This month, women hold fort in protest of Indian peasants

New Delhi – The man arrived first. And they arrived with a bang.

Tens of thousands of them marched like an army, driving trucks and trailers, preparing to choke on the major highways leading to India’s bustling capital.

But when a male peasant crouched around New Delhi and laid down some sort of siege, something amazing happened in the weeks that followed. The flow of women, young and old, began to make noise in the crowd of men.

First, it was a trickle — a dozen or two of them covered in yellow and green scarves, accompanied by an army of male peasants arriving daily at the protest site. Then their numbers began to swell slowly. From students, teachers and nurses to housewives and grandmothers, women have appeared in cars and buses. Some even drove a tractor with a flag on a bulky metal hood that demanded a “revolution.”

A month after the protests, these women were at the forefront, smiling, laughing, singing revolutionary songs, and categorically demanding a rollback of new peasant laws passed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. Farmers support large companies and are afraid to have families. The farm you own is infeasible and will eventually run out of land.

The highway is their new home and they form the backbone of the protest and hear their voice.

“After all, we’re the hardest on the farm and feeding the country,” said Raman Deep Cowl, who was in the front row of miles of protest sites. “Our men are here to fight. We stand with them as long as we need to.”

On a normal day, 45-year-old Cowl spends a lot of time teaching science at a government-run school in Bathinda, northern Punjab. At the end of the day, she did household chores and then worked on a family farm, feeding cows, milking, and turning dung into fuel cakes.

But after traveling about 340 km (211 miles) with a friend last weekend, she now threatens to stop until their request to abolish the new farming law is met, an invading protester. I am a member of the army.

Working on the protest site involves a tight daily schedule of 10-12 hours. During the day, Cowl directs a group of volunteers making flatbread and curry for thousands of protesters camping in the suburbs of New Delhi. At night, she prepares bedding for dozens of grandmothers crouching in protest sites, trailers, and temporary tents.

“We have long met the demands of farms and families and have confirmed that both tend to be appropriate,” Cowl said. “But when the men fought for good reason, the women stayed back and did not speak up.”

The cowl embodies the “invisible” workforce of India’s vast farmlands, which is often overlooked.

According to the non-governmental organization Oxfam India, nearly 75% of rural Indian women working full-time are farmers, and the number is expected to increase as more men move to cities for work. Still, just under 13% of women own their own land.

However, participation in protest sites may not yet be sufficient for women to express their concerns.

“The fight is another day,” said Kavitha Kuruganti, a female peasant leader who is part of a delegation of about 40 peasants who talked with government representatives to end the deadlock. “For now, women are here to emphasize that they are fighting like men and not taking backseats.”

Kurganti’s words are true, as many women arriving during the first wave of protest are crouching with a determination not to flag yet. They don’t want to leave.

Last afternoon, a group of grandmothers enthusiastically chanted “Haqlenge,” the colloquial Punjabi phrase “we take ours,” in a trailer. With a toothless smile and a clenched fist in the sky, their big chanting warned passers-by who joined the choir at a protest site that symbolized national resistance.

Grandmothers said they were always in a closed room, busy with daily chores, and barely exposed to politics throughout their lives. It was until last month.

For more than 30 days, a frail but energetic woman bravely confronted New Delhi’s bone-chilling temperatures and a pandemic that killed more than 148,000 Indians, alongside thousands of other protesters. , Camped on the highway day and night.

“I haven’t protested before, but I’ll be happy to die for my land and future generations,” said 60-year-old Manjit Cowl. “We fight for our rights.”

Women are participating in recent protests across India. The so-called “Daddy” or grandmother’s core from New Delhi’s predominantly Islamic neighborhood is essential to a demonstration of the new discriminatory civil rights law brought by the Modi government in 2019, when violence culminated. did.

The involvement of young women familiar with social media has changed the spirit of the current protest. Many are daughters of well-educated farmers and wonder why women should not be at the forefront.

For weeks, Karamjeet Kaur led an awareness-raising procession in her village in Punjab, while a man in her family protested in New Delhi. Equipped with a smartphone, 28-year-old Cowl broadcast a video of a protest from the village on Instagram to thousands of followers.

“People had to know that women were protesting even from their homes,” she said.

Mr. Cowl was aware of the “difficult challenges” facing the agricultural community, but did not understand what it really took to continue the fight until he decided to come to New Delhi. Said that.

Temperatures in the capital have fallen to their lowest levels in recent years, and sanitary sanitation for thousands of female farmers continues to be a challenge on protest sites. To make matters worse, the risk of getting a coronavirus is always greater.

“But we are ready to stay until Modi abolishes these black laws,” Cowl said.

Her family initially resisted her participation in the protest, but “but now I know why I’m fighting,” Cowl said.

“We thought Modi would give us a job, but all he did was take us out on the road,” she said. “And we stay on the road.”

Copyright 2020 AP communication. all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.

This month, women hold fort in protest of Indian peasants

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