ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Women’s Participation in Protests against the Three Farm Laws in India

Perspectives from the Ground

The farmers’ movement in India against the three farm laws has been considered historic in many ways. The movement built unity and solidarity between different sections of society and at the same time it led to a churning in the agrarian social structure. An important feature of the movement was a large-scale active participation of women at different levels. This paper provides descriptions and insights into the forms in which women participated in the protests and factors, which were working behind this participation with specific reference to Haryana. Certain possible progressive changes in the gender relations as a result of the women’s participation in the movement are noted and tasks for future to sustain and strengthen these changes are identified.

The authors are thankful to Inderjit Singh for sharing his views on the issue and providing critical feedback. They are also thankful to Rajni Palriwala and Kopal for their comments on the draft of the paper. They acknowledge the constructive and useful comments of the reviewer which enriched the discussion.

The Indian farmers after a year-long struggle were successful in forcing the union government to withdraw the three agriculture laws brought in September 2020.1 The Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021 was passed in both houses of Parliament on 29 November 2021 and the farmer organisations suspended the protests in December 2021. The movement launched by the farmers across India in opposition to these laws is one of the longest movements in the recent history of the country. Now when the farmers have returned back to their homes after camping for more than a year at the protest sites surrounding the national capital city, Delhi and several other locations with huge celebrations, there is a need to reflect upon this movement beyond merely achieving its main demand of withdrawal of the three farm laws.

Haryana owing to its geographical location (sharing borders with the national capital city which were the major protest sites) became the centre of the anti-farm law protests involving large sections of the peasantry and rural masses. A very significant phenomenon in this movement was that of a huge and unprecedented participation of women. The active and large-scale participation of women in this movement at different platforms and in different forms from the state which is known for overall adverse conditions for women is an important aspect of these protests. While a number of op-eds and media reports in the initial phase of the protests commented on womens participation, the gender dynamics of this movement remain largely understudied.2 This paper tries to fill this gap by providing descriptions and insights into why and how women participated in the protests and how did this participation influence and affect the larger movement. It documents the organisational interventions by the women activists and leaders of the movement that influenced the character and scope of the movement. The paper underlines some of the achievements of this movement from a womens perspective, and how there could have been a progressive change in the gender relations in social and agrarian domains during the course of the movement.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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