More than a thousand women – from farmers to labourers – in Punjab are preparing to join the protesting farmers at Delhi’s Borders to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8 following a call by Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), the umbrella body of farmers’ unions.
Preparations are on in full swing in the village of Wara Bhaika in Punjab’s Faridkot district to mobilise women for the upcoming ‘Mahila Kisan Diwas’. Forty-year-old Charanjeet Kaur, a farmer and woman leader from the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), who has been tasked with organising the movement from the village said that two buses have been arranged for nearly 200 women.
“If the need arises another bus will be arranged. The bus will leave on March 7 and come back on March 9,” Kaur told Newsclick.
The SKM hopes the demonstration will re-ignite the farmers’ protest against the three controversial Farm Laws which have resulted in a huge outcry by the farming community against the BJP-led Central Government.
“Behno ralo prava sangh, (Sisters join your brothers),
Milkar Ladi haaki jaang (Only together can we fight for our rights)”
Kaur recited the lines with fervour as she visited households to collect funds from the villagers. According to her the bi-annual funds that they had collected and saved over the years were almost exhausted and the leaders had asked them to collect donations to arrange buses for the journey.
“An announcement was made from the Gurudwara regarding dwindling donations following which villagers are happily giving money for the protest against these laws. No one is being forced,” she added.
Taranwanti, a farm labourer and the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union (PKMU) chief from Badal village of Punjab’s Sri Muktsar Sahib district has arranged several meetings with women labourers over the last three days. The participation of female farm labourers is equally important, she said.
“The discourse around the farm laws always captures the plight of male farmers. It should be highlighted that women farmers and farm labourers will be equally affected by these laws or even the first ones to be affected,” she added.
“Aurat Ghar ki bhi Ghulam hai, aur desh ki bhi ghulam hai. Iss Ghulami se hamari ladai hai”. (Woman is a slave in the house and also in this country. We have to fight this slavery.)
Krishna Devi, another farm labourer from the village addressed the gathering of female labourers and stressed on the significance of the day and urged them to join protests at the borders. “These poor women must know they have been exploited over the years and that only they can fight for their rights; no one else will,” Devi said.
Since farmers movement began around September last year, women have been lending their voice to an agrarian movement that first erupted in Punjab and later spread across the country. This time, alongside farmer unions, women organisations from Punjab are also participating in the upcoming protest to show solidarity against the laws and dissent against what they call an “anti-women” system.
“In the deeply patriarchal setup that we live in, women farmers and labourers are invisible and unheard of even when they put in as much work as the male farmers. Yet the ownership of land and other resources are in the hands of men. So the larger question here is to fight this system that spreads inequality,” said Amandeep Deol, secretary, Istri Jagriti Manch, Punjab.
Deol said that over 100 women from Stiri Jagriti Manch, an organisation which is dominant in four districts of Punjab – Patiala, Barnala, Jalandar and Nava Sher – will be joining the farmers protests outside Delhi on March 8.
Another front called the Lok Sangrash Morch (LSM), led by Tarsem Jordhan, a former MLA from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), has also extended its solidarity. Speaking to Newsclick, Sheeri Kaur, a member of LSM, said: “Women from our group are also joining the protest. We want to send out the message that a country cannot be free unless and until its women are free from the shackles of oppression, violence, inequality, misogyny and patriarchy.”
Like Wara Bhaika, similar arrangements have been made across Punjab. Buses have been arranged from each village which will be carrying women to Delhi’s borders. They will leave on March 7 and returning a day later. With the farmers’ protest 100 days old now, Kaur said that women are upbeat and excited to join the protest.
“In certain households mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law are fighting over who will go but we have made it a point that only one woman from each household will join and the rest will join later,” Kaur said, breaking into laughter. “We are expecting that over 10,000 women will join the protest at Delhi,” she added.