This essay draws on ongoing translations of, and reflections on, journeys undertaken since 2002 with members of Sangtin in Uttar Pradesh. Sangtin, originally imagined as an NGO, has steadily evolved into Sangtin Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan (SKMS), a largely women-led movement of 8000 small farmers and laborers, most of them identifying as Dalit. SKMS emerged from encounters with NGOs, academics, and artists whose fixed understandings of ‘feminism’ often failed to recognize that empowering women in isolation from the rest of their communities was not sustainable empowerment. Over the eighteen years of battling on this terrain for their rights, dignity, truths, and justice, the SKMS members and supporters have rejected the institutionalized categories of the development industry and academia that flatten the complexity and creativity of life and struggle. In refusing to separate the activist from the scholar, the expert from the ordinary, and the theoretical from the lived, the essay underscores how the struggles for socioeconomic justice of impoverished rural, Dalit peoples cannot be separated from the fight against epistemic violence and intellectual disempowerment of the same communities. Through situated solidarities that involve delicate dances of i/we/you/they, SKMS saathis–or co-travellers–from unequal locations walk together on bumpy terrains. As we do so, we interrogate our previous understandings of gender violence and entangle them with structures of caste-class, and we reconceptualize the terrain of sex, gender, public, and private while embedding our critiques within the violence of the developmental state and neo-liberal brahmanical capitalist patriarchy.
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- Sangtin Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan
- social movements