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#IfWeDoNotRise campaign on January 3 in support of protesting women farmers

By Our Representative
An ‘If We Do Not Rise…’ or ‘Hum Agar Uthhe nahi toh…’ campaign, aimed at “uniting voices against targeted attacks on the Constitutional rights of the people of India” begun on January 3 with the participation of women’s groups, LGBTQIA+ communities and human rights collectives in order to celebrate the 189th birth anniversary of Savitribai Phule, who along with Fatima Sheikh, “fought for the rights of women, girls, Dalit and bahujan communities.”
The celebrations, which are proposed to continue for about a week, began amidst civil society groups, taking part in the campaign, alleging that India’s democracy and Constitution are facing an unprecedented crisis, with last few years experiencing a steady decline of democratic institutions in the country.
A statement by the If We Do Not Rise group, which consists of 540 people's organisations across India, even as stating that “the independence of the judiciary and other institutions” have come under “serious cloud” and the functioning of Parliament “has been gravely compromised”, alleged, “The dilution of the Right to Information Act has hit at the fundamental democratic right of citizens to question the government and hold it accountable.”
Contending that despite “oppression and intimidation”, the country has witnessed a “strong peoples’ movements against injustice and tyranny”, the statement, forwarded by Anhad, a human rights group, cited how in December 2019, “people all over India rose up in a unique, women-led movement to protect the Constitution when religion was made a basis for giving Indian citizenship through the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR).”
“Exactly one year after these protests shook the country, millions of farmers have taken to the streets and congregated around Delhi to protest against the anti-people farm laws passed by Parliament without any consultation or discussion with farmers”, it underlined, adding, “In support of the historic farmers’ protests, we stand shoulder to shoulder with the women farmers who, once again, are leading from the front.”
Ensuring mobilization of support to “repeal the three regressive farm laws, the electricity amendment bill and demand legal guarantee of Minimum Support Price”, the statement insisted, “These three farm laws are a major move towards corporatization of agriculture and dismantling the Public Distribution System. They affect not just farmers but everyone, irrespective of whether they live in rural or urban areas.”
A painting in support of women farmers
The statement said, “We oppose the patriarchal and communal agenda of the current regime which attacks the agency of women and the right to choice by passing laws like the UP anti-Conversion law”, calling it “anti-Constitutional” aimed at “targeting religious minorities while denying women the choice to decide their life partners.”
“Taking forward Savitribai and Fatima Sheikh’s pursuit of Education for All, we challenge the deeply problematic New Education Policy and assert the right to education of all, especially girl students and other students from dalit, adivasi and other marginalized communities, whose right to education, reservations, scholarships etc are being curtailed”, the statement asserted.
Regretting that voices of dissent have been “systematically silenced”, as seen in the murder of woman journalist Gauri Lankesh, the statement said, “Instead of acting against those who incite communal tensions and violence, women and people who work for justice, unity and peace, like Ishrat Jahan, Sudha Bhardwaj, Shoma Sen, Natasha Narwal, Gulfisha, Devangana Kalita, Annapurna and Suguna are being arrested and incarcerated under draconian laws like UAPA.”
As part of the 'If We Do Not Rise' campaign, postcards and emails have begun being sent to the President of India demanding that Parliament be immediately convened to repeal the three farm laws; videos, posters, animation, memes, songs and performances are being shared in solidarity with the farmers’ struggles; and poetry sessions and webinars are being organised in their support.

In one of the webinars, those who participated included journalists Arfa Khanum and Bhasha Singh, RTI activist Aruna Roy, economist Jayati Ghosh, National Alliance of People's Movements leaders Medha Patkar and Meera Sanghamitra, Lok Sangharsh Morcha's Pratibha Shinde. 

Odisha campaign

As part of the campaign, the Odisha Shramajeebee Mancha said, “As India celebrates Savitribai Phule’s 189th birth anniversary, who was the oldest flagbearer of women’s rights and girls education, members of by Mahila Shramajeebee Mancha, Odisha, Odisha Shramajeebee Mancha and Atmashakti Trust organised a webinar to reflect upon Savitribai Phule’s contribution towards society, especially against brahminical patriarchy.”
It said, “Despite the social injustices that were barriers for her, Savitribai was unwavering to have all women educated. She started 17 schools in the country during her time. Until 1851, she had set up three schools that taught 150 girls. She was addressing two social evils at once, while most schools were only for upper-caste students, Savitribai and Jyotirao started schools for the lower-caste and Dalit students as well.”
It added, “Women’s education was not the only thing Phule wanted to be taken up in our country. She also fought against social injustices of the time like Sati, child marriage and the still prevalent caste system and was also one of the first advocates for women’s rights in the country.”

Campaign among Delhi sewerage workers 

On the occasion of the birth anniversary of Savitribai Phule, the Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch (DASAM) organised programmes among communities at the “margins of the society at various settlements in Delhi like sewer workers, nut community, domestic workers and laborers etc.” about the contributions of Savitribai.
Programmes were with the support of sewer worker Sher Singh, who was hit by poisonous gas while cleaning the sewer two years ago, but survived, though two of his companions could died of asphyxiation. Held at Mundka, Sukhdev Vihar and Brar Square (Delhi Cantt), sewer workers, domestic workers and laborers participated in large numbers at the program organised. At Kalyanpuri, too, where there is large presence of the Nut community, several programmes were organised.

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