Syed Ali Ahmed | India Tomorrow
NEW DELHI—Several women activists, who gathered at the Press Club of India on September 15, as a part of Agar Hum Utthe Nahin Toh (If We Do Not Rise) campaign to mark the third death anniversary of journalist Gauri Lankesh, expressed serious concern over suppression of voices of dissent by the government and labelling all such people as “anti-national”.
Speaking about the campaign, activist Shabnam Hashmi of ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy) said that the campaign launched from September 5, was in fact a “festival of resistance” during which the activists reached out to over 15 lakh women all over the country to “challenge the authoritarian forces” under the current political dispensation in the country.
Stating that “there is widespread destitution, hunger and starvation owing to lockdown amid rising cases of Covid at an alarming rate all over the country”, Anjali Bhardwaj of the Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS) expressed concern over “the government leaving no stone unturned to curb all forms of dissent”.
“The government has used all situations, lockdown or near-lockdown, to curb all forms of dissent”, she said.
Stating that in the last six years, the government has passed “anti-people, anti-poor laws like Citizenship (Amendment) Act, abrogation of Article 370 and very regressive trans-gender laws”, she said that “it is very clear in all this that the government has no intention to be answerable or accountable to the people of this country. We have a situation where there is absolutely no scope for people to question those in power”.
Stating that “there is continuous assault on Constitutional and democratic rights”, Bhardwaj said, “We are also seeing an attack on all those who raise their voices, who dissent, who raise questions. We are seeing attack on all institutions that can hold government answerable and we are seeing an attack on all instruments that can question the people in power”.
Pointing out that economy of the country had been totally destroyed with GDP growth at minus 24 per cent due to lockdown, she said that lakhs of daily wagers and labourers have lost their employment owing to these reasons.
National Federation of Indian Women’s (NFIW) representative Annie Raja demanded food security due to hunger deaths being reported from different parts of the country. She pointed out that lakhs of women, domestic workers, agriculture labourers, daily wage workers and labourers have lost their jobs due to pandemic.
Kavita Krishnan from All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) said that hallmark of democracy was protection of the weak and restrictions on those in power but all this had now become things of the bygone days. “We see no accountability from those in power”, she said.
In a charter of demands released on the occasion, the women groups sought accountability and transparency from the government. The group also demanded restoration of all liberties and personal freedoms, protection of land rights and natural resources and restoration of the dignity of the people of Kashmir as also restoration of Article 370 and 35A and finding a political solution to the problem in Kashmir. The group also sought restoration of 4 G and access to internet services in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Charter further demands the scrapping of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and other draconian laws such as AFSPA, NSA, State Security Acts and Sedition Law which are being blatantly misused to muzzle dissenting voices. It also demands immediate release of political prisoners who are languishing in jails or are under house arrest.
It also condemned the arbitrary arrest of women activists and students in Delhi and other parts of the country on fabricated charges.
The charter also asked the government to ensure recognition of women in informal sectors as workers and a provisioning of rights and social security to women workers. It also demanded financial support of Rs 10, 000 per month to all those women in unorganized sector who lost their livelihood because of Covid lockdown. The government should implement the Unorganised Sector Social Security Act, on priority basis.