People's Democracy

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


No. 44

October 30, 2011

Huge Gathering of Muslim Women

On Housing Issue

Iliyas Siddiqui

ON October 9, 2011, over 20,000 Muslim women gathered in the scorching sun at Solapur for the special annual general body meeting of the Shaheed Qurban Husain Minority Women’s Co-operative Housing Society. Thousands of women were burqa-clad, and many of them had come with their children in tow. It was a truly massive event, which almost matched the 25,000-strong rally of Muslim women that was held at Solapur last year on November 14, 2010.


Last year’s historic rally was addressed by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury, Central Committee members Mohd Yusuf Tarigami, Mohd Salim and Dr Ashok Dhawale, state secretariat member and CITU state president Narsayya Adam and state committee member Sayeed Ahmed.


That rally decided to form the Shaheed Qurban Husain Minority Women’s Housing Society and to demand over 20,000 houses for minority households from the central and state governments, with some contribution from the families themselves. This was on the lines of the Comrade Godavari Parulekar Housing Society for women beedi workers, under which the CPI(M) and the CITU took the initiative to successfully build 10,000 houses at Kumbhari village on the outskirts of Solapur city.


Qurban Husain was one of the four famous martyrs of Solapur who was sent to the gallows by the British regime for the massive peoples’ uprising that ousted British rule from the city for a few days in 1930, followed by the clamping down of the draconian Martial Law. It is after this anti-imperialist martyr that the housing society for minorities has been named.


On September 8, 2011, under the leadership of Sitaram Yechury, a delegation comprising Narsayya Adam, M H Shaikh, Nalini Kalburge, Yusuf Major, Dawood Shaikh, Arif Maniar, Naresh Dugane, promoter Anil Pandhe and eight Muslim women met the prime minister, Manmohan Singh in New Delhi. The delegation apprised him of the scheme of over 20,000 houses for the minorities. The prime minister agreed to sanction the scheme under the Rajiv Gandhi Aawas Yojana, and also said that he would put in a word with the state government. Earlier, on September 6, the delegation had met union cabinet minister Selja, who had also shown her appreciation of the scheme.


On September 12, a delegation comprising Dr Ashok Dhawale, K L Bajaj, Mahendra Singh and Narsayya Adam met the chief minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan, who agreed to call a special meeting of concerned ministers and officers to discuss this housing scheme. On September 22, Narsayya Adam and others met the deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar for the same purpose.


It was against this background that the October 9 special annual general body meeting was held this year. Over 22,000 Muslim women of Solapur have already enrolled themselves as members of the Shaheed Qurban Husain Housing Society. Many more wanted to do so, but could not. This indicates the intensity of the question of housing among the minorities.


The general body meeting, which was actually like a huge rally, began by garlanding the portrait of Shaheed Qurban Husain. The Praja Natya Mandal of Solapur presented patriotic and revolutionary songs. After the introductory remarks by secretary of the Society Yusuf Major, Society chairperson Nalini Kalburge, who is a CPI(M) municipal corporator, placed the report of the last one year. Salim Mulla and Mohd Hanif Satkhed seconded the report. Among those who addressed the gathering were M H Shaikh, Venkatesh Kongari, Aziz Patel and Hema Dudhwala from Surat, who had prepared the project report. She was felicitated for her work. Promoter Anil Pandhe, who has been instrumental in turning the Comrade Godavari Parulekar Housing Scheme for women beedi workers into a reality, was also present on the dais along with other distinguished citizens. Iliyas Siddiqui conducted the proceedings, and Mahibub Hirapure proposed the vote of thanks.


In his main speech, Narsayya Adam congratulated the women for having gathered in such large numbers, related the progress of the scheme, outlined its nature and gave an idea of the facilities that have been proposed in the housing complex. Although the preliminary response of the central and state government has been positive so far, he cautioned that in case any attempt is made to create difficulties, the women will have to be prepared to wage an intense struggle to win their right to housing. For this he called upon the women to strengthen their unity even further. He dealt with the severe problems of price rise, food, clothing, education, employment and wages that were being faced by the poor of all communities, especially the minority community. He dealt on the burning problems of the unorganised workers, from whose ranks most of the women present had come. Finally, he declared amidst resounding cheers that the Red Flag will always be with them in all their struggles, come what may, even to the extent of going to jail to ensure that they get justice.