Navyug Gill: Despite government repression and a resurgent pandemic, the farmer and laborer struggle in India remains a potent force of transformative politics. It has been ongoing for nearly six months at the Delhi borders, eleven months in Panjab, and many decades in the making. This struggle has captured the attention of millions of people in India and across the world. And it has unsettled a variety of assumptions as well as thrown up profound questions for understandings of societal change and collective wellbeing. Why did this struggle emerge in Panjab at this time? What are its internal faultlines and fissures as well as potential sutures? And how does it challenge the common sense of capitalist progress? By offering new insights into agriculture, hierarchy and neoliberalism, this struggle has become one of global dimensions as much as of imaginations.
Mallika Kaur: The massive agrarian protest in Punjab is unprecedented, but the underlying agrarian plight is not. Over the past several decades, this plight has manifested in a downward social spiral. Yet the protestors today seem to be insisting on the return to a status quo in which thousands kill themselves out of desperation every year. Discussing this seeming paradox, the presentation will focus on how agrarian distress has been decidedly gendered and how the current protests have in fact also become a site of feminist action and challenge to the gender status quo. Women’s participation, contribution, and leadership, cannot not be ignored just because it might not meet dominant feminist rhetoric or frameworks.
Protesting women are demanding ‘others’ stop expecting them to play weeping subjects when they've always been agents of change, stop peddling women’s lack of independent political astuteness. At the same time, they demand ‘their’ men listen—to stories of victimhood & survivorship and build respectful partnerships with no place for sexual discrimination and harassment. The protesting women are raising important questions and illustrating essential ways of organizing, relating, and strengthening inside-out—thus making an undeniable contribution to women’s empowerment across India, South Asia and beyond.
Navyug Gill is a scholar of modern South Asia and global history. He is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at William Paterson University. He received a PhD from Emory University, and a BA from the University of Toronto. His research explores questions of agrarian change, labor politics, caste hierarchy, postcolonial critique and global capitalism. Currently he is completing a book on the emergence of the peasant and the rule of capital in colonial Panjab. His academic and popular writings have appeared in venues such as the Journal of Asian Studies, Economic and Political Weekly, Al Jazeera, Law and Political Economy Project, Borderlines and Trolley Times.
Mallika Kaur is a lawyer and writer who focuses on gender and racial justice. She is the co-founder and Acting Executive Director of the Sikh Family Center, the only Sikh American organization focused on gender-based violence. Her book, Faith, Gender, and Activism in the Punjab Conflict: The Wheat Fields Still Whisper, was recently published by Palgrave MacMillan. Kaur holds a Master in Public Policy from Harvard and a Juris Doctorate from UC Berkeley School of Law where she now teaches skills-based and experiential social justice classes, including "Negotiating Trauma, Emotions and the Practice of Law."
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