Friday, November 22, 2013

AIDWA 10th National Conference

AIDWA's 10th National Conference being held in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, from 22nd to 25th November, 2013 got off to a rousing start with flag hoisting by AIDWA's national president Shyamali Gupta and homage to martyrs who sacrificed their lives for women's  emancipation and social justice. Com. Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, chairperson of the reception committee and veteran left leader, welcomed around the 850 delegates from all over the country gathered here to attend the conference. Com Manik Sarkar chief minister of Tripura, who was to deliver the inaugural address, could not make it to the conference due to his illness. He conveyed his message and greetings through his representative, Shri Jitendra Choudhary, Minister of Industries, Government of Tripura, who expressed concern over the anti-people and pro-rich disastrous economic policies of the present Congress regime.  The industry minister in his address on behalf of chief minister of Tripura, while focusing upon the developmental indices in the state which are way above the national average, highlighted the achievements of the Left Front government in Tripura in the field of total literacy, health policies, ICDS enrolment, position of women, self help groups, decentralisation of administration, and strengthening of the democratic rights of the all sections of society. Tripura stands first in the country with 94.64% literates, 98% enrolment of children in Anganwadi centres and highest electoral participation of 94% in the last assembly elections with women electorate surpassing the male voters by 2%.

The inaugural session featured a special session titled "Women against Violence: Fighting for Justice, Resisting Violence, Claiming Rights" wherein women from across the country who have been bravely fighting the battle against violence, discrimination and social injustice in various forms which includes domestic and political violence, sexual assault, fight for land rights, fight against caste and communal discrimination and against terrorism.

The women who spoke included representative of the Vachathi tribal mass rape survivor from Tamil Nadu, Prandhayi, who stood up against her sexual assault by forest and police officials for 19 long years and finally succeeded in getting justice. Sarita (name changed), a dalit student from Hissar district in Haryana, who was gangraped by upper class people of village Dabra and whose father unable to bear the shame and humiliation committed suicide, braved all odds in her struggle to get the accused convicted. Manwara bibi from Bardhaman disrict of West Bengal foiled the attempt of the Trinamool goons to seize the Panchayat elections by successfully contesting the elections in spite of the brutal killing of her husband and winning 83% of the votes. Bihar's Sushila Devi has been fighting a fierce struggle since 1992 for getting 8 acres of common village land out of the clutches of the landlord and former a IAS officer. Under her leadership, women have fought against police atrocities in which Sushila herself sustained physical injuries and more than 8 cases are still pending against her. Shamima Kausar, mother, and Musarrat, sister of Ishrat jahan who was killed in a fake encounter by Gujarat police in 2004, have fought a prolonged legal battle to clear her daughter's name from the stigma of being branded a 'terrorist' and to ensure justice for Ishrat through punishment for her killers. The struggle and determination of Arunima Sinha to assert her identity as a national volleyball player from UP and her fight against the demeaning attitude of the state towards her achievements and dignity inspired the gathering as she shared her story of scaling the highest peak with an amputated leg, becoming the first woman in the world to achieve this historic feat.

Ex-MP and AIDWA Patron Brinda Karat in her speech stressed that violence is the most important issue which has to be also seen in its various dimensions. She put forth demands, including a code of conduct for elected MPs and MLAs who should be named and shamed whenever they use objectionable language against women. She also reaffirmed the resolve to fight political violence, caste and class inequalities and the need to fight capitalist structures which force women into situations that make them more and more vulnerable. She ended by recalling the historic speech made by revolutionary communist leader Dolores Ibarruri at the Battle of Madrid where she challenged the forces of fascism by the raising the slogan of "No Pasaran" which means "they shall not pass".

Representatives of various national women's organisations, including Leila Passah of the YWCA and Vimal Thorat of AIDMAM, extended their greetings to AIDWA. The session concluded with Sudha Sundararaman, general secretary, placing the resolution on communalism.

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