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Support the Mahila Manch!

Editor’s Note: Please read this important message prepared by veteran journalist Harish Chandola on behalf of the Uttarakhand Mahila Manch. They are the outstanding organization of the Uttarakhand Andolan that have steadfastly spearheading the movement for years. Their efforts at bringing together tens of thousands of women all over the state and their sacrifices in the form of relay hunger strikes this fall are incredible. I would urge you to do as much as you can to help our mothers and sisters out. Their struggle for Gairsain is as much as a struggle over the destiny of our Uttarakhand that was gained through the blood of its people and not as any gift of the politicians.

28 February 2005

Dear Daughters and Sons of Uttarakhand:

You may know that the Uttarakhand Mahila Manch is the organization of our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters and a part of our life. It was in the forefront of our hill state struggle yet in the joy of victory many forgot that we wanted a state of our own to create a just society. In the confusion, those that had not participated in our struggle grabbed control of our state. They assumed power not as our representatives but as nominees of a party that was then in power at the center and in U.P.

They began destroying the very foundation of our struggle. The first thing they did was to rob our state of its real name and impose on it one of their own. Instead of building a just society, they at once began making money for themselves and their parties, following in the tired old steps of corrupt political practices. They did nothing to renovate the rundown state of democracy and rather betrayed the movement by centering all decision-making in the hands of the bureaucracy and the contractor lobbyists.

Moreover, they denied the state a permanent capital. The hill people are in distress because without a capital in their midst, they have no way of knowing what the government is doing in Dehra Dun, which lies is a corner of our state and three days journey from some of its interior regions. They are in danger because the government is selling their valuable common assets, like rivers and land, and making decisions without public participation from people in the hills. Public money is being squandered on building ministerial and official colonies and setting up permanent state establishments in this temporary capital. The peaceful city has been made over-crowded, expensive and unsafe.

The Uttarakhand Mahila Manch is leading the people in the struggle for taking the capital to Gairsain, our central region, while lending its powerful voice to other struggles taking place in Uttarakhand. While a decade-old campaign, it has become more urgent now with power shifting day by the day back to the plains districts that are already benefiting from most of the development in the state. The Manch enjoys widespread public support but has no funds. It runs on savings of housewives and whatever the people give it. With that, it had organized demonstrations and hunger strikes for three months, from September 24, in which over 10,000 people had participated, following the martyrdom of Baba Mohan Singh Uttarakhandi after a 40-day fast on top of a hill over Gairsain. It then led a long march from Gairsain to Dehra Dun from December 5 to 21, covering over 300 kilometers on foot.

To continue the struggle for the capital, the Manch has organized marches to other regions, mostly on foot. But it does need a vehicle, even an old, second-hand jeep, to mount loudspeakers on and communicate with people as it travels from village to village, and carry bundles of leaflets for public education. For that it needs contributions from those that support this struggle. Some of us therefore appeal to those that wish to see the capital of our hill state in the hills, to make contributions that would raise just over a lakh of rupees to enable the Manch buy a vehicle. We have begun by making our own humble contribution. Others may kindly send their bankdrafts and cheques to:

Mrs. Kamala Pant, Organizer, Mahila Manch, G-3 Racecourse, Dehra Dun
(Phone: 0135 2722291/9412437133), or

Dr. Uma Bhatt, Organizer, Mahila Manch,
Tallital, Nanital (Phone 05942 23619).