Thousands of Indian women join farmers’ protests against new laws

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Bombay

For nearly two months, Prem Singh, 65, followed a ritual he had unwittingly slipped into. He left his village in northern India’s Haryana state on December 1, 2020, to join tens of thousands of Indian farmers staging sit-ins along the borders of the national capital to demand the repeal of agricultural laws passed in September last year.

Thousands of women have joined protests by farmers on the outskirts of New Delhi to mark International Women’s Day, demanding the scrapping of new agricultural laws that open up the country’s vast farm sector to private buyers.

The demonstrations on Monday were held at multiple sites on the capital’s fringes where tens of thousands of farmers have camped for more than three months to protest against the laws, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government says are necessary to modernise agriculture.

Wearing bright yellow scarves representing the colour of mustard fields, the women took centre stage at one key site, chanting slogans, holding small marches, and making speeches against the laws.

“This is an important day as it represents women’s strength,” said Veena, a 37-year-old from a farming family, who gave only one name in order to protect her identity.

“I believe if us women are united, then we can achieve our target much quicker,” added Veena, who travelled from the northern state of Punjab to the sprawling Tikri protest spot.

More than 20,000 women gathered at the site near Delhi’s border with the state of Haryana, police and event organisers said.

“This is a day that will be managed and controlled by women, the speakers will be women, there will be a lot of feminist perspectives brought in, and discussions on what these laws mean for women farmers,” said farm activist Kavitha Kuruganti.

“It is one more occasion to showcase and highlight the contribution of women farmers both in agriculture in India as well as to this movement.”

About 100 women sat cross-legged in front of a makeshift stage in Ghazipur, one of the protest sites on Delhi’s border with Uttar Pradesh state.

Women farmers attend a protest against farm laws outside New Delhi [Danish Siddiqui/Reuters] Holding the flags of farm unions, they listened to female farm leaders speak and chanted slogans against the laws. At least 17 took part in a day-long hunger strike.

“Women are sitting here, out in the open, in protest, but Modi doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about mothers, sisters, and daughters. He doesn’t care about women.

That’s clear,” said Mandeep Kaur, a female farmer who travelled Women have been prominent at the forefront of the protests, which have posed one of the biggest challenges to Modi since he took office in 2014.

Many travelled with the thousands of male farmers who arrived at the protest sites in late November and have since organised and led protest marches, run medical camps and massive soup kitchens that feed thousands, and raised demands for gender equality.

“Today Modi is sending wishes to women across the country on International Women’s Day. .—Agencies

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