A jago for landless laborers and more on Int. Women’s Day

Punjabis (at least in East Punjab) love to protest. The cause is usually grim, the consequences leave one hoping for more, but the spirit and energy behind the gathering leave one (at least this one) with a sense of contentedness in belonging to such a proactive community. In honor of International Women’s Day, women from various groups were found on the streets highlighting the problems they face.

int._women__s_day__amritsar.jpgIn Amritsar, a group of women burned an effigy in protest of the state and central government’s “anti-people” policies, according to The Tribune (I hope that journalists become a little more investigative soon- which “anti-people policies” did the burning effigy represent? We’ll never know. If only Mr. Vishal Kumar had bothered to ask a few follow up questions…)

In Nawanshahr, a Kavi Darbar and seminars were organized in honor of Int. Women’s Day where Punjabi poets read their works urging women’s empowerment. (Ironically, the poets were all male.)

Our neighbors to the West (in Lahore) noted that most efforts in their half of Punjab for Int. Women’s Day did nothing for the most vulnerable women- those struggling to survive. Expressing dissatisfaction, some women called the efforts of Ministers, NGOs, and government organizations “ploys to attract foreign donations.”

Perhaps the most interesting celebration of Int. Women’s Day was in Shahkot (Jalandhar area), where dalit women put a new twist on Jago, the traditional dance meaning “wake up” performed by women before a wedding. They ingeniously took out a Jago to highlight the sham free electricity that had been promised to landless laborers by politicians during election time. I would love to hear the boliyan they came up with for the occasion…

In the present context the aim was to expose the much-touted free power scheme for their households, which was a sham. After the announcement of the scheme we stopped paying our bills, following which PSEB employees came to disconnect the connections, they said. When we resisted we were told that they had no such instructions and that we should either pay the bills or they would disconnect the power supply. Cases were registered against nine women at the local police station, they alleged. Commenting on International Womens Day, they said this was an urban concept limited to the educated class. “At midnight we are still protesting while those who are planning seminars and events today would be busy rehearsing their speeches.”

Unfortunately, the Revenue Minister whose house they were jago-ing towards wasn’t home and the crowd dispersed. (My guess is that he was actually sipping cha comfortably in his living room, and just didn’t want to be interrupted.)

The procession was stopped by a posse of police at some distance from the residence of revenue minister Ajit Singh Kohar. The protesters were informed that the minister was away to Chandigarh. He was contacted on the phone and a meeting was fixed for 6 pm today, following which the agitators disbursed.


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8 Responses to “A jago for landless laborers and more on Int. Women’s Day”

  1. P.Singh says:

    Reema,

    I share your cynicism – the minister no doubt was sitting comfortably in his living room, sipping cha, wondering how to get these bibian out of his hair.

    I hope something positive comes out of this, although, the fact that these women came together, were able to successfuly bring certain problems into the public eye, is a positive in and of itself. Hopefully there will be follow-up on the government's part.

    I understand you were in Pakistan for a short while, so wonder if you can provide information on the situation in Pakistan re women – would women in Pakistan have similar freedom to hold such a protest? Could they similarly take to the streets, like the women in E. Punjab or are there more stringent restrictions (cultural or otherwise) placed on women, especially in what they can/cannot do in public?

  2. P.Singh says:

    Reema,

    I share your cynicism – the minister no doubt was sitting comfortably in his living room, sipping cha, wondering how to get these bibian out of his hair.

    I hope something positive comes out of this, although, the fact that these women came together, were able to successfuly bring certain problems into the public eye, is a positive in and of itself. Hopefully there will be follow-up on the government’s part.

    I understand you were in Pakistan for a short while, so wonder if you can provide information on the situation in Pakistan re women – would women in Pakistan have similar freedom to hold such a protest? Could they similarly take to the streets, like the women in E. Punjab or are there more stringent restrictions (cultural or otherwise) placed on women, especially in what they can/cannot do in public?

  3. Reema says:

    P. Singh,

    A disclaimer that should be made is that Pakistan's cultures/problems vary dramatically by region/state and also from rural to urban areas (and even w/in urban areas from neighborhood to neighborhood).

    But I do think there are generally more stringent social/religious/cultural restrictions on what women can do there in public, in comparison to India, illustrated by an example:

    In 2005, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan organized a mixed-gender mini-marathon as a sort of publicity stunt to highlight violence against women after the highly publicized case of Mukhtar Mai. A conservative segment of the population (who constitute a numerically small but powerful segment) thought the race was too provocative/scandalous, had strong objections to it and were backed by local police. Many of the women who participated in the run were attacked and thrown in police vans (I don't think they were jailed or detained- I think the purpose was just to disrupt the event). Some of them are internationally known human rights figures which makes them bigger targets but better protected at the same time.

    This happened in Lahore, the 2nd most liberal city in the entire country (after Karachi). I doubt this type of event would've had the same reception anywhere in India.

  4. Reema says:

    P. Singh,

    A disclaimer that should be made is that Pakistan’s cultures/problems vary dramatically by region/state and also from rural to urban areas (and even w/in urban areas from neighborhood to neighborhood).

    But I do think there are generally more stringent social/religious/cultural restrictions on what women can do there in public, in comparison to India, illustrated by an example:

    In 2005, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan organized a mixed-gender mini-marathon as a sort of publicity stunt to highlight violence against women after the highly publicized case of Mukhtar Mai. A conservative segment of the population (who constitute a numerically small but powerful segment) thought the race was too provocative/scandalous, had strong objections to it and were backed by local police. Many of the women who participated in the run were attacked and thrown in police vans (I don’t think they were jailed or detained- I think the purpose was just to disrupt the event). Some of them are internationally known human rights figures which makes them bigger targets but better protected at the same time.

    This happened in Lahore, the 2nd most liberal city in the entire country (after Karachi). I doubt this type of event would’ve had the same reception anywhere in India.

  5. P.Singh says:

    Reema,

    Thanks for the information – I recall hearing about a march/run re the case of Mukhtar Mai a few years back, but didn't realize it was disrupted by the police. I understand her assailants were found guilty in court, but then freed by a shariat court. The shariat court's decision was later reversed due to international pressure and the assailants were to be retried; however, I am not aware of what has transpired since then…but I'm off on a tangent. Cheers.

  6. P.Singh says:

    Reema,

    Thanks for the information – I recall hearing about a march/run re the case of Mukhtar Mai a few years back, but didn’t realize it was disrupted by the police. I understand her assailants were found guilty in court, but then freed by a shariat court. The shariat court’s decision was later reversed due to international pressure and the assailants were to be retried; however, I am not aware of what has transpired since then…but I’m off on a tangent. Cheers.

  7. […] mentioned before how much I enjoy belonging to such a pro-active community. I don’t know whether […]

  8. Uneducated parents should support their children’s in their education. Because education is the only thing that can make their life’s better and they also become a part of the society. The uneducated people are not treated very well in the society.