Monday 16 May 2022, 10:34 AM
Bekhauf Azadi: The streets are ours
By Sukant Deepak | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 3/25/2021 11:35:04 AM
Bekhauf Azadi: The streets are ours

New Delhi: One late evening, six months back, Haryana Police thrashed two couples in Sonipat. In the fight that ensued, one of the youngsters killed a policeman. The boys were later killed in a 'fake encounter and the girls allegedly gang raped in police custody.One late evening, two years back, a young lady in Chandigarh while driving home late evening lodged a complaint that two drunk youngsters stalked and tried to kidnap her. One of them being the son of a politician. The case is ongoing.

The common thread in both the cases is how ‘Bekhauf Azadi', a Chandigarh-based group comprising a core team of a lawyer, a research scholar and a nursing officer -- all women, active across Punjab and Haryana stepped in to ensure that the victims' voices were heard.

From going on a fact finding mission to Sonipat, filing a litigation in Punjab and Haryana High Court post which an inquiry was marked and the two girls in custody subjected to medical examination, to organising midnight protests in Chandigarh in the stalking case, ‘Bekhauf Azadi' has emerged not just as a women empowerment group but also a force that takes up social and political issues.

"In some cases, especially those involving Dalit and labourer women, we help them on legal issues pro bono considering their chronic backwardness," says Arti, the founder member and an advocate in the Punjab Haryana High Court.

With members from diverse professions -- teachers, doctors, lawyers and journalists, the group now has more than 20 members across multiple states. Arti recalls how ‘reclaiming the nights' movement after the stalking case in the region became a huge success. "We witnessed participation of hundreds of people, including families. Let's not forget that though Chandigarh may claim to be a very modern city with a high literacy rate, it remains a very unsafe place for women. People may claim to understand gender issues and equality but they cannot decipher that a woman has as much right to feel safe on the streets after dark as men do. The huge participation from women, men and families was very encouraging for us, and we thought there was a need to form a group which would raise its voice against injustice towards women and other issues."

Interestingly, participation by men in the issues they raise have been almost equal to that of women. "While patriarchal positions may be deep-rooted, but consciousness of the urban male when it comes to democratic rights vis a vis women has developed. Also, would they not want the women in their own families to be safe. The post liberalization era has witnessed more women in the workforce. You may still not give property rights to the daughters but there does exist a democratic space at home, right?"

Arti says that the group actively coordinates with other democratic activists taking up social and political issues as working in silos makes little sense. "Precisely why we make it a point to invite activists from other organisations to be part of our protests and vice-versa."

Considering the fact that they are getting a lot of membership requests from women in Haryana and Punjab, the founder-member, whose group also intervened on behalf of girls in a private university in Punjab when all the girls in the hostel were ‘checked' after a sanitary napkin was found not properly disposed off in a washroom, says that they plan to hold a meeting soon to chalk out future strategy. "Maybe we will help build up independent teams there and let them run. Let's see."

Stressing that in the past two years, they have realised that although the democratic consciousness of middle-class women has increased manifold, nothing has changed for the Dalit women, she talks about the ongoing farmers' movement, "Many from our group and others who went there initially were asked by the farmers -- ‘What do girls have to do with land?'. They refuse to acknowledge that we have a 50 per cent right over property. It took a lot of time for us to make our space in the agitation -- there were comments -- ‘these girls are from the state', ‘they want to disturb the movement'. Women at protest sites have struggled a lot to stay there. Since 2005, women have a legal right when it comes to property but assertion 0.1 per cent, because if you ask for your right, your maternal support will go. Now, in this society, it's tough to give that up."

Adding that when it comes to Dalits, landowners seldom give them the common land that is entitled to them, she says, "During the lockdown, Dalits and landless were boycotted. Precisely why one did not see their participation during initial months. Just notice how despite multiple CPI(ML) forces in the movement, almost everyone is raising Sikh religious slogans. What happened to the left ones (slogans)? Of course, right now, we want to have a united front and fight the farm laws."


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भारत डिफेंस कवच की नई हिन्दी पत्रिका ‘डिफेंस मॉनिटर’ का ताजा अंक ऊपर दर्शाया गया है। इसके पहले दस पन्ने आप मुफ्त देख सकते हैं। पूरी पत्रिका पढ़ने के लिए कुछ राशि का भुगतान करना होता है। पुराने अंक आप पूरी तरह फ्री पढ़ सकते हैं। पत्रिका के अंकों पर क्लिक करें और देखें। -संपादक

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