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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Firmer and farmer

Women are at the forefront of farmers' protest against the Centre's agriculture laws. On the International Women's Day, The Indian Express profiles a few of them to see how they are powering the agitation.

Written by Raakhi Jagga |
Updated: March 8, 2021 4:29:37 am
Women during a Kisan Mahapanchayat in Ludhiana. (Express Archive)

Women are at the forefront of farmers’ protest against the Centre’s agriculture laws. On the International Women’s Day, The Indian Express profiles a few of them to see how they are powering the agitation.

Surjit Kaur Aklia, 75

Qualification: Never went to school
Designation: Member, BKU Dakaunda, Mansa unit
Village: Aklia village, Mansa district
Role model: Bhagat Singh

Surjit Kaur Aklia

What drew you to this agitation?: My family is into farming. My two sons are dependent only on farming. Hence, I have all the more reason to be part of this agitation. I remained at Delhi borders for 70 days and went back on March 7. I have lived most part of my life, but it is a question of the future of my sons and grandsons. I am part of langar committee at Delhi border and I even address women at village level. I had never imagined that I can speak on mic. This strength I realised in the past four months.

Your contribution: Many elderly women are now realising that age is just a number, that they can move out and be part of this historic agitation.

Balbir Kaur Sidhu, 40

Qualification: BA, LLB
Village: Mansa
Designation: State committee member of BKU Dakaunda
Role model: Balkaran Balli (Husband)

Balbir Kaur Sidhu

What drew you to this agitation?: Women were not very active and there were hardly any women wings in farmer unions. Farming is no longer a man’s domain. Therefore, to make women aware of their contribution, I became part of BKU Dakaunda in 2010. There are 243 villages in Mansa and today over 175 villages of Mansa have women wings.

Your contribution: I have been able to dispel the fear of thousands of women who are going to Delhi borders and living there for a week or for more days. A number of them are leading morchas in Punjab as well.

Jasbir Kaur Natt, 60

Qualification: BA, BEd
Village: Mansa
Role model: Sukhdarshan Natt (Husband)
Designation: State Committee member, Punjab Kisan Morcha

Jasbir Kaur Natt

What drew you to agitation?: I used to read Bhagat Singh and even Russian literature before my marriage. I was part of Democratic People’s Front and I used to raise people’s issues during terrorism as well. My husband used to lead many agitations. This is how I got involved in this movement. Now it is more than three decades and I am fighting for not only women but also against repression of any kind.

Your contribution: It is 100 days and I have been at Delhi borders. I never went home. My daughter Navkaran Natt is leading from the front, so is my husband.. In fact, we are a family of activists. My relatives also come here to meet me as I will not go back till the time we get our demands fulfilled. I have not seen my mother for long. She is unwell these days but she too will be coming here next week.

Your contribution: Women’s participation in agitation against farm laws has become every household’s movement now. Women themselves pack their bags and come at borders for days together. They write slogans, do langar sewa and even mobilise women on their own. This is a great achievement I think. It seems that our hard work has paid off.

Navkiran Natt, 29

Qualification: BDS, Masters in Film Studies, Ambedkar University
Village: Mansa
Role model: All those associated with Gadar Lehar, who gave their lives for their country and countrymen
Designation: A student and youth activist, working with All India Students’ Association and Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA)

farmers protest, women farmers, farm laws, agriculture laws, Chandigarh news, Punjab news, Indian express news Women during a Kisan Mahapanchayat in Ludhiana. (Express Archive)

What drew you to this movement?: I come from an agrarian family. These laws are going to impact me directly. I am from a family of activists and my mother Jasbir Kaur Natt is a driving force for me at Delhi borders who has been going strong for the past 100 days. Also, being a student-youth activist, I understand how these farms laws are harmful for not only farmers but also for the common people of this country. The Essential Commodities Act along with increasing fuel prices endangers the already squeezed budget of the majority of the people. So I think it’s our duty to fight these pro-corporate laws.

Your contribution: We collectively started Shaheed Bhagat Singh Library at Tikri border and daily film screenings in the name of ‘Trolley Talkies’. I am editorial team member of Trolley Times, farmers’ own newsletter which started from within the movement. We also organised discussions, ‘Trolley Talks’, at Shaheed Bhagat Singh Library to engage and educate young people at the protest site. I also help in the logistics at Punjab Kisan Union’s camp at Tikri in arranging and distributing items of daily need.

Kavitha Kuruganti, 50

Qualification: MA in Communication, Hyderabad Central University
Village/city: Bangalore, Karnataka
Designation: Convener of Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA)
Role model: Many Dalit women farmers and adivasi farmers of India

Kavitha Kuruganti

What drew you to this agitation?: I am part of the National Working Group of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee which gave the “Dilli Chalo” call

Your contribution: I am the only woman member in the delegation of farmers’ representatives who go for formal talks with the government.

Kakul Gill, 47

Qualification: MA in Fine Arts, History and currently pursuing PhD
City: Ludhiana
Designation: Social activist
Role model: Father Gurdeep Singh Dhaliwal and grandfather Bhagwant Singh Dhaliwal

Kakul Gill

What drew you to this agitation?: I am from a kisan family and I am very much attached with our land. My father did a transport business in Kolkata and his farm land at Moga village used to be given on contract earlier, but for the past many years, he himself has been doing farming. Though I am married in Ludhiana city, I am very much connected to my village. Hence, I got personally attached with this movement. You cannot detach a farmer from his land even if he/ she stops doing farming.

Contribution: I initiated the idea of making it a movement in Ludhiana. We organised one tractor march by daughters of farmers living in urban areas of Ludhiana where many of us drove tractors after years. We organised a foot march in posh areas of Ludhiana supporting farmers, candle march and even a car march. My children and so many women from Ludhiana are connected with this movement now. We are with farmers and will always be with them.

Nodeep Kaur, 25

Qualification: 10+2
Village: Gandhar village, Muktsar district
Role model: Mother Swarnjeet Kaur and sister Rajvir Kaur
Designation: Activist with Bhagat Singh Chatra Ekta Manch (BSCEM)

What drew you to this movement?: I had been associated with labourers who are not given proper wages. I had been staying in Delhi only for the past two-three years. During lockdown, people were not being given ration. So we led an agitation against factory owners. I myself also worked in factories where I saw huge anomalies. I feel that labourers, farmers all must be given their rights.

Your contribution: I got the reward of protesting for the rights of labourers in the form of jail. Now I am out on bail, but still the court case is on. I feel that over 300 labourers got their wages during the lockdown period. This is one of our achievements for which we were even jailed. Now people have started raising their voice for mazdoors as well. Now so much support is coming.

Harinder Kaur Bindu, 42

Qualification: Matric
Village: Ramgarh Bhagatuana, Faridkot district
Role model: Late Megh Raj Bhagtuana (father), who was an activist with Inqlabi Manch and Gadri Gulab Kaur
Designation: Vice-president, BKU Ugrahan

Harinder Kaur Bindu

What drew you to agitation? I always had inqlabi thoughts in my mind since childhood. My father always stood up against repression. I have been associated with this union for more than 15 years. I am a farmer, a mother, a daughter. But for the past 100 days, I have just one mission: get farm laws revoked. My teenage son came to meet me once at Tikri border. You need to sacrifice in order to set example for others.

Your contribution: I have been able to motivate women. Today there are women wings in almost all the villages of 16 districts of Punjab. Many women in their 80s and even 90s come with so much enthusiasm… they have so much energy. We need to channelise it.

Sikkim Nain, 37

Qualification: BA
Village: Saffakheri village, Jind district
Designation: A former Block Samiti member and now president of women wing of BKU (Haryana), Jind district
Role model: Indira Gandhi

Sikkim Nain

What drew you to this agitation?: I was earlier the constituency incharge of Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), but I resigned In December. We should stand with farmers rather than saving our kursi. I could not stand with Dushyant Chautala who took votes in the name of farmers and now has become spineless.

Your contribution: I am leading dharna at Khatkar Kalan toll plaza in Jind. When the dharna was started, only 10-15 women used to come and now on a daily basis 3,000-4,000 women are coming. Women are coming from all the 66 villages of Jind. In addition, I feel now Khaps have started realising our contribution. I was called by Shoukand Khap where women hardly used to be part of their meetings. Khaps are now themselves acknowledging the role of women in farming and also in this agitation. This is a huge change which has happened in Haryana.

Malan Kaur, 70

Qualification: Never went to a school
Village: Kothaguru, Bathinda district
Designation: General secretary, Bathinda district BKU Ugrahan (women wing)
Role model: Master Buta Singh, a teacher at government school of her village who was also an activist

What drew you to the agitation?: Master Buta Singh was my son’s teacher. He inspired my son to be part of dharnas against injustice. Earlier, I used to be unhappy with my son’s participation in dharnas as at times he used to stay away from home for days together. But gradually, I also started going to dharnas. Since 2004, I have been part of the women wing of BKU Ugrahan. However, I was 60 when I first went on stage. Normally, at this age, women start heading for a retired life but I though otherwise. Now even my daughter-in-law Kuldeep Kaur Kothaguru has become a speaker.

Your contribution: I motivated many women who were not keen to move out of their houses. Today, a number of them are forceful speakers. Despite the fact that I cannot read and write, I listen to the recorded videos. I ask my daughters-in-law to read out the material for me so that I can gather knowledge about various subjects. I listened to various agricultural experts regarding these farm laws apart from farm leaders and motivated other women who are the main force of this movement.

Kuldeep Kaur Kothaguru, 37

Qualification: 10+2
Designation: Member, BKU Ugrahan, Bathinda unit
Role model: Mother-in-law Malan Kaur

Kuldeep Kaur

What drew you to this agitation?: When my mother-in-law started going to agitations at the age of her retirement, I was impressed. I was also impressed by the way she started learning how to give speech. It inspired me to be connected with farmer unions. We had to stand against farm laws as this is a question of our existence and hence I realised that I had to make women aware of these laws and their after-effects. After all, we women are going to be the most affected as we have to run the house.

Your contribution: I live in a joint family of 10 and nine out of them have gone onto the stage. I followed my mother-in-law and many other women followed me who were otherwise very shy. My 15-year-old niece Imanant has also recited many poems on stage. So you can say that many new speakers have come up with their talent and not only me but many other women also have realised their inbuilt talent.

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