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On 4th April, women across the country marched – against institutionalised patriarchy, against disparity in wages, against casteist culture and against the forces that power these.
Pitrasatta dhokha hai, dhakka maaro mauka hai
Hum lekar rahenge azaadi. Shaadi karne ki azaadi. Na karne ki azaadi. Sunsaan sadak par azaadi. Modi-Yogi se azaadi.
Keh kar lenge azaadi.
Voices rose together. Steps were taken together. Age, class, caste meant nothing. We screamed as one. For a country that must recognise women as people first. That doesn’t view itself and its citizens in traditional gender binaries. We rose because we must have adequate space for everyone. We rose because women issues aren’t just women issues. They belong to the country. We also rose because the country’s issues are our issues. And when women rise, we change things. And given it is our democracy that is at stake, we need our voices now, more than ever.
The march, organised by various gender and civil groups, was a nationwide rallying cry, for women in every village, taluk, town and city to rise. The idea was also to reinstate the importance of our vote, and the fact that women were rejecting the politics of hate, and systemic attack on democratic institutions by the current regime.
The beauty of the marches and events was, that there was no one body organising it. Decentralised, and loosely organised, various groups began to join the movement, organising the march in their own cities and it then became a true collective. Shabnam Hashmi, one of the key organisers at the march also spoke of its need and nature.
The greatest joy of this movement, that has gained impetus and momentum one after the other, is that it is truly becoming intersectional in nature. As I marched in the Women March for change, in Delhi yesterday, I marched alongside a village woman, a lawyer, an artist, a trans woman, a student and a journalist. And we were flanked by women police officers who while didn’t march with us, ended up walking alongside us anyway.
What is it about such a movement? Why is it important? Because women are more defiant than we have ever been. We find our sisters in struggles. We’ve all been through discrimination of various kinds, we have all felt oppressed, objectified in different ways at some point or the other in our lives. Irrespective of where we come from, where we’ve led our lives, our education, the lack of it notwithstanding. It is our empathy, and the feeling of just having had enough, that pulls us to each other. That makes us do what it takes to stand by, with each other. The fact that we will fight so that no one else suffers the way we did. So that others have the ability to lead a more equal life than ours. Because we know our voices matter. Individually and in a collective.
As different women, Dalit women, Muslim women, artists, free thinkers marched yesterday, the hot summer air itself was charged. From the feminists I have grown up idolising, in Uma Chakravarty and Urvashi Butalia, to representations of various groups, we rose our voices against patriarchy and the politics of division and hate.
We rose our voices for Dalit and adivasi women. We rose our voices asking for the release of Shoma Sen and Sudha Bharadwaj . We condemned institutionalised patriarchy, disparity in wages. We rose our voices against casteist culture.
Each of these having been mainstreamed by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government, with so many anti-women policies (on which you can read more here). The largely marketed high decibel “beti bachao, beti padhao’ is an admitted failure by this apathetic government, that spent more time, money and effort in popularising the scheme than actually implementing it.
The anti-romeo squads in UP that were rampant on the pretext of ‘saving women’ are in reality oppressing women and our ability to make active choices, deciding for us who we must be with and with what relationship that is accepted by patriarchal notions of an unequal society.
Political participation by women still remains low with the women’s reservation bill still languishing, despite varied researches demonstrating that women as legislators will help the Indian economy. Women are still seen merely as ‘mothers’ and ‘sisters’, confined to only roles they must play in patriarchal worlds, with little conversation on our autonomy, beliefs or ambitions. There have been no strong measures or interventions for women safety, or punishment/reform of rapists and molesters. No strong steps have been taken to curb the culture of abuse, physical or virtual.
Trolls followed by Modi on Twitter are often the most vicious with their threats to free thinking, independent women. This is all also blatantly visible in the personal politics of Modi, and his right wing brigade.
The glorification of Modi for having abandoned his wife for the ‘service of the nation’ reinforces the immensely patriarchal belief that women are but distractions that lure you away from a path, that are responsibilities that slow you down, and mere objects that can be freely abandoned at will. Narendra Modi’s politics is deeply patriarchal, and reinforces toxic masculinity again and again. Which is what we rose against. We rose to save the constitution. To ensure that we hold power accountable, against it.
The March took place parallely across 131 places in India. And women rose everywhere. From places like Jaunpur to Delhi, from Agra to Chennai. In Delhi we spoke of the idea of consent, the need to make our voices heard and make our vote count. Let’s not forget that it was Yogi Adityanath who insisted that women could not be free or independent. There is an absolute, desperate need to question a government that could instal someone like this as Chief Minister, who does not consider women as autonomous individuals.
While there were immensely thought provoking, and moving performances, Maya Krishna Rao’s deeply moving performance, astute political conversations and fearless use of voice and body gave me goosebumps. Sanjay Rajoura and Rahul Ram’s satire as always was thought provoking. Dhatin group, and many independent artists took to the stage leaving a lasting impact. There was rhythm in the air. And I would be hopeful if that rhythm is the one that will ensure power crumbles for the patrairchal people right now in the seats controlling it.
The last word. to borrow from Maya’s performance-The Preamble is my God. As is the constitution. And it is time we rise, to save it.
Women of the world unite. Forever.
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Saumya Baijal, is a writer in both English and Hindi. Her stories, poems and articles
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