Resolution on Women’s Movement : Challenges and Tasks

48. In several recent instances, AIPWA’s intervention has proved to be politically crucial. In the movement following the December 16 gang rape in Delhi, AIPWA played a central role in orienting and leading the movement, establishing the slogan of ‘Fearless Freedom (Bekhauf Azaadi)’ as the definitive slogan of the movement. Another significant instance was the Rupam Pathak case in Bihar, where the JD(U)-BJP Government, the ruling class Opposition and the media had initially united in virulent patriarchal denunciation of the schoolteacher accused of killing a BJP MLA. AIPWA’s bold and timely intervention exposed the fact that Rupam had filed charges of sexual assault against the MLA and his PA, which the police had failed to act upon. Very soon, AIPWA turned the tide of public opinion in favour of a struggle for justice for Rupam Pathak and against the patriarchal pronouncements of senior Bihar Government leaders, defending the tainted MLA. The jail sentence for Rupam Pathak has exposed the patriarchal biases of the CBI and the judiciary, and the women’s movement for justice for Rupam Pathak continues. More recently, a popular struggle led by the party and AIPWA against the gang-rape of a schoolgirl by feudal lumpens in Gaya (Bihar) was met with police firing and severe repression. This struggle was among the major incidents that sparked off a state-wide bandh in which state repression and sexual violence were major issues. In the case of the rape and murder of a 14-year old Muslim girl by policemen inside a police station in Nighasan, Uttar Pradesh in June 2011, AIPWA and CPI(ML) were at the forefront of a prolonged struggle that eventually forced the Government to order a CBI enquiry. In Punjab, dalit women agricultural labour associated with AIALA were arrested en masse when they agitated for homestead land. This demand had special significance for women, who, in the absence of their own homestead land, were forced to undergo humiliation as a consequence of dependence on the land-owner’s land, for their homes as well as for defecation.

49. Women factory workers, plantation labourers, construction workers, beedi workers, brick kiln workers, bank and office employees etc constitute an important segment of our general TU base. Wherever possible the women’s organisation should work regularly among them so as to develop an important auxiliary base. Such work can only be carried on in cooperation with the concerned TUs, just as the work among the rural poor is conducted in coordination with local units of AIALA and AIKM.

50. But there are areas where the AIPWA itself takes a direct
role in organising labouring women: those residing in jhuggi jhopris for example, who provide the bulk of our urban mass base among women. AIPWA comrades have also built up local organisations of domestic workers in some cities and towns, in West Bengal for instance.

51. Then there are women from poor and middle peasant background who, thanks to steady diversification of the rural economy, are joining other occupations in large numbers. Most important among them are the honorarium- and incentive-based workers, numbering around 30 lakh nationally, and still growing. Victims of a whole range of neoliberal labour policies like casualisation of permanent jobs, extremely exploitative feminisation of low-paid work and denial of even minimum wages, not to speak of government employee status, to those engaged in hundred percent public projects, they have shown a great urge to get organised and fight for economic justice and social dignity. As members of peasant families they retain the organic links with the life and struggle of the peasantry and at the same time actively fight against economic deprivation as workers as well as humiliation and harassment as women.

52. Given this real-life interpenetration of class and gender characteristics and aspirations, it is but natural that both the TUs Centre and the women’s organisation have contributed to an appreciable expansion of our work in this sector. Our main achievement so far has been the formation of an all India federation of ASHA unions, which organised an impressive dharna at the national capital in September 2011. Since its main demands are targeted at the union government and to an extent also at the state governments, the federation can cope