Dear comrades, friends and well-wishers,
It seems that today, not the book of the Constitution but the bulldozer has become the symbol of the state. It has become the symbol not only of the overt agenda of terror practised against the Muslim community by the powers heading the state, but of their deep hatred of labouring people and their determination to wrest whatever rights such toilers may have gained in the past through bitter struggles. Women become some of the worst targets of this both on account of the religious faith they hold and on account of their struggle for bare economic survival at a time when Covid has enforced a severe cut in their family income. Jahangirpuri in Delhi is but an instance of this.
The families living here are of so little consequence that the odd jobs and the small roadside trade they are forced to survive on have to be carried out on their own doorsteps. The state provides them no other space. The state provides them no alternative means of subsistence. Some of these people, all Indian citizens, may have been occupying this space after their eviction from another part of the national capital some years ago presumably in the name of development. Because they are so inconsequential, this meagre space where they live and work, their household belongings and savings are now to be demolished because they are said to be illegal encroachers; in addition they are to be wrongfully marked out as ‘dangerous’ ‘anti-national’ elements at the behest of local BJP chieftains.
Who would go against development? Who would protect possible nests of ‘terrorism’ right in the heart of the national capital? Is it any wonder that the people bereft of their homes and their means of livelihood find no other political force except the Communists to stand by them immediately! Is it any wonder that the Supreme Court itself has to be invoked to point out the illegality of the demolition to stall the march of ‘development’ for the time being! While we applaud the Delhi committee of CPI(M) and feel justly proud of our own patron Brinda Karat for their timely intervention on behalf of the working people of Jahangirpuri, we cannot forget that for the latter this is but a lull in the storm and a mere prelude to a long battle they must fight to establish their rights as citizens and as workers. The Communists have shown the way, it is for the other secular democratic political forces to decide which side they would be on in this battle.
Ours is a mass organisation working among women from different sectors of society, of different religious persuasions and coming from different classes. But if there is a lesson to be drawn by us from the Communist intervention in Jahangirpuri, it is that there has to be a class-perspective in whatever work we do for the emancipation of women. Whether it is the problem of dowry, of domestic and social violence against women, of harassment and humiliation at workplace or of the burden of housework, without this class-perspective we may bring temporary relief or individual legal redress to specific sections of women, but without understanding that the inequality which dehumanises gender relationships is inextricably connected with the dehumanising inequality constantly imposed upon the labouring people we cannot strike at the root of the poison-tree. How can women be free if Jahangirpuris across the country come under the bulldozer to benefit the possessing classes?
Malini Bhattacharya, President, All India Democratic Women’s Association