Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan Delhi

March and Mass Meeting
8th March, International Working Women’s Day
March from Janpath Metro Station, Gate No. 2 at 12 noon
Mass Meeting at Parliament Street

Fight Backward Feudal, Communal, Casteist Diktats for Women of Hindutva led Govt.
Fight Patriarchy, Fight for Equality.
Strengthen solidarity with Democratic struggles and with the revolutionary movement to build a new society.

8th March embodies the spirit of collective struggle of women to assert equality- not just of gender but also of race and class. Women workers of New York marched under the leadership of socialist women for voting rights for all women (as opposed to only white women) along with class demands in 1908. Declaration of 8th March as International Working Women’s Day by the Second Women’s Socialist International under the leadership of Clara Zetkin, was to mark the understanding behind that march.

2018 sees the casteist, communal, patriarchal attacks by Hindutva forces continuing across the country despite the fightbacks. Gauri Lankesh was felled by bullets as she relentlessly wielded her pen against divisive policies. The Yogi Govt. of Uttar Pradesh is preparing to withdraw all cases lodged at the time of the anti Muslim violence in Muzaffarnagar when hundreds of Muslim families were displaced from their villages of their ancestors apart from sexual violence against many women. Casteist and communal attacks continue, widowing women or leaving them in the lurch as men of the family are arrested, maimed or workplaces and property are destroyed leaving families on the streets as in both Saharanpur and Kasganj. The syllabi of especially institutions of higher learning are being openly changed to glorify fantasized and feudal interpretations, teaching of modern science is being diluted by that of myths. Ancient, feudal practices and festivals placing women firmly as a secondary sex are being glorified and propagated. A new arena of attack has been opened with the PM casting himself as protector of ‘’Muslim sisters’’ and devising new ways to demonize the Muslim community. While the Supreme Court invalidated the archaic practice of triple talaq, the Central Govt. seized the opportunity to propose to criminalize it. It is important to realize that meddling with the personal laws of Muslims is part of the move of Hindutva to fulfil its long cherished dream of an ‘’uniform’’ civil code modelled on the lines of Manusmriti.

The other aspect of the casteist, patriarchal and communal Hindutva is its subservience to imperialism and promotion of the loot of the country. The agrarian crisis continues unchecked due to the pro corporate policies of the Hindutva Govt, with women peasants facing widowhood due to suicides by indebted peasants, worsening of social status and rising challenges to continuing in agriculture. Women are the majority of those seeking jobs under MGNREGA as the landless do not own the land they till. Rates for agricultural labour are insufficient even for meagre expenses and women continued to be paid less than men. Women alone are employed as AASHA workers and thus Govts dare to term them ‘voluntary’’ and deny them a wage altogether while anganwadi workers continue to be paid a pittance. Women workers in all sectors continue to be paid less than men and the great number of them are in casual, temporary, contract or informal piece rated jobs without any rights. In this scenario the Modi govt. is moving to allowing contractualization in all sectors and to remove whatever labour laws exist. In practice, labour machinery is already being dismantled by all govts. Sexual violence of various levels at workplace is on the rise at all levels while such violence by the rural powerful permeates the lives of the Dalit and poor women and girls in the rural areas. In Jammu and Kashmir, the recent rape and murder of an 8 year old Muslim girl in Kathua has been given a communal twist by the RSS-BJP and an entire community faces social ostracism.

8th March 2018 finds the women’s movement in India with much to think about, apart from the challenges of building struggles on various issues. There were staggering attacks in the past years on rights won by women through struggles and these came through the Courts. On the one hand the highest Court diluted the provision for arrest of accused in the cases registered under Anti Dowry Act. The Act on domestic Violence, framed under pressure of women’s movements, remains toothless as the apparatus to ensure enforcement just does not exist and neither govts. nor courts could care less about this. The writ of feudal forces runs unchallenged as boys and girls in inter caste and inter religious marriages are killed in broad daylight. A blow for patriarchy was struck by the Kerala High Court which annulled the marriage of adult lady doctor Hadiya because it had been contracted against her parents’ will; it further gave custody of Hadiya (who had earlier changed her religion) to the very parents who thwarted her fundamental rights. Faced by her husband’s challenge, the Supreme Court too failed to categorically assert her right to marry whom she chose. Instead it postponed pronouncement on the issue, but allowed the Govt. to proceed with an NIA investigation into ‘’love jihad’’, implying that Hadiya too was a victim of the same. It was only after four Supreme Court judges spoke out to suggest executive interference in the highest rungs of the Judiciary that, among other issues, the CJI was moved to declare the absolute right to choice in marriage for all citizens in the context of a case involving khap panchayats. The Court has still to assert this in Hadiya’s case and over-rule the Kerala High court judgement. All these experiences reflect the not only the patriarchal mindset of the judiciary but also their willingness to ignore the provisions of Acts to enforce their backward understanding.

Women in various parts of the country are struggling on their own issues and are also part of general struggles for rights. Women students of BHU braved repression to assert their right to security. Women students throughout the country are part of the fight back of students in institutions of higher education. Dalit women are part of the fight back of Dalits and democratic sections against Hindutva casteism and thousands participated in the march at Bheema Koregaon. They are part of the fight back in Saharanpur against the attack on the Bhim Army, in the struggle of Dalits for panchayat land in Punjab. Adivasi women are part of the struggles against displacement, participating in the fight to retain their podu lands from the onslaught of the state in Telengana. Women are part of the struggle for right to self determination and against AFSPA in J&K. Women and girls are defying the diktats of caste and religion and asserting their right to choose their own partners, often at the cost of their lives. Women are part of the struggle of the peasantry against anti agriculture policies. Working class women are participating in general movements against attacks on the hard won rights of working class. Women and girls throughout the country are bravely coming forward against redundant feudal practices sought to be enforced by Hindutva forces. They are fighting sexual violence by coming forward to register cases, build struggles and assert their right to gender dignity.

8th March 2018 reminds us, that while fighting for gender equality in all spheres, the women’s movement must join the struggle to defend the democratic rights of the people, so that we too can struggle for our rights. We must also stand in solidarity with the people’s struggles against the old order especially the revolutionary movement which seeks to change the social order which sustains patriarchy in India’s society.

On this 8th March, let us resolve to build struggles ourselves and also stand in solidarity with struggles which are raising their voices against the Hindutva policies of service of imperialism and upper caste, patriarchal chauvinism. Let us resolve to intensify and to widen the reach of struggles for gender justice in all spheres. Let us extend solidarity to all struggles to transform this social order which defends and sustains patriarchy.