Hundreds of women, students and workers assembled at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on Monday –International Women's Day – to celebrate the unity of women, workers and farmers and to protest against the “anti-women, anti-people” policies of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Modi government.
The demonstration was organised by multiple women's mass organisations, including the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) and the All India Mahila Sanskritik Sangathan (AIMSS).
Speaking to Newsclick, Maimoona Mollah of the AIDWA said: “We cannot label issues as women's issues, workers' issues, farmers' issues, or students' issues any more. This government is against all of us; their policies are against all of us, against the ordinary citizens of the country. They only make policies for Ambani and Adani.”
The demonstration began with a poetry recitation by Gauhar Raza, who was followed by speakers from different women's organisations. All the speakers agreed that women have been the worst-affected section of the population during the COVID-19 pandemic and were the ones bearing the brunt of the Union Government's “anti-people” policies.
“The government labels anyone who speaks against them as ‘anti-nationals’. Protesters are put in jail. They don't spare anyone, be it students, activists, women, workers or farmers. Dissent, an integral part of democracy, is now a crime under this government,” said Mollah.
She also pointed out that society cannot look at women as entities removed from it. “We make up 50% of the world's population. Women are workers, farmers, and students. They are affected by the government policies at least as much as men, if not more,” she added.
Several demands were raised during the demonstration, including the revocation of the new Farm Laws, the labour code and the anti-conversion laws implemented in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The protesters pointed out that the laws against ‘love-jihad’ take away the agency and the autonomy of women on one hand and are used as a weapon to attack minorities on the other.
Dolan Samanta, a MPhil student at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and a member of the All India Students’ Association (AISA), said: “We have to keep protesting against the government's policies. Women need free, or at least affordable education, but the government is hell bent on privatising education. This takes away the access to higher education from women belonging to the poorest and the most oppressed communities. It is why we, as students, and as women, have to keep raising our voices against the atrocities by those in power.”
This sentiment was shared and reiterated by the speakers and protesters. The working class women, who had come from all corners of Delhi-NCR, told Newsclick how they have been struggling in the aftermath of the lockdown. Madhu, a woman from Bawana and a mother of four children, told Newsclick that she had been struggling to feed her family in light of the recent hike in LPG cylinder prices.
The women came from different regions and different backgrounds, but they had something in common—the willingness and the strength to continue protesting against the policies of the right-wing government in the Centre, and the desire to fight this battle with workers, farmers, students, and activists. The demonstration began and ended with chanting of slogans celebrating this unity.