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KANPUR: The biggest challenge before the women's movement in India today comes from vested interests that try to “separate the movement from its politics, disarm it and prevent it from questioning the status quo and the inequalities of our society,” Rajya Sabha member and the former general secretary of the All-India Democratic Women's Association, Brinda Karat, has said.
Delivering the inaugural address to the ninth all-India conference of AIDWA that opened here on Tuesday, she called upon the organisation to defend the Left and democratic women's movement in West Bengal, which became the target of attack by vested interests led by the Maoist-Trinamool Congress alliance. “By weakening the Left in Bengal, they seek to dismantle the Left ideology in India as a whole.”
In keeping alive the rich traditions and legacy of the women's movement that was born in the struggle against colonialism, Ms. Karat called upon the delegates to turn a “more intense gaze” at the structures and instruments that kept a vast majority of women in conditions of poverty.
Referring to the reports of suicides by self-help group members in Andhra Pradesh, she said microfinance institutions had become “instruments to loot women” through usury, as nationalised banks had significantly moved away from social banking. She said that the organisation must be sensitive to the aspirations of young women in the burgeoning middle class who were impacted by popular culture and television and draw them into the movement for equality as they were often victims of violence and exploitation.
In her presidential address, Subhashini Ali, while recalling the long historic association the city of Kanpur has with the struggle for Independence, said that since the last conference was held in 2007, the country had witnessed a “sea change.” In the new scenario, in which the ruling classes were attacking the livelihoods and standards of living of the poor, women and children were the worst affected.
“The government and the ruling classes are happy when the visiting U.S. President, Barack Obama, gives them a good conduct certificate by telling them that India is showing the way to the rest of the world. The reality is, as studies have shown, that India has the most number of hungry people in the world, a country where thousands of women commit suicide because they cannot face hunger, where foodgrains rot in storage facilities while people go hungry.”
She said AIDWA must take forward its legacy of anti-imperialist struggle to mobilise women in these times of globalisation.
Earlier, Captain Lakshmi Sahgal, a living symbol of the anti-colonial struggle and the fight for women's emancipation, unfurled the AIDWA flag to begin the conference, amid slogans pledging to carry forward the struggle for women's equality. Floral tributes were paid to martyrs who laid down their lives in the struggle for equality, democracy and emancipation. Doves were released to mark the occasion.
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