Over 800 women and men, youth and students, marched in unison from Rajiv Chowk to Jantar Mantar in Central Delhi, on 8th March, 2017, in celebration of International Women’s Day. With spirited slogans and songs that resounded through the busy streets, with clenched fists held high, with colourful banners and placards highlighting their resolve to resist the manifold attacks of the state, they reiterated their commitment to continue the struggle in defence of their rights and for a system free of injustice and inequality.
The banners boldly declared – “The liberation of women is the path to the liberation of the whole society!”, “With political power in our hands we will end exploitation and injustice!”, “An attack on women is an attack on whole of society!”, “Down with state terrorism and communal violence!”, “Long live the fighting unity of women!”
The protesting women and men raised militant slogans demanding that the state protect the rights and dignity of women, their right to livelihood, food, education, health services, toilets and sanitation, their right to participate in the political process, their right to live, work and travel free from sexual harassment and assault. A joint leaflet issued by all the participating organisations on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2017 called for equality, security, dignity, livelihood and rights.
At Jantar Mantar, the demonstration culminated in a huge public meeting, at which representatives of the various participating organisations conveyed their thoughts on International Women’s Day, through speeches, songs, plays, etc. The opening song “No work for me …”, soulfully rendered by youth activists, expressed how women work hard for their families and for society but are themselves condemned to grinding poverty and misery.
Speakers recalled the genesis of International Women’s Day, as the day to mark the struggle of women against capitalist exploitation and for a society free from exploitation and oppression. They denounced the growing attacks on the livelihood and rights of women and men, the systematic attempts by the state to break the unity of the people of different nations and nationalities, communities and regions. They called for an end to state organized communal violence and terror. They called for an end to atrocities by the armed forces and security agencies of the state, end to army rule and AFSPA. They demanded an end to arbitrary arrests and torture under various draconian laws, without evidence or trial.
Several women who addressed the gathering questioned the legitimacy of this political system, which unfailingly defends the interests of the handful of biggest Indian and foreign capitalist monopolies, while trampling in the mud the most basic rights of the toiling masses.
One of the highlights of the day was that militant women questioned the existing political process, in which the majority of women and men have no power in spite of having the right to vote. They can neither select their candidates for election, nor can they hold their elected representatives to account or recall them. They exposed the fact that laws are made to benefit the capitalist exploiters, while we women and men do not have any mechanisms to make laws in our interests. They called on women and men to unite in the struggle to usher in a system in which we will be our own masters, a society based on equality, dignity and respect for the rights of all.
Through skits and plays, women and men spoke out against the numerous backward customs and prejudices which shackle young women and justify the attacks on their rights and dignity. Spirited songs and folk dances brought out the unity and optimism of women, in their struggle against exploitation and injustice.
Hundreds of copies of the 1-15 March issue of Mazdoor Ekta Lehar, highlighting the significance of International Women’s Day, were warmly received by the participants and people who gathered in solidarity.
More than 27 organisations had worked unitedly to ensure the success of this program. They included National Federation of Indian Women, All India Democratic Women’s Association, Purogami Mahila Sangathan, All India Progressive Women’s Association, YWCA, Swastika Mahila Samiti, Stree Mukti Sangathan, Society for Labour and Development, Sama, Jagori, Saheli Women’s Resource Centre, Solidarity and Action against the HIV Infection in India (SAATHI), Shades of Happiness Foundation, RAHI Foundation, Nirantar, Nari Shakti Manch, Sangat, Joint Women’s Programme, TARSHI, Feminist Approach to Technology, Feminism In India, Kamkaji Mahila Samanvay Samiti , Domestic Workers Union, Delhi Solidarity Group, National Alliance of People’s Movements, Bhor Foundation, Azad Foundation and Action India.