Anuradha Ghandy is the Spirit of International Women’s Day!

“By propagating women’s nature as non-violent they are discouraging women from becoming fighters in the struggle for their own emancipation and that of society” –Philosophical Trends of the Feminist Movement

Anuradha Ghandy was, to the people of India and of the World, a shining example for all to follow. Born into a middle class family, she left behind the comfort of her university studies to organize poor workers, particularly Dalits, sometimes called ‘untouchables’. In the 90s she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but nonetheless went to live in the forest with guerillas. She went on to organize the Krantikari Adivasi Mahila Sangathan (Revolutionary Adivasi Women’s Organization), the largest women’s organization in all of India with a membership of around 100,000. 

Anuradha was cherished by the Adivasi women she helped to educate and organize. Many today continue to recall her memory fondly: “Comrade Janaki was the name they knew her by. They had a worn photograph of her, in fatigues and her huge trademark glasses, standing in the forest, beaming”1

Ghandy encouraged women to fight for their own freedom, to never wait for someone else to do it for them, saying “What I want to tell my KAMS colleagues is that they should increase their self confidence. They have to fight against the enemy inside them.”2 

She criticized liberal feminists, whose theories she saw as a dead end. “It [liberal feminism] is restricted to changes in the law, educational and employment opportunities, welfare measures, etc. and does not question the economic and political structures of the society which give rise to patriarchal discrimination”3. She understood the necessity of overturning all systems which give rise to oppression, and witnessed what happens when the masses of women take action into their own hands: “For the past few years thousands of women are gathering in hundreds of villages to celebrate 8 March. Women are gathering together to march through the streets of a small town like Narayanpur to oppose the Miss World beauty contest, they are marching with their children through the tehsil towns and market villages in backward Bastar to demand proper schooling for their children. They are blocking roads to protest against rape cases and confronting the police to demand that the sale of liquor be banned.”4 

She spoke on fascism and fundamentalism, pointing out the absurdity of the religious right saying “Giving specious moral arguments these fascists in the US are aggressively presenting the so-called pro-life campaign. This campaign started with reactions to court judgements but it has gone beyond that and has included attacks on abortion clinics, killing of activists and doctors who help women get abortions done. At the same time these very so-called pro-life forces are among the active campaigners for the continuation of the death penalty and larger military spending and aggressive international policy by the US Government.”5

Ghandy died of malaria in 2008. She was doing underground work in the forests of Jharkhand. Due to the illegal nature of her work, when she went to the hospital she left a fake name. She was not treated. She gave her entire being for the emancipation of women, Dalits, and all people, and for this we must recall her name on International Women’s Day.

Her seminal work, Philosphical Trends of the Feminist Movement, is a must read for all those interested in an analysis of the feminist and women’s movement and its historical contexts. For me, she is the epitome of selflessness and is a shining example of the struggle for freedom and democracy. Let’s join in with her revolutionary spirit and call for the complete emancipation of women!

By Phoenix Cloutier

Notes: 

  1. Foreword to Philosophical Trends of the Feminist Movement, Foreign Languages Press 2016
  2. People’s War has shattered the hesitations of the women of Dandakaranya!
  3. Philosophical Trends of the Feminist  Movement
  4. Foreword to Philosophical Trends of the Feminist Movement, Foreign Languages Press 2016
  5. Fascism, Fundamentalism, and Patriarchy

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