New Delhi: Bound together by a common motive,
these caravans carrying a message of liberation and
representation rights, travelled 20,000 km on a three-pronged
journey across India.
Converging on Sunday in the national capital, the women who
were part of the mobilising campaign say they garnered
unbelievable amount of support on their journey for their
cause -- that of a 33 per cent reservation in the Parliament.
Initiated by ANHAD, an NGO, with the support of as many
as 200 organisations, a Reservation Express was flagged off on
May 20 from Jhansi with three caravans venturing out in three
Their aim was to meet women from all walks of life and
impart to them the message of greater representation rights,
as the struggle for the Women`s Reservation Bill enters a
decisive phase at the doors of the Lok Sabha.
On their way the caravans comprising mostly women,
travelled to East, West and South of the country and ended
their journey, converging here.
Among the caravan members were Bhanwari Devi -- the
victim of a gruesome gang rape who waged a long legal battle
-- and Sultana and Zubeida Sheikh, the survivors of the 2002
Also on the caravan was Mussarat Jahan, the sister of
Ishrat Jahan, who was killed in an infamous police encounter
"We have returned with an unbelievable amount of support
from people at the grassroots after meeting all kinds of women
and our 14-year long struggle for this cause will continue
till it clears the final hurdle -- the Lok Sabha," said Sania
Hashmi, one of the leaders of the three teams.
Annie Raja, general secretary NFIW (National Federation
of Indian Women), the women`s wing of the Communist Party of
India, said the activists have returned stronger and motivated
from the journey.
"I met them all in Jhansi on May 20, and the journey
seems to have instilled a new confidence in them," she said at
a function to celebrate the return of the caravans.
The women and men came from across the country -- from
Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Gujarat,
Rajasthan and other states.
More than half of them were from minority and
marginalised sections, to press the point that they want the
bill passed in its present form and without any further delay.