NEW DELHI () – Thousands of women farmers held sessions and a hunger strike in Indian grain on Monday in protest of International Women’s Day against new agricultural laws.
Demonstrations were held in several places on the outskirts of New Delhi, where tens of thousands of farmers camped for more than three months in protest of laws they say would leave them poor and left at the mercy of large corporations. The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi says laws are necessary to modernize agriculture.
Approximately 100 women in yellow and green scarves sat cross-legged in front of a makeshift stage in Ghazipur, one of many protest sites. Holding the flags of the agricultural unions, they listened to the women farm managers from the stage and chanted slogans against the law. At least 17 took part in a one-day hunger strike.
“Women are sitting here, outdoors, in protest, but Modi doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about mothers, sisters and daughters. He doesn’t care about women. That is clear, ”said Mandeep Kaur, a farmer who traveled 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) from the state of Chhattisgarh to take part in the protests.
Several rounds of talks between the government and farmers failed to end the stalemate. Farmers rejected the government’s offer to put the laws on hold for 18 months, saying they would not be satisfied with anything less than a complete repeal. They fear that the laws of the family farm will make them unprofitable and will eventually leave them without land.
The women led protests that posed one of Modi’s biggest challenges since taking office in 2014. Many followed thousands of male farmers who arrived at the protest sites in late November and have since organized and led protest marches, running medical camps and massive food kitchens. thousands of people, and set requirements for gender equality.
“Today, on International Women’s Day, Modi sends wishes to women across the country. Who are these women to whom he sends wishes? We are also like his daughters, but he obviously doesn’t care about us, ”said Babli Singh, the farm’s leader.
International Women’s Day, sponsored by the United Nations since 1975, celebrates women’s achievements and aims to promote their rights.
Women often embody what agricultural experts call the “invisible workforce” on vast Indian agricultural lands, which often goes unnoticed.
Nearly 75% of rural women in India who work full time are farmers, according to the Oxfam India Poverty Protection Group, and their numbers are expected to grow as more men migrate to cities for work. Yet less than 13% of women own the land they cultivate.
Demonstrations were also held in Jantar Mantar, a New Delhi area near parliament, where about 100 women held placards condemning the new laws and calling for their withdrawal.
“Today we are under attack on all fronts. As women, as peasants, as workers, as young people and students, “said women’s rights activist Sucharita, who uses one name.” We oppose laws passed in favor of corporations. “
video journalist Shonal Ganguly contributed to this report.