(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
September 14 , 2008
Police Repression Let Loose On Anganwadi Employees
THE anganwadi workers and helpers in Punjab have been agitating to pressurise the state government to concede their long pending demands, since more than the last two months. The demands included enhancement of the remuneration paid by the state government as per the earlier assurances of the chief minister, immediate filling up of all the supervisor posts with eligible anganwadi workers, etc. The day and night sit in being held under the leadership of the Anganwadi Mulajam Union, Punjab affiliated to CITU, in front of the Directorate of Social Welfare of the state government in Chandigarh, has entered the 62nd day on September 8, 2008. Resenting against the apathetic attitude of the state government, more than one thousand four hundred anganwadi employees from all over the state gathered in Chandigarh on September 8 and marched towards the Vidhan Sabha. The procession with all the anganwadi employees sporting the CITU caps and shouting militant slogans attracted the attention of the citizens of the city. But, as soon as the procession reached sector 17, the police deployed in large numbers stopped them from proceeding further. The union decided to lodge their protest against this peacefully and sat down in a dharna near the barricades.
The dharna was addressed by Raghunath Singh, general secretary of the Punjab state committee of CITU, Usha Rani, president, Harjeet Kaur, general secretary and Subhas Rani, senior vice president of the Anganwadi Mulajam Union and other union leaders who called upon the participants to continue the struggle till their genuine demands were met. Having decided to continue the dharna near the barricades till the government made some concrete assurances, the participants started taking the food that they brought along with them. Some started to feed their children who accompanied them to the dharna. It is then that the police without any provocation or warning opened the water cannons on the unsuspecting anganwadi employees. All the anganwadi employees immediately lied down on the road and ducked the water. As the gathering could not be dispersed, the police immediately started brutal lathi charge, injuring scores of anganwadi employees. The male police dragged the union leaders on the road tearing their clothes in the process. Around 500 anganwadi employees were arrested and taken away to the nearby police station. While the arrested anganwadi employees continued to denounce the police highhandedness with full throated slogan shouting, the others too reached the police station condemning police action. The police were forced to release all the arrested employees late in the evening but detained Usha Rani and Harjeet Kaur and lodged false cases on them.
The released anganwadi employees proceeded directly to the site of the continuous dharna in front of the Directorate of Social Welfare and expressed their willingness to continue the dharna. However, they were persuaded to go back to their villages by the CITU leadership, as most of them had come unprepared to stay for the night. Usha Rani and Harjeet Kaur, who were released on bail the next day, too came directly to the dharna site and continued to lead the struggle.
The CITU state committee and the state committee of the Anganwadi Mulajam Union, Punjab, strongly condemned the police repression on the anganwadi employees. Protest demonstrations were held and effigies of the chief minister were burnt all over the state by the CITU and the Anganwadi Mulajam Union. The All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers too condemned the use of brutal force on the peacefully agitating anganwadi employees and demanded that the state government should immediately talk to their leaders and fulfill their demands. It has also called upon all its state units to send telegrams to the chief minister of Punjab. Several other organisations and political parties too condemned the police action and extended their solidarity to the struggle of the anganwadi employees in the state.