“I was at the farmers camps in Delhi’ – a first-hand account by a woman grassroots organiser of women from hundreds of villages who are farm workers and housewives

A member of GWS in India, part of a women’s network of Dalit and Tribal women in rural Chhattisgarh, visited the three farmers’ camps around Delhi’s border: Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri, during the Kisan Andolan strike actions 15-17 March.  Thousands of farmers and farm workers, including women, went to the camps by busses, tractors and walking. Banks were closed across India and many thousands of workers went on strike in solidarity with the farmers. Ms M told us: “this is the biggest strike in Indian history, thousands and thousands of people.”

She said of the farmers’ camps: “There were more than 3,000 tents at each camp, seven to ten km wide on each side: farmers and landless labourers, men, women and children.  Whole families are living there permanently, including extended families, from all different states: Punjab, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, AP Karnataka, Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh… There were big meetings and rallies throughout the days. People were chanting: “We will never give up – long live the farmers strike.”  I loved being there.

There is clean drinking water and food. So many people from Delhi and the surrounding area are bringing food and water to the camps. Highways are closed into Delhi, so people use different, smaller roads to get in and out of the city.  So many police and military are there, too. Health facilities are very good, doctors and nurses are volunteering at all the camps.  There are many toilets, and very clean. People are very happy, staying healthy and they are fighting every injustice.

In Chhattisgarh and other states schools have been closed because of Covid, but at the camps children have schooling, with teacher volunteers.  Ms M said children were very happy to be going to school and to be at the camp with their whole family.  There are lots of children right at the front of the struggle, they love it!

Women are keeping the whole thing going, organising the food, education, and healthcare for the children, elderly and extended members who are there. So, they have double the work at the camp. Women are very powerful, with new found confidence, new found voice, and power… The huge fighting spirit of the women is very impressive, they have real conviction, commitment, and strength of anger and rage. Ages of the women range from very young to very old.  A lot are 50, 60,70 years old.

Workers and farmers are together, at one against the Farmers laws and the Labour laws. Mechanization promised in the farm laws will dispossess small farmers.  Farmers will join the landless. They will all lose work. It’s not a question of bargaining for a price at the markets, it’s about their livelihoods.

The farmers say “We will never return home until we win, we prefer to die.”

Ms M said people hugely appreciated her coming from such a long distance. They said the personal interchange formed strong bonds. She brought solidarity greetings from her organisation and the Global Women’s Strike. People were very happy and said they heard the GWS solidarity message on Women Farmers Day on 18 January.  They were thrilled with international support from around the globe.