November 16, 2014

AIDWA CEC Calls for Mass Movement on ‘My Choice, My Right’

Malini Bhattacharya

THE AIDWA CEC meeting held on 30-31 October was attended by 61 members from 18 states. The meeting began with a condolence resolution moved by the president Malini Bhattacharya for Comrade Sukhumati Debbarma Tripura leader and founder member of AIDWA. The participation of our members from Manipur this time was greatly appreciated. The newly-elected general secretary from Andhra Pradesh (after bifurcation) was also present for the first time. It was decided that both she and the newly-elected general secretary from Telengana would be invitee members to the CEC, and the Secretariat. Comrade Brinda Karat addressed the CEC on the subject of the current political situation in the country, and immediate challenges before us. Her speech emphasised the unprecedented difficulties of the situation where the BJP-RSS combine has come to power. She pointed out that we have to understand the important role that AIDWA has to play now in upholding the rights of women affected by the attacks on livelihood as well as by the dangers of communalisation of politics and society. She gave some illustrations of the courage and determination of people at the grass-roots from her experience in West Bengal and said that to fulfil our responsibilities to them we have to think seriously as to how soon and by what innovative means we can recoup the lacunae in our organisation. About 16 members participated in the discussion on the CEC draft report placed by General Secretary Jagmati Sangwan, and the report was enriched by many suggestions from them. These contained the experience of AIDWA activists on the subversion of food security both by the central and state governments, ploys to undermine MGNREGA and the communalisation of society and culture by spreading reactionary superstitions. Problems of women working in different government schemes, non-implementation of laws to protect women from violence were other points that came up. There was a special short session on law in which Supreme Court lawyer and AIDWA vice president Kirti Singh made a presentation regarding two focal issues. Firstly, the recent Supreme Court verdict and the order to the states from the Home Ministry regarding Section 498A of IPC which threatens to dilute the legal provision under which family members accused of cruelty and torture for dowry can be arrested, making it completely toothless; and secondly the whole issue of ‘legalisation of prostitution’ raised by a statement from the new National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson. She also gave her opinion on two recent observations of the Tamil Nadu High Court. After an active discussion, in which the participants shared the great difficulty being faced in getting offenders arrested, and the refusal of police to file even an FIR unless the victim was actually dead, the CEC decided to take up continuous campaigns on these issues. AIDWA will raise its voice for proper implementation of the Anti Dowry Act including the appointment of dowry prohibition officers at all district headquarters. The NCW has resolved to publish the report of research project on IPC 498A (dowry law) conducted by our Research school. AIDWA must disseminate this widely, and launch a big campaign. Along with other women’s organisations, AIDWA would oppose the efforts of NCW to legalise prostitution. The CEC members were very articulate about organisational problems faced by many states at this juncture. While expressing concern on the membership status, the CEC also took up the question of nurturing cadre and giving them political motivation. It was decided that a special meeting of the Secretariat on these questions will be held soon. Future Tasks The future tasks were presented by vice president Sudha Sundararaman. The importance of undertaking immediate struggles and campaigns on some urgent issues, while also following up the ongoing programmes, was stressed. The CEC gave a call for concerted action, both independently and jointly, on the attempts being made by the Modi government to curtail and undermine MGNREGA, the flagship scheme to ensure rural employment which had benefited significant sections of poor rural women. The resolution condemned the budgetary cuts, the proposal to restrict it to selected blocks/districts and the attempt to curb the expenditure on labour and increase that for materials to benefit contractors and middlemen. Apart from taking a resolution on this at the CEC meeting, a programme of struggle at all levels was approved. The CEC also gave a call to observe November 25th – the opening day of the Fortnight against Violence on Women -- as Anti Communalism Day. The CEC decided that the huge threat to women’s rights posed by the communal forces would have to be met unitedly, and all sections should be involved in this task. It was also pointed out that the day should be observed fittingly in memory of Comrade Shyamali Gupta, AIDWA leader and our former all-India president, the first anniversary of whose death falls on that day. The CEC also resolved to address the onslaught on women by the conservative and right wing forces who are trying hard to communalise the issue of self choice, inter-community marriages through reactionary slogans. The attempt to foment hatred against Muslims by raising the murderous bogie of “love jihad” would have to be addressed effectively. It was decided that December 10 -- Human Rights Day -- would focus on the multiple contours of this issue, and programmes would be held widely. Among other things, AIDWA will project the democratic and constitutional rights of our youths to choose their life partners, without having to fear violence. The need for a law to address the continuing scourge of killings and crimes in the name of honour would also be reiterated. Positive role models would be felicitated. The CEC also decided to observe Susheela Gopalan Day (December 19) and Pappa Umanath Day (December 17) in a befitting manner. (EOM)