Saturday, 7 December 2013

India's anti-rape movement - experiences, reflection and strategies for the future

This is a full transcript of the speech Kavita Krishnan (Secretary of the All-India Progressive Women's Association) delivered at our public meeting on Thursday 3 October, 7.00pm at SOAS. 

Amrit Wilson: Kavita has been centrally involved in the anti rape movement in India. Apart from being a feminist she is also a revolutionary left activist. She is the secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association which organises women workers, rural women agricultural labourers and has a record of fighting both feudal violence as well as state repression. She is also the editor of Liberation which is the magazine of the CPI ML (Communist Party of India Marxist-Leninist).

Before I hand you over to Kavita, I’d like to say a few words about Freedom Without Fear Platform. As an organisation we have been associated with AIPWA (All India Progressive Women’s Association) and particularly with Kavita. As many of you know, Delhi witnessed both a horrific gang rape in December last year as well as one of the most prolonged and powerful protests against rape and sexual violence. These led to solidarity actions in London including a packed meeting at the London School of Economics where a number of us who were involved in the Black women’s struggle in this country spoke out about our experiences and we also had Kavita speaking to us on Skype. After that very inspiring meeting we decided to set up the Freedom Without Fear Platform. I would just like to emphasise some of the things which we are highlighting in this country as well as across the world.

Firstly we are highlighting the effects of the government’s spending cuts on services and organisations combating domestic violence and violence against women in this country which is a huge issue. Secondly we are exposing the racism in the media, its coverage and state policies relating to violence against women particularly on issues such as grooming, honour based violence and FGM. We are also protesting against the British government’s promotion of racist population control policies which violate the reproductive rights of women in Asia, Africa, Latin America and also BME women in Britain. Also we are supporting the campaign in India and the diaspora to stop someone who is an avowed fascist, an admirer of Hitler- Narendra Modi, from becoming the next Prime Minister of India and we are demanding justice for the victims and survivors of genocidal rapes and murders of Muslim minority women, children and men, which Modi orchestrated in Gujarat, 2002. We are opposing David Cameron’s re-establishment of diplomatic links with Modi.

Today's event is the third major event which we have organised. Firstly, we had a very successful meeting about grooming, both as an issue of violence against women as well as the racist way in which it has been portrayed. Secondly, we organised a protest against an invitation to Narendra Modi to this country, which also was pretty successful. Narendra Modi decided that he wouldn’t be visiting, partly at least as a result of what we did.
Now let me hand you over to Kavita which is what we are all waiting for, so please welcome Kavita Krishnan.  

Kavita Krishnan: Thank you Amrit, thank you all for being here.
One of the first things I was thinking about when I knew there was a chance to speak about the anti rape movement and to reflect on some of the strategies and experiences and the ways in which we are thinking of taking it forward, is the questions we faced especially from the media from Britain, US, France and so on. There were questions from friends and their parents too who lived in these countries, who would ask with great concern: ‘we are concerned about you because you live in such an unsafe place, how bad is it in India, it must be terrible in Delhi’ etc. When I would tell them that rape culture and the kinds of things we were raising show up in different forms in different countries, then there would be this response, ‘yes but, it’s worse in India isn’t it?, it must be worse there’. 

Throughout every movement, especially the women’s movement and in this movement too in Delhi, one of the things that we were continuously thinking about was, what are the most useful ways for feminism, for the women’s movement, in which the questions around gender violence can be raised? We know there are ways of raising them which might be useful for patriarchal forces or for other agendas. So, what ways can we raise gender violence so that it’s useful for a feminist agenda, for a progressive agenda. So I thought we need to ask the same questions here. The way to think about it is not to continuously be the spectators of the horror that is in India, and then reassure ourselves that things are better here or elsewhere. In Delhi we faced a similar response - being faced with a particularly horrible gang rape we set out to reassure ourselves that this is not normal, it’s alright, it’s an exception which we can set right by some abnormal punishment with some particularly severe penalty. This was something we challenged all the time. In fact, this is what sets us apart – our feminist movement, the women’s movement, even from other progressive movements possibly. If you think about, in the women’s movement, it’s virtually a given that all those who are involved in the movement with heart and soul, the slogans you are raising, the struggle you are fighting, always of course involves, raising questions, new tools of analysis and an exciting sense of moving ahead and confidence. But it also involves an inevitable degree of loss. If you are a man and you are involved in the movement, it involves acknowledgment of your privilege and the ways in which you want to use that privilege. If you are a woman it involves a loss, because you may lose a degree of social approval from family and friends. There may be a conflict with people who you have enjoyed approval from, so it involves a degree of conflict and loss. That is probably where its value lies…it wouldn’t have value without it. So the only useful women’s, feminist movement is one that pushes the boundaries of the zone of comfort. Although I will be talking about India, I would really welcome it if you could talk about the connections between India and what’s happening here which I might know less about. In the last couple of days I have had some useful conversations with people engaged in the struggles here. So making those connections with how to push the boundaries here would be really useful in looking at ways to go ahead.

After this brutal rape in December 2013, which took the life of this young woman, there was this great upsurge of thousands of people on the streets. Now, when I look back on it, there are some ways in which that kind of brutal, graphic rape as opposed to the normalcy of everyday violence and discrimination can represent a crisis for a patriarchal state. The state will be confronted with the question that ‘they are not man enough to protect your women’. This was how the whole issue was articulated inside parliament by parliamentarians, by opposition political parties etc. So you had bangles being handed to the Delhi police commissioner, you had Raj Thackeray (from a right wing organisation in Mumbai) handing bangles to the police commissioner in Mumbai, essentially saying, ‘you are too effeminate, you can’t even avenge rape, you can’t protect our women’. Then you had the demand for the death penalty for rape. Some of it was of course an anger against the impunity that rapists enjoy and so it was a demand for what is the severest penalty and the severest in Indian law is the death penalty. It’s important to remember that in many cases this was not a referendum on the death penalty, but an expression of anger. But if the agenda remained around the ways of using the death penalty for rape, it would have been reassuring for the patriarchal state to say ‘yes we are man enough to avenge when something happens to our women’. A recent judgement from a lower court in Delhi has in fact, predictably, given a death sentence to the accused in that case. In some, there has been an attempt to say ‘alright everything is done and dusted, now we are moving forward’. So you have the police giving interviews saying ‘this was an exemplary case, and we’ve done such a wonderful job and there’s been a conviction and everything is alright’. The challenge here was to take the discourse out of this whole framework of protecting and avenging women. This discourse has no potential for a feminist agenda. It’s an agenda that has a rich potential for being invoked emotively for communal and fascist politics.

This movement was by no means led by us or created by us. It was a large spontaneous upsurge, but to keep it, sustain it, engage with it and have a conversation that will last, and mobilise around - that was something which was our effort. Our effort was to change the topic, to jolt the discourse out of this comfort zone of patriarchy. So it was important to realise that it was not enough to oppose rape but to oppose it in ways that challenge rather than reassure patriarchy. We were confronted with unpacking this discourse of protecting women which is how it is usually couched. Right from the start in the movement there were these slogans which were coming out in the movement quite spontaneously, alongside the death penalty slogans and posters. There were many posters hand made by participants and women, most of them were first time participants from schools or colleges, young women working or studying in different parts of Delhi. They were coming out with posters saying, ‘don’t teach us how to dress teach men not to rape’ and others saying, ‘your gaze is the problem so why should I cover myself up’. This anger had clearly stopped being about this one rape case and punishment, it was actually raising larger questions about why women are put in the dock every time there is a case of sexual violence. There is always this discussion about what she could have done to avoid it. There was a tremendous anger against that. In subsequent months you can see how this agenda of protection is articulated. 

After the Mumbai rape, more recently, you had this Samajwadi party leader of Mumbai saying to us ‘you are the ones who are devaluing women by saying they should be like men. We are the ones who are saying women are special, women are like gold and if you keep gold unlocked what do you expect, it’s going to be robbed’. This is reminiscent of the Khap Panchayats of Haryana. These are bodies or clans which are implicated in so called honour killings in a big way. They punish couples who marry outside caste norms etc. In Haryana you have this saying that says ‘women and treasure are both similar, they are very precious, but if you leave them exposed they will be looted’. Even prior to this movement, I realised it’s not just the Khap Panchayats who say these things, even those who would ridicule it when it’s said by these quarters, will articulate it in a different way and in a different context. For instance I came across this columnist (by no means is she the exception, I am just giving this as a reminder that this is not just a loose cannon somewhere, some fringe mad man saying this, or even that it’s only men saying this). Seema Goswami  a well-known columnist with the Hindustan Times, she usually writes with great derision about the Khap Panchayats. She has this complacent way of saying ‘these are backward people’. She had written an article after one incident where she had said: ‘Yes I am the first person to say of course women are not responsible for rape, of course dressing in a particular way doesn’t justify rape. But’, she said, ‘but, what can the police do if women dress in a revealing way’, then she drew this parallel with theft…‘if you leave a door unlocked, if you leave your safe unlocked then somebody comes and steals it, what do you expect’. I just thought how come it’s so normal to talk about women as objects ….it’s clearly something that is normalised in different ways by different sections of people….this easy equation of women with a safe or treasure or gold etc. and the idea that you can win a reprieve from rape by some kind of good behaviour. So basically this idea that risky behaviour on the part of the woman is responsible for rape was one of the things which the movement was challenging. We tried to create a space so that those voices could be heard louder and could congregate around and raise the demands that could fight this kind of thinking. You can see how important that is; even after the Mumbai gang rape you actually have people in top positions, the commissioner of Mumbai saying ‘because people are kissing in public, that’s why rapes are happening’. A former commissioner of Mumbai police said 90% of rapes are false and how does he come to this conclusion, he says 90% of women complainants are not severely injured enough to end up in hospital, so they must be lying. In opposition to this whole agenda of protection came this slogan of freedom (Azadi) and ‘freedom without fear’.  You could see women picking it up, raising it in so many different ways and connecting with different kinds of Azadi (freedom). 

Of course the slogans were against rape culture and victim blaming but also about confronting how rape is justified and freedom for women is denied in different contexts. It’s not only in the context of how you dress or how you are free to move around in public spaces, but in other spaces too. The idea of what would freedom mean for Dalit women was discussed, in the context, of course, of freedom from the rapes that are targeting Dalit women in order to assert feudal superiority of upper castes but also in terms of looking at how Dalit women have fought battles till quite recently for homestead land. As agricultural women labourers they have the nominal freedom to choose not to work on someone else’s land and move on to work on another person’s land instead- a very nominal freedom which capitalist workers are also supposed to enjoy. But it is not a real freedom because they are bound to the land by the fact that their home is built on the landlord’s land. So if they want to work somewhere else then they have to move out of their home too. So they had this struggle to demand public land for homes. More than a 1000 women, agricultural working women, were locked up for making this demand. So freedom for them meant freedom from this bondage. This brought in its wake (it wasn’t just an economic demand) sexual humiliation as punishment. These things were discussed in the movement. 

Then there is the question of rape in Khairlanji, here a Dalit family was brutally gang raped and killed in public and it was planned as a public spectacle, compare this to the Delhi rape which was graphic and public. In the Khairlanji case there was a conviction achieved eventually. A life sentence was given but what is important is that the court did not uphold the invoking of atrocities act against the Dalits and indigenous people (1989) in order not to set a precedent. How else could you explain this public spectacle, this excess of violence where the entire village was made into voyeurs of this violence against this one Dalit family, killed in this extremely brutal way. How can you explain the motive for it without explaining it as a deliberate public humiliation of Dalits, as a warning to all Dalits. This was talked about and we also talked about rapes that happened in the NE of India or in Kashmir by the army. This is rape which has impunity because it’s rape which cloaks itself as patriotism. It’s rape being done in our name. So raising these questions created uneasiness in us all, rather than reassure ourselves that all is well and that rapes happen somewhere out there. But actually rape is being done in our name, in the name of national security, in the name of the security of the people in Delhi etc. Now in those rapes it is impossible to get people to trial because the army is protected by armed forces special powers act, or the rapes in Gujarat that Amrit talked about at the beginning which have been used as political fodder with great pride, they are rapes that have been boasted about publicly and which are yet to be punished, rather they are going to fuel the political campaign of someone who is standing to be the next prime minister of India. 

Even the question of marital rape which raised the question of rape in marriage. The Indian law still retains the understanding inherited from colonial law, the understanding of the wife as the property of the husband, so rape was essentially impossible inside of marriage. These things were challenged in a big way. Then you had slogans like freedom from the Khap Panchayats, then immediately we had girls saying ‘freedom from brothers, fathers, not just freedom from the clan body’. All these were challenging the notion of ‘the home as the safe haven as opposed to the unsafe streets. So it was also trying to make visible the violence of everyday patriarchy. This is probably useful for people in Britain or US (where I have just been), it’s very easy to see the shackles of patriarchy in India, it’s visible there. But for people in India it’s a task for the feminist movement in India to make that visible. It’s in a context where it’s very normal for a family to decide who the daughter will marry etc., to make that visible, to say that the family is a control of sexuality and reproduction, but it’s not recognised  as such because its disguised as love and protection etc. The challenge would be to recognise the ways in which unfreedoms are disguised here rather than to do the easy thing which is to recognise it out there in India. So on the Delhi streets there were people using lines from the poetry of Alok Dhanwa. He has this lovely poem on runaway girls. There’s one line we used to talk about a lot….How the shackles of the home become suddenly visible when a girl runs away from home. There are so many light hearted ways you talk about elopement, but when you think about why she has to run away, it suddenly brings to light the custodial character of the household. Even the so called honour killings are less about honour but more about being killed in that custody. If you are not able to maintain the custody under a benign kind of coercion, then that violence of so called honour killing takes place. So there were lines from Gorakh Pandeys poem about how every home has walls and windows and clearly saying this is a place where women experience everyday violence, a man may experience violence when he goes to work as a worker. But a woman would start experiencing that discipline right there inside the home, throughout her life. It’s important to remember Gorakh Pandey was a poet from the CPI ML movement. I remember this poem in another context, he has this poem about women in rural Bihar, and the shock that took place when people saw these ‘docile’ women rebelling when the police came to do this raid. The women picked up implements and confronted the police and chased them away. So freedom is something which is imagined in different ways and represents itself in different ways.

This was brought up even when we talked about Raksha Bandhan. This is the festival where a sister ties a bracelet on the brother’s wrist and it represents a bond of security to her brother. It is supposed to be a very benign festival. So it’s the brother’s job to do the protecting and the sister to live under this protection. People started talking about Raksha meaning protection, and bandhan means bond and how this bond becomes a bondage in some cases. We were challenging that idea.

There was an attempt to make this comfortable by one section of the media and by political leaders ranging from the Delhi Chief Minister to the right wing organisations like Shiv Sena which was all about profiling working class people, profiling migrants, profiling Muslims. This happened in the Delhi rape case and later in the Mumbai rape case. In the Mumbai gang rape case, four of the five accused were Muslim. There was this attempt to say that these are Bangladeshis. In the Delhi and Bombay gang rape case the accused happened to be from the migrant community and poor people living in the slums. So there were attempts to say these slums are the hotbeds of this violence, they are from villages and they are not used it and this is why this is happening.

You had people in public places articulating this. You had a columnist writing columns on how so many migrant workers are coming from rural areas to towns leaving their families behind. There’s a problem of demand and supply of sex. They are not getting sex so maybe we should legalise prostitution and make sex easily available, then they won’t go out and prey on our women basically. It was bizarre how this was happening. Essentially the whole discussion about protecting women by profiling the other communities of men was of course denying that rape does not just happen in this context. Migrant women workers too face violence in the homes of middle classes where they go to work as domestic workers. That happens all the time. Domestic women workers were participating in this movement, so we created space where they could come and talk about this and say, ‘this is what we face’. Some of the migrant women workers would talk about the violence they faced. We also talked about, ‘what do you mean about this demand and this runaway desire which has to be supplied with sex or else it will go berserk and go and rape?’  Women also talked about the fact they feel desire too. When a man might rape, there is also a woman left back home, she does not go and rape. All this was talked about. 

I also want to talk about how this profiling feeds into the politics I talked about. I remember a line in which Kum Kum Sangari talks about how patriarchies provide potentially hospitable space where racism, casteism, communalism could meet. It’s exactly that which is being played out here. We saw the first signs of it even during the movement. As soon the slogan of ‘freedom’ started taking centre stage in the movement, you had an immediate response from a lot of quarters including the RSS chief, which is the parent organisation of the BJP of which Narendra Modi is the PM candidate. Mohan Bhagvat, a chief of the RSS, this is a fascist organisation modelled on Hitler and Mussolini’s brigades, he said ‘rapes happen in India, they don’t happen in Bharat’. So he was essentially saying ‘they happen to westernised women, they don’t happen to Indian or traditional women’. Most recently there has been a terrible burst of communal violence in Muzzafarnagar, which has left thousands homeless and killed, most of them Muslims. A specific feature of that violence was that the Khap Panchayats, (in neighbouring Haryana, the Khap Panchayats have a close relationship with the Congress party including an MP, Naveen Jindal who is a big industrialist) the very bodies which represent the organised agenda of denying autonomy to women was being used by the BJP leaders to mobilise for this huge meeting. UP has been a place where there has been a former unity between the Jat and the Muslim community and it was to break this unity and to mobilise the Jat community against Muslims. They did this by portraying Muslims as lustful aggressors, potential violators of Jat womanhood, Hindu womanhood. So you had slogans like, ‘save your daughter, save your daughter in law, save honour’. It’s interesting that these meetings were allowed where people brandished swords, and thousands of people were allowed to gather although there were curfews. So in violation of the curfew, they did this untouched by the police. The slogans turned into, ‘save your daughter and abduct the woman of the other community and make them your daughter in law’. Essentially it was a call for abduction and rape. It’s important to remember how this organisation that is involved in the denial of women’s autonomy, involved in the control of women’s sexuality and reproduction, was now getting involved in the whole agenda of protecting women, the discourse of women needing protection, the country needing protection etc. to portray the Muslims as the other and to mobilise communal violence against them. This was also tied up with the state policy of Islamophobia that has flowed in very large part from the American inspired model of the ‘war on terror’ post 9/11 which portrays Muslims as potential terrorists etc. So you had these BJP leaders talking about a ‘love jihad’. Yesterday I heard similar phrases like ‘Romeo jihad’ have cropped up here. Essentially it was an attempt to say that where Muslims maybe friendly with Hindu women or if Hindu women fall in love with Muslim men, this is actually an organised plan to turn Hindu women into Muslims. Earlier attempts to raise this bogey turned out to be completely baseless. Some in important positions, including police officers, non BJP leaders have also played into this agenda.  

A mirror of this was in Tamil Nadu, just in case we think this only happens in the Jat community in Haryana and western UP which are called the bad lands, the Hindi heartlands etc. Tamil Nadu is supposed to be one of the states with the highest literacy rates including for women. In Tamil Nadu, you had this violence unleashed in the wake of the marriage of a girl of a Bania caste (or backward caste) to a Dalit man. In this E. Ilavarasan case eventually resulted in the girl’s father committing suicide, and around this suicide, the Dalit villages were attacked and burned etc. Eventually the girl was pressurised to separate from her husband. After that it has been said that the husband committed suicide but it is a very suspicious death and it’s likely to have been a killing. All this mobilisation happened in a planned, political way. This was not just a cultural thing, patriarchy provided a hospitable space, this party called the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) was hoping to consolidate its base in the Bania community. It did this by profiling Dalit youth in exactly the same way as this ‘love jihad’ agenda towards Muslim youth. Similar things were said in both cases. In Muzzafarnagar it was said: ‘Muslim youth are dressing smart, they are wearing slick jeans, they have mobile phones’ etc. It was to target the upwardly mobile Muslim youth who were studying etc. Similarly the Pattali Makkal Katchi  was targeting Dalit youth and saying exactly the same things in public speeches – they are wearing jeans, carrying mobiles etc. why can’t they marry their own women, why are they marrying our women’. This was a complete targeting of intercaste marriage. Note how the agenda of denial of autonomy to women went with the agenda of casteism, communalism or fascism.  I did notice when the girls were raising slogans about freedom from father, freedom from brother, there would be some discomfort even within our own ranks. We would say ‘that’s alright for Delhi but is this a useful slogan for the rural areas?’ That agenda of freedom from sexual control in the family is something so central to the political agendas of the ruling class that you are confronting it in so many different and dangerous ways. How on earth is it possible to confront those agendas without taking this head on? We need to constantly remind ourselves of this – those of us in the left and those on the anti-communal front as well.

Last point I would like to make links up with where I began, which is how do we understand this whole business about violence against women in India? Is it something specific to backward India? Can we tell ourselves it’s about unfree Indian women and free women in the North and the US. In other words is it about some kind of feudal survival in India only and is it that capitalist modernity is the answer. Sometimes these questions were asked very aggressively by those with an anti-feminist agenda and sometimes it was anti-feminism cloaked as anti-capitalism. So they would say this whole talk about freedom is really about capitalism - sexual freedom and freedom to dress how you like and this capitalism actually enslaves women. So you are just asking women to exchange capitalist enslavement for other kinds of more traditional and secure kinds of environments. We have to take this on. Then there was the editorial in EPW… a leading academic journal. They had an editorial which said something about comprehensible and incomprehensible rapes. Apparently the rapes which occurred by upper caste to lower caste Dalit women or when the army did it, these were comprehensible rapes, which were power rapes. A rape which happened like the one which happened in Delhi was an incomprehensible rape because it was committed by powerless men against a woman who was relatively privileged. I don’t understand how she was privileged; she herself was from a working class background. The only thing about her was that she had gone to see a movie with a male friend. How that set her aside to be privileged is incomprehensible. Of course we have been raising those contexts of power. But there is a context of power where the patriarchal power surfaces even where possibly race or caste or state repression may be out of the frame. There is a patriarchal power and violence that operate in other contexts as well, by men over women, you have to recognise that. 

Then you had a leading left economist, Prabhat Patnaik who had written something about how ‘sexual violence is understood as something structural in India because it’s to do with the feudal survival in India but that the rapes that happen in US, Britain in advanced capitalist countries are cultural, super structural’. This was said at some considerable length. In the wake of all this we were also reflecting on how we understand violence, how do we understand the fact that girls are challenging rape culture and victim blaming in India.  I notice there is a campaign here in Britain against victim blaming. The slut walk protests that started in Canada against a cop making remarks similar to what Delhi cops say about women rape complainants – which is you behaved like a slut and you asked for it.

How do we understand this increased visibility and shrillness now? I don’t know if rapes have increased, I don’t have the statistics to argue that. But I feel definitely there is this increased shrillness among people in authority, it’s not just something cultural. There is some kind of agenda of increased audibility of rape culture and victim blaming. Saying women are asking for rape etc. It’s not just in India, it’s beyond that. I think there are linkages between the violence against women and the kind of ideology coming out of neoliberal economic policies. I think we need to explore this further. In the Indian context as well as elsewhere, you are having these austerity measures in the wake of a global capital economic crisis, you are having this increased need to re-persuade women to take up the burdens which they might have tried to shrug off in earlier decade – burden of household labour for instance. They have made demands on the welfare state for childcare, healthcare, education, for so many things which made it easier for women to have lesser of a burden of domestic labour. But now with austerity measures taking away those support measures there is a need to re-persuade women to take on more and more of these tasks.  You have to make women feel guilty. In the few cases where you might be willing to concede some kind of maternity benefits, childcare, etc. you have to profile women and say there is something inadequate about you as a mother if you need to have these benefits. So they are saying we are giving it to you on this condition, within a certain kind of punitive framework. 

This ideology of the fear of rape, the discipline it imposes and this business of victim blaming could be one of the helpful ways in which women are reminded of their traditional role which they might have wanted to shrug off. In India, the neoliberal policies and the violence that some women face is very direct. Implicated in the violence is of course Indian patriarchy and the specifics of Indian patriarchy which we are fighting. But the thing that global solidarity could do is to actually raise the issue of the other institutions that are implicated in that same violence that Indian women or women in South Asian countries face for instance. Institutions like the institutions of global capital, and the economic policies, global corporations. This is what is posited as development in India today. Corporates are coming in and grabbing land. Women who have opposed this land grab have faced organised sexual violence by state and non-state actors on behalf of those corporations. Then you have companies supposedly opening up jobs for women, what kind of jobs? These are jobs for instance where Dalit women workers will be told that you will be paid at the end of three years a lump sum money which will go towards your dowry. That is a Sumangali scheme in Tamil Nadu, which has been in existence until quite recently. Summangali means auspicious married woman. So essentially women were being told you will earn your dowry and this was mostly young Dalit women. This was a large global garment company implicated in this scheme. In Bangladesh you saw how the factory collapsed with the factory fire. So women working in those conditions, the fact of their social vulnerability to patriarchy is something that is being used to make them docile and compliant workers for capital, at least that is the hope. On the other hand it’s also making it more difficult for women to challenge patriarchy in every possible way. Because clearly they have greater burdens, if their working hours are greater, if they are finding it more difficult to organise in the workplace or outside the workplace. Is that at all helpful for the women’s movement in India? Is that empowerment in India as the Indian government, IMF, World Bank tells us? No I don’t think so. AIPWA is a non-funded organisation; we don’t take any funds from the government or from other agencies. There are many organisations in the women’s movement which have a relationship with funding. I think there is a need now which a lot of women activists are feeling to revisit that whole question about funding and the sources from which it is coming and the agendas with which its linked up. Especially when it’s linked with NGOs which are on the same page as the neoliberal policies. So I think the relationship between neoliberal capital, neoliberal policies and the agencies that work alongside them are things that the women’s movement in India is also having to think about.

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