Four Women’s Organizations’ Statement
CARONA LOCKDOWN PRETEXT TO MUZZLE DEMOCRACY
The 24th of March 2020 will go down in history as the day democracy and socialism as enshrined in our constitution, suffered a critical blow in two stages, namely the crass manner in which the protestors from Shaheen Bagh were evicted, and the lockdown of the country for 21 days. It is impossible to not connect the two dots. On the 23rd, more than 70 women’s organizations and individuals issued an appeal to the Government/ Institutions to repeal the CAA and withdraw the process of NPR/NRC. The response they received was a horrible, indefensible and patriarchal show of state strength. While visuals of the lockdown to save the people from a pandemic are going viral on the social media, the government’s priority was to clear off the Shaheen Bagh protest site. At 3 am, the police started cordoning the area and in a few hours were busy demolishing the site and arresting protestors at Shaheen Bagh in the early hours of Tuesday morning on the 101th day of protest. The sites of Jafrabad,Inderlok, Turkman Gate too were dismantled. Protesting women maintaining their social distance and observing the safety precautions according to the guidelines of the Ministry of Health, were arrested from all the sites. While the police have been going round the rest of the city asking people to stay indoors if they do not have any work of critical importance, it was busy supervising re-painting over the protest site paintings at Jamia and Shaheen Bagh. The sneaky underhand activity of the government is reflective of its misogynistic, anti-democratic ideology. While on the one hand they raised the bogey of the virus being a threat to the women, on the other they could not tolerate the idea that a bunch of women could stand up and defy a virulently male order. A feminine face of resistance was countered by every vile tactic possible, from the police allowing goons to shoot at the protestors, barricade and beat them up, throw petrol bombs and worse, burn up entire colonies to intimidate the protestors. The refusal of the women to cow down seems to have irked the government even more. We would like to tell the government that their action is not reflective of their victory. Rather it is shameful that they had to use shady underhand techniques to quash a perfectly democratic and legal movement. As the interlocutors of the Court are pointing out, the government should have negotiated with them and assuaged their fears rather than forcibly evict them and paint over their site. The possibility of a resurgence of support for the women of Shaheen Bagh or other antiCAA/NPR/NRC exercise now faces a challenge of a deliberate mismanagement of the Covid crisis. The Prime Minister has declared a lockdown for 21 days, ensuring that there is no organized protest for days and weeks while it can frame any policies or laws it deems fit. The government is aware that the civil society is clamouring for more social welfare cover and budget allocations for those who will suffer double jeopardy with the lockdown. As over 85% of the employment in our country is in the informal sector, a complete economic lockdown, with no economic respite will kill small and medium industries, workers and families. We demand that the government relook its priorities. We have cities and towns in lockdown and curfew over a pandemic that may leave hundreds dead and thousands infected. Our national priority should be to protect the lives and livelihoods of the weakest and most vulnerable sections of our population that is running in millions as a result of the economic losses suffered due to the lockdown. A look at the global economies will show that the countries are battling the virus by increasing testing, quarantine facilities, intensive care units, apart from social distancing and provide free masks, sanitizers, soap and testing facilities to all. Japan built 1000 bed makeshift hospitals, as did Korea, Italy and Spain. Every country is providing free testing and treatment to all affected. The economic buffer is provided by stimulus packages in the form of rations, money transfers, tax rebates and other measures to ensure that no one suffers a wage loss. Though we are under lockdown, our demand for social security alongwith social distancing will not diminish. It will remain as persistent as our demand to Repeal CAA, stop NPR/NRC. Our support to the brave women of Shaheen Bagh remains as unwavering as their commitment to the cause of repealing the CAA, and withdrawal of NPR/NRC. May they return from this hiatus stronger and victorious. In its zeal to demolish the sites, the government has failed to squash women’s resistance. Our government should be working towards saving lives and not fragile male egos.
• An unconditional release of all anti-CAA protestors. We demand that all cases against the protestors be withdrawn. We are opposed to the picking of people without charges and later framing fictitious charges on them. Protests of the women of Shaheen Bagh have constitutional validity that has been upheld by the court.
• Increase national budget allocation to Health. Testing and treatment for all affected should be done free of cost.
• Ensure Food Security by rehauling the public distribution system and ensuring rations to all below poverty line. Covid-19 will be fatal for over 53% of our women who are anemic, and nearly 56% of our population that is malnourished.
• Use the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund to provide succor to the millions who risk losing lives due to the economic crunch caused by the closing of the economy
• Repeal CAA, no NPR/NRC Signed: (24 March 2020)
1. National Federation of Indian Women
3. Centre for Struggling Women
4. Swastik MahilaManch