Public Statement on the Sexual Assault and Abduction of a Young Woman Activist at Tikri Border
We deeply mourn the death of a 26-year old activist from APDR (Sreerampur) in West Bengal, who passed away on 30th April, 2021 at Bahadurgarh in Haryana. She was deeply inspired by the farmers’ movement and had gone to express her solidarity at the Tikri border with the Kisan Social Army who had been campaigning around Bengal from 2nd April to 11th April, 2021. As we mourn her loss, we are also deeply troubled and concerned on hearing the events that had unfolded during her short stay at the Tikri border.
From the accounts of her parents and her few friends, we have come to know that she underwent sexual harassment by Anil Malik, of Kisan Social Army on the train itself on her journey to Delhi. As she did not know anyone else at Tikri, the woman stayed at the Kisan Social Army camp from 11th to 16th April, 2021 wherein she was being sexually harassed by Anil Malik. On 16th April, 2021 she had reported the harassment to some people. The woman was then shifted to another tent where there were more women. On 21 April, 2021 she reported having mild fever and was taken to the medical camp at Tikri. As she began experiencing shortness of breath, she was also given medical attention. Upon the pretext of taking her back to West Bengal, on April 25, Anil Malik and Anup Singh Chinaut reportedly took her in a car. However, on tracking her location it was discovered that she was instead being taken to Hansi in Haryana. As senior leaders of SKM intervened, she was brought back to Bhagat Singh library camp at Tikri. When her health deteriorated further, she was taken to a hospital in Bahadurgarh where she passed away due to Covid on 30th April, 2021.
Yesterday evening, 8 May, 2021, the woman’s father supported by leaders of SKM, filed an FIR against Anil Malik and Anup Singh Chinaut on charges of sexual assault, and abduction. The complaint was filed first with the local SDM who ordered the filing of the FIR. Then it was received by the SHO, PS City Bahadurgarh late last evening.
The SKM has stood with the family of the young woman after her death. They announced in a meeting on 5 May that the accused along with their organization Kisan Social Army have been disassociated from the Morcha. Further, their banner and tent were also removed by SKM from the protest site. They also said that the Kisan Social Army was neither a formal member of SKM nor its representative in social media.
Unfortunately, this is not the first incident of its kind. There have also been other women survivors who have given their testimonies to their experiences within Trolley Times, SFS and Swaraj Abhiyan. While we hope registering the FIR in this case will be a step towards some form of justice, we firmly believe that all complaints of sexual violence within organizations and movement spaces need to be addressed and redressal mechanisms put into place. They cannot be eradicated simply through reactive measures to individual cases. There has to be a political will to build up sustained gender sensitization and put an end to sexual harassment within organizations and movements.
In solidarity with all the survivors, and as allies of the farmers’ movement, we join with their voices to call upon SKM to take cognizance of all these cases and take constructive steps to build a zero tolerance policy to curb incidents of misogyny, sexual violence, and patriarchal oppression. As we stand in solidarity with the farmers’ protest and its relentless fight against the three draconian farm laws, we urge SKM to continue to stand by the family and friends of the young woman in this case and support the enquiry to the end till justice is done.
Women have been at the forefront of the farmers’ movement and have been equal stakeholders in the protest. Women have been braving state repression, media defamation, and patriarchal hurdles to assert their right to protest, to register their dissent against the farm laws. The onus is therefore on all of us to make movement spaces safe for women. As we grieve and rage this young activist’s death, we also recognize that what she went through in those days has been a collective failure from all our part. Thus, as feminists, while we mourn and remember her young life in struggle, her unwavering support for the movement, and her idealism, we:
- Call upon SKM to issue a public statement expressing their resolve to undertake zero tolerance policy towards sexual harassment within the movement space.
- Give a call that a helpline and a committee be set up within the movement space so women can reach out when they need help, so as to prevent such cases from happening again.
- Resolve, even as we, together, continue to struggle for the repeal of the three farm laws to collectively deepen our political will in fighting patriarchal violence and oppression so as to enhance women’s active political participation in peasant movements, trade unions and mass organizations!!
In solidarity and rage,
- Feminists in Resistance, Kolkata;
- A Group of Survivors, Haryana and Punjab;
- Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS);
- Forum against Oppression of Women, Mumbai;
- Pinjra Tod;
- Saheli, New Delhi;
- Shramjivi Mahila Samiti, West Bengal;
- Bekhauf Azadi;
- All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) ;
- All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA);
- Wajood, Punjab;
- Bebaak Collective;
- Jan Sangharsh Manch, Haryana;
- Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samiti, West Bengal;
- Pragatisheel Mahila Ekta Kendra;
- Bhagat Singh Chhatra Ekta Manch, Delhi;
- Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan, Haryana;
- Stree Adhikar Sangathan, Uttar Pradesh;
- Free Speech Collective;
- Awaza-e-Niswaan, Mumbai;
- Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad, Maharshtra;
- National Network of Sex Workers;
- Vidrohi Mahila Manch, Maharashtra;
- Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch (MPMM); and
- Stree Mukti Sangathana, Maharashtra.
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