On the 10th of March, prominent social and political activists, and people invested in the issues of social injustices will gather at Nagpur in large numbers. More than 5000 women and allies will march down on the roads in Bezonbagh Nagpur, leading a cultural event to commence the long struggle of bringing forth marginalised voices of diverse minority groups. The movement is a cultural event to ignite aspirations, appealing to the conscience of the people of India to rise and defeat patriarchal, casteist and communal forces and safeguard the Indian constitution through art; song, dance, poetry, film literature, theatre.
— SIMA (@seemaadhikari) February 24, 2017
Savitribai Phule exposed the hollowness of Manusmriti. We will carry forward her fight against casteist patriarchy #WomenRiseAgainstSanghwad
— Chalo Nagpur (@ChaloNagpur) February 24, 2017
Chalo Nagpur is the third in line after the two Chalo movements and continues to be on the lines of self-assertion and coming together to voice for justice, equality and respect of the marginalised and oppressed sections of our society – namely Dalit, Muslim, Adivasi, Bahujan, minority, and disabled women, queer people, sex workers, nomadic tribeswomen, students as well as all other women, and persons of all genders.
The Chalo Movement is a new idiom of self-assertion. This movement is a novel way of building a solidarity movement; to bring together thousands from the marginalised community. It began with Chalo Una – a movement that took place on 15th August 2016, sparked by the flogging of 4 Dalit boys for skinning a cow as part of their jobs by the gau rakshaks (self-proclaimed protectors of cows), in a village near Gujarat. Next came the Chalo Udupi movement which was another Dalit-led movement after Praveen Pojary, a Dalit man, was beaten and murdered by gau rakshaks for transporting cows to the slaughterhouse.
The Chalo movement is an expression against the continual injustice against Dalits, and it is organized and mobilized by people from the oppressed communities. It brings together the like-minded organisations and people from diverse backgrounds fighting the good fight.
Shabnam Hashmi and Manjula Pradeep, who are part of the organising team of the Chalo Nagpur movement were kind enough to spend some time answering my questions around this upcoming event. Shabnam Hashmi said of the movement:
“Both Chalo Una and Chalo Udupi were triggered off by specific incidents. Chalo Nagpur is responding to the larger politics of communal, fascist, casteist, and patriarchal forces which are responsible for incidents that happened in Una, Udupi and many other parts of the country. They are similar in the sense that all these three challenge the hate-mongering forces which are responsible for creating inequalities and oppressing marginalised sections of the society.”
Hashmi stated that the event is a convention inspired by Savitribai Phule and held on her 120th remembrance day, who fought the oppressive structures of Brahminical patriarchy forces in the 19th century. Manjula Pradeep added:
“An important reason to conduct this event on Savitribai’s remembrance is because she continues to be a constant source of inspiration to those fighting social injustice even today. As a matter of fact, Savitribai died working for a cause. She caught the plague when she was working with plague-infected people. This is an effort to recognise her relentless work for social issues which has never been brought to the forefront.”
India’s democracy is at a point in time that one is increasingly struck by the question of what kind of demos (people) it is about. This is a question that strikes the self-reflecting individuals of the country who are not afraid to question the state of affairs under the name of jingoistic nationalism and its overbearing masculinity which manages to seep through the modern means and continues to oppress the “Other”, namely, caste minorities, women, and sexual minorities.
When asked why it was important for the women from all walks of life to participate, Shabnam Hashmi coherently responded:
“The attacks on women, violence against them, freedom of expression, their will to choose what they wear, eat or whom they fall in love with is under great threat, unemployment has grown many folds affecting large number of women, senior leaders of RSS as well as those in the govt are constantly threatening women’s freedom. Authoritarian forces always curb women’s liberties and India is witnessing that. There is a need to stand up and join hands with others because it is only collective movements that can resist this onslaught on women’s rights.”
Why Nagpur? Why not Delhi, closer to the centre? There is a reason why Nagpur was chosen as a place for this convention. Nagpur is the headquarters of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangam (RSS), the fascist organisation that wants to convert India into a Hindu rashtra with no place for minorities, Dalits, tribals and women.
Another aspect the Chalo Movement brings up is the reimagining of the public space as an important instrument in the democratic politics. The claiming of public spaces is symptomatic of laying claim to citizenship rights in the democratic movement.
The Chalo Movement is an intersectional movement that is trying to bring light to the gender atrocities rampant against the marginalized women of the country. The appalling gender violence perpetrated on the Muslim women of Mewat and Muzaffarnagar, Delta Meghwal, Surekha Bhotmange, Tara, the sexual assault on Adivasi girls in Buldhana remind us of the importance to foreground the violence perpetrated against women from marginalized communities in this country.
The event is emblematic of artistic activism and how citizens can proactively claim their Constitutionally-granted freedom of expression to seek accountability and question the state of affairs. It is movement that creates a radical space to counter the repressive forces of our times. Its intersectionality allows for different struggles to be voiced.
Manjula Pradeep also mentions that Chalo Nagpur is a building block to a larger movement against social injustice. They plan to take this movement to several cities and build a continuous movement to bring together diverse group of people voicing and protesting creatively, through forms of art, against the injustices and discrimination of the system.