Manjit Kaur (62) driving a jeep with female friends from a Patiala village to the Singhu border. (Sourced)
Manjit Kaur (62) driving a jeep with female friends from a Patiala village to the Singhu border. (Sourced)

Roundabout: Daughters of the soil challenge stereotypes at farmers’ protests

Will women at the forefront of the agitation at Delhi’s borders usher in empowerment at home in the patriarchal states of north India? Only time will tell
By Nirupama Dutt
PUBLISHED ON JAN 16, 2021 11:27 PM IST

One of the pictures going viral during the farmers’ protest was that of feisty rural woman Manjit Kaur, all of 62, in her usual village attire, dupatta covering her head, driving a jeep, taking her female friends from Patiala to the Singhu border to participate in the farmers’ protests. Pictures of several women driving tractors to reach the protest sites followed.

Gender bender

There has been no dearth of stories from Punjab and Haryana about rural and urban women, old and young as well as lettered and unlettered, assuming leadership roles during the ongoing season of dissent against the contentious farm laws. Not only have they defied the voyeuristic male gaze in popular culture that denigrates them as sex objects, they have also shown exceptional skills in management, activism and resilience. This may come as a surprise in a society used to feudal prejudices of a patriarchal society which led to killing the girl child in the foetus, with modern age ushering in sex-determination tests to carry out the murders. In these times when these regions still have a dismal sex ratio; there is this tremendous evidence of the strength of the second sex, not just for mere survival but as a show of endurance in the harshest of conditions.

Heartwarming presence

It was heartwarming indeed to see pictures and news reports of male farmers of Haryana summoning drivers to give lessons to women drive tractors on the national highway on Republic Day, reportedly involving 500 women who will lead a tractor procession which is likely to be a never-seen-before spectacle in the country. Women have also taken the responsibility of farming and looking after their families while their men remain at the protest sites.

Not just this, as many as 100 protest sites in the state are being managed by women to keep the momentum alive.Mention of these facts are now being made by not just women writers but men too reporting from the Delhi borders.

Writer-journalist Sukant Deepak, who has been virtually camping at the protest sites for days, says: “It has been an amazing experience to see young women in command like the petite Kanupriya, the 24-year-old who broke the male bastion to be the first woman president of the Panjab University Campus Students Council two years ago. Now just farmers twice and even thrice her age listen to her intently”.

At the Tikri border one finds Navkiran Natt, 29, a dentist by profession and daughter of well-known left-wing activists, who has founded the Bhagat Singh Library at the protest site and also happens to be the curator of the much talked-about newspaper of the protest tellingly called the Trolley Times as tractor trolleys have also been the makeshift homes of the protesting farmers and families during the agitation.

A note was made in the newspaper of the female-male role reversal when a farmer serving langar to the young women volunteers exclaimed that it was a ‘revolution’ of sorts as men were running the kitchen and serving food to women.

It was Mata Khivi, wife of Guru Angad Dev, who carried the tenet of Guru Nanak of ‘sanjha jhakko’ (share and eat) by establishing the tradition of Guru da langar or community kitchen in which both men and women cooked and served meals. In many homes even now, however, women are still keepers of the hearth with men taking care of the fields.

Only time will tell if the visibility of empowerment of women will continue after the protest. But for the moment it is something to look at with joy.

However, one must not forget that the women’s movement for gender equality which spread all over the country, starting in the International Women’s Year in 1975 had not taken root in Punjab or for that matter in the interiors of Haryana. I recall going to a Punjab village not too far away from Chandigarh with a photographer working on a story on violence against women at home. Trying to talk to women had proved to be a no-no because they literally shooed us away asking us how we dared to try and find out what was going on in their homes.

This had reminded me of the classic ‘Ik Chaadar Maili Si’ (Translated by Khushwant Singh as ‘I Take This Woman’) in which the protagonist Rano is being beaten up by her husband and when a neighbour intervenes, Rano chides him. Well, he is beating his own wife, not yours, so stay away, says Rano.

Making a difference

“This is not the first time that women have been in prominence in a movement,” says historian Kamlesh Mohan, who has done extensive research on the role of women in the freedom struggle against British colonial rule. Mohan says that Punjabi women played a major and visible role in the Kirti Kisan movement of 1928 as well as the struggle for freedom which led to Independence in 1947.

That, however, did not lead to role assignment and empowerment for the women, Mohan says, adding that in an interview with Congress freedom fighter Savitri Krishan, wife of Ram Kishan, a former chief minister of Punjab in the 1960s, she was told that while men draw women in protests and struggles they rarely share power with them. True, some of the well-known names of the times are referred to as the forgotten women of the struggle of Independence.

However, the journey to empowerment is a long and slow process but every step forward does make a difference.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
The main garbage dump on Tajpur road in Ludhiana on Monday. (Gurpreet Singh/HT)
The main garbage dump on Tajpur road in Ludhiana on Monday. (Gurpreet Singh/HT)

Ludhiana’s legacy waste to affect it’s rankings in Swachh Survekshan

By Harsimran Singh Batra, Ludhiana
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 02:11 AM IST
The inspections for this competition are held in the month of March across the country. The third party, which has been roped in for the inspections, is expected to reach Ludhiana this week.
Close
CM Uddhav Thackarey and Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at Vidhan Bhavan on the first day of budget session on Monday. (Vidyadhar Rane/Hindustan Times)
CM Uddhav Thackarey and Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at Vidhan Bhavan on the first day of budget session on Monday. (Vidyadhar Rane/Hindustan Times)

26 set to attend Maharashtra budget session test positive for Covid-19

PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 01:44 AM IST
The state legislature secretariat has made a negative test report for Covid-19 mandatory for attending the legislature session for all the ministers, legislators, officials, employees and security staff
Close
Ajoy Mehta, Maharashtra’s principal advisor on Covid-19 from June 2020 to February 2021. (HT FILE)
Ajoy Mehta, Maharashtra’s principal advisor on Covid-19 from June 2020 to February 2021. (HT FILE)

‘Building a health care staff pool was Maharashtra’s biggest challenge’

PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 01:44 AM IST
Ajoy Mehta, Maharashtra’s principal advisor on Covid-19 from June 2020 to February 2021, speaks about how the state dealt with its greatest ever crisis.
Close
CM Uddhav Thackeray and Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari arrive at Vidhan Bhavan on Day 1 of budget session on Monday. (Vidyadhar Rane/HT)
CM Uddhav Thackeray and Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari arrive at Vidhan Bhavan on Day 1 of budget session on Monday. (Vidyadhar Rane/HT)

Maharashtra did well in handling Covid-19 pandemic: Governor in address to legislature

PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 01:35 AM IST
The Governor also said that the state is yet to get goods and services tax (GST) dues worth 29,290 crore from the Centre
Close
The accused will be produced in court on Tuesday.
The accused will be produced in court on Tuesday.

South Mumbai murder: Domestic help, his friend held

By Vijay Kumar Yadav
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 01:19 AM IST
The two accused had tied the 77-year-old Worli resident’s hands and legs and gagged her with a piece of cloth, and tightly covered her face with a dupatta to rob valuables from the house. She died of suffocation
Close
The exams are set to begin from March 8. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The exams are set to begin from March 8. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Final-year MBBS exams: Students from Maharashtra fear offline tests amid rise in Covid-19 cases

PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 01:11 AM IST
After much delay, the offline exams for final-year MBBS students are set to begin from March 8
Close
The bench said that any breach in the standard operating procedure laid down by HC administration would not be tolerated. (HT File)
The bench said that any breach in the standard operating procedure laid down by HC administration would not be tolerated. (HT File)

Won’t hear cases if social distancing is not followed: Bombay HC to lawyers, litigants

By KAY Dodhiya
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 01:00 AM IST
Taking cognisance of overcrowding in courts, a Bombay high court division bench headed by justice SS Shinde on Monday warned advocates and litigants that the board will be discharged if social distancing norms were not maintained in the court room, as it was essential to maintain health and safety of everyone
Close
HT Image
HT Image

Vaccinations at nine more hospitals, including 2 private hospitals

By Steffy Thevar
PUBLISHED ON MAR 01, 2021 10:15 PM IST
PUNE Day one of phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination drive saw civic hospitals overflowing with beneficiaries, as scores of eligible Punekars landed up at the government hospitals
Close
HT Image
HT Image

MPSC prelims will be conducted as per schedule: Pune divisional commissioner

By HTC
PUBLISHED ON MAR 01, 2021 09:00 PM IST
PUNE The state civil service prelim examinations, conducted by Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC), are scheduled to be conducted on Sunday, March 14
Close
HT Image
HT Image

878 fresh Covid-19 cases reported on Monday in Pune district

By Namrata Devikar
PUBLISHED ON MAR 01, 2021 08:44 PM IST
PUNE A total of 878 fresh Covid-19 cases were reported on Monday in Pune district, as per the state health department
Close
HT Image
HT Image

Chaos, confusion and technical glitches mark phase 2 of Covid vaccination drive

By Steffy Thevar
PUBLISHED ON MAR 01, 2021 08:22 PM IST
PUNE On Monday morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an appeal to senior citizens and eligible beneficiaries under phase two of the nationwide Covid-19 vaccination drive, to get themselves vaccinated
Close
HT Image
HT Image

Pune biz sectors hard hit by Covid restrictions brace for another loss-making run

By Manasi Deshpande
PUBLISHED ON MAR 01, 2021 07:58 PM IST
PUNE The Pune district and city administrations announced the extension of Covid restrictions till March 14
Close
HT Image
HT Image

Gadkari wants MCCIA to replicate Nagpur’s pvt metro model in Pune

By Salil Urunkar
PUBLISHED ON MAR 01, 2021 07:14 PM IST
PUNE Nitin Gadkari, the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, and MSMEs, has asked the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA), to create a vision document for Pune
Close
HT Image
HT Image

Panel initiates probe into Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan scheme

By HT Correspondent
PUBLISHED ON MAR 01, 2021 07:01 PM IST
PUNE A four-member panel set up by the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) to probe alleged irregularities in the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan (JSA), a flagship water conservation scheme by the Devendra Fadnavis government, will hear complaints on Tuesday
Close
A doctor checking a patient with chest congestion in Patiala. (HT PHOTO)
A doctor checking a patient with chest congestion in Patiala. (HT PHOTO)

Rising air pollution led to 41,090 deaths in Punjab in 2019: Report

By Gagandeep Jassowal
UPDATED ON MAR 01, 2021 03:51 PM IST
The report, which was released on Saturday, stated that 1.67 million Indians died due to air pollution in 2019 as per the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019 on health and economic impact of air pollution in the states of India.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP