Press Invite for Rally and WSS Meeting, Lucknow

12 July 2015, Gandhi Chowk Lucknow
Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression announces a rally and public meeting at 12 noon on 11-12 July at Gandhi Chowk, Lucknow.
The rally is being organised as a mark of solidarity with women’s struggles for land and forest rights in Sonbhadra, Khiri, Chandauli, Lalitpur, Bahraich, Gonda, Pilibhit and other parts of the country.
In the six years since WSS was formed in 2009, the state’s pursuit of development” has become more and more brutal in its complete disregard for the rights and survival of Dalits, Adivasis and working people. Lakhs of people are being driven from their homes and lands as corporates intensify their plunder of natural resources, in blatant disregard of environmental laws and Constitutional provisions. This agenda of capitalist advancement promotes and condones the use of sexual violence as a means to repress legitimate and democratic struggles, while providing protection and impunity to perpetrators.
The growing list of draconian laws, designed to crush any challenge to this patriarchal, violent and unsustainable model of development, is now being augmented with attempts to tear apart and destroy legislative frameworks that seek to protect the rights and claims of citizens.
Private mining industries, power plants, dams, ports and resorts – all projected as ‘development’ projects – are now licensed by the state to capture and loot land and natural resources. The state is brazen in its support to the capitalist lobby – state governments and local administrations collude with corporates in the murder and incarceration of activists and use of brute force against Adivasis, Dalits, farmers, forest-dwellers and communities protesting against forced take-over of their ancestral lands. Perpetrators – whether state actors, powerful caste interests or hired goons – continue to be immune from any legal action and enjoy de facto immunity from criminal liability.
The blood-stained footprints of “development” are spreading across the country. But we are also seeing unprecedented resistance from the people of these areas who are no longer willing to be treated as collateral damage on the path to capitalist expansion.
It is through the lives and narratives of women that the scope and depth of these struggles can best be understood. Situated as they are at the intersections of multiple hierarchies of caste, class and gender, Adivasi and Dalit women are simultaneously the primary targets of oppression and the embodiments of resistance to oppression.
WSS has organised its annual convention this year in Lucknow to express our solidarity and show our support to the women of All-India Union of Forest Working People who are struggling against corporate land-grab in Uttar Pradesh for the last decade or more.
The latest of these struggles is the movement in Sonbhadra district against the proposed Kanhar dam, which will lead to submergence of nearly 5000 hectares of land in Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Shelved for 35 years and challenged in the Green Tribunal, this project was revived in December 2014 with police and paramilitary forces deployed to guard the construction site on the river bed.
Adivasi and Dalit women, men and children who were protesting the dam faced unprovoked firing on Ambedkar Jayanti in which an Adivasi leader Aklu Chero was injured. The protestors again faced brutal lathi charge and firing on 18 April 2015. Criminal cases have been filed against 956 villagers.
The Kanhar dam issue lays bare the subversion and sell-out of institutions such as the Green Tribunal that are now acting as obedient slaves of the neo-liberal state-corporate nexus. The National Green Tribunal judgment of 7 May 2015 clearly indicates that the construction of the Kanhar dam is illegal and has in effect admitted that the demands of the Dalit and Adivasi people are valid and just. Despite this, in an apparent attempt to appease powerful caste and corporate interests, the NGT has allowed construction of the dam to continue.
Women leaders of AIUFWP have been targeted by the state since the beginning of their struggle. These attacks have been stepped up in recent months.

– On the morning of 6th February around 200 hooligans associated with the local land mafia attacked the house of Shobha Bharati and other women of Kaimur Kshetra Mahila Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti. The attack was a retaliation to Shobha’s insistence on filing a complaint of rape against a local goon with close linkages to the Samajwadi party and the land mafia. The police refused to file a complaint and instead arrested several women leaders, who were released after hundreds of women sat on dharna. Shobha has refused to be silenced and continues to defy threats from the rapist.
– Nabada Rana a woman of the Tharu Adivasi tribe from Khiri was assaulted by police and forest department officials on 20 February 2011. It took a long struggle to get an FIR filed against the assailants (the local SO and the wildlife warden) but no arrests have been made.
- In Lalitpur district, the houses of several women from the Saharia tribe have been demolished by the Forest Department and police, who fired on the women and assaulted them mercilessly. The women were evicted despite having got a title to community rights in 2013 under the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
On 30 June, several women leaders of AIUFWP were picked up and illegally arrested by the district administration of Sonbhadra, as they were preparing to address a rally on the issue of forcible land acquisition. While other activists were released after being illegally held for the day, women leaders Roma and Sokalo Gond are being held in Mirzapur prison along with Rajkumari, who was arrested at the Kanhar dam site. The charges that the police claims to be investigating are flimsy, concocted and completely unsustainable. The local administration is publicly celebrating and claiming this arrest as an act of revenge against women who are “forgetting their place” and daring to challenge the patriarchal state.
WSS condemns these egregious attempts by the state to silence women’s voices and crush their democratic assertions for rights. We salute their unquenchable spirit and declare our solidarity with their struggles.
RELEASE Roma, Sokalo, Rajkumari NOW!
STOP forcible land accquisition NOW!
STOP attacks on women NOW!
RECOGNISE women’s land and forest rights NOW!
This is only the beginning – our struggle will continue!!

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