India owes its democratic spirit to many female leaders who sacrificed their lives for the sake of the greater good for humanity. Interestingly, these women didn’t only rise in unison for issues concerning gender, but spearheaded some great environmental and political movements in our country.
Read on to know about 5 such iconic protests that were led by Indian women.
1. Narmada Bachao Andolan
Led by famous environmentalist Medha Patkar, the movement started in 1985 and aims at persuading the government to drop its idea of going ahead with the multi-crore project involving the construction of many dams across the Narmada River. The dams, if constructed, will displace more than 2,50,000 people leaving them homeless and without any means of livelihood. The movement has become so widespread that it has attracted support from International agencies.
Besides raising concern about environmental issues, Medha Patkar has also been the face of Slum Dwellers’ Struggle to achieve housing rights in Mumbai. She was also a member of Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party for a short period.
2. Chipko Movement
26th March, 1974 was a historic day in Indian history as it was on this day that the movement against illicit felling of trees commenced. Gaura Devi, a native of Garhwal region in Uttarakhand, along with 27 more women hugged the trees and pleaded the Forest Officials to spare them. The incident gained momentum over the years and came to be known as the “Chipko Movement”.
Gaura Devi grew up in the lap of nature. After this incident, sensitising the masses about the need to save our forests became her sole pursuit. She died in 1991 but the struggle against deforestation continues.
3. Anti-Arrack Movement
Consumption of liquor by men is one conundrum women have been facing for ages now. Especially among the poorer section women complain that their inebriated husbands create nuisance at homes by inflicting violence on family members. The Anti-Arrack Movement was initiated by Vardheneni Rosamma in Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh in 1992. It was a clarion call raised by the village women to tackle this menace of alcoholism. They demanded that the government should ban the sale of low-cost liquor or arrack.
Popularly known as Dubagunta Rosamma, she was a true example of what a determined woman can achieve. Her efforts paid off when the former Chief Minister, N T Rama Rao, put his first signature on the file pertaining to a total prohibition in 1995. However, this ban was uplifted by Chandrababu Naidu in 1997.
4. Stop Acid Attack Movement
The then 15-year-old Laxmi Aggarwal’s life took a drastic turn when a 32-year-old man threw acid on her because she turned down his marriage proposal. The dauntless woman, however, saw this personal catastrophe as a motivation for her to start something big. Since that horrifying incident took place, Laxmi has devoted her life to mobilising people on such issues and helping other acid attack victims in healing their lives.
She is the director of Chhanv Foundation, an NGO dedicated to helping the survivors of acid attacks in India. She also received the 2014 International Women of Courage award by Former US First Lady Michelle Obama.
5. Movement against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act
Irom Sharmila is a civil rights and a political activist. She went on World’s longest hunger strike in 2000 lasting 16 years. Sharmila was involved in local peace movements and was enraged to hear the account of a woman who had been raped in her own home by two CRPF personnel as two other CRPF men held her husband down outside the house. The actual trigger for her hunger strike came from the news of Assam Rifles personnel killing 10 people in Malom. Her primary demand for the Indian Government has been the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act (AFSPA). She vowed not to eat, drink, comb her hair or look in a mirror until AFSPA was annulled.
Indians are fortunate to have such inspiring examples of women empowerment in front of them. These ladies have reinforced how the coalescence of determined women brings about monumental changes in the country.