People's Democracy

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


No. 48

November 28, 2010




Massive Rally of Muslim Women in Solapur


M H Shaikh


IT was a truly remarkable event. Over 25,000 Muslim women, most of them burqa-clad, gathered at the call of the CPI(M) and the CITU in Solapur on November 14, 2010. Such a huge gathering of Muslim women under Left auspices has perhaps never been seen in Maharashtra to date.




Most of the women were from poor working class families. Many of them were unorganised workers themselves. Many had come with their children in tow. In the very midst of the convention, there was a massive downpour of rain, fully drenching the gathering. But the women braved even that and not a single one left the place to the end. This gave a clue to their determination.


A huge shamiana had been put up for this convention, with a large stage. Thousands of red flags with the hammer and sickle and 13 welcome arches decorated the venue which was five kilometres away from Solapur city. The women came by means of specially arranged buses from the city, but with each one paying her bus fare. Many of these women rarely left their own houses, but on that day they had all come out in their collective strength. They were also joined by a large number of men. It was indeed a festive gathering.


The chief guests at this unique convention were CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury, MP and Central Committee members Mohd Yusuf Tarigami, MLA and Mohd Salim, ex-MP. It was also addressed by CPI(M) state secretary Dr Ashok Dhawale, state committee member Sayeed Ahmed and district secretariat members Nalini Kalburgi, M H Shaikh, Siddhappa Kalshetty and Yusuf Shaikh Major. The convention was presided over by CPI(M) state secretariat member and CITU state president Narsayya Adam, ex-MLA. Developer Anil Pandhe, who had excellently built the Godavari Parulekar Housing Scheme, was also present on the dais.


Hectic preparations for the convention were on for 15 days. Under the leadership of municipal corporator Nalini Kalburgi, Fatima Beg, Yusuf Shaikh Major and Dawood Shaikh, Party and mass organisation wholetimers held meetings in various minority areas of the city and distributed 25,000 leaflets. Salim Mulla, Sunny Shetty and Ambadas Gurram carried out a campaign of sending SMSs to mobile phones. Narsayya Adam himself addressed several meetings in the city.




The women had gathered around a burning issue, that of affordable housing. The CPI(M) and the CITU have taken the initiative to form the Shaheed Qurban Husain Minority Womens’ Co-operative Housing Society. Qurban Husain was one of the four immortal martyrs of Solapur who were hanged by the British imperialists for their leading role in the mass uprising in 1930, which was ruthlessly crushed by the British by imposing Martial Law.


A few years earlier, the CPI(M) and CITU had taken the lead in successfully setting up the Comrade Godavari Parulekar Co-operative Housing Society for women beedi workers on the outskirts of Solapur. Under this scheme, 10,000 houses were built with a reasonable contribution from the women themselves, supplemented by grants from the central and state government. This has been a major constructive achievement of the Party in Solapur.


In the light of the Sachar Committee report, the central government announced a 15 point programme in which it promised to allot Rs 75 crore for housing for the minorities. But due to various impractical conditionalities that have been imposed, hardly any of this amount has been actually utilised.


The issue of decent, affordable housing had been a crucial one for Muslim and other minority families in Solapur. After discussion in the Party district committee, it was decided to launch a concerted campaign on this issue and to form the Shaheed Qurban Husain Housing Society. A call was given to minority women to register themselves. There was an avalanche, and within a few days, more than 15,000 women had registered themselves!




Sitaram Yechury in his speech said that new corruption scams were being unearthed every day. Through the Telecom, Commonwealth Games and Adarsh Society scams, the country and its people have been looted of lakhs of crores of rupees. Had all this money been spent for the uplift of the poor, it could have provided 35 Kg of grain at Rs 2 to all our people, it could have been used to build thousands of schools and colleges, even a tiny fraction of it could have easily built the entire housing colony of your dreams.


Yechury spoke of the Rajendra Sachar committee and the Ranganath Mishra commission and said that it was a shame on the rulers that the condition of the minorities was so deplorable even after over six decades of freedom. They were deprived of education, employment, food and housing. That was because the Congress and BJP-led governments, through their bankrupt policies, were deliberately creating two Indias – one shining, the other suffering. He concluded by giving a call to the women to struggle for their demand of housing until it is achieved. He also assured the gathering that he would take up this legitimate issue with the central government.


Mohd Yusuf Tarigami, in an emotional speech that connected immediately with the audience, spoke of the miserable condition of the minorities all over the country and accused successive central governments of being responsible for it. He also attacked the communal forces that incited riots and created insecurity among the minorities. Poverty, unemployment and homelessness, he said, had no religion and they were common to all. That is why the struggle against them must be fought by all together, regardless of caste, creed, language or religion. He also briefly dwelt upon the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. He expressed confidence that the women would fight relentlessly to win their demand for housing.


Mohd Salim, while attacking the central government for its thoroughly insensitive approach to the working people in general and the minorities in particular, asserted that it was only a Left alternative that could save the country and our people. He placed the illustrious record of the Left Front governments of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura in the field of land reforms, ensuring the rights of workers and peasants and ensuring justice to the minorities, dalits and tribals. He called upon the gathering that, while fighting for the realisation of their immediate demand, they must also help to strengthen this Left alternative. 


Dr Ashok Dhawale dealt with the deplorable condition of the minorities and the working people in Maharashtra and called for unity and struggle to radically change the situation. While successive Congress chief ministers had the time and the inclination to bestow numerous illegal favours on the Adarsh Society, they never concerned themselves with housing schemes for the poor and the socially oppressed sections. It was only the Left that took up such issues and brought them to fruition with the support of the people. He appealed to them to maintain their unity in all future struggles.


Sayeed Ahmed congratulated the women for coming in such large numbers on an issue that affected them deeply. He spoke of the discrimination being consistently faced by the minorities as a result of the policies of the government. He called upon them to strengthen their struggle, first for their demand for houses, and then for all other issues affecting their lives.


In his presidential speech, Narsayya Adam briefly related the story of how the Godavari Parulekar Housing Scheme of 10,000 houses was successfully completed in the face of formidable odds. He assured the women that if they stay united and are prepared for struggle, the Qurban Husain Housing Scheme will also see the light of day. After placing before them a roadmap of the scheme and what they would have to do, he concluded by calling upon the women to stay united behind their only saviour, the Red Flag.


In the evening, Sitaram Yechury, Mohd Yusuf Tarigami, Mohd Salim, Dr Ashok Dhawale and Narsayya Adam addressed a packed general body meeting of the Party in Solapur, where they dealt with the national political scene, the situation in Jammu & Kashmir, the struggle in West Bengal and the political challenges in Maharashtra respectively.