In this era of liberalization, globalization, privatization, urbanization, and all suchlike ‘ization’s, talking about women’s lib seems to be anachronistic. Women started heading nations way back in 1960, when a ‘third-world’ country, Sri Lanka, elected Sirimao Bandaranaike as Prime Minister. And then it became a slowly emerging trend.
Some countries were still lagging behind. Apart from the usual suspects (poverty stricken, illiterate third world countries in Asia and Africa), some ‘developed’ countries stand out in the laggard list.
Switzerland didn’t offer voting rights to women till 1971. And in some provinces, it took 1991 for Swiss women to get voting rights at the local level. So far, USA has vehemently and successfully protected the President’s (and Vice-President’s) chair from half (50.5% to be precise) of its population.
Why dig all this out now? The answer is, to discern a disturbing trend in India. Ever since Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister, women are considered to be have ‘arrived’ in politics. It is quite enticing a notion, and it allows us to do nothing on the ground.
Let’s talk present. Consider the following cases.
Rajendra Pachauri, faced charges of sexual assault and harassment while heading TERI (The Energy Research Institute). The complainant had to resign, as Pachauri continued to reign supreme in the institute. The FIR is still in the process of filing. In the meanwhile, the institute honored him further by appointing him Executive Vice Chairman. The governing council must have been made up of some very regressive people who have no link with the present, right? Take a look and don’t show your surprise.
What saved Pachauri? He has no known links with RSS. So all the ‘progressive intellectuals’, who are deeply disturbed by anything RSS, have been happily ignoring the proceedings. Had there been an iota of doubt about his linkage with RSS, everyone from Brinda Karat to Amartya Sen would have jumped in gleefully.
Take another case. A Tanzanian girl was assaulted and molested in Bangalore. Yes, right in the middle of Silicon Valley of India. It left the Ministry of External Affairs rather red-faced, but not for long. The minister declared that she is pained by the attack, the African community in Bangalore protested, and that’s it. The news is stale and rapidly self-asphyxiating its way to death. The issue would have been alive had Karnataka been under BJP rule.
Now let’s go to the suicide by Rohith Vemula. Much has been and is being written about it. And will continue to be written of course – the caste angle has come into it. There was some heated debate about whether he was SC or OBC, without much conclusion. Pause for a moment, and let’s trace the story of his mother. That will explain how Rohith can be looked at as SC or OBC, as per convenience. It will also show the gross apathy of everyone towards his mother; how she was forced to fend for herself and her children, for nobody– neither her in-laws nor her ‘parents’ – cared for her. Rohith will probably become a mascot of anti-BJP forces. But will that change anything for his mother? Fat chance.
And that brings us to present day situation. Indian politicians are known to be completely insensitive to women.
Let it be Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose utterances should have caused an outrage and forced him to retire. But now, these utterances are close to two years old. And he still continues to be in the mainstream politics. Don’t be surprised if he allies with Congress, led by Sonia Gandhi.
Or let it be Sharad Yadav, a satellite basking in the win of ‘maha-gathbandhan’ in Bihar. Sharad Yadav’s opposition to Women’s Reservation Bill is well documented.
For both the Yadavs, the only thing that saves them is their anti-RSS posture. Sharad Yadav joined the anti-RSS group wily-nilly, but let that be. A shield is a shield.
What is the status of the Women’s Reservation Bill? If you really care, you should worry about your sanity.
BJP was never even claiming to be a liberal party, especially as far as women’s rights were considered. But the other parties are also in the same league. So, let it be a suicide, a molestation or work-place harassment. The common thread running through these incidents is atrocious attitude towards women.
Let the headlines be hogged by ‘sedition’ or ‘make in India’ or ‘anything else’. The underlying male chauvinistic current will not change.