On the second morning of the ongoing 1st Asian Rural Women's Conference at Palavoy, Arakkonam, the collective voices of the women gathered from 20 countries in Asia came out strongly against the rising fundamentalism throughout the region, and agreed that such fundamentalism was directly or indirectly engineered or encouraged by the state.
Speaking at the conference plenary "Empowering Ourselves Against Fundamentalism", Sheba George from Gujarat recounted the horrific genocide of the Muslim population in 2002. In a matter of less than a week, over 2,000 people were butchered to death and women were publicly raped and killed. This genocide of one section of the society had clear support of the state Chief Minister, Sh Narendra Modi who had at the time stated that it was important "to teach the Muslims a lesson". However, what is more disturbing is that Modi has been returned twice to power and become some sort of an icon for the people of Gujarat.
According to Sheba, during the Gujarat carnage, "there were right wing groups, which were provided complete immunity to do what they liked." But the chickens have now come home to roost, for ever since then, "we have more and more cases of women, including Hindus, being raped -something which was unheard of in Gujarat, the land of Gandhi who taught the world tolerance, love and to live with each other."
"We talk of Islamic terrorists, but we have to recognize and accept that we have Hindu terrorists in the country. Why, we appear to be dying to become like Pakistan and Bangladesh, and take the same path," she added.
The current situation to fight this right wing fundamentalism is not very encouraging as "today we have a divided citizenship. The mistrust among the people has become so deep, that no positive analysis is resulting into any political action."
At the Asian Rural Women's Conference, more revealing was the presentation of Yuriko Moto from Japan, a human rights teacher, who talked about the growing intolerance in her country towards people other than those who practiced the same religion as the king-shintoism. Shintoism was treated as the national religion during the World War II and the emperor was seen as the living god. According to Yuriko, "The words of the king were treated as Holy Words, and school children had to repeat these every day as part of compulsory education. Horrific atrocities were committed during the War in his name. Soldiers who otherwise would have resisted the killings of children and women, were forced to carry these out in his name."
But when at the end of the World War, the emperor came on the radio for the first time to announce that Japan was defeated, the people were shocked and could not believe it - for all their lives they had been made to believe in victory. At the time, the emperor realised and announced that "he was not a living God but just a human being." And so Shintoism was not made the national religion of the country.
However, Yuriko voiced concern that today there are attempts to revive imperialistic ambitions and the religion of shintoism. This needs to be checked in time to prevent it from growing into fundamentalism.
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Over 750 women from 20 Asian countries, as well as from other states within India, and from within Tamil Nadu state, have gathered for the 1st Asian Rural Women's Conference on "Rights, Empowerment and Liberation", currently taking place in the remote village of Palavoy in Arakkonam (Thiruvellore district) of Tamil Nadu.
The conference is being organised by the Tamil Nadu Women's Forum (TNWF), Tamil Nadu Dalit Women's forum (TNDWF), and Society for Rural Education and Development (SRED) in collaboration with strong national and regional groups from Asia, advocating for women's rights as related to impacts of globalisation and trade, food and agriculture, labour, reproductive health, and women's rights as human rights.
In commemoration of International Women's Day, the Women's Caravan led by rural and indigenous women will marching from Travel from Arakkonam to Sri Perampudur; and a culminate in a Public Assembly of thousands of grassroots women leaders.
Contacts for Media co-organiser
Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP):
Jennifer Mourin, Email: email@example.com
Tel. in India: +91 978 78 12095
Marjo Busto Quinto, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / or email@example.com
Tel. in India: +91 9791866484 (Arakkonam) calls only.