Kisan Sansad to be all-woman affair

File photo of women farmers protesting at Singhu Border, in New Delhi   | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

When farmers return to Jantar Mantar to continue their parallel parliament protest on July 26, the participants will look different from their counterparts inside Parliament House as well as the delegates of previous Kisan Sansads in one major way: they will all be women.

“The Mahila Kisan Sansad will reflect the key role that women play in Indian agriculture, and their critical role in the ongoing movement too. Convoys of women farmers from various districts are reaching the morchas for the Mahila Kisan Sansad,” said a statement from the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) joint platform of farm unions coordinating the protest.

According to Census data, 30% of all cultivators and 43% of all agricultural labourers are women, although few of them have land rights in their own names. At the height of the ongoing agitation against the three farm reform laws in January, about 15-20% of protesters were women, according to Kavitha Kuruganti of the Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch, an alliance of women farmers organisations and supporters.

However, women have been in short supply in the leadership of the movement. None of the SKM’s nine core committee members are women, nor are the leaders of the individual unions that make up the platform. Ms. Kuruganti herself was the only woman among the 30-odd delegates sent by the farm unions to negotiate with the Central government earlier in the year. On July 22, the first day of the Kisan Sansad, only seven of the 200 protesters allowed each day were women.

As the women take over the stage at Jantar Mantar on Monday, most of the SKM leadership will head for Lucknow, where they will launch Mission UP to outline their plans for next year’s Assembly elections. “In the panchayat elections held earlier this year, the farmers’ movement left its mark, with the BJP candidates punished in many places and Independents gaining most number of seats,” said the SKM statement.

In BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, SKM leaders say they will follow the same formula as seen during the polls in five States earlier this year, where they urged farmers and other voters to vote against the BJP and its allies, but did not campaign or seek votes in favour of any specific alternative party.

The SKM’s plan for Congress-ruled Punjab, which is also going to the polls next year, is less clear. Gurnam Singh Chaduni, a Haryana-based leader of a faction of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, proposed an entry into the Punjab electoral arena by the SKM itself with leaders contesting the polls, but was shot down by the movement’s general body meeting earlier this month. Mr. Chaduni, who is part of the movement’s core committee himself but is also seen as close to the Aam Aadmi Party, was suspended by the SKM for a week for airing his views.

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Printable version | Sep 28, 2021 8:12:42 PM |

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