Peasant, Women, Tribal And Workers Movements

Peasant, Women, Tribal and Workers Movements

Peasant Movement:  

Peasant movements or agrarian struggles have taken place from pre-colonial days. The movements in the period between 1858 and 1914 tended to remain localised, disjointed and confined to particular grievances. Well-known are the Bengal revolt of 1859-62 against the indigo plantation system and the ‘Deccan riots’ of 1857 against moneylenders. Some of these issues continued into the following period, and under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi became partially linked to the Independence movement. For instance, the Bardoli Satyagraha (1928, Surat District) a ‘non-tax’ campaign as part of the nationwide noncooperative movement, a campaign of refusal to pay land revenue and the Champaran Satyagraha (1917-18) directed against indigo plantations. In the 1920s, protest movements against the forest policies of the British government and local rulers arose in certain regions.

Between 1920 and 1940 peasant organisations arose. The first organisation to be founded was the Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha (1929) and in 1936 the All India Kisan Sabha. The peasants organised by the Sabhas demanded freedom from economic exploitation for peasants, workers and all other exploited classes. At the time of Independence we had the two most classical cases of peasant movements, namely the Tebhaga movement (1946-7) and the Telangana movement (1946-51). The first was a struggle of sharecroppers in Bengal in North Bihar for two thirds share of their produce instead of the customary half. It had the support of the Kisan Sabha and the Communist Party of India (CPI). The second, directed against the feudal conditions in the princely state of Hyderabad and was led by the CPI.

Certain issues which had dominated colonial times changed after independence. For land reforms, zamindari abolition, declining importance of land revenue and public credit system began to alter rural areas. The period after 1947 was characterised by two major social movements. The Naxalite struggle and the ‘new farmer’s movements.’ The Naxalite movement started from the region of Naxalbari (1967) in Bengal. The central problem for peasants was land.

Many of the agrarian problems persist in contemporary India. The Naxal movement is a growing force even today. The so called ‘new farmer’s movements began in the 1970s in Punjab and Tamil Nadu. These movements were regionally oganised, were non-party, and involved farmers rather than peasants. (farmers are said to be market-involved as both commodity producers and purchasers) The basic ideology of the movement was strongly anti-state and anti-urban. The focus of demand were ‘price and related issues’ (for example price procurement, remunerative prices, prices for agricultural inputs, taxation, non-repayment of loans). Novel methods of agitation were used: blocking of roads and railways, refusing politicians and bureaucrats entry to villages, and so on. It has been argued that the farmers’ movements have broadened their agenda and ideology and include environment and women’s issues. Therefore, they can be seen as a part of the worldwide ‘new social movements’.

Indigo Revolt (1859-60):

The Indigo revolt of Bengal was directed against British planters who forced peasants to take advances and sign fraudulent contracts which forced the peasants to grow Indigo under terms which were the least profitable to them.

The revolt began in Govindpur village in Nadia district, Bengal and was led by Digambar Biswas and Bishnu Biswas who organised the peasants into a counter force to deal with the planters lathiyals (armed retainers).

In April 1860 all the cultivators of the Barasat subdivision and in the districts of Pabna and Nadia resorted to strike. They refused to sow any indigo. The strike spread to other places in Bengal. The revolt enjoyed the support of all categories of the rural population, missionaries and the Bengal intelligentsia.

This was vividly portrayed by Din Bandhu Mitra in his play, Neel Darpan enacted in 1869. It led to the appointment of an Indigo Commission in 1860 by the government by which some of the abuses of Indigo cultivation was removed.

Pabna Movement (1872-76):

In East Bengal the peasantry was oppressed by zamindars through frequent recourse to ejection, harassment, arbitrary enhancement of rent through ceases (abwabs) and use of force. The zamindars also tried to prevent them from acquiring the occupancy rights under the Act of 1859.

In May 1873 an Agrarian League was formed in the Yusufzahi Pargana of Pabna district (East Bengal). Payments of enhanced rents were refused and the peasants fought the zamindars in the courts. Similar leagues were formed in the adjoining districts of Bengal. The main leaders of the Agrarian League were Ishan Chandra Roy, Shambu Pal and Khoodi Mullah. The discontent continued till 1885 when the Government by the Bengal Tenancy Act of 1885 enhanced the occupancy rights.

The Deccan Peasants’ Uprising, 1875:

The Deccan peasants uprising was directed mainly against the excesses of the Marwari and Gujarati money lenders. Social boycott of moneylenders by the peasants was later transformed into armed peasant revolt in the Poona and Ahmadnagar districts of Maharashtra. The peasants attacked the moneylender’s houses, shops and burnt them down.

Their chief targets were the bond documents, deeds and decrees that the money lenders held against them. By June 1875 nearly a thousand peasants were arrested and the uprising completely suppressed. The Government appointed the Deccan Riots Commission to investigate into the causes of the uprising. The ameliorative measure passed was the Agriculturists Relief Act of 1879 which put restrictions on the operations of the peasants land and prohibited imprisonment of the peasants of the Deccan for failure to repay debts to the moneylenders.

Punjab Peasants Discontent (1890-1900):

Rural indebtedness and the large scale alienation of agricultural land to non-cultivating classes led to the peasant discontent in Punjab. The communal complexion of the Punjab rural situation and the martial character of the Sikhs called for an early effective action by the government. The Punjab Land Alienation Act, 1900 was passed which prohibited the sale and mortgage of lands from peasants to moneylenders. The Punjab peasants were also given partial relief against oppressive incidence of land revenue demand by the Government and it was not to exceed 50% of the annual rental value of land.

Champaran Satyagraha (1917):

The peasantry on the indigo plantations in the Champaran district of Bihar was excessively oppressed by the European planters. They were compelled to grow indigo on at least 3/20th of their land (tinkathia system) and to sell it at prices fixed by the planters.

Accompanied by Babu Rajendra Prasad, Mazhar -ul-Huq, J.B. Kripalani, Narhari Parekhand Mahadev Desai, Gandhiji reached Champaran in 1917 and began to conduct a detailed inquiry into the condition of the peasantry.

The infuriated district officials ordered him to leave Champaran, but he defied the order and was willing to face trial and imprisonment. Later the Government developed cold feet and appointed an Enquiry Committee (June 1917) with Gandhiji as one of the members. The ameliorative enactment, the Champaran Agrarian Act freed the tenants from the special imposts levied by the indigo planters.

Kaira Satyagraha (1918):

The Kaira (Kheda) campaign was chiefly directed against the Government. In 1918, crops failed in the Kheda districts in Gujarat but the government refused to remit land revenue and insisted on its full collection. Gandhiji along with Vallabhai Patel supported the peasants and advised them to withhold payment of revenues till their demand for its remission was met. The satyagraha lasted till June 1918. The Government had to concede the just demands of the peasants.

Moplah Rebellion (1921):

In August 1921, peasant discontent erupted in the Malabar district of Kerala. Here Moplah (Muslim) tenants rebelled. Their grievances related to lack of any security of tenure, renewal fees, high rents, and other oppressive landlord exactions.

In 1920, the Khilafat Movement took over the tenant rights agitation (which had been going on in the Malabar region since 1916) after the Congress Conference held at Manjeri in April 1920. The arrest of established leaders of the Congress and the Khilafat movement left the field clear for radical leaders.

In the first stage of the rebellion, the targets of attack were the unpopular jenmies (landlords), mostly Hindu, the symbols of Government authority such as courts, police stations, treasuries and offices, and British planters.

But once the British declared martial law and repression began in earnest, the character of the rebellion underwent a definite change. It took communal tones because the class divide approximated the communal divide. The movement was severely depressed by December 1921

Bardoli Satyagraha (1928):

Enhancement of land revenue by 22% in the Bardoli district of Gujarat by the British government led to the organisation of a ‘No-Revenue Campaign’ by the Bardoli peasants under the leadership of Vallabhai Patel. Unsuccessful attempts of the British to suppress the movement by large scale attachment of cattle and land resulted in the appointment of an enquiry committee. The enquiry conducted by Broomfield and Maxwell come to the conclusion that the increase had been unjustified and reduced the enhancement to 6.03%.

Workers Movement

Factory production began in India in the early part of the 1860s. The general pattern of trade set up by the colonial regime was one under which raw materials were procured from India and goods manufactured in the United Kingdom were marketed in the colony. These factories were, thus established in the port towns of Calcutta (Kolkata) and Bombay (Mumbai). Later factories were also set up in Madras (Chennai). Tea plantations in Assam were established as early as 1839.

In the early stages of colonialism, labour was very cheap as the colonial government did not regulate either wages or working conditions. Though trade unions emerged later, workers did protest. Their actions then were, however, more spontaneous than sustained. Some of the nationalist leaders also drew in the workers into the anti colonial movement. The war led to the expansion of industries in the country but it also brought a great deal of misery to the poor. There were food shortage and sharp increase in prices. There were waves of strikes in the textile mills in Bombay. In September and October 1917 there were around 30 recorded strikes. Jute workers in Calcutta struck work. In Madras, the workers of Buchingham and Carnatic Mills (Binny’s) struck work for increased wages. Textile workers in Ahmedabad struck work for increase in wages by 50 per cent.

The first trade union was established in April 1918 in Madras by B.P. Wadia, a social worker and member of the Theosophical Society. During the same year, Mahatma Gandhi founded the Textile Labour Association (TLA). In 1920 the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) was formed in Bombay. The AITUC was a broad-based organisation involving diverse ideologies. The main ideological groups were the communists led by S.A. Dange and M.N. Roy, the moderates led by M. Joshi and V.V. Giri and the nationalists which involved people like Lala Lajpat Rai and Jawaharlal Nehru.

The formation of the AITUC made the colonial government more cautious in dealing with labour. It attempted to grant workers some concessions in order to contain unrest. In 1922 the government passed the fourth Factories Act which reduced the working day to 10 hours. And in 1926, the Trade Unions Act was passed, which provided for registration of trade unions and proposed some regulations. By the mid 1920s, the AITUC had nearly 200 unions affiliated to it and its membership stood at around 250,000.

During the last few years of British rule the communists gained considerable control over the AITUC. The Indian National Congress chose to form another union called the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) in May 1947. The split in the AITUC in 1947 paved the way for further splits on the line of political parties. Apart from the working class movement being divided on the lines of political parties at the national level, regional parties too started to form their own unions from the late 1960s.

In 1966-67 the economy suffered a major recession which led to a decrease in production and consequently employment. There was a general unrest. In 1974 there was a major railway workers’ strike. The confrontation between the state and trade unions became acute. During the Emergency in 1975-77 the government curbed all trade union activities. This again was short lived. The workers’ movement was very much part of the wider struggle for civil liberties.

The chronological history of the working class movement in British India is discussed below:

1. The early nationalist advocated the improvement of economic conditions of the working classes.

2. In 1870, Sasipada Banerjee started a Working Man’s Club and newspaper ‘Bharat Shramjeevi’.

3. In 1878, Sorabjee Shapoorji Bengalee drafted a bill for providing better working conditions to the labourers and tried to pass in the Bombay Legislative Council.

4. In 1880, the Bombay Mill and Millhands Association was set up by Narain Meghajee Lokhanday. He also started newspaper ‘Deenbandhu’.

5. In 1899, first strike took place in the Indian Peninsula Railways. Tilak’s newspaper i.e. Kesari and Maharatta supported the strike and launched the campaign for months.

6. During Swadeshi Movement, Indian working classes came with wider political issues. Ashwini Coomar Banerjee, Prabhat Kumar Roy Chaudhari, Premtosh Bose and Apurba Kumar Ghosh organised mass level strikes in the government press, railways and the jute industries. The biggest strike was organised when Bal Gangadhar Tilak was arrested and faced trial.

7. Formation of Trade Union: On October 31, 1920, All India Trade Union Congress was founded. Lala Lajpat Rai was then became the first president and Dewan Chaman Lal was the first general secretary. Lala Lajpat Rai was the first person who linked capitalism with imperialism and gave the statement, ‘Imperialism and militarism are the twin children of capitalism’. CR Das, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose, CF Andrews, JM Sengupta, Satyamurthy, VV Giri and Sarojini Naidu supported the formation of trade union.

8. In 1918, the trade Union has emerged as a pressure group in a capitalist society because during this year Gandhi helped to organise the Ahmedabad Textile Labour Association and their demand in wage hike which was arbitrated 35 percent instead of 27.5 percent.

9. In 1926, British government came with the trade union Act to formalize the trade union as a legal association. It also laid down eligibility criteria for registration and regulation of trade union activities. This act not only secured the immunity for both civil and criminal from prosecution for the legitimate activities of the trade union act but also imposed restrictions on their political activities.

10. In 1928 during Bombay Textile Mills, strike led by Girni Kamgar Union changed the picture of Trade union politics due to the emergence of Communist. SA Dange, Muzaffar Ahmed, PC Joshi and Sohan Singh Joshi were the famous trade union leaders of that time. This strike was an alarming situation for the British government that laid the formation of the Public Safety Ordinance of 1929 and the Trade Disputes Act of 1929. These acts made compulsory to the appointment of courts of Inquiry and Consultation Boards for settling industrial disputes. It also made strike in public utility services like posts, railways, water and electricity as an illegal action unless working class union prior notified to the administration a month before.

11. Meerut Conspiracy Case of 1929: The British arrested 31 labour leaders and trial of three and a half year resulted in the conviction of working class leaders like Muzaffar Ahmed, SA Dange, Joglekar, Philip Spratt, Ben Bradley and Shaukat Usmani. This case and trial received worldwide publicity, but weakened the working class movement in India.

12. After 1930, the working class union of India fractioned as the communist approach of trade union and corporatist approach. NM Joshi set up All India Trade Union Federation in 1931. In 1935, All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) was reaffirmed by communists, congress socialist and leftist nationalists like JL Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose.

13. Impact of Second World War: Initially, working class opposed the war when Russia joined the war on the behalf of the allies supported by the working class. In 1945, dock workers of Bombay (now Mumbai) and Calcutta (now Kolkata) refused to load ships taking supplies to the warring troops in Indonesia.

Above historical timeline reflects the clear picture that the trade union emerged to fight against exploitation without getting polarised on the basis of political ideologies. Their main motive was to improve a low wage situation, long working hours, unhygienic and hazardous working conditions, child labour and improvement in basic amenities.

Tribal Movement

Tribal movements or rebellions or uprising in India were inspired by revolutionary tendencies. They wanted to make use of the situation to fight and eliminate evils and ill-tendencies that existed in the contemporary tribal society.

The Tribal population, being conservative, was interested in retaining the existing salient features of their society. Tribal movements were inspired by revolutionary tendencies. They wanted to make use of the situation to fight and eliminate evils and ill-tendencies that existed in the contemporary tribal society. A complete summary of the Tribal Rebellions during British rule in India is discussed below:

1. Peasant Uprising of Rangpur, Bengal (1783 AD)

After 1757 AD, the British established their control over Bengal and they started extracting as much as possible from peasants through revenue contractors. When peasant’s grievances were not redressed by the company officials, they took the law in their hands. Under the leadership of Dirjinarain, they attacked the local cutcheries and storehouses of crops of local agents of the contractors and government officials. Both Hindus and Muslims fought side by side in the uprising. But the company’s armed forces took control of the situation and suppressed the revolt.

2. The Uprising of the Bhills (1818-31 AD)

The Bhills were mostly concentrated in the hill ranges of Khandesh. The British occupation of Khandesh in 1818 AD enraged the Bhills because they were suspicious of the outsider’s incursion into their territory.

3. The Rebellion at Mysore (1830-31 AD)

It was started after the final defeat of Tipu Sultan; the British imposed subsidiary alliance on the Mysore rulers in which they compelled the Mysore rulers to increase revenue. As a result, the Mysore rulers put financial pressure to increase revenue demands from the Zamindars which was ultimately increased the burden of revenue on the cultivators. The peasants broke out against the despotic tendencies of the Zamindars in the province of Nagar under the leadership of Sardar Malla (Son of a common ryot of Kremsi). The British force regained control of Nagar from the rebel peasants and suppressed the revolt.

4. The Kol Uprising (1831-32 AD)

The Kols of Singhbhum enjoyed their sovereignty for long centuries under their chiefs. After the advent of the British East India Company, the sovereignty of Kol tribes penetrated by the British law and order which causes tensions among the tribal people. They got angry when British transfer tribal land to the outsiders like merchants and moneylenders which caused a great threat to the hereditary independent power of the tribal chiefs. They revolted the despotic law and order of the British East India Company. This uprising spread over Ranchi, Hazaribagh, Palamau and Manbhum. British East India Company ruthlessly suppressed the revolt and established their control over Kol tribal areas.

5. The Mappila Uprising (1836-54 AD)

Among all the peasant uprisings, it occupies an important place because this revolt challenges the colonial rule. Mappillas were the descendants of Arab settlers and converted Hindus who were cultivating tenants, landless labourers, petty traders and fisherman. When British East India Company established their rule over Malabar Coast brought hardship in the life of the Mappilas especially through land revenue administration. They revolted against the state and landlords. The British armed forces swung into action to suppress the rebels but failed to subdue them for many years.

6. The Santhal Rebellion (1855-56 AD)

This revolt occurred in the Rajmahal hills of the Santhal region under the leadership of Sidhu and Kanhu. It began as a reaction against the outsiders, particularly landlords, police and moneylenders.

7. The Ramosi Uprisings (1822-29 AD)

It took place in two phases- Fist in 1822 AD under the leadership of Chittu Singh in 1822 AD against the new pattern of British administration. The second phase of revolt took place between 1825-26 and 1829 AD.

8. The Munda Uprising (1899-1900 AD)

It took place in the Chhotanagpur region near Ranchi under the leadership of Birsa Munda. This revolt is also known as Ulgulan revolt which means ‘great commotion.

9. Jatra Bhagat and Tana Bhagat Movement (1914 AD)

This movement was started by Jatra Bhagat in 1914 AD. It was a movement for monotheism, abstention from meat, liquor and tribal dance. The Jatra Bhagat and Tana Bhagat movements stressed both anti-colonialism and internal reforms.

The Tribal rebellion in India took place for social, cultural and political reasons, particularly against the acquisition of their land and exerted their rights over forest resources.

Women Movement

The status of women has been the central concern of many reform movements before and after independence. Leaders of the Brahmo Samaj and the Arya Samaj were concerned with issues like sati, remarriage, divorce, female education, purdah system, polygamy, and dowry.

Justice Ranade criticised child marriages, polygyny, restrictions on remarriage of widows, and non-access to education.

Raja Ram Mohan Roy played an important role in getting the sati system abolished. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar and Maharishi Karve pleaded for remarriage of widows. Gandhiji took interest in collective mobilisation of women to fight for political freedom as well as for their social and political rights.

Some scholars have examined the role of women in political independence movements at micro level, i.e., on regional basis. For example, Aparna Basu (1984) and Pravin Sheth (1979) studied it in Gujarat, Raghavendra Rao (1983) in Karnataka, and Uma Rao (1984) in Uttar Pradesh. According to Govind Kelkar (1984), women’s role in the freedom movement was that of the ‘helpers’ rather than that of comrades.

Ghanshyam Shah has referred to some scholars who have pointed out women’s role in tribal, peasant and other movements in Bihar and Maharashtra. For example, Manoshi Mitra (1984) and Indra Munshi Saldanha (1986) have analysed women’s militant role in tribal movements when women confronted authorities, wielding traditional weapons and maintaining lines of supplies to the rebels in their hidden places.

Sunil Sen (1984), Peter Custers (1987), etc., have analysed their role in peasants’ movements in Telengana, West Bengal and Maharashtra. Meera Velayudhan (1984) has analysed their role in communist-led movement of coir workers in Kerala. Sen has pointed out women’s participation in struggles launched by trade unions in iron ore mines in Madhya Pradesh.

It may be said that women’s participation in movements has been in four major forms:

(i) For social, economic and political rights of specific categories of people like tribals, peasants and industrial workers,

(ii) For improvement in conditions of work and autonomy to women,

(iii) For equal remuneration for work,

(iv) In general social movements on issues affecting men and children like abortions, adoption of children, sexual exploitation, etc.

The liberal egalitarian ideology under the British Raj created conditions for a social awakening among Indian women. Several women’s associations came into existence both at regional and national levels. Banga Mahila Samaj and the Ladies Theosophical Society functioned at local levels to promote modern ideals for women.

The important national organisations were:

Bharat Mahila Parishad (1904),

Bharat Stri Mahamandal (1909),

Women’s Indian Association (1917),

National Council of Women in India (1925) and

All India Women’s Conference (1927) and

Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust.

These organisations took up issues like women’s education, abolition of evil social customs (purdah, child marriage) equality of rights and opportunities and women’s suffer- age. Some women leaders with the support of the Congress party, demanded right of franchise and representation in legislatures.

It could be said that Indian women’s movements worked for two goals: one, liberation or uplift of women, i.e., reforming social practices so as to enable women to play a more important and constructive role in society; and two, equal rights for men and women, i.e., extension of civil rights enjoyed by men in the political, economic and familial spheres to women also.

Jana Everett (1979) calls the former as ‘corporate feminism’ and the latter as ‘liberal feminism’. The strategies used by women’s bodies were: making demands by organising public meetings, presenting views to government officials, forming committees to investigate conditions and holding conferences to mobilise women.

The factors that provided the required incentive to women’s movements were: effect of western education on the male domination on women and on the concept of complementary sex roles, leadership provided by educated elite women, interest of male social reformers in changing social practices sanctioned by religion, changing socio-religious attitudes and philosophies, and decreasing social hostility and opposition of males to women’s associations engaged in self-help activities, and benevolent attitude of political national leaders towards fledgling women’s movements and their enthusiastic support to women campaigns.

The declaring of 1975-85 decade as the International Women’s decade also gave impetus to women’s movements for removing the notion of inferiority of women and giving them a sense of identity. The Central Social Welfare Board (CSWB) established by the Government of India in 1953, also promotes and strengthens voluntary efforts for the welfare of women. The Ministry of Welfare, Government of India, too gives grants to voluntary organisations for activities like construction/expansion of hostels for working women in cities.

We may now conclude our discussion on social movements by stating that social movements in India mainly focused either (a) on achieving system stability by arresting the onslaught of rapid social change and reinforcing the existing values and norms and (b) attempting system change through the destruction and replacement of the old and induction of new structures.

It can be averred that social movements were either change-resisting or change-promoting, i.e., those which aimed at the participants’ deprivation and concerned with their welfare and uplift. We concentrated on those reform movements which pursued their goals through institutionalised means, without unleashing violence and were initiated by some ideological groups through mobilisation process.

The analysis of six types of movements suggests that movements are generally initiated and spread by charismatic leaders or by political parties and religious organisations. In the former case, the ideologies are transmitted downwards while in the latter case, these are transmitted upwards. Once any movement based on certain ideology changes, it is not necessary that it will spread in course of time, it can gain in strength and it can also lose its vitality either because it is considered irrelevant or because it is suppressed by the government.

Women self help group: Self Help Group foundation is sincere effort to enable the poor women to participate in the process of development. Therefore, the role played by Self Help Groups in the field of empowering women particularly in the rural areas is being recognized. It offers not only economic prospects but also a change to learn new skills, make broader social contacts and experience. It creates an environment through positive economic and social policies for full development of women to enable them to realize their full potential. Therefore, the concept of Self Help Group certainly plays vital role in women development. Since the overall empowerment of women is crucially dependent on economic empowerment, these SHGs could generate income and employment to build their empowerment.

Nilakantha Mahila Kosha is the main figure of a women self-help group from Puran Panchayat of Balianta Block. It was created, with the help of a local NGO, after the Super Cyclone, in 1999. This eighteen member group, besides undertaking micro credit enterprise, shares all their problems and try to resolve it collectively. During the critical floods from 2001, the group faced one more challenge. It fortunately could be solved with techniques and information they acquired in the trainings promoted by the Disaster Campaign and Preparedness Programme. It was last year, when one of the villagers got drunk. He did not take proper care and went near the river to see the floodwater. Suddenly, he swayed and fell into the river and began to drown. The self-help group was informed in time and, with the help of the local youths, could save him. Nilakantha Mahila Kosha came to his rescue. The self-help group gave from their savings a financial assistance to the family. The group, after this experience, called a meeting with all the male members of the village to try to close all the liquor shops of the village. Also, the local police and the Panchayat the village level politician helped them in this mission. In addition, the villagers came forward to prepare a contingency plan for the natural disaster faced by them and this women self-help group took the lead in doing so. They organized male groups and started rehabilitation works of the community by repairing roads, monitored relief distribution and management of village affairs.

The Self Help Group system has proven to be very pertinent and effective in offering women the possibility to break gradually away from exploitation and isolation. In India, the creator in this field is Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA). Without the Grameen Model, SEWA was started in 1972.

The All India Women’s Conference (AIWC):

AIWC was huge women organization. It was established in 1927 to function as an organization dedicated to the upliftment and betterment of women and children”. The organization continues its task and has since expanded into various social and economic issues concerning women. In the 80th year of service to the nation, over 1,56,000 members in more than 500 branches of AWIC across the country carry on the work zealously with selfless dedication. AIWC is popular in the world over as a best organization working for women’s development and empowerment.

AIWC Was registered in 1930 under Societies Registration Act, XXI of 1860. (No. 558 of 1930) The main objectives of the organization are:

– To work for a society based on the principle of social justice, personal integrity and equal rights and opportunities for all.

– To secure recognition of the inherent right of every human being to work and to achieve the essentials of life, which should not be determined by accident of birth or sex but by planned social distribution.

– To support the claim of every citizen to the right to enjoy basic civil liberties.

– To stand against all separatist tendencies and to promote greater national integration and unity.

– To work actively for the general progress and welfare of women and children and to help women utilize to the fullest, the Fundamental Right conferred on them by the Constitution of India.

– To work for permanent international amity and world peace.

At and international level, AIWC has:

  1. Consultative status with the United Nations (ECOSOC)
  2. Membership of UNICEF Executive committee for 10 years
  3. Membership of CONGO. Elected as Vice-President of CONGO for two terms
  4. A national Focal Point for International Networking for Sustainable Energy (INforSE)
  5. Membership of the World Renewable Energy Network (WREN)
  6. Membership of ENERGIA International Network on Gender and Energy
  7. Global Village Energy Partnership
  8. Membership of World Water Partnership
  9. Affiliated member of the International Alliance for Women (IAW)
  10. Affiliated to the Pan Pacific South-East Asian Women’s Association (PPSEAWA)
  11. Affiliated to NIMROO Education Centre, Japan

Kali For Women: Zubaan:

Kali for Women was significant start-up feminist publisher in India. In 1984, Urvashi Butalia and Ritu Menon created Kali for Women, India’s first feminist publishing house. Major objectives of this movement were to publish quality work, keep overheads low, and ensure that not only the content, but also the form of what they published met international standards. Within five years of its establishment, Kali had become self-sufficient. Over the years, Kali has emerged as one of the most significant publishing houses within Indian and internationally. Its name stands for quality, editorial attention, excellence of content, and, most importantly, for providing base for women’s voices to be heard. Kali’s goal is to increase the body of knowledge on women in the Third World, to give voice to such knowledge as already exists and to provide a forum for women writers. Apart from publishing English translations of significant fictional writings by women from various Indian languages, Kali also deals with issues of representation of women in the media, their social roles under right wing Hinduism and Islam, as a workforce in agriculture, and as victims and saviours of environmental degradation.

The Centre for Women’s Development Studies:

The Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS) was established on 19th April 1980, in the middle of the International Women’s Decade, by a group of men and women, who were involved in the preparation of the first ever comprehensive government report on the ‘Status of Women in India’ entitled ‘Towards Equality’ and who were later associated with the Women’s Studies Programme of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR). The Advisory Committee on Women’s Studies of the ICSSR suggested the need for an autonomous institute to build on the knowledge already generated, but with a wider mandate and resources to expand its activities in research and action. The recommendation was accepted by the ICSSR, and communicated to the Women’s Bureau of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Government of India. After few months, under the leadership of late Prof. J.P. Naik, the CWDS was registered under the Societies’ Registration Act, 1860 in New Delhi and started functioning since May 1980, with a small financial grant from the Vikram Sarabhai Foundation, under the Chairpersonship of Dr. Phulrenu Guha and Dr. Vina Mazumdar as the Director.

These organizations took up issues such as women’s education, abolition of evil social customs (purdah, child marriage) equality of rights and opportunities and women’s suffrage. Some women leaders with the support of the Congress party, demanded right of franchise and representation in legislatures.

It can be believed that Indian women’s movements are operated for some major objectives namely, liberation or uplift of women, i.e., reforming social practices so as to enable women to play a more important and constructive role in society; and equal rights for men and women, i.e., extension of civil rights enjoyed by men in the political, economic and familial spheres to women also.

Globalizing Women’s Movements:

With the process of globalization of the economy and massive growth of international trade associations and governmental organizations, women have found it increasingly useful to organize across national boundaries. The United Nations has vital role in making women’s movements international and in defining women’s rights as human rights. Women have used the opportunities provided by the four U.N. World Conferences on Women (in 1975, 1980, 1985, and 1995), the official ones and the alternative NGO forums, as arenas in which they could set goals, plan, network, and inspire one another to continue their work (West 1999). They have seized upon the various U.N. accords, especially CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women), as bases for demanding national changes.

Women have established regional networks, such as Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF) to implement U.N. policies and other regional human rights charters, including the African Charter for Human and People’s Rights. In these efforts the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership, directed by Charlotte Bunch, acted as a coordination centre for international women’s human rights campaigns. These have focused on sex trafficking, issues of health and reproductive rights, female circumcision and female genital mutilation, and violence against women. Regional meetings, such as the biannual Encuentros held in various Latin American cities to define the issues of Latin American women’s movements, have been a source of inspiration and strength for many feminist leaders (Sternbach et al. 1992).

In 1984, meeting in India of women from different regions of the South led to the formation of Development Alternatives for Women for a New Era (DAWN) to focus on sustainable development to address the worsening of women’s living standards as they relate to international lending policies (Stienstra 2000). The first WAAD Conference, held in Nigeria in 1992, brought together Women in Africa, and the African Movement. Conference coordinator Obioma Nnaemeka (1998) affirmed, “Our faith in possibilities will clear our vision, deepen mutual respect, and give us hope as we follow each other walking side-by-side.” Such efforts to the success of grass-roots women’s movements, is harder to sustain in more distant and bureaucratic international women’s movement organizations; but it is vital.

To summarize, Women’s movements are planned efforts made by women’s associations to bring about impartiality and freedom for women. The status of women has been the main concern of many reform movements before and after independence. It is well known that The Indian society is innumerable society with caste, religion, ethnicity and gender as some of the important dimensions influencing politics and the development of the society. It is argued by many scholars that gender has been a key issue in the history of the nation since the beginning of British colonial rule over India. Gender, and the term “women” has been used to both front and confront issues of equality in the society. The colonial rulers used gender, and they considered as vicious and barbaric patriarchal practices towards women, as a justification for the rule forced on India. The gender issue has been the basis of women’s movements in India mobilizing against violence and discrimination, and for improved living conditions and their human rights, amongst other Leaders of the Brahmo Samaj and the Arya Samaj were concerned with issues like sati, remarriage, divorce, female education, purdah system, polygamy, and dowry. Some researchers have scrutinized the role of women in political independence movements at micro level. After independence, an energetic although uneven women’s movement has taken shape in India. Women from diverse castes, classes and communities have participated in the movement along with activists drawn from a variety of political trends, parties and groups belonging to various philosophies making the movement highly heterogeneous. It is reviewed that Women’s movement in India especially after post-Independence formed a new type of challenging movement of social problems and struggle for the social equality.


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