People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 39

September 28, 2003

 WEST BENGAL                                                                                           

State AIDWA Celebrates Diamond Jubilee

                        B Prasant


SPEAKING at the diamond jubilee function of the West Bengal state unit of the All India Democratic Women’s Association AIDWA on September 14 at the CU Institute hall, Jyoti Basu, a senior all-India leader of the CPI(M), blamed the BJP for not allowing the women’s reservation bill get through the parliament.  Basu declared that the BJP and its allies did never want reservation for women in any manner.  Jyoti Basu was the chief guest at the function that was attended by a very large number of AIDWA leaders and workers, past and present.


Jyoti Basu urged upon the AIDWA to “come forward actively in order to fructify the demand for women’s reservation and equal rights for women,” and to build up a “strong movement at the grass roots level.”  Relying merely and only on political parties would never do, were Basu’s words of caution to the AIDWA activists. To stop the marauding moves of the forces of reaction, said Basu, such mass organisations as the AIDWA had an important role to play.


Basu said he was of the firm belief that the anti-people BJP and its allies were never in favour of fixing reservation for women, nor did they believe in equal rights for women. For ensuring the passage of such anti-people legislations as the one on privatisation, the BJP would ride roughshod over all opposition.  Yet, said Basu, when it came to the question of the women’s reservation bill, the BJP would sprout cant about ‘consensus.’  “Why should we wait for consensus?” queried Basu and said that “Let there be a vote on the issue and the respective stands of the political parties would become clear for everyone to see and judge.”


Sending out his warm wishes to the West Bengal state unit of the AIDWA on the happy occasion of its diamond jubilee, Jyoti Basu briefly recalled the commencement of the movement in Bengal back in the 1940s when, in the backdrop of the ravaging famine that swept across Bengal, the Mahila Atmaraksha Samity ( women’s self-defence association) was formed with a handful of dedicated activists.  Since then, mused Basu, “you have come a long way with the current membership figure standing at 34 lakh.”


Jyoti Basu readily confessed that at first he was slightly doubtful “about the scope of women panchayat members to cope with their new duties and responsibilities over and above the household jobs they held down.” 


“I am greatly pleased,” affirmed Basu, amidst happy applause, “to announce that the women are doing a splendid job in running the elected rural bodies in Bengal and that their families have never been the worse for it.”  


Jyoti Basu called for greater participation of women in the CPI(M) at every functional level. Basu also recounted how the Left Front government of the state provided joint patta land deeds to women and had made women’s reservation a legislative provision in the Panchayat acts. 


Veteran AIDWA leader Kanak Mukherjee recounted the conditions in which the Mahila Atmaraksha Samity was set up in 1943 and described the circumstances that called for a subsequent change of the name of the association to Paschimbanga Ganatantrik Mahila Samity (or the West Bengal Democratic Women’s Association.) Mukherjee said that the emancipation of women and the struggle for equal rights were not isolated movements. They formed part of the larger struggle to bring about fundamental social changes.


AIDWA general secretary Brinda Karat said that women’s movement should not be confined to social realities alone she went on to  add that what was needed was the launching of such movements as would influence the political scenario.


Noting that the politics pursued ardently by the likes of Mamata Banerjees, Jayalalithas, and Mayavatis were of no help to the women’s movement, Brinda Karat said, “We in the AIDWA believe in ideology rather than biology.”  She said that there were instances of women politicians who would not militate against the gross discrimination meted out to women and would indeed come out in support of the status quo, in order to cling to power.


All-India president of the AIDWA, Subhasini Ali, was sharply critical of the process of globalisation and of the WTO. She said that because of the imperialist globalisation, everything was being assessed at ‘market value’ and that this had further increased coercion against and torture of women.


Rekha Goswami, secretary of the Bengal AIDWA, said that the goal of the all-India membership drive of the organisation was to enrol at least one crore of women as members of the AIDWA.  In this drive, the Bengal AIDWA has set a goal for inducting at least 50 lakh members. 


A presidium comprising Shyamali Gupta, Banani Biswas, Mitali Kumar, Manjari Gupta, Kamal Sengupta, Jayanti Goswami, and Mumtaz Begum conducted the proceedings, which started with the placing of wreaths at the Martyrs’ Column. The function also saw women leaders of the past felicitated.  (INN)