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Speak aloud about injustices: Women leaders recall Rani Chennamma's fight for freedom

By Our Representative

Ending month-long campaign in order to celebrate the legacy of Rani Chennamma of Kittur, Karnataka, known for her courageous resistance against the British rule about 200 years ago, Kittur, Karnataka, women rights leaders insisted on the need to intensify protests against India’s “autocratic regime” in India.
 Prepared prominent women rights leaders Prof Mridula Mukherjee, Dr Syeda Hameed, Anjali Bhardwaj, Navsharan Kaur, Mainooma Mollah, Koninika Ray, Ritu Kaushik, Minakshi Singh, Leena Dabiru and Shabnam Hashmi, the declaration exhorts women of the country to “speak up for your rights, come out on the roads and march for dignity”.
Adopted at a a gathering of 3,500 women at the Kittur Fort, Karnataka, the declaration wants women to speak aloud about injustices, malnutrition and hunger that that their children face, highlight the rising prices, unemployment and the poverty, demand accountability and fiscal responsibility from the Government of India, government, and insist on punitive action against the perpetrators of sexual assaults and rapes.
Also asking women to raise voices to protect their land, water and resources, stand up for our fundamental rights of freedom of speech, expression, worship and citizenship, and their right to constitutional remedies to enforce these fundamental rights, the declaration insists upon using “the traditional Indian way of the freedom movement”, to “unite and vociferously voice dissent non-violently.”
Called “I am Rani Chennamma Too!”, and initiated by Anhad, a Delhi-based human rights group, Karnataka Rajya Mahila Dourjanya Virodhi Okkuta played critical role in the campaign. Several women's groups and independent citizens joined hands “to commemorate 200 years of this revolt against oppression and to carry forward the legacy of struggle for women's equality, equal and appropriate political representation, social justice and an equal society”, said a media communique.
Speaking at a media conference while releasing the declaration in Delhi, speakers said, Rani Chennamma was one of the first women to lead a revolt against British rule in India. A fearless warrior, she stands tall as a symbol of resistance, embodying a love for freedom and self-respect, against the British rule. This year 2024 marks 200 of her revolt against British imperialism in 1824.
The Kittur Declaration is a promise to highlight the atrocities, the injustice, the repression and the tyranny of this regime. Women said that the last decade has seen an unprecedented erosion of our democratic institutions, they added.
Said transparency activist Anjali Bharadwaj, “The Central Government is misusing its power to curb the rights of the citizens. Only nine families of India have 50% of wealth and this is possible only when the government is fully backing these families. They are passing such laws and rules which will benefit them. These 9 families have bought all the media houses. The situation of the people is getting worse and worse”.
“In every aspect of our lives our rights have been diluted. Our Parliament and our judiciary have been weakened; the tana-bana of our social fabric torn asunder; our economy shattered; our education system and health system corporatized and privatized; Our farmers betrayed; Our lands snatched away; New labour laws deny the rights of the workers; Our women have been attacked and assaulted; our children are malnourished; the LGBTQIA are under intense pressure; and at the same time … State powers have increased and the people silenced”, she added.
Navsharan Kaur, speaking on the situation of women in the agriculture sector, said, “The situation of these women is getting worse day by day. The rampant change in land use from agriculture to commercial have further deprived women from agricultural activities. In Punjab only 1.5% women have ownership of land and if the incentive has to reach them they need to own the land.”
“Atrocities on women are increasing day by day. In Ghaziabad one can see blatant use of police force to harass women. Is important that we take the Kittur Declaration to wherever we can”, lamented Meenakshi Singh.
Rit Kaushik referring to the Kanpur incident, in which a teenage girl was gangraped recently, said, “This incident compelled the teenage girls to commit suicide as they could not bear the pressure. The women who are involved in political activities are in real meaning desh bhakts.”
Syeda Hameed, speaking about the country’s freedom fighters, said, “Our freedom fighters are getting demeaned and how their struggles are getting forgotten. I appreciate the women who drafted the Kittur Declaration. This Declaration is very important.”
“It is important that we continue our conversation without fear. The Kittur Declaration will be translated into various languages and released in all the States in the next few weeks. I request the media to take this message far and wide. We should speak more and loudly so that the fascist forces get defeated,” said Shabnam Hashmi.
Leena Dabriu talking about the need to protect the Constitution, said, “Slowly in the last 10 years one after another the democratic and judicial structures are getting demolished. It is necessary that all of us should unite together to protect the Constitution.”

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