Sahranpur, UP and Delhi: 2nd Death Anniversary of Bharati Roy Chowdhury, Memorial Lecture – Jan 18, Jan 22

On the 2nd Death Anniversary of Bharati Roy Chowdhury

Setting up of Woman Empowerment Center

Date: 18th January, 2013
Place: Bharati Sadan,Village NagalMafi, Shakumbhari Devi
District: Saharanpur,Uttar Pradesh


1st Bharati Roy Chowdhury Memorial Lecture

On Women and Land Rights Movement

22nd January 2013, 2.00 – 6.00 PM
Venue – India Islamic Centre, Lodi Road, New Delhi

Key speakers:
Kalyani Menon Sen (Land rights)
Smita Gupta (Forest Rights)
Chair: Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty (Council For Social Development)

As you all are aware that Bharati RoyChowdhury, a very respected and revolutionary women leader left us on 18 January 2011 after a long struggle . She dedicated her entire life for the cause of women’s rights, especially for landless women’s’ right to land. Today women’s’ struggles for their right to land is making a strong statement across India’s political firmament. And one of the main reasons for this is that since the days of British colonialism and during independent India’s existence, all development plans have resulted in massive displacement and ensuing increase in landlessness. Where people were expected to have got their rights to land ,forests and water, the neo-liberal economic onslaught actually further snatched away their very access to land and other natural resources which were directly linked to their livelihood . The number of landless grew exponentially. The neo liberal economic policies forced multitudes of women to become agricultural labourers.

Further, it must be noted that no revenue law in the country has any provision for women to independently own agricultural land despite the fact that landless peasant women contribute 90% of the total labour involved in any agricultural work. Women’s right to land is only looked at from the perspective of right to familial property and not from the perspective of their right to livelihood. The State has refused to give any kind of recognition to landless and poor women with regard to their right to land, or for that matter any natural resources. This productive force has only been viewed within the confines of the four walls of the family and the matter of their social equality or legal rights have been left to the fancies of the family. And these families are essentially anti-woman – not believing in their equality, very feudalistic and oppressive.

During this entire period, despite peasant movements, anti-displacement struggles, the country has only seen increasing landlessness. In the last three decades women have fought tooth and nail against such occurrences. Such movements had their beginning in the 70s in Bodh Gaya, Bihar. Struggles and movements has helped evolve a collective consciousness among women which has resulted in their increasing participation against anti-people development policies and at various regional levels have established their strong leadership in several protest movements. Today a vibrant women’s land rights movement has made its significant presence felt in districts of UP and Uttarakhand . Through these mass movements the struggling women are also applying new methodologies for creating alternatives ,prominent being their initiatives for creating collectives for agriculture and forestry against the present exploitative economic and political system which is destroying the natural resources and traditional livelihoods. The primary objective of such initiatives lie in their aim of protecting the traditional livelihood practices and also creating common assets and new opportunities for future generations. The fascinating blend of struggle and new practices surely points towards a new horizon. National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers is fully involved in such processes and is committed to enhance such practices as building up cooperatives, protecting traditional seed varieties/genetic pool, conserving natural resources. Poor landless women are now demanding their independent right to land and natural resources from the state.

Bharatiji was involved from the beginning of this process and always kept inspiring the community. For this process to move ahead strongly it is very important to strengthen women’s leadership. With this objective in mind, National Forum of Forest People and Forest Worker’s have decided to set up a Woman Empowerment Center at a regional level. Programmes oriented towards developing and enhancing the leadership capabilities of the struggling women would be the key focus of such empowerment centers. Training, interactions and new practices –would form the core focus of such Empowerment Centers. For empowerment of women leadership in movements, it is absolutely essential to expand the political and social space of women in family, society and organizations. The women empowerment centers would lay special emphasis on this aspect. With such an objective in mind, the first Women Empowerment Center would be set up in Nagal Mafi. It may be recalled here that 22 years ago in this very village in the foothills of the forest covered Shivalik mountain range, a community center was set up to strengthen women’s movement and Bharati ji had played a major role in that initiative. She also spent quite a bit of her working life in this center. And it was for this reason that during her first death anniversary last year, as a tribute to her contribution in setting up the center as a fulcrum of the movement then, the community center was christened as Bharati Sadan.

We solicit your presence and active participation in this endeavor.

Roma, Ganga Arya, Rajnish, Munnilal, Shanta Bhattacharya, Ashok Chowdhury, Kaushalrani, Sukalodevi, Lalti, Sarita, Behnadevi, Fatimabi, Matadayal, Rampal, Jang Bahadur, Amit, Praduman, Dr. surendar nischal, Avijeet,


Programme of 22nd Jan 2013

Dear Friends,

As you are all aware that Bharati Roy Chowdhury, a very respected and revolutionary woman leader left us on 18 January 2011 after a long struggle. She dedicated her life to the struggle against violence on women in urban spheres but soon this very issue inspired her to move on to the rural areas where she focused on the issue of forest and land rights of women. This issue given its complexity was neither raised nor debated three decades ago. Bharatidi was one of the first who raised these issues in the Shivalik forest region in District Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh and played an important role in the formation of Ghad Kshetra Mazdoor Morcha and Ghad Kshetra Mahila Morcha. This new area of work opened new vistas for her – and she began to concentrate on the issues of women and land/forest rights across the state of Uttar Pradesh. Today a vibrant movement has made its presence felt very significantly in districts of UP and Uttarakhand where land and forest rights movement is now being spearheaded by Dalit, Adivasi and other poor women. The enactment of the new Act in forest areas such as “ Forest Rights Act, 2006” has been an important contribution of the struggle of the National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers (NFFPFW), through which Bharatidi strongly advocated the issue of women’s rights over resources as envisaged in the Act. In this context, the National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers is organizing a memorial lecture to pay tribute to her outstanding work on Women’s rights over Natural Resources, land and forest especially. A 50 minute film on the vibrant movement on collective action and collective possession of land and forest in different areas of UP and Uttarakhand – “Tu Zinda Hai, PartII….”- will also be screened before the memorial lecture.

In recent years women are in the fore front of all resistance movements that have been going on against corporate attack on land, forest, water and other natural resources. The core issue on which the struggling women are getting mobilized is people’s sovereign right over natural resources and more specifically on women’s right over resources. Since women’s involvement in primary production process in land, forest and water is much higher than men, such demand is very realistic and logical. Traditionally, all such movements were led by men and women remained as a shadow to the male leadership. Women always played a critical role of both leading and sustaining every struggle, but with time their role would go unrecognized and they would be pushed backed behind the four walls of their homes and families. But the situation has changed radically in last few decades when women started taking initiatives in protesting against displacement, landlessness and violence. In the last 65 yrs of independent India, the development process as initiated by the Indian State, has displaced more than 100 million people physically and also from their livelihood resources. With the neo-liberal regime, this process has accelerated and has been responsible for creating more landlessness. Today, there is a direct conflict between the Indian State and the marginalized communities and especially with the women folk who are facing the three pronged attack from the patriarchy, feudalism, and imperialist globalization. This ongoing determined struggle of women has also seen a growth of collective consciousness among the landless, Adivasi, Dalit women to protect the resources and also to protect the livelihood for the security of future generations. With this new consciousness the struggling women are taking new initiatives for developing new alternatives to build resistance against the present exploitative economic and political system which is destroying the natural resources and traditional livelihoods. These experiments with forming community collectives for agriculture and forestry with women in control are significantly advanced than many government schemes and projects initiated by the civil society in terms of protecting the traditional livelihood practices and also in creating common assets and new opportunities for future generations. In the present scenario in the rural sector women’s land right movement has gone through an evolution over the last 4-5 decades. The Bodh Gaya movement was one milestone in which women won independent right on land.

The neo-liberal policies have accelerated the attack on women further, but they are not afraid of this attack as they are struggling to determine their own future. The various schemes launched for the upliftment of women such as NREGA, schemes of women welfare are all half hearted schemes. Since these schemes do not ensure rights over resources and so actually help very little. These schemes are not what women want. The rural women are talking of a new political economy and not just economic packages. In this matter neither government nor intelligentsia is sensitive, neither are they aware of the language to interact with the women from the poorest sections. All such schemes view women within four walls only and not from the perspective of their independent right to resources. On the other hand the collective political consciousness and assertion of rural poor women is growing into a new political level.

There is a need to look into these phenomena with a new approach, where the question of collective is very important as rural poor women’s rights and security is embedded in collectiveness and collective action. In this context the discussion on women’s rights to natural resources is important. Bharatiji had worked on this issue till her death and in her memory a “Women Empowerment Center” has also been established in Saharanpur, UP where she spent a lot of her time and built this understanding.

These debates need to be continued and through these debates we attempt to continue the discourse for a pro-people alternative development process.

We are having two senior women activists Kalyani Menon Sen and Smita Gupta, who will speak on the issue of land and forest rights. This will be followed by an open discussion. The discussion will be chaired by Dr. M. Mohanty who is well known scholar and happens to be Bharatidi’s teacher too.

We solicit your presence and participation in the programme.

Gangaarya, Roma, Rajnish, Munnilal, Ashok Choudhary, Sokalo, Lalti, Sarita, Behna, Fatimabi, Matadyal, Jung Hindustani, Kausahalrani, Avijit, Vipin, Praduman, Amit, Shanta, Dr. Surendra Nischal, Vinod Pathak, Sanjay Garg



Near Homeguard Commandant Office
Saraswati Vihar, Near Kargi Chowk
Haridwar Bypass
DEHRADUN – 248001 (Uttrakhand)