January 01, 2023

Towards AIDWA’s National Conference: Struggle in Unity for Equality

Mariam Dhawale

THE 13th national conference of AIDWA is being held at Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala from January 6 to 9,  2023 with the slogan, ‘Struggle in Unity for Equality’. Nearly 850 delegates from 25 states and union territories, representing a total membership of 96, 31,116 will deliberate and plan for building a stronger women’s movement and organisation in India. This is the second time that an AIDWA national conference is being held in Kerala. The first to be held here was the second national conference in 1986, again at Thiruvananthapuram.

Kerala is the land of the legendary women’s leader and the founder general secretary of the AIDWA, Comrade Susheela Gopalan. It is also the land where thousands and thousands of women have fought British imperialism and feudalism through innumerable struggles in the pre-independence era. After independence they have fought the opportunistic politics of the UDF led by the Congress and the Muslim League, and the rabid communalism of the RSS-BJP. Kerala today has the largest and most powerful AIDWA state unit in the country, built brick by brick, and kept active by thousands of dedicated women activists in each district.


This conference will be held after thousands of unit conferences, hundreds of district conferences, and 22 state conferences across the country. In this process, thousands of women have become a part of the deliberations reviewing the impact of the anti-women, anti-people and communal policies of the Modi government. These deliberations have taken place in thousands of village/mohalla conferences, right up to the state level.

Hundreds of women spoke in the above conferences of the need to fight the BJP-RSS policies in every sphere, from their own practical experience. They stressed the need to popularise scientific and rational thought. They expressed the urgency of countering the RSS propaganda of increasing superstitions. Many said that growing liquor and drug addiction was destroying the youth of the country. They wanted AIDWA to organise discussions among the youth to expose the dangers of such addictions, and come forward to fight for a better world.

There is anger as well as despondency among women. Anger as women feel cheated from being able to live a life with dignity. Women express anger as the BJP-RSS government has failed even to see their miseries, let alone do something about them. Despondency because they are afraid that there will be no improvement in their situation. The crisis is intensifying with daily existence itself becoming a big challenge. They come to AIDWA with the hope that building struggles together only can bring about some change.

Coming over and above the deadly Covid pandemic that wreaked havoc, the neoliberal policies of the Modi government have devastated the women of our country. The massive price rise of all essential commodities, petrol, diesel and gas cylinders is putting even basic food items out of the reach of the poor. The ‘Ujjwala Gas’ scheme has disappeared. Unemployment has reached unprecedented proportions. Women are getting pushed into extremely exploitative work in the unorganised sectors with no protective laws. Domestic workers are taking up menial jobs without respite in more and more houses. Indebtedness among women is rising. The impact of these excruciating circumstances on the mental and physical health of women is very severe.  

The BJP-RSS government in power has made numerous promises which are correctly termed as “jumlas”. Women still remember chowkidar, achche din, Rs 15 lakh in each bank account, two crore jobs, beti bachao, beti padhao, etc etc. The rulers are making a mockery of the poverty of the poor. They are making education so expensive that the poor sections and women will never be able to avail of it. Show them dreams of a better life and get their votes – this has been the tactics of the pro-corporate, anti-people and communal BJP-RSS government. And when the poor stop being fooled by these tactics, the dangerous weapons of communal polarisation are brought out. Corporate communalism is the BJP-RSS brand today.


Women are being targeted for building the ground for the implementation of the communal and Manuwadi regressive ideology. The Modi government is systematically working towards its plan of strengthening communal and caste divisions. The huge increase in violence, especially domestic violence, has made women’s lives very insecure. The growing incidents of killings in the name of ‘honour’ show how caste and patriarchal arrogance is intensifying. The BJP state governments have enacted laws against inter-caste, inter-religious marriages in total contravention of the Indian Constitution. The right to self-choice is being denied. The rights won by the women’s movement over the years are sought to be dismantled.

The BJP Gujarat state government, in connivance with the Modi government, took the horrendous step of releasing the 11 gang rapists and mass murderers in the Bilkis Bano case in the Gujarat genocide of 2002, which was presided over by Narendra Modi as chief minister. On the 75th anniversary of India’s independence Indian women were told by the BJP-RSS that they are fully with the rapists and murderers! Women of our country have to come together and defeat the communal and Manuwadi forces who want to pull India into the dark ages.

Denial of rights to a large section of people, rubbishing the concept of equality, justifying the attacks on dalits, adivasis, minorities and women – women have seen how the politics of hatred is destroying the lives of crores of people. The country has seen the inhuman atrocities on women at Hathras, Unnao, Lakhimpur Kheri, Dehradun, Delhi, and in fact all over the country. The challenge is to unite everyone against this onslaught in order to defeat it. Alternative campaigns for explaining the need to build an equal society have to be taken up.

In the case of Zakia Jafri, whose husband Ehsan Jafri, ex-MP, was brutally killed in the same Gujarat genocide, the observations of the Supreme Court not only did not give her any respite at all, but on the contrary led to the arrest of the indefatigable fighter for democracy and secularism, Teesta Setalvad. The BJP instigators of the Delhi communal riots went scot-free, but young girl students like Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita were thrown into jail. During the historic farmers’ struggle, young women activists Disha Ravi and Nodeep Kaur were also clapped into jail. Siddique Kappan, a journalist who was going to investigate the Hathras gang rape and murder of a young dalit girl, was thrown into jail for over two years. In the totally false and trumped-up Bhima Koregaon case, Sudha Bharadwaj and 15 others were jailed for over three years. Father Stan Swamy died in jail. Democracy itself is in peril under this BJP-RSS government.

It is all these grave challenges that the coming 13th national conference of AIDWA will combat through struggles. It will also decide to vastly intensify political-ideological campaigns amongst women. It will also take stock of, and take decisions to, greatly strengthen the organisation to effectively meet these challenges.

Finally, it is only in an equal world free of social, economic, gender and political discrimination that women will be able to live and prosper as equal human beings. That is why “struggle in unity for equality” is the slogan of this AIDWA conference!