The Modi-led BJP government at the Centre has been taking advantage of the lockdown to trample upon Constitutional freedoms and accelerate its anti-people policies. The month of September saw protests across the country on the growing fascist offensive, as well economic issues like worsening unemployment and the three farm bills the BJP pushed through the Parliament to accelerate corporatisation of agriculture. There were also countrywide protests against the inhuman manner in which the administration of the Uttar Pradesh state handled the Hathras rape case. Lokayat participated in many of these protests in Pune. A brief summary of our activities in September is given below.
4 September:'Futki Pati Andolan'
'Broken Slate' protest on the eve of Teacher's Day
Students from working class families, lacking access to digital devices and internet 'data-plans' required for online education, have been severely disadvantaged since the beginning of the lockdown. The Pune Municipal Corporation is not taking measures to provide equality of opportunity to the nearly 90,000 students studying in PMC schools. Numerous memoranda have been submitted to the authorities over the past months, but to no avail. Finally, on the eve of Teachers' Day, a 'Futki Pati Andolan' ('Broken Slate' protest) was organised at the gate of the Pune Municipal Corporation on September 4, 2020, by the Progressive Party Organization, a Joint Action Committee of various activist groups. Our activists played an active role in organising the protest. Ordinary people from Pune's vastis also joined the protest. The committee demanded that the PMC immediately distribute tablet computers to all PMC school students and that those tablets be loaded with educational content as well as a sim-card with an adequate pre-paid data pack.
Protesters displayed placards criticising the inactivity of the Pune Municipal Corporation over this issue. Convener of the committee Nitin Pawar said that the Pune Municipal Corporation is ignoring the fundamental right to equal education under the name of Corona.The commissioner acknowledged the shortcomings in the online education system and promised to work out a solution after discussions with the mayor.
Bhim Chhawa Sanghatana, Lokayat, Akhil Bhartiya Bahujan Sena, Gokhalenagar Cultural Festival Committee, Hamal Panchayat, Riksha Panchayat Patsanstha, Shetmajur Sanghatana, Phule Pratishthan, Manav Mukti Sanghatana, Aam Aadmi Party, and Janata Dal (Secular) participated in this protest.
30 September:How many more Khairlanji and Hathras?
Individual street protest against Hathras rape
September 29 marks the 14th anniversary of the Khairlanji massacre. The atrocities on Dalit women have increased during the past years, as recorded by the Crime in India Report of 2019. Ironically, on the anniversary of the Khairlanji massacre, another Dalit rape victim, this time a young girl from Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, succumbed to her injuries.
On September 14, the 20-year-old Dalit girl was raped by four members of the so called upper castes. They assaulted her so violently that she cut her tongue and broke her back. After battling for life for 14 days, she finally breathed her last on 29th September. What happened after her death was equally inhuman and numbing. The UP Police not only forcibly and secretly cremated her body in the dead of the night, but also tried to protect the rapists and crush the girl's family.
To protest against this horrifying incident, Lokayat together with several other organisations organised a protest at Goodluck Chowk, Pune. The protest was organised at a few hours notice, on the very day we heard about the incident, and yet, nearly a 100 people joined us for the protest, maintaining physical distancing.
Freedom of Expression
What can we do in today's situation to protect our Constitutional rights and liberties? Abhivyakti - the women's front of Lokayat - organised an online discussion on this topic. About 40 women from all over Maharashtra participated in this discussion.
By Neeraj Jain
The recently passed farm bills are aimed at creating conditions for the gradual transfer of control of Indian agriculture to the hands of big foreign and Indian agri-business corporations.
We firmly oppose the government's policy of privatising agriculture. In solidarity with farmers, we organised an online talk to explain the issues involved, and expose the reality behind the government propaganda that these bills will "liberate farmers". The talk was well-received. About 100 people joined the talk on Zoom and around 4,500 people have viewed this talk on Facebook to date.
Lokayat, Abhivyakti and Kafila participated in nationwide campaign
September 5, 2020 marked the third anniversary of the assassination of the intrepid journalist Gauri Lankesh. In her memory, from 30 August to 5 September, more than 400 human rights organisations, workers' and peasants organisations, women’s groups, student organisations, and LGBTQIA collectives from all across the country organised a campaign - "If We Do Not Rise". This campaign aimed at uniting people's voices against the ongoing fascist attacks on the Constitution and constitutional rights of the people of India. Lokayat, Abhivyakti, and Kafila actively participated in this nationwide campaign and organised a series of events as a part of this campaign.
From September 1, we launched an online campaign wherein we created 15 to 20 posters and videos daily with the #IfWeDonotRise tag and floated them on Lokayat, Abhivyakti, and Kafila Facebook pages from September 1 to 5, 2020. We also called upon people to post messages on their social media pages in support of the campaign, and also send us their posts. Eminent activists including Justice B. G. Kolse Patil, Dr. Ram Puniyani, Prof. Apoorvanand, Saumya Datta, Prof. Hargopal, Pradip Dutta, Dr. Shripal Sabnis, Nagraj Adve, and the noted cultural activist Danish Hussain posted short videos supporting the campaign.
Some pics from online campaign under #IfWeDonotRise
Small street campaigns were held in lanes of Wadarwadi basti in Pune on September 2, 2020, and Indiranagar, Mominpura, and Kondhwa on September 5, 2020 with placards. Our activists gave short speeches, and sang a few songs, at every spot. We encouraged people to take their selfies with placards and set them as their Whatsapp status in order to spread the word. More than a 100 people participated.
Some pictures from street events
We also actively participated in organising a nationwide twitter storm under #IfWeDonotRise on September 4, 2020. More than 2000 people participated in the twitter storm, and more than 22500 tweets were posted as a part of the storm. We secured the 25th position for #IfWeDonotRise in nationwide trends on September 4.
Cultural program:'Songs of Resistance'
On September 5, Kafila - the cultural front of Lokayat, presented a cultural program 'Songs of Resistance' as a part of the Maharashtra #IfWeDoNotRise campaign. The program was broadcast from Facebook pages of Lokayat, Abhivyakti, Kafila, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Ram Puniyani, Manav Mukti Mission, Yuva Biradari, Jan Jagaran Abhiyan, and IfWeDonotRise Maharashtra. More than 7000 people have viewed this video so far.
Songs of Resistance
A human chain protest was organised on September 5, at Savitribai Phule statue, Sarasbaug, Pune by the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), Abhivyakti, Lokayat, and Stree Mukti Sampark Samiti. About 20 Activists participated in the human chain. We carried placards, sang a few songs and gave slogans - "Down with Fascism", "Long live Democracy!" The protest ended with all the participants taking the #IfWeDonotRise oath.
Protest at Savitribai Phule statue, Sarasbaug
17 September:'National Unemployment Day'
Digital campaign demanding employment for all
At the call of several opposition parties and youth groups from all over the country, 17th September, the birthday of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was observed as 'National Unemployment Day'. Lakhs of youth from every corner of the country participated in this campaign, posting tweets and messages on their social media pages demanding employment for all. Hashtags like ‘#17Sept17Hrs17Minutes’, ‘#राष्ट्रीयबेरोजगारदिवस’ and ‘#NationalUnemploymentDay’ trended throughout the day on Twitter. The hashtag #NationalUnemploymentDay had over 4.18 million tweets, while, #राष्ट्रीय_बेरोजगारी_दिवस over 1.68 million tweets during the day. Lokayat and Abhivyakti also did their bit by actively participating in the social media protests on this day.
Appeal for Financial
Aid to Lawyers
By Lawyers For Equality
Lokayat's Lawyers Front - Lawyers for Equality, submitted a memorandum to the local bar associations in Pune and Dhule, demanding financial aid for lawyers adversely affected by the lockdown. More than 50 lawyers signed the petition during this signature campaign.
Withdraw Farm bills, Save Agriculture
Farmers across the country have been protesting against the anti-farmer bills. A call for nationwide protest on September 25, 2020 had been given by farmers' organisations. In support of this call, Lokayat organized a Facebook campaign with the hashtag #RejectFarmBill2020. The campaign received a good response from people.
23 September:Let's break the shackles of Caste
On the occasion of 14th anniversary of the Khairlanji massacre
The BJP and its parent, the RSS, have always supported the caste system and Manusmriti. Ever since the Modi led BJP came to power in 2014, attacks and atrocities on Dalits have significantly increased. There have been several attacks on Dalit youth on suspicion of cow slaughter, several Dalit students have committed suicide due to institutional racism in educational institutions, and even incidents such as burning copies of the Constitution have taken place.
On the occasion of the 14th anniversary of the Khairlanji massacre, Lokayat and Abhivyakti organised a campaign called 'Breaking the Chains of Caste'. About 50 people participated in this campaign by posting on their social media handles their photos with placards criticising the caste system.
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