Women volunteers to ensure peaceful farmers’ parade

Women are likely to play a major role in ensuring that the proposed tractor rally on Republic Day remains peaceful, according to Kavitha Kuruganti, the only woman delegate on the farm unions’ team participating in negotiations with the Centre.

“The fact that women have been a key part of the protest adds to the peaceful nature of the protest. Many of the youth can get very impatient, but having women there curbs them, and ensures that the protest stays peaceful,” she told The Hindu on Monday. Women farmers, as well as women students from Punjab’s universities, were often seen at the forefront in the face-offs with police at the borders between Punjab and Haryana, as the unions marched toward Delhi. Women are also training to drive some tractors for the rally on January 26. “For Republic Day, thousands of volunteers are being enrolled with the specific task of keeping the peace. Many of these are women,” said Ms. Kuruganti, who is here as a representative of the Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch, an alliance of women farmers’ organisations and supporters.

She was speaking at a small roadside shop on the side of the stage at the Singhu border. The loudspeaker blaring from the stage was full of women’s voices only, as the unions marked Mahila Kisan Divas as a celebration of women farmers.

“The primary demand of all women farmers is for their identity as farmers to be recognised,” said Ms. Kuruganti. She pointed out that according to census data, 30% of all cultivators and 43% of all agricultural labourers are women, but few of them have land rights in their own names. “In Karnataka, the government is registering all farmers, regardless of their land ownership, and issuing a farmers’ ID to them. This helps in monitoring access to schemes,” she said.

The struggle for land and inheritance rights is unfortunately something that most mainstream farm unions have failed to take up, said Ms. Kuruganti. However, the unions have made major strides in recognising women’s identity as farmers over the last six to seven years, and have taken every opportunity to declare it during the protests, she added.

“There was widespread outrage at the Supreme Court’s comments which serve to invisibilise women’s roles. Apart from the fact that 15-20% of protestors here at Singhu are women, you must recognise that women play a double role. For every man who is sitting here at the border, there are women managing the farm responsibilities back in the village,” she said.

Bengaluru-based Ms. Kuruganti is not a farmer herself, nor does she come from a farming family. While doing her Masters in Communications, she spent one semester working with a group of Dalit women farmers in the rainfed areas of Telangana. “Five days after my final exams, I packed my bags to go and live and work with those women for six or seven years. Their fire was my inspiration,” she said.

On Tuesday, she will be the only woman on the farmers’ side of the room at Vigyan Bhavan, bringing almost three decades of experience in the farm movement, and a special passion for women farmers, to the negotiating table.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2021 9:39:03 PM |

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