The pre-Conference public meeting on Saturday night jointly organised by the Indian Workers’ Association and Association of Indian Communists (GB) commemorated the martyrdom of Shaheed-e-azam Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev and discussed the issue of Dignity, Respect with Equal rights for women. With two specific guest speakers, Comrade M.A. Baby, Polit Bureau member of the Communist Party of India Marxist and MLA from Kerala,India and the film maker Leslee Udwin, producer of the documentary India’s Daughter.

The people gathered at the venue, named as Comrade Harbhajan Singh Johal Hall, (lifelong party member and delegate to the 20th Congress of the CPI M), quite rightly anticipated and expected a historic evening. Every speaker ensured that their expectations were not misplaced.

This was truly history in the making, there were progressive people of Pakistan, India and Britain gathered under one roof. A former MP of The Peoples Party of Pakistan Sardar Mazhir Khan, M.A. Baby PBM of CPI (M), Meena Patel from the women’s rights organisation Southall Black Sisters, Joginder Kaur National General Secretary of IWA GB, Leslee Udwin film maker, Avtar Uppal President IWA Southall Branch and Harsev Bains the Secretary of AIC.

The Mayor of the local municipality Tej Ram Bagha welcomed all the guests and shared his experience effecting the rights of women, especially from the poorer sections of the working class and peasantry that he witnessed during the recent visit to his native state of Punjab. The Mayor expressed his concern of social damage being inflicted on the youth through abuse of drugs and alcohol.
Avtar Uppal in a rousing speech recalled the ultimate sacrifice of the Martyrs of freedom struggle and their aim to see an Independent India free from all forms of exploitation.

Harsev Bains in his introduction of Leslee Udwin the director of the documentary “India’s Daughter”, reminded the participant of the role of the AIC and IWA in upholding democracy and freedom of expression. From opposing the declaration of a state of Emergency by Indira Gandhi in 1975, challenging the silencing of Gerry Adams and the republican movement in 1991, condemning the partial reporting of the recent bombings in Gaza and to the current authoritarian decision to ban the documentary India’s Daughter. The latest action by the Indian Government being unprecedented as those seeking and endorsing the ban did so without even seeing the documentary.

IMG_4425There was pin drop silence as Leslee Udwin rose to speak and describe the series of events that led to her making the documentary. The emotional and financial sacrifices that she, her husband Kim also in the audience and her children made over two years to complete the documentary. This was intended as a gift to the people of India. Men and women coming out in spontaneous solidarity with Nirbhaya, a victim of a most brutal gang rape in Delhi December 2012.This single event has moved people to react the world over and question their own conscience and mind-sets.

Leslee recalled how, “While sitting in my home in Copenhagen, I saw this extraordinary, inspiring, courageous, amazing men and women of India, fighting for my rights in a way that was exceptional, momentous, facing a government crackdown in protests. There were these protests. And what are protests – they are the healthiest way of a civil society expressing itself saying this is what we need, this is what we will not put up with any more, and this is what we must change. These protests were peaceful on Gandhian lines and the Government cracked down on these protesters out of fear and they almost pushed them into riots. For one month and more these extraordinary human beings of all genders were on the streets fighting for women to be respected, for them to have autonomy and for them to have safety. That is what moved me to give two years of my life to making this film.”

Comrade M. A. Baby endorsed the call to lift the ban on the documentary. He highlighted the article by Com. Brinda Karat in Peoples Democracy outlining the CPI(M)’s position. Comrade Baby went on to praise the role of the Soviet Union and the 1917 epoch making October Revolution of having led the way in women‘s suffrage, the right to vote and stand for electoral office. The USA passed legislation for this right after the USSR on June 4, 1919 and this was ratified by the senate in 1920. In UK, this right was granted under the Representation of the People Act 1928, which extended the voting franchise to all women over the age of 21, granting women the vote on the same terms as men. Other countries followed suit soon after the Second World War.

Comrade Baby warmly recalled his privileged association with comrade in arms of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, the late Comrades, Kishore Lal and Shiv Varma. In his call to women and men young and old to rise under the red banner, Com Baby concluded with a quote by the late eminent historian Professor Erich Hobsbawm “Let us not disarm even in unsatisfactory times, social injustice still needs to be denounced and fought. The world will not get better on its own”

Joginder Kaur and Meena Patel shared their experiences of the campaigns being led by their organisations and also called for the undemocratic ban on the documentary India’s Daughter to be lifted.
Roop and Sudesh Uppal sang songs for the right of the unborn female child aborted before birth and against superstition.