The 9th West Bengal State Conference was held at Kolkata on 8th March, International Women’s Day. The Conference was held at the Bharat Sabha Hall, named the Aparajita Mancha for the occasion. The Conference began with the hoisting of the AIPWA flag and floral tributes to the martyrs. The Conference was marked by the active and enthusiastic participation of working women, students, and victims of gender violence.
Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA National Secretary addressed the delegates and guests, speaking about the need to assert the agenda of the women’s movement for freedom, dignity and rights, in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. She spoke of Anna Hazare’s support to the Mamata Banerjee Government as an insult to the women’s movement, since not only had the Government been utterly callous in its response to a spate of rapes, and had even unleashed rape as an act of political vendetta, but had also presided over corruption scams like the Chit Fund scam that had caused rural poor women to commit suicide out of desperation.
The outgoing State Secretary Chaitali Sen presented the work report, highlighting the struggles for justice waged by AIPWA in a series of rape cases in the State, and the struggles for rights of working women.
AIPWA activists from amongst women workers and students, as well as survivors of gender violence, addressed the Conference. One mother of a minor girl who had suffered rape, spoke of the struggle for justice in the face of isolation and pressure – only to be met with hostility from the police, which delayed filing an FIR on the illegal pretext that the ‘medical report has not been prepared’, and the biased prosecution which weakened the chargesheet, making it possible for the accused to secure bail. Speaker after speaker bore testimony to the fact that the TMC Government had unleashed an offensive on women’s rights, and had tried to muzzle freedom of expression and the voices of resistance to patriarchy.
AISA activists enthused the gathering with the presentation of rousing songs. The gathering was also addressed by senior AICCTU leader and organizer of working women, Comrade Mina Pal, as well as other activists of AICCTU and AISA.
The Conference elected a 47 member Council and a team of office bearers – with Gouri Dey as President, Malina Baxi as Vice President, Chaitali Sen as Secretary, Indrani Dutta and Archana Ghatak as joint secretaries, Chandrasmita Goswami as Office Secretary, and Kalyani Goswami as treasurer. The Conference was followed by a spirited march from the venue to College Square, where activists addressed a street corner gathering.