‘Iron Lady’ of OROP stir inspires women to back farmers’ cause

Activist Sudesh Goyat (right) with women from Haryana at the border in New Delhi.  

Sudesh Goyat, an Indian Army veteran’s wife, has been mobilising women from rural Haryana to be a part of the farmers’ protest and empowering them in more ways than one over the last three months.

Ms. Goyat is also fondly known as the ‘Iron Lady’ of the One Rank One Pension (OROP) protests at Jantar Mantar, during which she was on a relay hunger strike for close to two years and had sought to raise issues related to war widows.

On Thursday, standing on the fringe of a group of five women on the stage at the farmers’ protest site in west Delhi’s Tikri Border, she smiles proudly while providing the background harmony to their traditional Haryanvi raag kavita, demanding the repeal of the farm laws.

“I have been coming to the stir since November and was moved by the zeal and the number of women from Punjab making their way here day by day not just to help men with living arrangements but also to protest,” said Ms. Goyat, who travels to the site every day from her residence in central Delhi unless she is part of a night-long hunger strike necessitating that she stays back.

“I began visiting villages in Haryana to directly appeal to the women to seek inspiration from our sisters in Punjab and participate even if it was for a few minutes on the stage. Most of them were reluctant about standing in front of so many people — something they had never even thought of doing in their household-centric lives — but, gradually, they came,” she added.

Equal rights

As farmers prepare to honour over a hundred others like her at a grand ceremony on International Women’s Day this Monday, Ms. Goyat, a farmer’s daughter from the Sisar village in Haryana’s Hisar, said the protests had given women from Haryana, the opportunity to prove they were equal to the men by sitting shoulder to shoulder with them on the streets after decades of standing shoulder to shoulder with them in agricultural fields was rewarding enough in itself.

Rajpati from Hisar’s Bhudha Bhana, who led the raag kavita recitation, could barely contain her excitement or restrain exhibiting her gratitude to Ms. Goyat after walking down from the stage. “For a lot of women from villages in Haryana, this is perhaps the first time they have stepped into the public space which explains their initial reluctance which, however, does not persist for long after their first performance on stage,” Ms. Goyat said.

Naari komal hai, par kamzor nahin [Woman is gentle but not weak]; hundreds of women who never thought of stepping beyond the threshold of their house are here now bolstering the perseverance of their men on the streets,” she said.

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Printable version | Apr 16, 2021 6:41:32 AM |

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