Hundreds of women activists from nearly 20 organisations as well as individual activists, school and university students, cultural activists, lawyers, nurses, teachers, homemakers and women from diverse professions participated in a spirited International Women’s Day rally at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on March 8, 2020. The central theme of the rally was the women’s opposition to “Wajood se bedhakli: disenfranchisement of identities” being carried out by the state through the CAA, NRC and NPR.
Colourful banners adorned the venue of the rally, covering the adjacent walls and pillars. The banners boldly declared the united opposition of the women to the many-sided attacks on the state. They bore slogans such as: “No to NRC, CAA and NPR!”, “Religion cannot be the basis for citizenship!”, “Down with the politics of ‘divide and rule’!”, “Unite to fight against exploitation and oppression!”, “Privatisation, liberalisation and globalization – brutal attack on women!”, “Down with state organized communal violence and state terror!”, “Long live the struggle of women for emancipation!”, “With political power in our hands, we will eliminate oppression and injustice!”, etc.
Representatives of NFIW, Purogami Mahila Sangathan, Swastika Mahila Samiti, AIDWA, Pragatisheel Mahila Samiti and others, addressed the women at the rally. They saluted the fighting women of our country who have come out in large numbers, in Delhi and in many other cities, against the CAA, NRC and NPR, through which our rulers are trying to divide our people on the basis of religion. Speakers condemned the many attacks and provocations of the state against the protesting women, the youth and students in the universities. They condemned the vicious communal and poisonous propaganda of the ruling party politicians, the lies spread by the corporate media and the brutal state organized communal violence and state terror unleashed against the Muslim community in many areas of North East Delhi. Speakers pointed to the role of the police and state authorities in aiding the murderous mobs and actively preventing the people from taking the dead and injured to the hospital. The solidarity and fraternity displayed by people of all communities, in bravely countering the attackers and in saving and providing shelter and relief to the victims was hailed as the symbol of the real spirit of our people.
In their speeches the women also condemned the all-sided attacks on women and all working people, the attacks on workers’ rights through denial of minimum wage, hire and fire, use of contract labour, reform of labour laws, absence of crèche facilities for working women, as well as discrimination and sexual assaults faced by women. They condemned the anti-peasant and anti-dalit policies of the state. They demanded an end to privatization of public assets, banking and insurance, transport, education and health services. Speakers also criticized the existing political system and process, which allows political parties in power to commit the most gruesome crimes against people and go unpunished. They called for strengthening the struggle of women and men, for a new political system and process, in which decision making power will be in the hands of the people and the economy will serve the needs of the people rather than the greed of the monopoly capitalists.
Women activists of Jagori, JWP, Pinjra Tod and Stree Mukti Snagathan sang songs highlighting the struggles of women. A youth group from Jamia Nagar staged a play in which they drew attention to the harassment and discrimination women face in every sphere of life, within and outside their homes.
Domestic workers organized under NPDW and self-employed women organized under SEWA spoke of the problems they face and their attempts to get organized and fight for their rights. A militant fighter for the rights of guest teachers in Delhi addressed the rally and spoke of their struggle for regular teaching positions. Nurses spoke of their struggle against their difficult working conditions. Activists of the transgender community spoke of the discrimination and attacks they face, the lack of state support and of their efforts to get organized. A young lawyer described her experiences in defending women and girls who are victims of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual harassment and rape.
The women raised slogans condemning the state organized communal violence and terror in Delhi. They raised slogans against the anti-worker, anti-national and anti-social policies of the government. They pledged to unite and defeat the attempts of the rulers to break our unity. They re-iterated their determination to take forward the struggle for women’s emancipation. The program concluded with women expressing their determination to fight for a new society free from exploitation and oppression.