Over 4000 women gathered in Indora chowk Maidan on the 120th remembrance day of Krantijyoti Savitri Bai Phule in Nagpur to rise together against the growing tide of hatred, injustice and domination in the country. They celebrated the life and legacy of India’s first woman teacher, poet, writer and leading champion of women’s rights, who sounded a clarion call against Brahmanical casteist patriarchy in the 19th century. A note:
Today we are inspired by how Savitri Bai educated shudras and women, exposed the hollowness of the Manusmriti and Brahmanical social practices, boycotted traditional restrictions imposed on women, and set us on our path to freedom.
With our words and songs, dance and art, poetry and theatre, today were raised voices for justice, friendship, peace, freedom, equality and dignity. In doing so, we women confronted the growing inequality and intolerance all around us, and the efforts to silence us! We gathered here from villages and urban centres, university campuses, organised and unorganised workspaces, our homes and the streets – to speak out for the rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution. To reiterate that in a secular, democratic state, no one has the right to discriminate, humiliate, violate, oppress, or commit atrocities against any person or community based on their identity. To celebrate our diversity and collective strength.
The event started with a bike rally by young boys and girls of Nagpur and adjoining areas. Poems and songs celebrating diversity and condemning manuvad, brahmanvad, caste discrimination etc. were read out by women and men from Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Gujarat, Telengana Odisha and others. Speakers from various backgrounds also put their points across and stood in one voice against the forces of Manuvad and fascism oppressing women and marginalised communities from time immemorial.
Quotes from speakers at the event:
Shabnam Hashmi (Human Rights Activist): “women in thousands are here in the headquarters of the sangh to expose the nexus between the corporate and communal patriarchal forces and to reclaim the constitutional structures which are under grave threat under the present regime”.
Manjula Pradeep (Human Rights Activist): “Hindutva and Brahmanim are the two pillars of oppression and to break them into pieces we need strong forces of unity, assertion and protest and that’s why we are all here at Nagpur”.
Bittu: “The nature of gender oppression is intimately tied up with the structure of caste and transgender people are denied all forms of employment and can only survive through traditional means of begging and sex work. This persists till today and people maintain a distance from transgender people. This can only change by simultaneously fighting manuvad and patriarchy.”
Jaya Sahrma: “We thought of Chalo Nagpur so that the women’s movement could declare here in Nagpur that feminism will fight Fascism. As Dalit, Bahujan, Muslim, queer, disabled, sex worker, student, tribal and transgender feminists from across India we wanted to come together to fight sangh parivar atits cradle.”
Radhika Amma: “I am part of this movement because I believe in justice and I want to ensure that there is no more injustice like that Rohith had to face. I have had to face a lot of pressure since Rohith’s suicide, questioning my finances, my Dalit identity. But I am undeterred.”
As leaders and activists of the women’s movement we come together on this journey of struggle across our varied identities today, and resolve that:
- We, Dalit, Muslim, Adivasi, Bahujan, working class, religious and ethnic minority women, disabled women, queer and transgender people, organized and unorganized working-class women, sex workers, nomadic tribeswomen, students and many more from different parts of India, resolve to unite in our fight against the oppressive social order created by the nexus of Brahmanvaad, Manuvaad and Hindutva.
- We come together against continuing state violence, which has erupted as an assault on the freedom of expression, Dalit-Bahujan student suicides, farmer suicides, development-induced displacement, rape as a tool of war by the Indian state, the control of women through communal violence, ethnic pogroms, genocide, attacks on the university community, and the use of laws to suppress dissent and create terror (such as the anti-conversion and cow-protection laws, AFSPA, UAPA and other draconian laws).
- We fight against this ideology, which has harmed women on the basis of caste, class, religion, race, community, sexuality, gender, disability, occupation and age. The violence produced by Brahminical hetero-normative patriarchy is glaringly evident from the 20,300 cases of rape reported by Dalit women alone between 2002-2015, rising attacks on the transgender community, moral policing, domestic violence, child abuse, sex-selective abortions, dowry deaths, acid attacks, the exploitation of women’s labour and sexual violence.
- We condemn all caste-based discriminatory practices, including caste based atrocities and sexual exploitation. We stand against the imposition of caste specific occupations such as manual scavenging, coercion into the Devadasi/Jogini/Bedini system, the denial of work and access to education for women of oppressed castes and transgender people.
- We are committed towards the implementation of our Constitutional rights to ensure equality of opportunity, labour, dignity and justice to all women.
- We will strengthen the implementation of laws around caste and gender injustice, such as the SC/ST PoA Act, and those addressing sexual and domestic violence on women and children. We commit ourselves to striving for legal recognition of the crime of marital rape, and redressal against the horrific practice of witch-hunting. We will work for laws to protect the rights of persons with all kinds of disabilities, especially women. We condemn the state for not repealing Section 377 and failing to implement the true spirit of the judgment recognising the rights of Transgender persons (NALSA) or ensuring protection to LGBTHIQ communities.
- We support women’s reservations and seek that quotas be increased from 33% to 50%, with representation to different sections of women in proportion to their population.
- We work to support diversity as a feminist practice so that women from all castes, communities, ethnicities, genders, abilities and sexualities may express themselves fearlessly and freely as citizens.
- We resolve to work against state and structural violence by demanding accountability, and an end to the impunity of non-state actors responsible for the politics of hatred and aggressive masculinity.
- We collectively commit to fighting the hegemony of Brahmanvaad, Manuvaad and Hindutva, and working towards equality, dignity and liberation for all.