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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 12 New Delhi March 9, 2019

Eighth March this year on a Different Note

Monday 11 March 2019, by Gargi Chakravartty

Eighth March is a day for women across the world—not merely a day for celebration as is generally considered in the corporate sector, but a day to express solidarity with all the toiling and grassroots women, a day to protest against the discrimination and exploitation of women, a day to campaign for their rights for employment, livelihood, forest rights of adivasi women and, most importantly, for their security. However, this year in an ambience of violence, conflict, terrorism and warmongering, women in India feel more insecure as they are the worst victims of any kind of violence and war situation.

The Pulwama terrorist attack on our CRPF jawans on February 14, 2019 (that killed 40 of them) has been condemned by peace-loving people the world over. Terrorism has no religion, it is a weapon to destabilise the country. What is the way to combat state-sponsored terrorism?—that is a difficult question. There is no short answer for that, definitely the whipping of passions by screaming anchorpersons in television channels is not the sane way to react. Anti-Kashmir tweets by Meghalaya Governor Tathagata Roy or the Bajrang Dal activists asking the Islamic seminary, Darul Uloom, to expel Kashmiri students or creating an atmosphere of war through war-cries, talking and screaming of war on TV make us feel how correct is the US journalist, Molly Ivins, who said: “Polarising people is a good way to win an election, and also a good way to wreck a country.” That is why Pulwama has suddenly become the RSS’ number one poll issue, not the Ram temple. (The Times of India, February 22, 2019)

The surgical strike by the Indian Air Force at Balakot has been projected as a strategy of revenge for our lost jawans. Revenge against revenge has become the war-cry.

How have the women a reacted to such developments in the last few days? The women, who lost their near and dear ones, felt insecure and traumatised. On February 26, after the memorial service of her martyred husband, Bablu Santra, in West Bengal, his widow Mita spoke to the press with such restraint that exposed the heart and deep concern of a woman. She said that the air attack that was being planned should not lead to escalation of war. “In that case there will be more widows like me on both sides of the border.” However, instead of public praise for her for such a mature and courageous observation, she faced obnoxious trolls from people who foment jingoistic passions and she was accused of being disloyal to her martyred husband.

When political parties are asking for evidence about the Balakot casualties, supposed to be around 300 according to some govenment and BJP sources, the wife and mother of a martyr of the Pulwama terror attack have openly “cast aspersions on the exact number of casualties among the Pakistanis”. (The Times of India, March 6, 2019)

Geeta Devi, the widow of Ram Vakeel, one of the 40 CRPF jawans killed in the Pulwama blast, said: “As evidence, we have received the bodies of our jawans after the Pulwama attack, but there is no such evidence of the airstrikes in Pakistan.” Ram Vakeel’s sister, Ramraksha, even questioned the airstrikes in the following words: “If there are claims that over 300 people were killed, then some evidence should be provided. How do we believe that the strikes occurred and the terrorists died?”

Similarly, Sharmistha Devi, a widow of another martyred jawan, Pradeep Kumar, expressed her dissatisfaction with the government’s claims on the Balakot airstrikes on terror camps.

Basically these observations make it clear that the suffering women do not want more sufferings, and realise that escalation of war does not solve the problem of terrorism, which is intended to create provocation for war. It needs courage for women across the world to say—“No war, we want peace!” The moment women will talk about peace and Gandhian non-violence, they will be accused of being anti-national and unpatriotic. But the fact remains that women are the worst sufferers of violence, conflict, communal riots and war. They eventually lose their husbands, fathers, sons—they are the greatest loser in such a frenzy of revenge.

When in India women resolve to strengthen democracy, then the Right-wing ultra-nationalist jingoistic vision fails to differentiate between the Pak military forces, the powerless Pak Government and the Pak people at large who have been suffering due to the lack of proper democracy in their country. Who are the sufferers of terrorist attacks and bomb blasts within Pakistan—in Lahore, Karachi and other places, resulting in deaths of hundreds of innocent children, men and women? They are the countless common people. Therefore women across borders must raise their determined voice to fight terrorism. But war is not the way to do so; it may help the political outfits but it devastates the economy and the lives of innocent citizens.

It is in this ominous backdrop that the message for Eighth March this year must be—“No War, Women Want Peace!”

The author is a Vice-President of the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW).

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