(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
October 26, 2008
AIDWA To Launch Campaign Against Communalism And Terrorism
“We will combat the communal forces, and fight terrorism,
We will defend a secular India.”
This was the call that emerged from the three day central executive committee meeting of AIDWA held at Kolkata from October 15-17, 2008. AIDWA president Subhashini Ali presided, along with working president Shyamali Gupta and vice presidents Rama Das and Kalindi Deshpande. 61 members who attended the meeting very keenly debated the current political situation, its impact on women, on the basis of the report placed by the general secretary, Sudha Sundararaman and AIDWA’s future plan of action in the prevailing context was proposed by national secretary Kiran Moghe.
The collapse of Free market capitalism
One significant development discussed was the financial crisis in the US, and how the collapse had exposed the fragility and long term unsustainability of the neo-liberal market based model of economic growth. Fears were expressed that the crisis would affect lakhs of women across the developing world, especially in the sphere of employment. And indeed the issue gained urgency with the abrupt termination of the 1900 crew of Jet Airways. AIDWA protested against this move made in the name of cost cutting, and demanded their reinstatement with a unanimously passed resolution which also pointed out how women had once again become the first victims of the economic crisis. The possibility that a considerable section of women in the so called “sunshine industries” like BPO, call centres, etc, would be under grave threat of dismissal was highlighted. Additionally, export linked sectors like garments and textiles which traditionally employ a large number of women were suffering a downturn in orders and may have to retrench workers in a major way. It was felt that many more consequences of the crisis would become clearer in the coming period. The CEC resolved to expose the reasons for the current crisis to larger sections of women, and also explain the incongruity of the huge state bail outs demanded and received by the loss making financial institutions even as countries like ours are forced to go in for liberalisation and privatisation measures. The meeting also took note of the role played by the Left in resisting deregulation of the Indian financial sector, as a result of which our country has been afforded some degree of insulation from the massive crisis.
The menace of communal and terrorist attacks
The CEC condemned the barbaric attacks on the Christian community in Orissa, and the heinous crimes being committed against women. The BJP/ BJD government of Orissa had proved its complicity through the deplorable delay in arresting the accused in the nun rape case. There was an organised and targeted orgy of desecration of places of worship, rape, arson and killing of Christians. More than 20,000 people are still living in relief camps. A report placed by Tapashi Praharaj, the president of AIDWA Orissa unit gave the disturbing information that conversion to Hinduism was being enforced as a condition for returning to the villages. A horrendous case of a family with a Christian father and a Hindu mother which disobeyed the Bajrang Dal goons that was punished with the abduction and rape of the young daughter was brought to the notice of AIDWA. 42 FIRs have been registered with AIDWA’s assistance, including the case of a physically challenged person who was torched. There is the serious issue of compensation for the widows of those persons who were burnt to death without any trace. Legal support needs to be organised for all of them. It was decided that a central delegation from AIDWA will immediately visit Kandhamal and prepare a report on the overall situation.
Members pointed out the devious role that the UPA has played in maintaining silence instead of taking swift action when required. Orchestrated attacks on churches in other states like Chattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Tamilnadu have revealed the game plan of the Sangh Parivar which is to foster communal strife and polarisation across the country with an eye on the coming elections. In Madhya Pradesh, during the bandh call given by RSS to protest the Amarnath land issue, an aggressive rally was held in Muslim populated areas, though the shops there had already closed down. A Muslim boy was shot in the mouth by the police in the presence of his 14 year old brother, who has now lost his ability to speak due to extreme shock. The discussions brought out the gravity of the situation, especially in BJP ruled states.
This period has also witnessed serial blasts in which innocent lives have been lost, and many maimed for life. The CEC felt that the involvement of some Muslim youth in some of these attacks was a disturbing development. The insecurity and fear that had been roused among ordinary people was being exploited by communal and fundamentalist forces to tear apart the secular ethos. The incidents are being sensationalised by the police and the media who have contributed to creating an atmosphere of suspicion against the entire Muslim community. The cold blooded way in which a Muslim family was burnt to death in Adilabad in Andhra Pradesh shows the terrible consequences of the communal antipathy that is being actively stoked by the Hindutva forces.
Thus, the challenge of countering these forces and defending secularism has increased manifold. The president Subhashini Ali made a powerful presentation on the complexities of the current situation, and the manner in which we have to address these issues. Some of these issues have been put down in the pamphlet titled “Understanding Communalism” that has been recently published by AIDWA. It has already been translated into Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu. The AIDWA CEC has given a call for a powerful campaign to isolate and expose these forces, even while reasserting our faith in the secular principles of our constitution that bind our country. The multi faceted campaign against communalism and terrorism and in defence of secularism, will take off in November and culminate on December 10, 2008 Human Rights Day - with public rallies, meetings, and other forms of mass mobilisation in the different states.
Forthcoming elections the political task ahead
State elections are due in five states, and parliamentary elections are around the corner. In Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, and Rajasthan, the BJP is in power, while Congress is in power in Delhi. The communal ideology of the BJP, its anti women stance, combined with its neo liberal policies has severely eroded the democratic rights of the people. It is in the interests of women to force its defeat. At the same time, the Congress with its pro imperialist, anti people policies, and its refusal to implement the common minimum programme, has to be rejected. The CEC decided that, along with civic issues, AIDWA will raise the issues of basic rights of the people- food security through the strengthening of the PDS, proper implementation of NREGA and provision of employment security, social security to be ensured with an extended coverage through pension schemes and universalisation of ICDS, health security with a better implementation of NRHM, and security from violence through the improved implementation of protective legislations for women. AIDWA also resolved to continue the struggle for the Women’s Reservation Bill, on which the report of the parliamentary Standing Committee is awaited. Unfortunately, after the withdrawal of Left support, and its newly found ally in the Samajwadi Party, the UPA government is no longer inclined to pass the Bill in its original form. This issue will also figure prominently in the election campaign. Wherever possible, AIDWA will try and prepare a women’s charter of demands in these states along with other women’s organisations.
Women and legal rights
The CEC discussed how the backlash against legal safeguards for women suffering from domestic violence and dowry harassment was getting manifested in the shrill campaign for a dilution in Section 498-A of the IPC, citing its alleged misuse. Under the name of organisations like “Save the Family Foundation,” etc., a concerted bid to push back the gains of progressive laws for women has been launched. These will have to be countered. In the context of a rising incidence of dowry harassment and crimes against women, the need is for proper implementation of the existing laws, and not for its dilution, and AIDWA resolved to make this an issue for intervention.
The Maharashtra government’s proposal to expand the definition of “wife” in Sec 125 of the Cr PC to include those who have been living together for a reasonable period of time - a recommendation of the Malimath Committee - has become a contentious issue with the media sensationalising it as a license for “live-in” relationships, and conservative ideologues projecting it as an attack on morality. The PDV Act has already broadened the definition of the victim to include women who may not necessarily be in a legally wedded relationship, and the Supreme Court has also given a ruling in favour of the rights of unmarried partners. AIDWA believes that the rights of women in such relationships have to be legally safeguarded, as they are often vulnerable to exploitation and unjust treatment.
Bill on ART and
After repeated efforts, the bill to regulate Assisted Reproductive Technologies, (ART) and surrogacy arrangements has been formulated, and put out by the ICMR for public debate. This bill is important because of the enormous proliferation of unregulated clinics offering fertility services in our country and the use of the technology as a business proposition. There are some who see in this an added source of income through medical tourism. Women’s rights and health rights are in danger of being totally sidelined. AIDWA will initiate discussions and intervene to make sure that these rights are safeguarded.
The CEC decided that some of the ongoing tasks will be taken further, with a signature campaign on the charter of demands passed at the August Muslim Women’s convention, SHG workshops in the different states, and implementation of the NREGA and PcPNDT Acts through direct actions. The meeting also resolved to participate in the joint national convention being organised against privatisation and targeting of ICDS, and to press for the rightful demands of the anganwadi workers and helpers.
Most importantly, a demand was put forth that in the wake of the fall in international fuel prices, the petrol and diesel prices in our country should be reduced immediately. The run away inflation of the past few months has been one of the biggest assaults on women and therefore the anti price rise agitations will continue and demands for subsidised essential commodities especially during the festival season will be raised.
The CEC also held a session on organisation where states made presentations on aspects related to unit formation and functioning, cadre identification and cadre training, and state centre functioning. The exercise helped to identify the areas where further intervention is called for, to ensure a consolidation of AIDWA’s membership that reached more than one crore and ten lakhs last year.
The sharing of work reports from the states provided an over view of the extensive range of issues on which AIDWA units had been active in this period. The meeting ended with a hearty vote of thanks to the West Bengal committee, which had organised the CEC in the midst of the puja season, and had made it a most pleasant and memorable event for all.