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Various civil societies, organisations, unions and women and men of diverse communities took to the streets on 4thApril to demand a change in the direction the country is heading towards. With the upcoming general elections looming over the country, the nation’s women took it upon themselves to renounce the saffron forces that have steered our country towards destruction, divisiveness, misogyny, casteist and communal politics. Over 1500 women marched from Mandi house to Jantar Mantar, chanting slogans of Azaadi!Inquilab Zindabad! Halla Bol! 

At Jantar Mantar, RAAG, a women’s group that sings and composes revolutionary songs took to the stage. They opened the day’s gathering by rallying for women’s rights, freedom of speech and equality. They followed it by a few songs that questioned and critiqued the anti-people and anti-women stance of the current government.

Various activists, journalists, women leaders of various Unions, students groups and even children performed and spoke on issues ranging from weakly implemented schemes of the current government, the communal nature of their politics, women’s education, propaganda that is encouraging communal violence, dalit and Adivasi rights, farmers’ issues and much more that plagues the nation.

The first speaker of the day was journalist Bhasha Singh. She said, “The upcoming elections are crucial, we need to vote out leaders who have destroyed the secular fabric of our country. we should be critical of the Prime Minister who has systematically flouted every Constitutional guideline, emotion and direction. Their aim is to divide us, but us women need to come together and weed them out this election.” She ended with the message that women of this country are not afraid anymore and that they will change the future for better.

An activist from Dalit Mahila Andolan spoke about how the government has failed Dalit and Adivasi women across the country. While talking about the Ujjwala scheme, “This scheme is a farce, the people it caters to cannot afford  to rely on such schemes” she said. Furthermore, she also talked about how healthcare in the country, especially under the current government. “The roads in rural India are still unfit for ambulances. Villagers die daily due to a lack of health care and hospitals. These regions are overwhelmingly dalit and Adivasi regions and if this isn’t hinting a massive scale of discrimination, then what is it?”

Haleema from Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan spoke about the alarming rates of drop outs in the country, especially amongst women from minority communities.  “Women of minority communities have been dropping out of schools at an alarming rate. Despite all the promises that the government has made to empower women, Beti Padhao Beti Bachaocampaigns and everything else has failed the women of the country.” She further added that the government is diverting attention from important issues, by talking about triple talaak and burqa ban and such, they are avoiding basic issues of illiteracy and unavailability of schools in the farthest corners of the country.

The Vice President of JNUSU, Sarika spoke about the need to be aware of the politics that has gripped the nation. “We women will not stand for the hatred that this government. We need to challenge the patriarchal nature of this government, we need to uproot its divisiveness in the upcoming elections. From the streets of the cities to the villages of our country side, women will come to the front with their political consciousness. This is our struggle not only to save the constitution but also to the strengthen the constitution.”

Suman of Satark Nagrik spoke about the women who reside in the bastis. “Our homes are being threatened. We want safety, we don’t need THE chowkidar, we want the police to side with the people of this nation. We want protection from the state since it doesn’t protect our people and our children.”

Arti of NNSW talked about the promises made by the government and how even after 5 years of their leadership none of them have been implemented. “The nature of the state is such that women have been wholly discriminated against. We will no longer believe their false promises, we women will not be fooled anymore. We will reject this government in the upcoming elections.”

Kunta from Kisan Mahila  (?) spoke about how women, even after working side to side with men, they still treated as secondary to men. “Women’s labor has not been properly recognized in the country. Women’s work goes unnoticed and ignored.”

Pavel, a transgender activist was the last speaker and ended on a very powerful note that resonates with the women of every community and background. “ We have been spoken about in history, we are present in our history, our culture and yet in 2019 we still aren’t treated equally. We know ourselves better than anyone else. Why does the government refuse to sit with us, communicate with us and then form Bills and Laws. We will not be spoken about, we will speak for ourselves.” She said.

Throughout the day various artists, groups including Maya Rao, RAAG, Dhaatin, Sanghwari Group, MC Freezak, Aman Birandari, other student groups, Manu Kohli, Sanjay Rajoura, Aisi Taisi Democracy, Rahul Ram took to the stage to sing songs of resistance, equality and freedom. The programme was concluded by a collective rendition of Auretain Uthi Nahi Toh. The march saw the presence of thousands of women belonging to rural India, urban cities, universities and every day women of the country.

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Over 30 individuals had gathered today at Odisha Bhawan, to show solidarity and question the wrongful arrest of Adivasi activist Lingaraj Azad in Kalahandi, Odisha. They demanded to meet the Resident Commissioner of Odisha to submit the memorandum so that it could be given to the Chief Minister of the state. The gathering was a peaceful one where many civil society members spoke about Lingaraj Azad’s work, the current atmosphere in the Niyamgiri Hills regarding the dilution of Gram Sabha powers and a general fear of being displaced and the environment being degraded.

 

However, within half an hour of the gathering, Delhi Police had been called to detain the individuals. According to the officials, the area is under Sec 144 and thus our gathering was unlawful. The demonstrators objected to their forceful removal and the fact that no such intimation had been made public about the area being under Sec 144. Despite that, the police forced over 30 individuals into a waiting bus and took them to Mandir Marg Police Station where they were detained for almost 3 hours.

 

Not only was the group not allowed to submit the memorandum, no official from Odisha Niwas came out to speak to the gathered. This in itself shows the guilt and the agenda of the State to ignore the voices of dissent as they unlawfully silence those who are loud enough. Lingaraj Azad’s work and the work of many Adivasi social activists and community leaders is an obstacle to the State and the Centre’s growing appetite for “development”. Their agenda in this case is to silence the Adivasi voices, to suppress solidarity actions across the country and to do all of that, the police is used as a barrier between those who rule and the ones who are being ruled.

 

The Niyamgiri hills have been continuously targeted by corporates like Vedanta that want to mine it for its Bauxite. The region has witnessed decades of violence and disharmony and has witnessed the open flouting of human rights. Tribes residing in the hills have faced rampant oppression at the hands of the police who regularly harm innocent villagers in so called raids and search operations for Maoists. Lingaraj’s arrest comes at a time when the political environment of the country is highly unstable. By labelling him as a maoist and an anti-social element, the police is looking to deter any and all dissenting groups in the region. This pre-emptive targeting of community leaders right before the General Elections is an old strategy of ruling governments that are not pro-welfare. By instilling fear in the hearts of the communities, the ruling government will profit from them being forced into silence.

 

Please find attached the memorandum that was prepared by the group. The most important demand being the release of Lingaraj Azad and the quashing of the fabricated charges against him.

 

 

 

It is always the grass that suffers when two kings go to war
– Rabindranath Tagore
The great sage Vidur advised King Dhritarashtra in the Mahabharata that a ruler’s dharma was to abide by the truth, help farmers, promote knowledge, punish sinners and appoint capable Ministers.Today, on one side, there is the slogan of ‘sabka saath sabka vikas’, and, on the other, the beating ofthe drums of war. Is this the rule of dharma?
Before the 2014 elections, those who were vying for power at the Centre claimed they got no answers when they asked who benefitted from Aadhar, how secure was its privacy? But after they won, in2016, the same critics issued 100 crore Aadhar cards and 45% of the ration cards were linked toAadhar. News has now come that the data of over 13 crore cards has been leaked, and common citizens are harassed by a system that has become an obstacle to acquire even basic services.
Similarly, in 2016, demonetisation was ordered with the assurance that black money will be brought back, all poor citizens will get 15-20 lakh rupees in their bank accounts, terrorism will end, and the nation’s treasury will overflow. Now that the hoopla is over, the state of the national treasury remains the same, terrorism is still rampant, and the people have come to realise that there is no free lunch.
The long lines created by demonetisation had barely ended, when GST was launched – the same GST which had been dubbed a failure by chowkidar just three years earlier. Justifying his action now, he claimed that the economy had improved. But economists estimate that unemployment is at a record high, and the promise of 2 crore jobs for the youth flutters emptily in the air. The slogan of ending corruption is beginning to sound hollow as more than 9 lakh crore rupees stand as outstanding loans by the banks to companies. Modi and Choksi with 13,000 crores; Mallya 9,000 crores; Mehta another 7,000 crores; Sandesara 5,000 crores – and all have decamped abroad with the
loot. While the Rafale deal is tweaked to favour Ambani and rates changed and airports sold to benefit Adani. The man, who shed tears for the farmers in 2014, had then promised that the support price would increase two-and- a-half times; while incomes would double. Five years later he has now promised Rs 6000 to be given to farmers every year – will that measly amount save agriculture? The desperate farmers are marching again and again to the cities, hoping someone will listen and avert their crisis.
As for terrorism, 19 jawans died at Uri in 2016. At that time the government declared it would give a strong reply to terrorism; a surgical strike was carried out; there were rousing calls to bring Pakistan to trial. The Prime Minister also added, “India is ready to fight poverty. Both countries should compete over who can end poverty first.” Poverty has not reduced, but 40 more jawans have died at Pulwama.
As the elections draw near, people are demanding accountability: what happened to the promises? All the lies stand exposed; what way out remains? – communal violence or war? Every day of war costs both nations 1800 crore rupees. If the nuclear bomb is used 2 crore people will perish immediately. Is this the heritage we wish to leave our children? If we want peace and security we have to forge a wall that cannot be crossed. Are we ready for that?The sword of revolution is sharpened on the whetting stone of ideas

– Shaheed Bhagat Singh

Campaign Against War:

 

Delhi Solidarity Group and Kriti Film Club, are organising a premiere of the film “Ho Gyi Hai Pir Parvat Si (The Mountains Agonized). The film is directed by Subrat Kumar Sahu. He is known for making films that reflect our social structures and has often been sceptical about the “way of development” through his craft.

Venue: Gulmohar Hall, India Habitat Centre
Date and Time: 
2nd March, 2019; from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM

Brief synopsis of the movie: 
Ho Gayi Hai Pir Parvat Si – Hindi (The Mountains Agonized), made by Independent Filmmaker, Subrat Kumar Sahu, is a documentary on the impacts of hydropower development in the Satluj Valley . The 111 minute film, shot between 2010 and 2017, travels from village to village on the landscape that falls under Seismic Zone IV and V, capturing visuals of colossal disaster and resident testimonies of the already deleterious impacts of many ongoing hydro-power projects on the local farm-based economies, on their precious water sources, causing deforestation, health hazards, landslides, flash floods, leading to desperate situations for the local communities and also threatening to drive them into dispossession and perpetual deprivation.

Nature, of course, speaks for itself, and pits its own argument.

Trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qY3V_iLLes

Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/300543297487448/

About filmmaker: Subrat Kumar Sahu is known for making films that reflect our social structures and has often been sceptical about the “way of development” through his craft.Ho Gayi Hai Pir Parvat Si – Hindi (The Mountains Agonized) is his 8th documentary movie. Apart from making movies, he has worked at several positions such as Researcher, Reporter, Script-Writer, Editor, Producer, and Director at various television channels, including Zee TV, Aaj Tak, BiTV, TV 18.

 

A group of individuals and mass organisations marched to the office of the Resident Commissioner of Maharashtra demanding the immediate release of those falsely arrested in the Bhima Koregaon violence case, release of the Reliance Energy workers and abrogation of draconian acts like UAPA, NSA, and others and presented a memorandum to the Resident Commissioner – CHALO MAHARASHTRA SADAN! Feb. 5 (2:30 pm) – Kasturba Gandhi Marg, DELHI, a memorandum regarding the same was submitted to the Resident Commissioner. (copy attached.)

Dalit Literature Festival, a platform for bringing the writings, literature, culture, and struggles of Dalit, Aadivasi, and marginalized identities; an attempt to connect literature, culture and people’s movements

More than 100 writers, poets, cultural artists from dalit, adivasi, women, denotified tribes, minority and various marginalized communities and social activists will join the Dalit Literature Festival

The

 Dalit Literature Festival is going to be held on 3-4 February at Kirori Mal College of Delhi University. More than 100 writers, poets, cultural artists in various languages from dalit, adivasi, women, denotified tribes, minority, and various marginalized communities and social activists will join us and put forward the struggles of communities through their literature, poems, artistic expressions and resistances. Today from the University Guest House, Dr. Namdev, convener of Dalit Literature Festival gave a brief detail about the festival and said that the Dalit Literature Festival has a primary objective to act as a platform for bringing the writings, literature, and culture of dalit, adivasi and marginalized communities in front of the society. The word ‘Dalit’ is kept as a theme for the 2019 edition of Dalit Literature Festival to reflect the same.

Suraj Badtiya, founder member of Dalit Literature Festival and a dalit-adivasi writer, said that the word ‘Dalit’, which has told us about the oppression of marginalized communities and their painful struggles, is facing an intensified attack. Even from many progressive and reactionary forces. There are very few writers or literary organisations who have a positive approach towards the writings of dalit, adivasi, and other marginalized communities. This motivated us, Ambedkarvadi Lekhak Sangh and many other organisations, to come together and conceptualize for the Dalit Literature Festival.

Sanjeev Danda, convener, Secretariat of Dalit Literature Festival shared that the organising committee contacted the people from dalit, adivasi, women, denotified tribes, minorities, and transgender communities from all over the country. Among them writers, artists, poets, and others from 15 languages will join us. Aahuti, one of the prominent dalit writer from Nepal will also come. Along with others, Medha Patkar from Narmada Bachao Andolan and National Alliance of People’s Movements will also be joining us. From Maharashtra, Lakshman Gaikwad, an adivasi writer awarded with Sahitya Academy Award; Sharan Kumar Limbale, a dalit writer; from Gujarat, Harish Mangalam and Adivasi poet and singer Govardhan Banjara; world famous artist Manmohan Bava, a known adivasi writer in Kannad language Shantha Naik; from Hyderabad, V. Krishna, from Trivandram, Jayasree, Shaamal Mustafa Khan, Sahitya Academy Award recipient Balbeer Madhopuri; Krantipal, Madan Veera, Mohan Tyagi and many others will be joining the festival. From Hindi literature, Mohandas Naimishrai, Jayprakash Kardam, Mamta Kaaliya, Chauthiram Yadav, Hariram Meena, Shyoraj Singh Bechen, Nirmala Putul, Balli Singh Cheema, and many other will also be joining us. From Bihar, Musafir Baitha, Prahlaadchand Das; from Bhopal, Asangaghosh; from Lucknow, the editor of Mantavya Pratrika and Gyaanpeeth award recipient writers and poet Hareprakash Upadhyaay; Malkhan Singh will be coming for the Dalit Literature Festival.

Prof. Hansraj Suman, member, Delhi University Academic Council and Director, Rhythm, said that the festival will important to witness the folk singers coming from Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamilnadu, and Gujarat who will be telling us about the dalit-adivasi culture and traditions through their songs. Balraj Singh Sihmaar, President, Ambedkarvadi Lekhak Sangh, said that the festival was in conception since last two years and after a lot of discussion and courage, we are bringing this with the help of people from all over the country who will be coming to attend the festival. Prof. Pramod Mehra from IGNOU said that there will be six parallel sessions among which one will be in English and another on various languages from India. Apart from this, we will be showing the documentary on dalit, adivasi, women, and minorities on both days. With this Dalit Literature Festival, there will be an attempt to propagate the social justice, equity, and harmony that will be helpful further in eradicating the caste system.

Dr Hemlata Kumar, a feminist intellectual and professor from Delhi University said that the corporate forces have started capturing the spaces provided in literature as well. The patriarchal attacks are increasingly influencing the society and literature. In such circumstances, even the women are considered to be dalits. Thus, the dalit literature festival will play an important role in reassertion and towards making a society with gender equality and justice. Mukesh Mirotha, a dalit thinker and Professor from Jamia Milia Islamia shared that Aahuti, a dalit writer from Nepal, Bejwada Wilson, and Medha Patkar, a renowned social activist will join the festival during inauguration. We appeal everyone to come and join us on 3-4 February, 2019 at Kirori Mal College and contribute towards making the Dalit Literature Festival, a success.

Organisers: Ambedkarvadi Lekhak Sangh, Hindi Deptt. Kirori Mal College, Rashmi Prakashan Lucknow, Ridam Patrika, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Delhi Solidarity Group (DSG), Alag Duniya, Mantavya Patrika, Akshar publishers & distributors delhi, Forum for Democracy, Magadh Foundation, Kahani Punjab, Ambedkar World.

All India Union of Forest Working People and Delhi Solidarity Group organised a Public Hearing, titled, “Women in Resistance: Women in Prison| BANDINI |” to provide a platform to women from across the country, belonging to diverse struggles like land rights movements, coastal rights, forests rights, women empowerment campaigns and much more. This public hearing was also initiated in memory of Bharti Roy Chaudhary who was a pioneer in raising Women Forest and Land Rights movement as a founding member of National Forum of Forest Working People [NFFPFW] and Uttar Pradesh Land Right and Labour Rights Campaign Committee.

Women from various movements across the country took to the stage to talk about their experiences and their grievances. Five women activists of All India Union of Forest Working People, Sukalo Gond, Rajkumari, Lalti, Phulri and Kismati spoke about about their multiple experiences of going to jail and being arrested ver false allegations by the police. “They arrested us for fighting for our freedom, but now they are arresting our children and exposing them to violence. They are trying to hurt the next generations’ will to keep struggling and adding to the movement” Said Lalti. With tremendous grit, and a courageous smile, Rajkumari talked about how even though she had been jailed multiple times, she wa sonly getting stronger and her will was solidifying more than ever before. “The land that belongs to the government is the land that belongs to us. Jails are ours too, we’ll go again and again if it means the movement will continue to grow strong.” She promised to a round of thunderous applause. Adding to her statement, Sukalo Gond who was in jail for over 5 months due to false charges, said, “They are irritated with us, they are disgusted that people like me, communities like ours are becoming aware, conscious and fearless in the fight against inequality and oppression.” She and the rest of the women also spoke about the glaring problems in the Indian prison system, where the living conditions with the jails are next to nothing, the food is abysmal and the treatment inmates receive is quite literally torture.

Roma, Dy General Secretary of AIUFWP, talked about the need to approach the loopholes of the legal system in India, to question the police and their dubious connections with the corporate and the State. “Most of the women in movements are arrested over false charges, serious sections from the IPC are put on them with no evidence and they are jailed without any respite” She said. Women in general are struggling within the Indian prison system, what with a lack of sanitation, vocational training, basic amenities, and dignity. From custodial torture, rape, denial of health services, and a sheer ignorance on behalf of the state, the Indian prison has failed to respect the rights of the inmates. Their social and economic backwardness makes them vulnerable, being not being able to defend themselves legally and financially.

Manorama from the Anti-POSCO struggle in Odisha spoke about how most women in the movement are still fighting false cases that were filed on them by the police. “Women have been accused of murders and anti-state acts even though the very people who threw bombs are scot free” she said. She also spoke about how most women cannot afford their legal battles ad are languishing because of it. Harbati Gando, an activist who has been struggling against Vedanta also spoke about how women were being brutalised by the State because they were seen as easier targets. “They were lenient with us before, but now that they know women are the helm of the struggle, they make sure to prioritise us in their aim to destroy our communities. For them we are all Maoists and they think we don’t deserve to live a life that is free of violence” She said. Xavier Amma and Mildred, activists from Tamil Nadu , take about how difficult and stressful the environment is. “During the Kudankulam struggle, they arrested us in masses, trying to suppress us and our voices. We continued fighting for the sake of our children, we went to jail, were given bad food and put in small cells. We made sure our movement was non-violent but the response we got from the state was only violent. They charged us as anti-nationals, terrorists and much more, but we know the truth in our experiences and we will not be silenced” they said.

While talking about the situation in Kashmir, Anjum Zamrooda Habib, author of Kaidee No. 100 and a prominent women’s rights activist from Srinagar, talked about how silent the mainstream media was over the militancy in the state. “Kashmir has been collectively incarcerated, we are treated worse than others because of the bias of the police and the rest of the country. While I was in Tihar, I saw the worst of the prison system. Their needs to be some serious intervention in the way they function and the way they dehumanise the people within the walls of the jail.”She also talked about the fact the Kashmiris are born incarcerated because of the Government deems it unworthy of humane treatment and we should collectively struggle for our citizens in the north. Kamla from the Narmada Bachao Andolan stressed on how important movements were to equalise women and men, generate awareness in the rural regions and to achieve their rights. She spoke at length about how women within the NBA were fairly quiet earlier and stayed at the back, but under Medha Patkar’s fearless leadership, women are now the face of the struggle and will continue to build on that in the years to come.

Soni Sori is a well known activist across the country, she took to the stage to share her traumatising experiences within the prison but also about how apathetic the state was to the cause of its own people. “They tried to kill me emotionally, they tried to prove that I was mad, they tried to drown me in depression by brutalising my body, but they have failed.” She said. She spoke at length about she witnessed torture at the hands of jail officials to the point where women’s chests were chopped up and they were raped for the benefit of the officials. Nikita of the Lawyers’ Collective spoke at length about police brutality and how they continue to manipulate the judicial system to penalise innocent people. They also talked about how the police mentally and physically tortures people but they are not punished for doing so. This in itself reflects the sad state of affairs and the corruption within the State and the Police.

In the concluding session, the jury members passed statements through two representatives. Uma Chakravarty, an academic and a prominent feminist activist, informed all present that a report will be made, detailing the experiences of all the women activists and many more who are still in jail and do not have a platform to represent themselves. “The conditions of the prisons and the experiences of the women within them should be in the public domain and thus we should collectively address it and find permanent solutions.” She said. Vrinda Grover, also a jury member said, “The prison system in the country needs to be reevaluated and improved. The conditions are debilitating and its pertinent to legally challenge the indifference of the officials who run them. Furthermore, false cases and such manipulations should also be looked into and those encouraging and doing the same should be penalised.”

The spirit of the entire day’s programme was that women activists across the country are facing harsh conditions in jails, are being brutalised by the police and yet they find strength in those struggles and vow to not back down.