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Women's Front

Christina Samy

Christi Samy, dirigeante d’AREDS et de SWATE, nous fait parvenir une présentation du Women’s Front, "une force politique alternative dans le Tamil Nadu".

Christi Samy, leader of SWATE and AREDS, sent us a presentation of Women’s Front, "an alternative political force in Tamil Nadu".

Status of women in India:

The greatest tragedy that happens in India, even after the lapse of 64 years since Indian independence, is the social exclusion of women and children belong to the marginalised section of the society and the Dalit community. The persistence of hunger and poverty in India is due in large measure to the subjugation, marginalization and disempowerment of women and the Dalits. As women, one-half of the country’s populations have been excluded socially, politically, economically and culturally, the national development remains incomplete, uneven, unhealthy and disproportionate.

About 60% of the Indian population is living below poverty line. This reveals that a major section of the people gets one square meal only per day. Three quarter of a family income in Tamil Nadu is incurred on food materials and such is the price hike. Gone are the days when women were restricted from going out for job to earn money. In order to shoulder the familial responsibilities, women and adolescent girls - even children – go for work to earn money somehow.

However, women and girl children have been discriminated and their health, education and social status have been ignored or neglected in majority of the families, particularly in rural India. Besides working, women have to take care of cooking, fetching water, household works, washing, baby sitting, assisting the elders in the family. Thus, women and girl children have been neglected in many ways.

Root cause of the problems:

Fourteen elections have been held for the Tamil Nadu assembly, after Indian independence. Despite, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening hours by hours. Besides being exploited economically, women are being subjected to domestic violence, sexual abuse and gender discrimination. Therefore, the present political system is the root cause of all the problems that exist in the country.

Women’s Front as an alternative political force in Tamil Nadu:

Voicing for human rights, fighting for justice to affected individuals and organizing democratic movements, at the best, can bound the savagery to a little extend. Democratic movements, sometimes, may be capable of punishing the perpetrators and the anti social elements. However, they are incapable purging the society by eliminating the vile – just for the fighters do not deserve a place in the decision making process. Therefore, an alternative political force with a strong ideological base and simmering spirit to over through the existing retrogressive political system is the need of the hour. The righteous people should enter in to politics and occupy positions in the decision-making process.

That is why, the feminists, social activists, environmentalists, secular people and democrats united together and formed Women’s Front in Tamil Nadu in April 2006. Since then, it has been fighting for justice to the downtrodden masses throughout the state – at micro level and at the macro level, it has been planning to emerge as a an alternative political force that could replace the male dominated, corrupt political system. Further, it has decided to contest in two of the parliamentary constituencies in the forth-coming parliamentary elections.

Big movements against unregulated developmental activities of government that deny the right to life of millions of people across the nation have not yielded positive results. The fighters air their genuine voices to the philistines who ignore their voices. How long should it go? Therefore, genuine democratic movements should join their hand together and emerge as mighty political movements at state levels and national level.

Women’s Front is taking hectic attempts to create a political alliance with like-minded political parties through democratic movements. It strongly believes that only the protracted movements can serve as a binding force among the allied movements, parties and agents that ensure transparency.

Need for entering into mainstream politics:

When we go through history, we can witness myriad numbers of spontaneous movements of people against suppression, oppression, exploitation, serfdom and the like. However, all these movements went unnoticed or ended in fiasco – just for one reason that they were alienated from politics. There were many spontaneous movements of people against British imperialism in India but, the movement led by Gandhi only was the recipient of the freedom afford by the British government – for it was a political movement. There were two main trends in the arena of freedom struggle in India, one was the uncompromising trend and the other one was the compromising trend led by Gandhi, backed by elitists and religious groups. There were many movements built on uncompromising trend to drive out the British imperialism, across the nation. As they did not assume political character, they remained sporadic, spontaneous and disappeared with the passage of time. Such is the power of politics. Though politics is a superstructure of certain economic base, politics supersedes economy and create a new economic base with progressive politics, culture, education and science as the superstructures. Whether people want it or not, politics affects their life from all directions and in all dimensions. Therefore, ever mounting price rise, growing unemployment, cultural degeneration, illiteracy, communal riots and the like are the impact of the political system that rules the nation. Nothing is apolitical in this world. Therefore, any genuine democratic movement will tend to assume a political character in course of time. Otherwise, it will be hypocritical.

Women’s Front in action:

Eviction, Repercussions and Responses:

The government has been evicting people who live and own property/agricultural land along the national highways in Tamil Nadu in order extend and expand the road to facilitate speedy movement of motor vehicles. As a result, people have been forced to displace – leaving their habitats, livelihood resources and breaking their relationships, emotions and human bonds abruptly. Forced eviction makes the families suffer many hardships – lose of employment, livelihood resources and education. Words are poor to express the plight of the families - the women, adolescent girls and the school-going children in particular – which are subjected to eviction.

Many of the target villages of AREDS are located on the Karur-Trichy highway and are now under the eviction process. The families, which are to be evicted, are too poor to procure sites and build houses at an alternative place. This is also adversely impacting school going children since the eviction takes place in the middle of their academic year; changing schools is easier said than done and the number of dropout will rise in the district.

Therefore, Women’s Front has been taking steps to pressurise the government to address the issues and find alternative solutions. On 06.08.2008, a protest demonstration was organised in front of the Karur District Collectorate, demanding acquisition of land for expanding the highway after providing adequate alternative sites with patta and funds for constructing houses to the people, who are going to be evicted in Karur district.

Women’s Front Twice Arrested

For fighting against forced eviction…

Kancheepuram is one of the districts in Tamil Nadu. There is a lake in Porur of this district. About 30,000 people resided around this lake, depending on the area for their livelihood resources. The state government had issued family cards and voters’ identity cards, and installed telephone, waterline and electricity connections to 12,000 families among these people. For the basic education of the children of theses families, there were 5 English medium schools in the same area.

On 23.11.2006, without having issued any prior notice or warning, the taluk officer and the police officers with a retinue of thousands of policemen visited the place and ordered them to evict the place immediately. The residents, being indignant, resorted to road blockade, protesting against the atrocious act of the government. They demanded their right to reside at the same place. In return, the police lathi charged and dispersed them. After that, the officials leveled down the houses with bulldozers. The people took out whichever valuable articles and assets they could save and quitted the place. As the demolishing works were carried out ignoring the presence of people inside the houses, many of them got wounded, a child drowned in water and two others died of heart attack.

Then, the government allocated alternative site for the evicted families at Koodapakkam – a place located far away from the pervious one – on 27.11.2006. However, one fourth of the families only were issued tokens that permitted people to acquire sites.

For two long years, the people have been suffering and facing a lot of problem at Koodapakkam – the newly allocated area. Women and the adolescent girls, besides suffer depression and physical ailments, fall victim to sexual violence. Though the government officials are well aware of, they are indifferent towards it. As the schools are remotely located, the children find it difficult for going to school and as a result they dropout. The adults could not get employment opportunity in the new locality. Further, they are too poor to meet out the travel expenses to go to remote places for finding out their livelihood.

UDHR, ICESCR and CEDAW promulgate right to reside. On the contrary, right to reside is denied to the people, they are subjected to forced eviction, and people become repatriates in their own motherland – India.

In order to retrieve the rights of these victims of eviction, Women’s Front organised a demonstration with thousands of the victims of eviction in front of Thiruvallur district collectorate, on 16.02.2009, demanding livelihood resources, schooling facility, water supply, power supply and alternative sites for all the evicted families – in order to ensure a minimum dignified life to the affected people. The police arrested Ms. Christina, the general secretary of Women’s Front along with the cadres and the people but released them in the evening.

For fighting against the genocide in Sri Lanka…

On the pretext of combating against LTTE, the Sri Lankan government has been attacking and bombing on the localities where innocent Tamils are living. The government blasts out schools and hospitals and kills thousands of innocent Tamils. There is a surge against this ethnic violence not only in Tamil Nadu but also in other nations, where Tamils are living. All Tamils and peace loving people shout in one voice for ceasefire and peace talks. Inorder to register its voice against this heinous crime of the Sri Lankan government and pressurize the Indian government to intervene in the war to check the genocide, Women’s Front resorted to road blockade in front of Tamil Nadu state assembly on 29.01.2009, when the assembly was on session. The police arrested the activists of Women’s Front but released them in the evening.

Human Chain against genocide:

Sri Lankan Tamils Protection Movement has emerged in Tamil Nadu in course of protest movements against the killings of Tamils by the government in Sri Lanka. It is a platform, in which different political parties and apolitical organisations represent and fight for protecting the Tamils in Sri Lanka. At the call of Sri Lankan Tamils Protection Movement, activists from different political parties joined their hands as lings in human chain organised against Sri Lankan genocide on the 17th of February 2009 throughout the state. The members of Women’s Front took active participation in the human chain organised in Karur district on the day and registered their voice to stop the killings of Tamils.

Demanding Lands and Title Deeds on Women’s Names:

Article 25 (1) of International Human Rights Convention assures of a minimum dignified life to every human being; Article 11 (1) of ECO SAC convention assures of right to reside. Indian government evolved Rehabilitation and Reimbursement Policy-2004 and it assures allocation of 150 square metres of land in rural area and 75 square metres in urban area to a family affected by any of the developmental programmes of the government. Tamil Nadu government also has assured of building houses to the homeless rural poor in the state. However, many of the rural poor are homeless still. Women and the adolescent girls, who are vulnerable sections of the society, face violence and sexual abuse by the antisocial elements. So, Women’s Front organised demonstrations in all district head quarters, voicing for allocation of land and building houses for the homeless rural poor women and, registering the title deed of the houses on the names of women members in the beneficiary families. At the end of the demonstration, the district secretaries of Women’s Front along with the activists submitted demand petitions to the district collectors.

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