
R-18/2, Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-92; Phone:22521067; fax: 22518248, e-mail: email@example.com, website: www.cpiml.org