On January 8th the 6th martyrdom anniversary of Late Mata Gurdev Kaur was observed by Zameen Prapt Sangarsh Commitee in village Jaloor in Sangrur. Faces of participants were written with relentless spirit to pursue the path of Gurdev Kaur,who was martyred confronting caste oppression.
Even of only around 400 persons participated, the event was qualitatively a hit.
Gurdev Kaur was a living illustration of the vanguard role of women in emancipation of dalit agricultural labour and her martyrdom symbolised the oppressive or Brahmanical nature of the social order.
The Communist revolutionary groups hailed Gurdev Kaur as the “first martyr” of the Dalits’ struggle for village common land. She was one of the pioneering activists of the ZameenPrapt Sangarsh Commitee.
Gurdev Kaur galvanised dalit labourers into the forefront to knit a powerful unit of the ZPSC in Jaloor.
Under her guidance the ZPSC confronted upper caste landlords at their hardest point, and occupied share of panchayat land.
Gurdev Kaur inspired women to confront the police and upper caste jat farmers, who were earlier reluctant to step out of their homes.
On October 5 in 2016, Jat landlords and their armed goons attacked a group of Dalits from the ZPSC when they were returning to Jaloor after staging a dharna in front of the Lehragaga SDM’s office.
Dalit houses were too vandalised. Dalit women were molested and 40 dalits were mortally wounded. They were demanding on lease 6 acres of village common land for Dalit families. The incident left 24 people injured.
Her son Balwinder Singh and husband Lal Singh were booked in connection with the clash.
The landlords patronised by local Akali leaders tried to amputate tp Gurdev Kaur’s leg. She was brought to PGI, where a surgery was performed.
Gurdev Kaur perished as result of injuries from the attack. Thousands thronged to her funeral.
Her martyrdom inspired new rose to bloom with women activists coming to the forefront of movements. Women participate in the same numbers as men.
ZPSC convenor Mukesh Mulaudh and Kirti Kisan Union leader Nirbhay Singh summed up the contribution of Gurdev Kaur and how she symbolised dalit women agricultural labourer’s emancipation.
They narrated how inspite the land distribution of panchayat land reaching a third phase the administration was literally paralysed in undertaking any reform and n the contrary patronised dummy auctioning of land .
They summarised how land was still at the mercy of upper caste farmers or vacant with hardly any implementation of land laws. The sheer apathy of chief minister Bhagwant Mannn towards addressing the issues was highlighted as well as how day by day apart from labourers, the condition of famers, students, youth and workers was worsening.
They called on the people to tread the path of Mata Gurdev Kaur to fertilise a revolutionary movement., which would be befitting tribute to her martyrdom. The utter futility of negotiation has come out to the fore in recent times.
A most impactful and artistic play and choreography was performed by Lok Rang Manch ,from Ludhiana. It gave a most lively touch to the event, created optimism in participants and prevented it from becoming a mere ritual.
Prominent participants were Dharampal Singh, Meghraj Chotiya, Sukhdeep Hadhan, Rupinder Singh, Pramjeet Kaur Longowal, Guvinder Shahdari, Makhan Jaloor, and Gurdas.
We missed the participation of leaders from other agricultural labour groups of farmers groups, like in past years, like Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union, or Krantikari Pendu Mazdoor Union, or even Bharatiya KIsan Union factions. More appropriate that such an event was commemorated by a joint Committee.
Harsh Thakor is freelance journalist who has frequently toured Punjab
The original piece may be read here