On women’s day, ‘inquilabi mehndi’ steals the show at farmers’ protest in Ghaziabad
Ghaziabad: Bindu Ammini, a Dalit rights and women’s rights activist from Kerala, was part of a group who sat on a 24-hour relay fast at the UP Gate on Monday, when women took over the reins of the farmers’ protest to mark the International Women’s Day.
Hundreds of farmers, women as well as men, have been camping at the UP Gate since November 26 last year demanding complete rollback of the three central farm laws and a new law on minimum support price.
“We all are one in the fight against the three farm laws. On women’s day, it is our message not to underestimate women. We have broken caste-related, religious and linguistic barriers to come together to fight for the cause. It is a crucial issue which needs to be resolved,” Ammini said, adding that she wants the country to be rid of any gender bias.
She was joined in the relay fast by women from Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Haryana at the dais at the UP Gate site, which was managed by women farmer protesters on Monday.
The women also applied “inquilabi mehndi” (henna of revolution) to their palms.
“This is inquilabi mehndi. This gives out a message that women use mehndi not only to enhance beauty but to bring about revolutions as well. The Prime Minister wished women on women’s day, but they are not listening to us who have been on the road for the past three months,” said Babli Singh, a member of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) from Hapur, who said she has stayed put at UP Gate since day one of the agitation. She added that camping at open borders around Delhi is tough considering that women face issues of proper toilets, bathing areas and sleeping in roadside tents.
Women at UP Gate wrote slogans such as “inquilab zindabad” (long live the revolution) and “kisan ekta zindabad” (long live farmers’ unity), over their palms with henna and started with the activities since early in the day.
“On Monday, 18 women observed the 24-hour long relay fast and also applied mehandi on their hands. On this occasion, we have also come up with a ‘women’s point’ where women can engage in creative activities, reading, discussions and exercises,” said Ravneet Kaur, the coordinator of the event at UP Gate.
“They told us to go back home. But they won’t be seen doing so when it comes to voting. With active participation from women, this agitation will continue till our demands are met,” she added.
Apart from those from neighbouring states, women from far off villages and states such as West Bengal and Maharashtra were also part of the events at UP Gate. Men, meanwhile, prepared gulab jamuns and served it to their women counterparts, who gave speeches from the dais and recited poems.
“I think it is time that the Prime Minister comes forward and intervenes, so that a decision is arrived at. Instead of sending ministers time and again during talks, the PM should have come forward himself and the issues would have been decided by now. But we feel that the government sides with the corporates and does not listen to our issues,” said Surinder Kaur, from Rudrapur in Uttarakhand.
Seventy-year-old Kala Bai arrived from Satara in Maharashtra dressed in traditional saree. She said that she had come along with her son but decided to stay back after he left.
“I farm my fields back home and we have output of 10 quintals, while my sons have their private jobs. There is also an agitation going on in Satara district and when I heard about Delhi, I decided to come here. I was very much impressed by the active participation of women farmers here,” she added.
Krishna Adhikari, who is from Nadia in West Bengal and lives in Uttar Pradesh’s Pilibhit was also part of the women’s group at UP Gate.
“Farmers in West Bengal know about the agitation going on at the borders of Delhi but there is hectic political activity in the state due to the upcoming elections. However, the agitation will soon spread in states like Bihar and West Bengal and women will also be at the forefront. We have been fighting the patriarchal setup for long and we have shown that we can also fight to take this farmers’ agitation forward,” said Adhikari, who is also the UP president of Akhil Bharatiya Pragatisheel Mahila Association.