Even after India’s independence from British rule in 1947, women, peasants, Dalits, Adivasis and other disadvantaged sections of society continued to be discriminated against under the pressure of prevailing power structures. In the two decades following independence, uprisings across the country sought to claim redistribution and equality, railing against the upper caste patriarchal control over the Indian society and economy. During the 1970s the autonomous Indian Women’s Movement (IWM) also took shape and became increasingly assertive. In 1974, the state acknowledged the disadvantaged position of women in society with the release of the ‘Towards Equality’ report and gave a further impetus to the IWM to demand much-needed change.
Economic liberalisation in the 1990’s opened up the Indian economy to foreign resources while reducing public expenditures and deepening inequalities between the haves and the have-nots. Simultaneously, there was an extreme rise in communal and caste politics, making violence common place to gain attention, while also increasing backlash against rights- and equity-based initiatives, including women’s struggles for equality. This socio-political scenario ultimately made the state in India increasingly right wing, communal, nationalist and authoritarian, making dissent anti-national. The IWM continues to face backlash in contemporary India, emanating from the deeply patriarchal, casteist, and communal nature of the Indian state and society.