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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Punjab: In farm Bills battle, women activists at frontline

From sitting on dharnas, to joining protest marches to managing stage at protest sites, women protesters have been making their presence felt at every farmers’ agitation. At the heart of this overwhelming response is women’s wings started by several farmer unions in the recent past

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Updated: September 26, 2020 12:37:16 pm
Farmers walk through a paddy filed as they return after the day's work (AP)

From sitting on dharnas, to joining protest marches to managing stage at protest sites, women protesters have been making their presence felt at every farmers’ agitation. At the heart of this overwhelming response is women’s wings started by several farmer unions in the recent past

Harinder Kaur Bindu (42)

Acting state general secretary, Bharti Kisan Union (ugrahan)

42-year-old Harinder Kaur Bindu believes that women can make the fight for farmers’ rights stronger.

“Women started coming out to join protest dharnas long back, but as their participation increased, a separate women’s wing was established. If women understand farming issues, fight can be stronger,” she said. Bindu hails from Ramgarh Bhagtiana village of Faridkot district.

Harinder Kaur Bindu

About her participation in movement for farmers’ rights, Bindu, who is the acting state general secretary of BKU (Ugrahan), added,” I was 14-year-old when my father was killed by terrorists during terrorism days in Punjab. He was a social activist and hence, since then, I am have been attached to unions. I am a Class 12 pass-out and I never went to college. Earlier, I worked with Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union and later I joined BKU (Ugrahan). I have a12-year-old son and I am a single parent, but as I am committed to the union. My son is being raised by my mother, brother and sister-in-law. At times, I go home after weeks together and have to travel to different villages of Punjab for mobilising women.”

She added, “Now women wings have been established in about 7-8 districts of Punjab and still a lot of work needs to be done.”

Balbir Kaur (40)

President, Mansa unit, BKU (Dakaunda)

An advocate by profession, Balbir Kaur heads the Mansa unit of BKU(Dakaunda). Her husband too is an activist but with a separate farmers’ union.

Talking to The Indian Express, Balbir Kaur said: “My husband is also an advocate and he is working with Punjab Kisan Union. After marriage, I too started working with unions and hence, we work on social issues apart from being advocates. I have been connected with unions for the past 10 years, but took membership of BKU(Dakaunda) in March itself. I worked with Punjab Kisan Union, Istri Sabha earlier. I am busy these days in village-level meetings with women in Mansa. I am happy to see that village women are well aware of farm Bills. We went to Lalkar rally in Barnala on September 14 and since then women have been doing village-level protests on a daily basis.”

Balbir Kaur

She added, “Soon after ordinances were announced, we started meeting women. This support among women has not been created overnight.”

Amarjeet Kaur (65)

Member, BKU(Dakaunda)

The Barnala-based women’s wing leader of BKU(Dakaunda), Amarjeet Kaur is credited with making women’s wings in several villages of Barnala . She is a retired lecturer of History, while her husband passed away in 2009. Kaur’s only daughter is settled in Australia.

She said,”I am happy living in India and working for women’s rights, making people aware. While I was a teacher, I used to be part of democratic teachers front and hence fighting for social issues is in my blood. I had actively participated in struggle of Kiranjeet rape and murder and later to get life sentence against farmer leader Manjeet Dhaner pardoned.”

Amarjeet Kaur

Amarjeet Kaur Hardaspura (42)

Member, BKU(Dakaunda)

A 42-year-old farmer union leader from BKU(Dakaunda), Amarjeet Kaur Hardaspura does vegetable farming in Hardaspura village of Barnala. She said,” I am aware of how much loss we are incurring in vegetable farming. We have tried many things, but have to sell vegetables at low prices while consumers get it at a higher price. So, women need to walk along with men to add strength to this struggle. On September 25, I will be leading a group of women towards Delhi against farm Bills.”

Paramjeet Kaur Pitho (40)

Block president, Rampura Phull, BKU (Ugrahan)

Paramjeet Kaur Pitho

Paramjeet Kaur Pitho,40, is block President of Rampura Phull with the BKU( Ugrahan).  She said,” I started going in meetings of farmer unions along with my husband about 10 years back. Initially, I used to go off and on and only in Bathinda area as I  live in Pitho village of Bathinda, however over the years, I started coming on stages and now I am block President of Rampura Phull area of Bathinda district and I do extensive travelling in villages, outside the district as well.

At Badal village morcha, I stayed there for 8 days . My husband who was a marginal farmer used to stay back home to take care of fields and even my son. He used to visit farmer union meetings in nearby areas. However, he passed away 11 years ago and after that I am living with my parents.  I have taken a larger role in the union. I am actively enrolling women members and daily 20-25 dedicated members are joining the union from my block. ”

Jasbir Kaur Natt (60)

State committee member, Punjab Kisan Union (PKU)

Popular among her fellow activists as “comrade”, Jasbir Kaur Natt had been working with Istri Sabha for long.

She said, “PKU started forming its women’s wing this year itself. Now, we are surprised to see that thousands of women take part in rallies, protests and dharnas related to democratic rights, farming issues. They are joining the union in large numbers, though earlier only a few women from villages used to attend dharans off and on.”

Jasbir Kaur Natt

Natt said that the PKU women’s wing has started working in 3-4 districts of Malwa as of now.

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