Daughters of soil

When ‘superwomen’ took control of farm protests

From just housewives to being at the helm of affairs, each woman at Delhi borders has a story to tell

When ‘superwomen’ took control of farm protests

Activist Nodeep Kaur’s sister Harveer (with open hair) with women protesters at Tikri border.

Aparna Banerji

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 7

“On the dark night of January 26, power and water supply was snapped at Tikri. With no bathrooms, women made every attempt to hold their bladders for as long as they can. I have colleagues who were menstruating badly and had developed infections. We eventually found bathrooms kilometres away in a liquor factory. We tried to avoid drinking water, afraid of the fact that we had no washrooms around,” says Jagroop Kaur.

What made them stay at the protest site for so long despite such hardships? ‘Hond di larai naalon eh larai bahut choti hai’ (this fight is much smaller than the fight for existence). The spirit of Mai Bhago and Gulaab Kaur aids us. Without lands and grains, women shall be the worst sufferers. We can suffer, but not leave our fellowmen behind,” she added.

Just back from Singhu after months, eight to nine women of Meerpur Lakha village, clad in yellow dupatta, have formed an all-women society in their village. They plan a huge gathering of women to support the farm laws on International Women’s Day. Women of the Hariana village, in Faridkot, also recently formed a nine-member all-women committee – an initiative of the elderly women.

From Jalandhar district alone, two buses full of women shall head to Tikri under the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha on Monday to back the farmers’ agitation. While hundreds of women silently bore the impact of the snapped power and water at the borders of Delhi after January 26 – the protests have fueled a profound spirit of revolution and emancipation among the women of Punjab. Huge gatherings have been planned at Singhu, Tikri and all across the state to assert women’s voice tomorrow.

On 29 January, a jatha of women – five days without a washroom due to snapped electricity and water supply after the January 26 fiasco – marched across Tikri to boost the morale of protesters, their rallying cry was, “Asi Mai Bhago Dian Vaarsan, Asi Raani Jhansi Dian Vaarsan.”

Manjit Kaur (40), from the Meerpur Lakha village, 13 km from Banga, who stayed at Singhu for over 15 days (her second visit), says, “Aurat vaste vi mard de modhe naal modha jor ke larna zaroori hai. It is the elderly women who have fueled the revolution among kids. Eight to nine women of the village formed a committee and now are exhorting the young to join. Kids follow their mothers. It’s not easy to leave homes. There is no one to tend to crops, no one to cook food. Both my husband and I went there. But the protests have freed women more. They have made wats app groups to talk about their issues. On 10th more village women shall head to Singhu.”

Faridkot resident Jagroop Kaur (37), who along with her husband owns 16 acres of land, stayed at the protests with her 10-year-old son from November 27 to February 1, said, “Farm protests have altered the social structures. Men at the protests are extremely respectful to women. A teacher friend who has been cooking langar said during protests he understood the value of the work his wife did at home. Younger men one day asked us to take the stage at Tikri, saying ‘ajj langar asi paka lange tusi stage sambho.’ (Today we men will cook langar you take the stage). Women who didn’t visit anywhere in village except ‘sauhre’ and ‘peke’ (maternal home, in-laws home) are making friends, sharing stories, finding freedom. Women are undergoing an alternate revolution.”

Harveer Kaur, sister of activist Nodeep Kaur, who stayed put at the protest site for a long time, said, “The impact of the Kisan Andolan is lasting on us. It is going to alter our futures. My parents are both labourer activists. They had been asking us to be careful during protests. But after Nodeep’s arrest, my mother now backs us fervently. The Kirti Kisan Union is also making women wings. After the protests, women want to sign up for a larger stake in the day to day events and important decisions of the village.”

Amolak Singh, Convenor of the Punjab Lok Sabhyacharak manch and member Desh Bhagat Yadgaar Committee, said, “The protests have also ushered in a woman’s revolution where women prepare for a larger role in future when they go back homes. It has ushered a social, cultural and psychological revolution. Punjab is stepping out of the medieval, feudal value system and women are going to be majorly impacted by this. They are leading the change – demanding their own space, dignity and freedom. Women are now bound to chart their own course rather than being restricted to the one defined by men. More and more women joining the protests are also joining it independently rather than just for following their husbands.”

Joginder Kaur from Tarn Taran, who has been at Singhu for the past over two months, says, “Zameen jandi hai tan sabh ton zyada bibiyan nu fark paina. Ghar ja ke ki karange je zameenan gaiyan. Asi baithe aan ik muth ho ke. Razamandi naal shanti naal. (if lands go, women will be worst affected. What will we do at home if our lands are gone. We sit here together, peacefully.)”

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