04, Nov 2019 | CJP Team
On the occasion of 66th birth anniversary of the leading women’s activist Bharati Roy Chowdhury, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) participated in providing constitutional law training in a community meet organised with the objective of reinforcing women leadership in grassroots activism and advocacy. The training was conducted along with the All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP) on 1–3 November 2019 at the Union’s Women Empowerment Centre in the village of Nagalmafi, Saharanpur. Established, frontline women leaders as well as young women activists participated in this three-day programme from far-flung forest regions in the country.
AIUFWP with its sister organization Vikalp Social Organization, has been working extensively on women empowerment, development of women leadership from marginalized sections of dalits, adivasi, minorities and from other subaltern groups, especially in forested region. The Union has been very active in working for effective implementation of the Forest Rights Act and also developing community based forest governance.
CJP’s Secretary, Teesta Setalvad conducted the trainings on the Indian Constitution; Constitution and Forest Rights, Constitution and Women. The focus of the training was to help women leaders familiarise themselves with the fundamental democratic values enshrined in the Indian Constitution, and understand their linkage with the issues of land, and forest rights in relation to women.
Teesta Setalvad led the participating women leaders through the protection Articles 12 and 13 provide against laws constructed in derogation of these rights of the Constitution of India, the entitlements that the fundamental rights provide to their communities, and the directive principles of state policy that are in support of the rights of the forest dweller. From the evolving concept of Citizenship in Articles 5-11 of the Constitution to Articles 14 and 21 (that deal with the Right to Equality before the Law and Right to Life itself) to various facets of Article 19 (that includes the Right to Organise) the training looked at how several aspects of our Fundamental Rights stand eroded, close to 70 years after the adopting of the Indian Constitution.
She elucidated on the different features of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and spoke extensively on how it is a singular legislation in this field that equips women with ownership rights to forest land. She also discussed why the welfare legislation was only brought into force in 2006, while contextualising the profiteering motives behind the enactment of the draconian Indian Forest Act, 1927.
Detailed inter-active deliberations on the historicity of the subaltern people’s struggle against oppression and towards substantive equality were part of this training that took the 75-strong group through the 10th, 11th,12th, 15th and 16th centuries in India/South Asia, where sharp questions were raised of the caste and patriarchial order. Women Bhakti and Sufi practioneers challenged rigid hierarchies even as the Santhal rebellions and the challenge posed by Adivasi leader, Birsa Munda questioned British colonial policies and control on lands. All this and more was dealt with in the three day training at which CJP played a crucial part.
This is part of an ongoing effort, training people in the use and knowledge of the law, for enforcement of human rights. CJP remains committed to strengthening the respect and adherence to all human rights in the Courts and beyond. In this endeavor, spreading knowledge and awareness of one’s rights, especially among populations that are the most vulnerable to their abuse, the most marginalized, is crucial. Among the groups that CJP most closely works with, and for, are not just minorities but minorities within the minorities, the women. Help us both widen and deepen this effort. Donate now to support us.
Role of Women Leadership in Forest Rights
In February 2019, the Supreme Court issued an order to 21 states to carry out evictions of millions of scheduled tribes and forest-dwelling peoples resulting due to mass rejection of some 1.2 million forest rights claims made by indigenous peoples under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. (“Forest Rights Act”)
Community women leaders, such as those gathered at this event, have filed interventions in the Supreme Court challenging this order. With support from Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), these leaders are playing a major role in representing the forest-dwelling communities before the Court; they are structuring their challenge so as to bring perspective to how state actions have been detrimental to them, their life, and their livelihood.
In view of this national crisis, AIUFWP and CJP felt that there is an urgent need is felt to nurture and empower more women leadership from among communities who are struggling to protect their life and livelihoods around natural resources like forest, water and land.
While atrocities have continued unabated on the forest people–by the police, forest department, the locally dominant societies and large companies–women from forest communities have actively come forward and have been active to respond and resist state violence and other atrocities. CJP is confident that this training will go a long way in bringing more female leaders of the forest dwelling communities into the fray.