Monday, February 4, 2013

India: Nari Mukti Sangh, women organisation for rights of oppressed women

La organización femenina maoísta Nari Mukti Sangh (NMS) es conocida popularmente en las zonas donde actúa como la fracción femenina del Partido Comunista de la India (Maoísta). Son un símbolo de rebelión y furia contra las injusticias que padecen las mujeres en la India.
Sangh Nari Mukti (NMS) ha emprendido actualmente una campaña de pegada de carteles en Chhatisgrah y Jharkhand en los cuales se denuncia los abusos y violaciones a que son sometidas principalmente las niñas tribales. En los carteles se afirma: "Las niñas tribales van a las ciudades en busca de trabajo y en cambio son violadas y vuelven a casa embarazadas, con bebes y enfermedades".
Otro cartel decia: "Algunas niñas tribales no tienen la suerte de volver a casa, en su lugar sus cuerpos llegan a sus pueblos, decía otro cartel".
En los carteles se dice que "NMS se comprometen a garantizar la seguridad de las mujeres durante las celebraciones del Día Internacional de la Mujer el 8 de marzo".
En los carteles se hace un llamamiento a las mujeres oprimidas a que apoyen el movimiento: "Si usted apoya nuestro movimiento a que sea un éxito, el resultado será la emancipación de la mujer".
Las cifras oficiales indican que el crimen contra las mujeres sigue aumentando sin control en Jharkhand.
En los carteles se denuncia asi mismo el papel de la policía india: "En lugar de trabajar para garantizar la seguridad de las mujeres, la policía está trabajando para detener a los cuadros de NMS".
Nari Mukti Sangh (NMS) es una fuerte organización popular que está dando espacio a la voz de las mujeres y fomentando su participación en la actividad económica, política, social y en los procesos de toma de decisiones.
Las principales activistas de esta organizacion, provenientes de zonas indígenas, tienen un mayor nivel de conciencia política que muchas licenciadas mujeres en las ciudades.
Estas mujeres están llevando a cabo una fuerte lucha contra la deforestación en la que realizan marchas exhortando a la gente a no cortar arboles.
"Tenemos que salvar los bosques a cualquier costo ahora, de otra manera seremos responsables de calamidades naturales" gritaba Neela Devi, una de las lideres de la revuelta.

Las mujeres, armadas con hachas, palos y palas, se mueven de pueblo en pueblo con gran determinación, difundiendo el mensaje de la forestación( estudio y practica de la gestión de las plantaciones, en especial, los bosques, como recursos naturales renovables).
Y es que no solamente lanzan eslóganes, también estan haciendo reuniones en los barrios de diferentes ciudades y pueblos de la "fortaleza" maoista.

Nari Mukti Sangh surgió en 1980 después de que los campesinos tribales de Jharkhand comenzaron a organizarse bajo la dirección revolucionaria contra la opresión feudal de terratenientes. En primer lugar, se inició en el distrito de Giridih, un distrito en el que la mayoría de los campesinos pertenece a la tribu Santhal. Se trata de una organización de mujeres en la que casi todos los activistas y líderes se han extraído de los adivasis.
Más información de Nari Mukti Sangh en el siguiente enlace:

Movement of Jarkhand Adivasi Women
(This article is based on an interview with com. Susheela, the founder member, president and one of the leading comrades, who developed the NMS to its present strength. Because of the severe repression on Com. Susheela, she is leading the movement from the underground)
— Rajashree & Amrita
The women of Jharkhand have a long history of heroic struggles against the British colonial rulers and the comprador-feudal rulers of post-British India. The Santhal rebellion of 1857-58 has made an indelible imprint on the history of India.
Women played an active role in that rebellion and formed a good chunk of the 30,000 that set out to march to Calcutta. They participated in the raids on the houses of the enemies. Many women were killed or arrested during the Santhal hul (rebellion)
Women were also active during the Munda uprising at the end of the 19th Century led by Birsa Munda. The Puritanism and revivalism of Birsa’s religion with its opposition to the worship of spirits (bongas), the drinking of rice-beer (haria), the giti ora (the dormitory for youth), the akhara (the dancing ground) and stress on equality between sexes had a positive impact on the women who participated as armed fighters in the uprising.
Women also participated in large number in the campaigns taken up by the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) in the late 1960s and 1970s. Those campaigns were for the seizure of land, harvesting of paddy and land appropriated by the moneylenders, for recovery of pawned articles and so on. Women also led the anti-liquor and anti – wife-beating campaigns and campaign against witch hunting. In spite of these campaigns, patriarchy remains quite strong though not as strong as in the feudal-dominated plains. The JMM’s programme was more and more oriented to train the women as housewives by teaching them domestic chores such as cooking, stitching, embroidery etc. though the women have a role in the village councils no role in the higher institutions that take real decisions. Thus political participation of women has not really improved over the past century also. Wife beating, witch-hunting, sexual abuse by outside exploiters (dikus) etc. are still quite conspicuous.
It is against such a backdrop that the Nari Mukti Sangh (NMS) commenced its activities in the early 1980s. The NMS emerged after the tribal peasants in Jharkhand started getting organised under revolutionary leadership against the feudal oppression of Rajput landlords and the harassment of officials and contractors of the forest department. It first started in the district of Giridih, a district in which the majority of the peasantry belongs to the Santhal tribe. It is a women’s organisation in which almost all the activists and leaders are drawn from the adivasis – from Santhals, Mundas, etc.
Anti-Feudal Struggles:
Women were first organised in the anti feudal struggles. Women faced intense exploitation both economically and sexually . They had to slog 12 hours with only a meagre allowance of food. If they didn’t go to work for some reason the goons of the landlord used to come to their homes and drag them to work. The Rajput landlords did not treat the adivasis as human beings. The newly wed bride had to spend the first night with the landlord. They kept some of these women as concubines also. The whole family, including children, had to do forced labour (bandhua majduri). Verbal abuse was also routine and common. They could not wear chappals, and they could not sit on a chair in front of the landlords. Rural Bihar served as a model of feudal exploitation. It is from the darkness of this condition that the people, including women started getting awakened in the late seventies.
Women organisers spoke against this exploitation and organised women. But they did not fail to mention the social customs among the peasants which oppressed women and also about male supremacy at home. At first, men opposed NMS and women’s participation in organizations. Later when the peasant movement against the landlords gained momentum and as men and women began participating in them in large numbers, their attitude gradually changed. They could see how women were exploited. Women’s resistance opened their eyes and NMS got a strong foothold.
Verbal abuse stopped completely and now they are addressed as ‘Bhai’ & ‘Behen’. They wear chappals and are invited to sit in chairs!
The struggles against the forest department followed, asserting the rights of adivasis on the forest (produce). The thekedars cruelly exploited the innocent adivasis. The girls were in addition exploited sexually. All this came to an end with struggles. Wages increased. Right to forest produce was won.
The change in society did not stop there. It entered the homes of the poor. Old customs changed. Especially the role of women in changing society got full recognition. Now the political arena is open to women. They easily attend meetings. Now the situation in struggle areas is such that if the husband is in the Krantikari Kisan Committee, the wife is in the NMS. When one goes to the meeting the other stays at home to look after children !
After the women firmly established their role in society, NMS began taking up ‘women’s issues’ extensively. A whole generation (or two?) has grown up witnessing this ‘Vaicharik Sangharsh’ (cultural change) in the countryside, which changed the fate of the women in these regions forever. And changed the feudal thinking of men too.
Repression became severe from 1997. But it has only boomeranged and the NMS emerged stronger than ever. It brought forth the ingenuity and creativity of women and their leadership qualities have shone brighter.
This brief introduction of the history of NMS will not be complete without mentioning Comrade Bhakthida. He was the mentor and father figure for NMS. An elderly man worked in Dhanbad district and was a strong defender of women’s cause. He took along the first, young women organisers along with him and trained them in their work. Extremely popular among the village women and children, he drew them into revolutionary struggles as he went along. That is why, whenever the history of NMS is to be written, the first leaders of the women’s movement remember him fondly and say that his name has to be engraved in golden letters!
Structure of NMS
According to the NMS manifesto, the structure is thus: A State Executive Committee (called Rajya Pari-shad) is elected in the State Conference. A State Body comprising President, Secretary, Joint Secretary and a Treasurer (called Rajya Karyakarini Committee ) is to be elected from the Rajya Parishad. Then there is the district Executive Committee (Zilla Parishad) that is elected in a district Conference and a district body is elected from the executive committee. The same procedure is followed for the next layer i.e., the ‘Anchalik Committee.’ (This comprises the street or ward committees in the cities / towns or gram panchayats.) At least 3 of these committees can form a Anchalik Committee. The basic or fundamental unit is elected in a basic level conference if there are at least 15 members.
For now, they could form up to district committees only. The efforts to hold a State Conference and elect a State Body & EC are on. They also want to form a Central Executive Committee combining the units of NMS in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarkhand, Orissa, West Bengal etc.
In the basic (village) committees and Anchalik committees there are village women (part-timers) but the leading district committee members are whole timers and a fulltime worker of the organisation also leads the anchalik committee. The organizers and PRs form the core leadership of the NMS and are the backbone of the organization. They are women dedicated to building up a revolutionary women’s organisation and spreading the revolutionary women’s movement not only in Jharkhand but in other parts of the country as well.
According to the manifesto, the Zilla Parishad should meet at least thrice in a year and the Zilla Karyakarini Committee should meet at least once in a month; the Anchalik Karyakarini Committee should meet at least once in a month and the basic level units (committee) should meet at least twice in a month.
Issues taken up by NMS:
As mentioned earlier, women took active part in all the anti-feudal struggles and in the struggles against the jungle thekedars (contractors). Now, let us see how they have been tackling women’s issues and problems.
(i) Child Marriages:
Among adivasis, girls do not get married at a very young age but in some areas they are married off by 13 to 15 years. Among the non-adivasis and other castes in the plain areas this is widely prevalent. And in Bihar in some districts there is a custom called ‘Rasgaddi’. A girl is married off between 9 to 12 years of age but the boy just puts sindoor on her head and leaves her at the parent’s home. This is popularly called first marriage. After she grows up, say, at the age of 18 or so, again a ceremony is conducted and the girl is sent with the boy. At the time of the first marriage itself they decide when to conduct ‘Rasgaddi’. The girl’s family has to spend a lot of money both times.
The NMS has done a lot of propaganda against child marriages and has created an atmosphere against it. So they get prior reports of child marriages, which are going to be conducted. The NMS didis go there and after a long discussion convince the family that physically and emotionally also it is not good for the children to get married at such a young age. The people get convinced and stop the marriage. Then a bond is written that they will not get their children married for another 9 to 10 years. And when they want to marry them off they ask the permission of the NMS. If all the conditions are fulfilled then the NMS promptly gives the permission.
Over the years the NMS stopped many child marriages and carried on political propaganda also. As a result, in Jharkhand where NMS is strong, child marriages have stopped and girls are married off only after 18 years of age. Even among the non-adivasis it has increased to 18 years age. But in the plains of Bihar they could not achieve much success in this regard, but propaganda work is going on.
(ii) Dowry & dowry related deaths/harassment:
The practice of taking dowry is not prevalent among the adivasis, but it has reached an unprecedentedly high among the non-adivasis. Harassing women for dowry and later murdering her is also prevalent. Often, the in-laws and the husband just try to get rid off her and have a second marriage.
NMS has done a lot of propaganda against giving and taking dowry. (propaganda of NMS on any issue includes postering, wall writing, rallies, demonstrations, songs, plays and village level meetings). When NMS comes to know that a marriage is being conducted with dowry they go and tell them that ‘this is not allowed in the (NMS) area.’ They educate all the village people. A bond will be written by the groom and his parents that they will not take dowry nor will they demand it in future and that they will look after the girl and will not harass her in any way. The NMS also educates them not to spend lavishly at marriages and if they agree conducts a ‘shibir vivah’.
After continuous efforts from NMS now the situation is that no one openly takes or gives dowry. But yet the give and take goes on clandestinely. Definitely the practice has come down in the areas where the NMS is strong but to completely eradicate the evil requires more effort at changing people’s attitudes and a complete economic change in the society. And the NMS is actively trying for both these changes.
When the NMS comes to know that a woman is being harassed for dowry or is being thrown out of her in-laws house they conduct a jan adalat (people’s court). The husband is summoned and asked to come forth with the reason for abandoning her. Usually what they get is a lame answer. So they argue with him against it. If he still insists on leaving her, they just calculate how many years she has toiled in their house and how much she should get for it and also make a list of all items she had brought into their house from her parents and the dowry amount is also calculated. They tell the man that she has spent half her life serving him and now at her age she can’t remarry so easily, with the children and so that he should just cough up the whole amount which is her due. Obviously, the man fails to do so. If he has land, they demand a share in the land also. Then he is reprimanded for all his wrongs. Normally he takes his wife back. A bond is written by him promising to look after her well. If the man is ready to give back the money or a share in land, some times a divorce is given to them. Usually the woman wants to live with him and only wants him to ‘change’. So NMS tries to fulfil the woman’s desire.
Now, in the Jharkhand NMS strong areas dowry harassment has come down a lot. If a girl is killed for dowry, NMS conducts a Jan Adalat. Once the husband had to return the dowry and also a compensation of Rs.50,000 to the girl’s parents. He is usually beaten up as a punishment and made to write a bond that he will not remarry without the NMS’s permission.
(iii) Shibir Vivah:
The NMS conducts propaganda against feudal marriage customs and lavish marriage expenses. People influenced by the propaganda ask NMS to conduct a Shibir Vivah. In this there is no dowry. It is a simple get together of all the people and relatives. They all have meals and the marriage is solemnised in a public meeting. The bride and the groom, mass organisation leaders and of course the NMS didis speak on marriage and the relations between men and women, how they are in feudal society and how they should be democratic. The bride and groom wear new clothes garland each other, shake hands, eat sweets and the marriage is over. Such marriages give the people a glimpse of the new culture coming up in the struggle areas and have definitely saved the girl and her parents a lot of expense and trouble. When the boy and girl love each other or when they are from different castes, they approach NMS and a Shibir Vivah is conducted.
The people look after the NMS didis as one of their own family and NMS gets a lot of invitations to attend marriages. It is interesting to note that in Chattisgarh NMS tells them straight away that they won’t attend a marriage where dowry is taken, whereas in Jharkhand they attend the marriages wherever possible or at least send them their best wishes (sandesh).
(iv) Sexual harassment, rape:
Sexual harassment cases and rape incidents have come down in NMS areas. When a rape incident occurs NMS conducts a Jan Adalat. They enquire and if they find the boy is from a poor family and has come under the influence of imperialist culture of TV, cinemas and if he accepts his crime, he is warned severely and let off. Obviously, having to face the Jan Adalat is in itself a big punishment for such boys. If the rapist is a goon or has done it before then the punishment is severe. He is beaten up, his head is shaved, chuna-tikka (spots of lime) is applied on his head, a garland of chappals placed around his neck, and he is paraded in the villages. Some times a hand or leg is cut off in serious cases.
Once a boy had relations with a girl. When he came to know that she was 5 months pregnant he fled. The girl had no father. A complaint was lodged with NMS and the people searched for the boy and within 2 days arrested him and brought him to the Jan Adalat. The boy’s parents complained to the police. And they landed up just when the Jan Adalat was going on. Women questioned the police - "we did not invite you, why have you come? You have no work here!". When the police said they came to arrest the rapist, women just said, ‘what evidence do you have that he raped, just get away from here’ and they had to flee. The boy was given a piece of their mind and a shibir vivah was conducted without any dowry or poojas and a bond was written in which the boy stated that he will look after her well throughout his life.
In Bihar in 1994 when a girl named Meena was raped there was a big agitation and NMS ensured that the culprit got punished though the police and government tried to protect the boy from a landlord family.
As mentioned earlier due to anti-feudal struggles, the sexual exploitation of women by landlords has completely stopped. In both Bihar and Jharkhand there have been struggles against the sexual exploitation by forest range officers and contractors and several of them were beaten up. Now this has also stopped completely.
(V) Anti-liquor struggles & wife beating
Lot of propaganda work was done against arrack. The adivasis brew as well as sell arrack. In some villages NMS conducted raids on arrack shops and brewing centres and have broken the pots. In a few places they even raided some shops nearby and destroyed whisky and brandy bottles also. But this struggle has not taken place in a big way, so only in a few areas it was controlled and propaganda is under way – against drinking, brewing liquor and the increasing violence on women due to this. It is interesting to note that in the Jan Adalats conducted on wife beating, the wife is asked to give the unheeding husband a beating, which immediately brings him to his feet, and he promises the ‘behenjis’ to look after her well. But the NMS tries to solve the problem amicably as far as possible between wife and husband. In the feudal / adivasi society a wife who speaks up or beats her husband is considered to be a very bad woman, but people accept it when it is done in a Jan Adalat conducted by the NMS. The participation of village women in the political arena has increased their self-esteem in the family and reduces violence on them.
(vi) On Health problems:
The public health centres in the villages and forests are in a very poor state and the people never get any medicines or proper treatment in them. The NMS has taken up the issue in a big way and every year conducts campaigns and organises rallies against the Health Dept. Especially during monsoons all kinds of diseases spread and NMS makes it a point to mobilise people at this time every year. The people go in a rally to the Health department offices in the nearby towns and hold demonstrations/ dharnas till the officials agree that they’ll come to their villages and distribute medicines on such and such a date. The nutritious food, which was to be given to the pregnant women, was also ensured due to these struggles. Epidemics were controlled and vaccines like polio are being administered properly. NMS does propaganda also on the double standards of the government in giving medical facilities to the rich and the poor. Through songs, doctors are requested to give treatment to the poor. Apparently some doctors were beaten up in Jan Adalats for not treating the poor people. But NMS realizes that only when there is struggle the officials are coming and a continuous process of treating the poor is yet to begin.
(Vii) Polygamy:
NMS strongly opposes polygamy. Formerly when a man used to get a second wife for himself either by abandoning the first wife or without, there would be no opposition from any quarter of the society. But NMS has taken it up as an issue for propaganda and agitation. In the Jan Adalats both the man and his second wife are brought to justice and punished. The people in the Jan Adalat oppose polygamy, but say "it’s wrong, but once it’s done. What can we do ?". If possible they ask them to separate and he is advised to look after his first wife well. Both of them are paraded in the villages in the belief that it will deter people from doing such things. But on this issue they are relying more on propaganda than agitation.
(Viii) Equal wages for equal work:
One of the demands on which the NMS vows to fight is equal wages for equal work. In feudal Bihar – Jharkhand, it goes without saying that women are paid much less than men. So there were agitations for increase in wages and the demand for equal wages to women is also put forward. Now, in NMS areas women get equal wages and the wage rates for all have also increased considerably.
10 years back they used to be given Rs. 4 or 5 for a sekda (100 leaves) of Tendu Patta (Beedi leaves) over the years it increased to Rs. 50-55.
(ix) Superstitions & witchcraft
One of the major problems of a backward society is the prevalence of numerous superstitious beliefs that make women the worst victims. The backward villagers especially the adivasis believe in witches and ghosts. Not knowing the scientific reasons for illnesses, if somebody dies or falls ill they feel some witch has done something. They go to the Ojha (witch-doctor) who for his own ends points out to some women indirectly. The ‘victims’ then go and beat her up and ostracise her family or even kill her. Many poor women have met such a fate for no wrong of theirs. It’s only natural for the women’s organization to take up this issue seriously. A lot of propaganda work is being conducted and Jan adalat held whenever they come to know that a woman had been named a witch. The witch doctor and the persons who blame her are brought to book. In cases where she had been beaten, she is asked to beat the ones who tortured her. They are made to pay all her medical expenses. On this occasion NMS educates the people on the landlords’ interests behind propagating such superstitions among poor people and also explains the medical reasons for illnesses. (Usually widows become victims. In order to confiscate their lands this witch business was started by the exploiting classes and the men of the poorer classes also followed suit and many poor widows were killed in this name and their land confiscated.) Earlier, the victims used to go to the police for justice. But they used to demand money. Now they have stopped going and look to NMS for support. The practice of killing and beating women in the name of witches has come down
(x) Saving the forest (Jungle Suraksha)
Women have not only resisted the forest contractors who stopped them from collecting forest produce, but they have also apprehended forest officials who were smuggling teak or were assisting those who smuggle. The women lay waiting and caught them red-handed. They were beaten up and a bond was written not to do such things again. The carts carrying illegally felled wood were caught by NMS women. NMS takes upon itself the responsibility of stopping this smuggling and does jungle-suraksha.
(xi) August 15 & Elections:
Every year on August 15th NMS goes to the schools in the areas and propagates among the children about fake independence and the children boycott the function organised in the schools. They even hoist black flags where possible. There is this interesting incident of a 3rd standard boy, who got inspired by NMS ‘didis’ & led all his school students (including his seniors) to boycott the function. They took out a rally shouting slogans on top of their voices. The police came, arrested them and each boy was made to stand on a bench and given one blow and warned not to do such things again. And the missionary school authorities dismissed this boy for leading the students! (he started to move around with the NMS didis and has now become a good organisor).
The NMS boycotts elections because they are of the firm opinion that the lives of people are not going to be changed through this corrupt electoral system and a revolutionary change is necessary. Hence it conducts propaganda along these lines. In one village in West Bengal the women were so fed up with CPM goondaism that they did not want CPM candidates to get elected and wanted to burn down the polling booths. The police guessed something was wrong and stopped the women. The women said, ‘we want to cast votes, why are you not allowing us’ and barged into the booths in 3 places and brought the boxes out. The candidates who come to campaign are also questioned by the women on women issues. The NMS just conducts propaganda on this question.
Celebrating March 8th As A Struggle Day Of Toiling Women:
99 percent of the work of NMS is based in the rural areas. But the NMS leadership is very conscious of the fact that without the support of the intellectuals and the middle class sections in the cities it will be difficult to carry on. Though they have not deployed any organizers to work in the towns and cities, it determinedly celebrates March 8th in big cities every year and propagates its ideology among the city dwellers. So since 1990, March 8th was being celebrated in the cities of Bihar and Jharkhand by mobilizing thousands of women form the countryside. A month long campaign is conducted by volunteer teams of NMS and Jharkhand Abhhiyan (the cultural front) in the villages and in the city. On March 8th a rally and public meeting is conducted.
Since 1997, in various ways the authorities have been trying to stop the NMS from celebrating March 8th in cities. But the NMS women with a single minded purpose of celebrating March 8th have been overcoming all obstacles by fighting militantly and have been literally celebrating March 8th as ‘the struggling Day of toiling women’. The only reason the police could cite was that ‘NMS propagates MCC ideology’. The NMS strongly condemns this and pins them down on the question of whether women have a right to celebrate the International Women’s Day or not. They have had experiences when permission was not given or if it was given it was cancelled at the last minute or they were permitted to hold the meeting but not the rally, if nothing else they are asked to stop for at least half an hour before taking out the rally. And police stop NMS women from the villages from coming to the meeting.
The village women try to find various ways to enter the city but the police do succeed in limiting the numbers. Once they have reached, they argue their way out and conduct the programme as planned. Now-a-days to avoid police interruptions the women are woken up at 3 am and all the proceedings are preponed by a few hours. By the time the police get wind of it it’s too late to stop. NMS also has alternative arrangements made to conduct the programme in some other place but till now they have not had to use them for March 8th.
Campaign teams and their leaders are also being arrested, but press statements are released and the demand to release them is also made a part of the propaganda campaign.
In 1997, when six district conferences of NMS were arranged, police tried to stop each one of them. NMS had made alternative arrangements to conduct them in a different place. So when the police blocked all the roads and tried to disrupt the Conferences, NMS just went and conducted the Conferences in the alternative places exactly as they had planned. Big processions were taken. And to the ire of the police immediately posters were put all over that they had successfully conducted their district conferences!
There is always the alternative of celebrating March 8th in villages in a decentralised manner. But the impact a massive rally of toiling women in a city can have is altogether different. So NMS is determined to carry on the struggle to celebrate March 8th as far as possible in the cities only.
The following is the brief summary of the resolutions passed in the meeting arranged on the occasion of March 8th this year:
1. Against POTA: along with many others, NMS activists were also arrested under POTA.
2. Against the barbaric police repression: the police and the para-military personnel’s repression on the people of Jharkhand is increasing day by day. In the months of November & December of 2001 the atrocities perpetrated by the State Police, BSF & CRPF on the women like gang rapes, beating, mass atrocities and murdering people through beating etc. in the name of Operation Eagle, Operation Shikhar and Operation X crossed the limits of barbarism even of the middle ages.
On 18/2/02, the leading comrade of the propaganda team of the March 8th programme, Com Lalitha Marandi was arrested while returning from a programme by the police of Devri PS, Giridih Dist. And she was sent to jail under POTA.
NMS appealed to all the toiling masses and progressive and democratic forces to build a democratic movement.
3. Against social restrictions and evils: NMS resolved to fight against the evils of dowry, bride killings, Sati, child marriage etc and to wage an unending struggle for widow remarriage, equal wages for men and women, women’s right over property and to establish equal respect and position for the women in society.
Here is a vivid description of how March 8th was conducted this year by the NMS.
March 8th Celebrations in 2003:
The first phase of the propaganda programme was started from 2nd February and went on till 20th Feb. In every team the number used to be from 70-80. Wall writing, postering, street meetings, street plays, cultural programme of songs and dances were performed. The importance of March 8th was explained in the general meetings. Propaganda was done in villages, towns and cities. Funds were collected for the programme.
The second phase started from 24th February and the main aim of this was to propagate in Patna where the March 8th programme was arranged. About 100 members of the NMS reached Patna on 20th February. This Central Team did propaganda work till 6th March. Thousands of people used to attend the meetings. There was a lot of political propaganda as well. On hearing about the atrocities of the police, people used to respond and condemn.
During this campaign Com. Jatin Marandi , Secretary of Jharkhand Avon was arrested. The final programme was celebrated in Miller School Grounds, Patna in which about 14-15 thousand people attended including from Kolkata, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Ranchi, Patna, North Bihar, Central Bihar and Jharkhand. And women were more in number.
The programme started in the morning at 10 with the hoisting of the NMS flag. After singing songs the martyrs’ column was garlanded. Songs were sung and slogans were shouted in the memory of martyrs
A procession was started in the afternoon at 2 PM and went through the main streets of Patna city finally reaching the School grounds. A steering committee was selected to conduct the meeting. Various speakers spoke about the importance of the day. The programme concluded in the night at 9 pm.
Celebration of March 8th in such a manner in the midst of police repression and foiling the police attempts to obstruct the meeting was a great achievement.
Meeting against the arrest of Com. Lalitha Marandi:
On 18th February, 2002 Com. Lalitha was arrested by the police of Devri PS, near Bhelvadhali while returning from the propaganda programme of March 8th. She was beaten up during interrogation and later sent to Giridhi Jail. This news spread like wildfire throughout the district. Immediately wall-writing & postering was done and pamphlets were distributed in the villages and towns of Giridhi, Dhanbad and Hazaribag districts. Protest rallies and public meetings were conducted in various places from 25th to 30th March. She was released recently.
Repression & Resistance:
From 1990 itself, arrests of the activists had started. Restrictions began to be imposed on public meetings.
Revolutionaries can withstand the repression when they are among the people. Similarly NMS activists live among the people and conduct their programmes secretly and openly according to the necessity.
Though there was some repression on NMS from its very inception, 1997 was the turning point. Till now there are no killings or firings but women have been arrested, tortured, booked under false cases, beaten up during the combing operations and interrogated. In many districts village women have also been raped as part of operations conducted against the Party and the squads/platoons. In Jharkhand, women have also been booked under POTA (though except for one woman all have been consequently released). In some villages arrested women have been paraded to deter other women from joining organizations.
The women did not take all this lying down and NMS was instrumental in organising the resistance of women. Many are the instances where women have rounded up the police and beat them up. In many villages the women (some times the whole village) gheraoed the police stations to get the arrested persons released. In one village in Jharkhand such was the anger of the women that they made the police lick their own saliva! Some times there were firings on people gheraoing the stations.
In Jharkhand the adivasis beat the drum (called nagaara) whenever the police attack. Hearing it, all the people from neighbouring villages will gather and resist the police. They also take their bows and arrows along and sometimes use them. Women take any household implements they can lay their hands on or else pelt stones. Many such battles with these militant people have left the police helpless. And in almost all incidents, the police are made to write a bond in which they apologize for their ill deeds and promise not to come again. Indeed, they did not enter such villages after that!
There have been some heroic instances of resistance by women under the leadership of NMS. In one instance, 3,000 women did a 24-hour rasta roko against rape by police. The men stood guard. The rapist policeman was fully beaten up. The DSP apologised and wrote a bond that they will not do so again.
One Santhi of Jharkhand was arrested when campaigning for March 8th in 2002, severely tortured, booked under POTA, sent to jail and was released in 2003. Some women who were tortured and raped had gone back. But the majority stayed, continued to work or at least support the organization.
Some girl children who work in Jharkhand Abhiyan have also been arrested while campaigning for March 8th. They were threatened not to give programmes. Due to people’s pressure they were released the next day.
Publications of NMS:
1. NMS ka Aahvan (Call of NMS), 2. Krantikari Nari Andolan ki disha (Direction of the revolutionary women’s movement), 3. NMS manifesto, 4. Mahilaon ka lal sena dal (women’s Red Armed Squad), 5. Chamakta lal Sitara (Glowing Red Star) 6. Stree swatantrata aur communist naitikata par Lenin ki vichar (Lenin’s views on women’s liberation and communist values).
The first three books form the theoretical base of NMS. All the members are educated on the first 3 books. Classes are held and combined study undertaken in committee meetings. NMS doesn’t have a magazine of its own and all its reports are published in the magazine Jan-Jwaar (which in fact carries the reports of many other mass organizations).
All the three basic books stress on the relationship between class struggle and women’s liberation. The NMS flag has 5 stars in it which respectively indicate – independence, democracy, equal rights, women’s liberation and socialism. NMS stands firmly in the camp of the socialist women’s movement. It stresses that women’s movement needs the ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism to develop in the correct direction. It also says that we should strive for socialism after the victory of the New Democratic Revolution and realizes that even under socialism the class struggle for women’s liberation must go on.
Political Education:
The NMS has given importance to educating women who come into the organisation to work full time for the movement. Since many of the women and girls who are coming are from poor peasant families, many of them are not even literate. They are encouraged to become literate as soon as possible. Then apart from the three basic books, classes are also being conducted for the organisers on the following subjects like grammar, geography, history, Marxism, and history of revolutions in the world in the 20th century and new economic policies.
Three editions of an audiocassette of songs have also been released by NMS over the years.
Once an NGO named ‘Jago Bahan’ (ironically it has only men in it) called NMS to the meeting in which the topics were ‘consumerism & women; globalization and women etc. NMS was not given a chance to speak! So they contented themselves by singing songs, which depicted their ideology. Actually it was a foreign-funded organization. NMS innocently invited them for its March 8th programme but they didn’t turn up. Later they took the stand not to go into fronts with such NGOs.
Thus through hard work and revolutionary zeal, through a conviction that women’s situation can be changed only by organising the mass of poor and peasant women, through patient and determined effort and learning-through-doing has the Nari Mukti Sangh grown over the years. It has grown and spread along with the spread of the revolutionary movement in North and East India. But being a rural based organisation it is little known in other parts of the country. Yet the organisers and leadership of the NMS have set their sights far beyond the tribal women of Jharkhand.
As the President of the NMS Sheila said in an interview :
" So long as feudal and imperialist exploitation of women persists, so long as the discrimination against women continues, so long as women live like animals and slaves, so long as women are deprived of economic and political rights, burnt to death for the dowry, become victims of the atrocities of the police, mafia and goondas, so long as export of girls for prostitution and the male domination exists – struggle has to be waged for the women’s liberation (nari mukti ke liye) which is possible only with the establishment of socialism in the country. Even after establishing a socialist society there will be necessity of women’s organizations as we understand from the discussion of Com. Lenin with Clara Zetkin.
"Adivasi women had lesser restrictions and have been active members of NMS. But the non-adivasi (the ‘mahato’ caste who spoke khorta) women face many restrictions at home and so have not been very active members of NMS. Though some have joined, comparatively their number is very less. Some women have had to face a lot of ‘repression’ from home after they joined.
"Adivasi woman have a double burden. She takes part in production outside the home and the whole domestic burden is borne by her. She does the cleaning, cooking, washing and also looks after children. Both share bringing of water and firewood. She works in the fields (women don’t plough) and also forages the forest. She collects mahua seeds, wood for fuel, leaves for making plates etc. Kendu Patta is also collected by women in the season. They also make rope. They even go to the nearby towns to work as daily labourers. They have no right on land traditionally.
"In the earlier days, the organizers of the NMS had to struggle a lot to mobilize women. In the villages men did not allow their women folk to attend meetings in the night which is the only free time they have after the daylong toil.. So, NMS organizers had to adopt methods like also calling men for the meeting and speak about general problems of the village. Finally the meeting would end up as a general meeting of the village. But still NMS organisers were able to propagate their ideas.
"Only after the general revolutionary atmosphere created through the revolutionary struggle grew could women come to the meetings on their own.
"In the beginning NMS work started in three districts – Dhanbad, Giridih and Hazaribagh. Later it expanded to Dumka, Devghar, Jaamthad Goda, Sahebganj, Bokaro, Ranchi, Simdega, East & West Singhbhum, Chatra, Palamu, Lathehar, Lohardagga, Garhwa, Gumla, Kodarma.
"Till now NMS units have been formed from village level to district level and we are in the process of forming a State level Committee. Apart from this we are planning to form the committees of NMS in the States of Bihar, UP, Uttarakhand, Chattisgarh, West Bengal, Assam, Punjab, Orissa, Delhi etc."

No comments:

Post a Comment