New Delhi: Aiming to acknowledge and honour the incredible contribution of women in agricultural activities and the household, and active participation in the ongoing protest against the three farm laws, agitating farmers — who have been laying a siege at Delhi’s five entry points since November 26 last year — celebrated ‘Mahila Kisan Diwas’ (Women Farmers’ Day) on January 18.
Chanting ‘Nari Shakti, Zindabad’ (Women Power, Long Live), thousands of women from across the country joined the agitation to counter the narrative that the protest belongs to a “bunch” of farmers belonging to Punjab and Haryana only. From stage management to delivering speeches explaining how the three legislations are anti-farmers, the women farmers managed everything and also announced that they too will hit the streets of the national capital with proposed ‘Farmers Parade’ on Republic Day (January 26).
The women agitators also presented cultural programmes representing their rich folk traditions.
“This is a historic farmers’ protest, and we have to win this battle at any cost. We will not let the government hand over our land to corporates and leave the farming community at the mercy of big business houses. We are here to take this fight forward. There will be a revolution all around, but peasants and their families will not allow agriculture to become a slave of capitalists,” Dinesh Chowdhary from Baghpat in western Uttar Pradesh, who has been camping at Ghazipur border since November 26, told NewsClick.
She alleged that the slogan of ‘Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao’ (Teach the Daughters, Save the Daughters) is “nothing more than a rhetoric”.
“Modiji talks about saving daughters of the country, but the reality is otherwise. Thousands of women comprising children and elderly ladies have been camping on the Delhi borders in this bitter cold in the open with a demand to repeal the laws unacceptable to farmers, but the prime minister and his ministers are not ready for a serious hearing to address the grievances. Had he been concerned about women out on the streets, he would have announced withdrawal of the laws and ended the impasse,” she added.
Lakhwinder Kaur from Bilaspur in Rampur district of Uttar Pradesh said, “The Supreme Court wants women, children and elderly protesters to go back home. But if the women return, then who will stage the protest? Ambani or Adani?.” She added that the remarks of the apex court were a “disregard” of women’s constitutional rights. “It was not only regressive but also shows the patriarchal mindset of our society. Women have remained an invisible labour force in this country. When the women too have come out, breaking the popular social order, it has become indigestible even for the well-meaning people,” she alleged.
Also read: ‘Reclaiming Our Stake in Movement and Society,’ Say Women Protesters Celebrating Mahila Kisan Diwas
It should be noted that while hearing a batch of petitions seeking eviction of protestors from important national highways leading to the national capital, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde had remarked on January 12, “Why are women in this strike? Why are women and elders kept in this strike? They should be asked to go home.”
Manisha, a resident of Meerut, said women farmers are fighting the battle along with men. “This protest is giving out a message that men and women are equal. Here, one can see men engaged in cooking food and women setting up tents for the agitators to rest. Every citizen of the country has right to take part in movements, and it is guaranteed by the Constitution of India. The constitution does not impose restrictions on participating in a protest on the basis of a person’s age or gender. Therefore, the Honourable Supreme Court has no right to make such an outrageous observation,” she said.
Most of the women protesters said they are not bothered about the repeal of the laws because they are confident that the government will have to do it sooner or later. “The government has to to do it. It is just a matter of time because the protest has now taken the shape of a tsunami where our brothers and sisters with strong determination and will power will make the people in power to accept their demands,” she said.
She said a strong mobilisation campaign is going on in villages and women in large number will take part in the ‘Farmers Parade’ on January 26. “The real naari shakti (women empowerment) will be at display on the Republic Day when ladies will hit Delhi’s Outer Ring Road driving tractors,” she added.
Hearing an injunction of the Delhi Police wherein it was sought that an order be passed prohibiting the farmers’ rally as it would disrupt the gathering and celebrations of Republic Day, the top court today said, “The entry of protesting farmers into Delhi has to be decided by the Delhi Police as it is a matter of law and order.”
“You are at liberty to invoke all powers under the law,” the CJI told Attorney General KK Venugopal. “Our intervention has been misunderstood…who will come in the city and who will be allowed will not be seen by us,” a bench headed by CJI SA Bobde told the Centre.
Farmers’ unions on January 17 had announced that a ‘Farmers Parade’ will be held in Delhi as proposed and they don’t have any intention to disrupt the official Republic Day parade.
Also read: Women Farmers' Day: Women Take Reign of Protests at Delhi Borders
“With thousands of tractors, which will be beautifully decorated, farmers will take out an eye-catching parade on the Republic Day. It would cover a 60-km stretch and pass through New Delhi’s Outer Ring Road, covering areas as Peeragarhi, Janakpuri and Munirka etc. The parade will also have tableau, highlighting peasants’ issues and rich culture of the country,” a leader of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 40 protesting farmer unions, told the media on January 17.
Claiming that it will be “peaceful” and “disciplined”, they urged the police to either not to disturb the rally or suggest an alternative path.
“The decision to hold a peaceful tractor parade with the national flag on Outer Ring Road is a befitting reply to those who were alleging farmers are anti-national and would allegedly disrupt Republic Day parade,” All India Kisan Sabha General Secretary Hannan Mollah had told NewsClick soon after yesterday’s press conference.
Sita Arya, who has come to Ghazipur border from Amroha in Uttar Pradesh, said women should not be considered physically weak.
“Women have always been stronger than men. We have several powerful goddess. We have taken part in freedom struggle and fought the British along with men. We are equal stakeholders of the society. It is women who can bear the labour pain. These three laws are not only impacting males. Apart from discharging responsibilities of homes, we take care of our fields as well. We help men in sowing, harvesting and storing farm produces,” she said, stressing that at a time when men are staging protest here, women are taking care of farm activities back home.
Talking about the laws, she asked why it is so that the prices of farm produces are decided by others while that prices of other products are always decided by the manufacturer.
Ishvinder Kaur (29) has been camping at Delhi’s Singhu border along with her mother since December 28. She is a university topper of French language at Punjab University. After she arrived at the protest site, she did not go back, deciding to perform ‘seva’ (voluntary services) at langar (community kitchen) for protesters.
She posts updates about the farmers’ agitation to further the cause. She said it is a wonderful experience, seeing the participating women emphasising their identity of a bold, strong and independent woman.
Her mother, Kirandeep, was a teacher at Punjabi University and recently retired. Second among three siblings, Ishvinder said all the protest sites are perfect examples of women’s empowerment.
“Our participation personify women’s strength, which has emboldened the agitation. After I came here on December 28 from Fatehgarh Sahib, I refused to go back and told my mother we will stay till we win. We came here in the clothes we were wearing, thinking that we would return after experiencing the protest. But my conscience did not allow me to go back when our elders are fighting in this harsh weather for our future. We borrowed clothes and people helped us,” she said.
The farmer leaders and organisations have held multiple rounds of talks with the government to arrive at a solution over farmers' concerns after the implementation of the new farm laws, but every effort has been in vain. Now, the next round of talks are slated for January 19.
The central government has brought three new agricultural laws — The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Price Assurance and Agricultural Services Agreement Act 2020, and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act — with the aim to reform the farm sector and allied sectors amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the Supreme Court has put a stay on these laws and formed a committee of experts to examine the matter. But the farmers’ unions have rejected the committee formed by the apex court and want a solution through talks with the government. So, several further rounds of negotiation are expected between farmers and the government.