Dear comrades, friends and well-wishers,
Even as I sit writing this, thousands of farmers, men and women, keep their vigil on the borders of Delhi for another long cold night. They wait patiently for a sunrise of victory over the fascistic rulers of this country who are seeking to steal away through force and fraud their right to the soil which they till and to the crops with which they feed the people. Support for them is rising every day and they are setting an example to the nation. It is our task to carry their message to the remote corners of the states where there still may be lack of awareness that these farmers are fighting for all of us.
To do this work we have also to keep in mind our predecessors in the women’s movement who had been ceaseless campaigners even in the pre-Independence years for the democratic rights of the people as also for the rights of women. Kanak Mukhopadhyay, whose birth centenary we are celebrating this year was such a leader and also a founder of our beloved organisation. In these dark times, when young people’s rights of choosing a life partner are facing an obnoxious challenge from cooked-up myths of ‘love jihad’ and unconstitutional anti-conversion laws, we are reminded of the days when marriages of choice
were in danger of being subverted by the atrocious ‘dowry system’ and the battle for an anti-dowry law had started. The following translated excerpt from Kanak-di’s article ‘Love Marriage and the Dowry System’ which she wrote in 1960 may well commemorate our path-finders’ keen commitment to the socialnecessity of the right of choice especially for young women.
‘Marriage of choice among young adults may act as the surest antidote to the evil of dowry. Young educated men and women rejecting the dowry system from the conviction of their hearts alone can strike at its very roots [within society]. To eradicate the evil, is it not more important to convince young people living in the sunshine of a new era than to try to persuade the elders in the family with their hide-bound self-centred approach? Propagation of awareness among the latter need not be neglected, but to my mind the greater share of responsibility lies with the younger generation, those preparing to get married themselves.
Yet at most anti-dowry gatherings that I have attended it is the opinions of family elders that tend to be generally highlighted. At how many such congregations have we seen young men coming up in thousands to take a pledge against dowry or young women asserting that they would not be sold in marriage for cash? Where do we find such resolution? Parents surely have some share of responsibility in the bringing up of children, but they cannot be blamed
for [all] the weaknesses of their young.
My appeal then is essentially to young people contemplating marriage. Of course our demand to parents is that they give their sons and daughters equal education, equal opportunities so that parity may have a chance. But it is on the young people—women as well as men—that we rely for the major initiative towards marriages of choice where the exchange of dowry shall have no space. We have made some progress towards equal rights for men and women; some easing of social inhibitions has taken place. We only hope that better education and awareness will enable our youth to take a leading role in solving the festering problems of our age-old marriage system. Let the marriage of choice bring the joy of freedom to our lives. Let the equal rights of men and women find a secure footing in conjugal and family life. This must be our ultimate goal in the on-going struggle against the dowry system’.
Kanak Mukhopadhyay (1960)
Let us hope to carry the fire of this inspiration into the bleak New Year!
From Malini Bhattacharya and the editorial team which now consists of the
Mariam Dhawale, Sudha Sundaraman, Kirti Singh, Archana Prasad, Manjeet Rathee, Sandhya
Shaily, Madhu Garg, Surangya (Setting and designing).