March 8, International Women’s Day

Organise against injustice and for peace!

Sisters in struggle,

Organise against injustice and for peace!

Sisters in struggle,

The dark clouds of war are hovering over our country and the entire subcontinent today, and an atmosphere loaded with tension threatens to engulf us all. Massive military mobilisation is going on at the Indo-Pakistan border and thousands of villagers have been forced to flee, leaving their homes and belongings behind. There are reports of rape of women and young girls by the military personnel in the border areas.

It is becoming amply clear that the Anglo American imperialists, as a part of their design to re-divide Asia and establish their hegemony over this region, are busy stoking up the tension in our subcontinent. On the one hand, hostilities between our two neighbouring countries are being encouraged in the name of “war against terrorism”; on the other hand, Blair, Powell and other imperialist chieftains are busy acting as “brokers of peace” and strengthening their interference in the region. The Indian government is working in close collaboration with the Anglo American imperialists, thus increasing the danger of imperialist intervention in this region, while we, the people of this region, are being asked to stand on the sidelines and silently watch the drama unfolding.

Today, in the name of “war on terrorism” and “national security”, our rulers are trying to close down all those avenues for establishing peaceful and friendly relations with the people of Pakistan, that we have worked so hard to establish over the years. Using the events of December 13 as a pretext, hateful communal propaganda and communal attacks are being organised against people of Muslim faith and other minorities. Draconian laws like POTO are being imposed to stifle every form of political and economic dissent of the people. Our aspirations of living in peace within our own country and with our neighbouring peoples are being systematically shattered.

On the economic front, the working people are facing one attack after another in the name of the “free market” reforms that are being imposed on us. The policy of globalisation through liberalisation and privatisation has meant loss of jobs for millions of workers and working people, devastation for masses of peasants and loss of their means of livelihood for large numbers of small producers. Basic services such as transport, education and health are being handed over to the private Indian and foreign monopolies. Proper health care, education, etc. are rapidly going out of reach of the masses of working people.

Unemployment is on the rise. Through the dismantling of the Public Distribution System, food security of the working people is severely threatened. State subsidies in almost every sphere are being cut down, as the state absolves itself of all its responsibilities towards its citizens using the excuse that “it has no money”. Meanwhile, lakhs of rupees continue to be spent every day on the military mobilisation.

Despite all these years of struggle, poverty, starvation and insecurity continue to be the lot of the majority of our toiling sisters and brothers. Our fate continues to be determined by a handful that constitutes the ruling elite and holds political power in its hands. All major decisions that affect the political and economic life of our people are taken by this ruling elite, while the masses of working people are completely marginalised and systematically deprived of all their political and economic rights.

For some years now, the women’s movement in our country has been engaged in the debate over whether reservation for women within the existing political system can empower women. Our experience with reservation for women at the panchayat level has shown us that despite this, the majority of women continue to be politically and economically marginalised. At the same time, the illusion is created in the women’s movement that empowerment can be achieved thorough reservation within the existing system. The bill for reservation of seats for women in Parliament has been stalled time and again, and for almost the whole of the last decade, the debate on this issue has blocked the further development and advance of the women’s movement.

We women have always been in the forefront of the struggle against every kind of injustice in society. In 1991, we came out in opposition to the economic reforms of the new economic policy, together with the organisations of workers and other working people. In 1993, in the midst of the frenzied communal hatred and violence following the destruction of the Babri Masjid, we raised our voice of protest against the communal attacks on the muslims and the rape of our muslim sisters. Earlier, in 1984, we opposed the massacre of the Sikhs in Delhi and elsewhere. We came out in large numbers to oppose the torture of innocents under TADA. We have consistently cried out against the killing of innocent people by the police and paramilitary forces in “encounter killings” in Kashmir, North-East and Andhra Pradesh and the rape and humiliation of our sisters there.

History is witness to the fact that women are the worst affected victims of fascism and war. That is why it becomes our imperative duty today, to stand up as one, against the fascist attacks on our people and against the danger of war, to oppose tooth-and-nail the threat to our livelihood and security through the economic reforms that are being imposed on us.

In order to be an effective fighting force, we women have to get organised around our own program, of building a new society where the rights of all will be guaranteed, where the economy will be organised to ensure the well-being of the masses, where no one will be deprived of her or his source of livelihood, where there will be no poverty, malnutrition or starvation, where our lives will not be devastated by terrorism or militarisation, where we shall live in peace and harmony, where there will no exploitation or oppression. To realise our dream of such a society, let us unite all our toiling sisters and brothers around this program and give a fitting reply to the attempts of the rulers to drown our struggles through fascism and war. This is the call of International Women’s Day!

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