Recently, the Uttar Pradesh Government launched “Mission Shakti” as a response to the high rates of violence against women- especially Dalit women- in the form of rape, acid attacks and so on. with great pomp on the first day of Navratri. The UP Govt. states the campaign will ensure women’s safety, respect and self-reliance, and that they are spending crores of rupees on advertisements, flag vans from LED vans, voice messages, police stations and rural awareness. However, women’s organisations reveal that the Govt. disenfranchising them.
All India People’s Front held a virtual dialogue with many women to bring forward their opinion on the matter. Dinkar Kapoor represented the Worker’s Front during the conference.
They said that Mission Shakti Abhiyan is a bandaid over the deeply regressive policies and mindset of the UP Govt. The Yogi Government has been bragging about sentencing men alleged in rape cases to death and speed-tracking cases of rape through Mission Shakti. However, these are problematic short term solutions which will not fix structural issues of violence against women in the State, which is perpetrated by the party itself. The women in the conference said that, driven by a staunch sense of Brahmanism and Hindutva, the BJP Government considers women to be secondary and this has now been exposed. Even the statements of their MLAs and MPs on recent incidents have been embarrassing.
In a virtual dialogue, State President of Mahila Samakhya Preeti Srivastava, Shagufta Yasmin, Minister Sunita said that the State has been transformed into a graveyard for women. Incidents such as acid attack on three girls in Gonda, suicide of girl victims of rape in Pratapgarh and Chitrakoot, rape in hostels in Jhansi, rape of minor in Agra and Barabanki aren’t anomalies, and instead rapidly rising in UP.
According to the conference participants, the MLAs and MPs from the very Government which is declaring this program are exerting their full power to annihilate victims’ character instead of punishing the culprits. The High Court even lodged a strong objection to the Hathras case and reprimanded the top government officials.
181 Women Helpline employees Renu Sharma, Rita, Sajia Bano, Rehana, Jyati, Lakshmi, Rekha Singh, Khushbu, Charu Jat, Ramlali, Anita Kumari etc. said that Yogi is repeatedly referring to 181 in his advertisements and Twitter, as if it is part of this mission. But in reality, the helpline was formed on the basis of the recommendation made by the Justice JS Verma Committee, which was formed after the Nirbhaya incident. The government even shut down 181 women’s helplines like “Number Ek Kaam Anek” (One number, many uses). Because of this, many women lost their livelihood and were brought to the streets. The worst part is, the Government did not even pay their arrears.
The government absorbed 181 in the Police General Call Center 112 even though 181 itself was commissioned because the women suffering from violence were not comfortable with the police. The Yogi Government itself had accepted this in the protocol made for 181.
In their mandate, the Yogi Government even praised the 181 helpline for bringing relief to 1.25 lakh women in just six months. The women stated if that is the case, the Government must explain the logic of shutting down the multi-functional 181 helpline and disenfranchising its female workers in favour of Mission Shakti.
The women asserted that if the government really wants to empower women, then it should run programs such as Mahila Samakhya and 181 Women’s Helpline to ensure women’s safety and promote self-respect and self-reliance. If alongside campaigns such as Mission Shakti, organisations like Mahila Samakhya and 181 Women’s Helpline had been running at full capacity, then perhaps the cases in Hathras, Barabanki, Gonda and other parts of the states could have been minimised. They also demanded that the Government pays the arrears of their workers immediately.
The article was translated into English by Neelima Mundayur.