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No Woman Farmer From Punjab Could Be ‘Kept’ In The Protests Without Her Consent

Posted: January 14, 2021

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Women farmers, especially from the farming communities of Punjab who are in the protest, cannot be ‘kept’ anywhere without their consent.

There was a saying that women in Ancient Sparta would say to their men when they went out to battle, “Come back with your shield or on it”. Meaning, “either you will win the battle, or you will die and then be carried back home on your shield”.

This song linked here, in many ways reminds one of that. Although the singer is not allowing for the more gloomy possibility; she (in my rudimentary understanding of Punjabi) assures her husband that she will turn the earth green, she can till the fields in his absence, she will water it, she will fertilise it, she has taken over all his responsibilities, to now go and fight for our rights, she will personally light his path from Dilli to Punjab with oil lamps when he comes back victorious.

The powerful voice of Gurlej Akhtar and lyrics of Bachan Bedil valourise the good wife. And if you don’t listen very closely, it’s all so sweet and so patriarchal, that our CJI and Ms.Kangana Ranaut would shed copious tears of joy at the woman ‘kept’ within the home doing housewifey things for ‘love’ as good women should.

Except neither women of Sparta nor the women of Punjab can be kept anywhere without their explicit consent. Sparta was an aberration in Ancient Greece. The women were educated, they were trained in martial arts, in sports and fitness, Sparta produced many women Olympians in ancient times. They had the right to their own property, they defended their country against aggressors when the war came to their doorsteps. This “come back with your shield or on it” was no fond goodbye, it was a challenge to their husbands who were trained to be soldiers from the age of seven.

Women of Punjab (and the rest of the country) form the bulwark of agricultural labour. According to Oxfam (2013), around 80 per cent of farm work is undertaken by women in India. However, they own only 13 per cent of the land.

The CJI’s disingenuous comment that the “women are being ‘kept’ (at the protest sites)” is the exact toxic reflection of the invisibility and lack of recognition that our women farmers have to endure in the patriarchal, patrilocal set up where women have duties, just not the rights.

As Gurlej Akhtar sings of the good wife, she also elucidates the list of a woman farmer’s work of sowing, transplanting, watering, applying manure and pesticides, harvesting, threshing, winnowing, and the allied work of cattle-rearing and taking the produce to the markets. Add to this, the full time job of house work, being the primary parent and educator of the children and caregiver of the elderly.

Listen deeper, Hon.CJI, to the song of the woman farmer. You will know that she cannot be kept, you and your country will fall apart if she decides not to be kept.

Image: YouTube

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