March 7, 2012
Statement from Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression
Let us on this historic day reaffirm our commitment to:
* Resist the increasing assault on people’s land, other resources, livelihoods and lives
* Fight the increasing sexual assault in society at large, especially on women in mass struggles
* Rescue March 8 from the cacophony created by media, corporates and government to fearlessly forge ahead in the struggle for the liberation of all women
On this day, in 1857, women workers in the textile and garment industries in New York went on strike to protest against unfair wages, 12 hr working days, sexual harassment in the workplace and other inhuman working conditions. One of the first recorded strikes by women workers, they were fired upon by police and brutally repressed. Women’s participation in struggles increased subsequently across the world. So has the repression of the Indian state like many other countries, especially in the era of neo-liberal reforms. The crushing of dissent is making more women step forward in India. Whether to protect forests or rivers, a dwelling place or land, the future of children or safety of the elderly, source of livelihood or the right to dignity, women across the country are in the forefront of these struggles in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and other states.
While the relentless assault by national and international capital is forcibly dispossessing, displacing, starving and killing many, sexual violence is being used systematically by the State as a repressive measure through its armed forces, paramilitary and police. Women and girls are increasingly subjected to sexual violence, whether it is in a police station or on the way to one, and especially when they attempt to place their demands before authorities. A growing number of incidents reveal that the state is actively abetting the violence against women and facilitating the plunder of resources. Law makers are manipulating existing laws and enacting new ones that favor the corporations, big banks and other elite. New draconian laws and archaic ones like the Sedition Act are being used to silence dissent. Negotiation with elected representatives has become a farce as the forces of capital have taken control of the state, judiciary and the media. Police are often perpetrators of violence or abet as mute spectators or by failing to file FIRs. Instead of protecting people’s rights, with few exceptions, the judiciary like other custodians of law is crushing the hopes of ordinary people.
The following two incidences highlight the type of corporate and/or state sponsored/abetted violence on people, especially women who are at the forefront of struggles. On January 25, 2012 when the entire nation was gearing up for Republic day celebrations, 4000 men and women were peacefully marching to the Jindal Steel Plant in Angul to demand a more just compensation for the land forcibly grabbed from them and also the jobs promised to them by the company and Odisha Government. Security guards and hired goons brutally attacked them with iron rods and left many profusely bleeding. Women’s clothes were torn and there were reports of iron rods inserted into the private parts of some. When an FIR was lodged at the local police station, except for a token arrest of the security officer, none of the senior executives of the company culpable for the violence were arrested.
On January 31, 2012 fifteen women and two representatives of the non violent People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, which has been opposing the Koodankulam Nuclear Power plant since the late 1980s, went to meet with the GOI’s expert panel. They were attacked by Hindu Munnani and Congress thugs in the presence of local Congress leaders and police in the Collectorate’s Office in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu. During this attack, four women formed a human shield around the male representatives of PMANE. These badly injured women were from the fishing community, which has been at the forefront of the non-violent campaign along with Dalit workers, farmers, shopkeepers and women engaged in beedi rolling. They were kicked on the stomach, hit with helmets, hair was pulled and blouses torn. One woman had a fracture, another had her neck disc dislocated, while the Collector remained in his office and the police were mute spectators. Corporate as well as Central and State Government sponsored/abetted violence on democratic and peaceful mass movements in collusion with other local political parties, including Hindutva extremists are on the rise in our country.
The extreme violence of communalism and casteism is affecting women from various communities as majority fascism continues to spread its tentacles to several states in India in the neoliberal era. Two recent cases of extreme violence against women in intercaste marriage, where the victims and their family members struggled to file FIRs, reveal state support for the rising casteist patriarchy. Despite media attention, justice has been delayed in the public lynching of a Dalit boy and Gowda girl, which culminated in an “honor” killing of the Gowda girl in Mandya District, Karnataka where the girl’s father and other pepetrators wield political power. Action against people responsible for the beating, public stripping and parading of a 45 year old mother of a Dalit boy by the upper caste girl’s family in the CM’s district (Satara) in Maharashtra has also been delayed due to political clout of the upper castes. Dalit women in particular woman, face the brunt of violence of casteist patriarchy in other states as well.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the anti-muslim progrom in Gujarat. The fascist CM responsible for the pogrom, where thousands of muslims were massacred and even pregnant women were raped, their feotuses slaughtered and burnt, remains firmly in power and is even projected by corporate CEOs, NRIs and others as the next PM of India. Several brave muslim women and men continue to struggle for justice for the victims who perished and the survivors in this repressive state.
Custodial torture has also reached unprecedented heights as in the case of Soni Sori, an Adivasi school teacher from Dantewada, Chhattisgarh who was arrested on October 3, 2011 after police registered a false case. Medical evidence submitted at the request of the Supreme Court shows that she was subjected to electric shocks and had stones pushed into her vagina and rectum while in custody. This was under the supervision of the SP who was awarded the President’s Gallantry award on Republic day in 2012 for leading an encounter attack on Maoists. By conferring this award, the state ignored the concerns of the families of the innocent villagers killed in that encounter and endorsed the custodial torture and sexual assault on an Adivasi woman. Denied bail, Soni Sori refuses to be silenced and struggles for justice, while she remains in pain in the custody of her torturers, without access to a doctor. Her poignant letters from jail reveal the injustice and violence faced by women prisoners in this country.
Our hopes lie in the refusal of people, especially women to be silenced and their continued struggle for justice as we pursue our struggles against casteist patriarchy, communalism, state repression and capitalism. We must continue to expose other incidences, while building our strength and unity through active solidarity, although the path for women’s liberation has become more uphill.
Let us reaffirm today our determination to:
- RESIST STATE REPRESSION OF VOICES OF DISSENT AND PEOPLES’ MOVEMENTS!
- SPEAK UP AGAINST SEXUAL VIOLENCE ON WOMEN PRISONERS!
- FIGHT FOR THE RIGHT TO DISSENT IN CORPORATE INDIA!
- VANQUISH CASTEIST PATRIARCHY, COMMUNALISM AND CAPITALISM!
Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) is a non-funded effort started in November 2009, to put an end to the violence perpetrated upon our bodies and societies. We are a nationwide network of women from diverse political and social movements comprising of women’s organizations, mass organizations, civil liberty organizations, student and youth organizations, mass movements and individuals. We unequivocally condemn state repression and sexual violence on women by any perpetrator (s).