Union law minister Veerappa Moily while receiving an award for his five-volume Shri Ramayan Mahanveshanam, yesterday:
“It is instances like Sita‘s fire ordeal which firmed our resolve for the women’s reservation bill.”
“In Sita’s ‘fire ordeal’, Ravan‘s wife, Mandodari, talks to Sita: “Are you not satisfied with the fiery ordeal of life we have tolerated and endured as women till now? Only a man of the epoch can put an end to women’s ordeal.”
Moily did not of course reveal who the “man of the epoch” was on 9 March 2009. Was it him, who moved the bill? Was it P. Chidambaram, who is rumoured to have said the dissenting MPs must be marshalled out?
Or, was it you-know-who?
Meanwhile, the veteran editor T.J.S. George too adds a touch of the mythological to decipher modern-day male chauvinism.
By T.J.S. GEORGE
Draupadi had five husbands, each with unsurpassed capabilities. None of them came to her rescue when she was dragged into the royal court for disrobing.
The political Yadavs of our time seem to have taken a self-serving lesson from this episode and resolved that women are unworthy of protection, let alone promotion. Either that or they have forgotten the double curse—pronounced by Gandhari, and then by Viswamitra, Kanva and Narada—that the Yadava race would destroy itself.
Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav and Sharad Yadav have already reduced their parties to tottering relics. Their opposition to the women’s reservation bill and, worse, the hooliganism of their men in the Rajya Sabha betrayed a 19th century mindset.
The hooligans brought such shame to the country that they would be better off under the waters that swallowed up Dwaraka.
But what do we see beyond the fossils of Yadu Kula?
Two realities are clearly visible. The first is the politics of the bill. The Yadavas talking about Muslim women’s quota is a desperate move to regain some of the Muslim support they have lost. Mamata Banerjee”s visceral hatred of Bengal communists made her an odd woman against women.
The Congress also put its internal politics on display. Singularly lukewarm about the bill on Day 1, it suddenly became determined on Day 2. In the Congress nothing happens until partymen know what Soniaji wants and once the signal comes, nothing can stop them from carrying out her wishes.
A parliamentary system is unhealthy when it adheres to the letter of the Westminster model, without heeding the spirit of it.
The other reality that looms large is that the women’s bill, even if it crosses the obstacles in its path and finally becomes law, will have only symbolic value. It will not by itself give women the human rights they have been denied for ages. That will require social reform and no social reformers are anywhere in sight.
If and when 33 per cent seats in legislatures are reserved for women, around 30 per cent of that will likely go to wives, daughters, nieces and girlfriends of male politicians.
Lalu Prasad himself put his unlettered wife in the chief minister’s chair while Mulayam Singh could only find his daughter-in-law to contest a Lok Sabha seat. The Kanimozhis and Supriya Sules will multiply when reservations become law.
And what will happen when they sit as law-makers?
Will it mean an end to the killing of newborn girls in the villages of Tamil Nadu and Haryana?
Will it stop crimes against women which increased by 30-40 per cent in recent years as against 16 per cent increase in general crime?
Will it bring down dowry killings which doubled in the last decade?
Will it make a difference to one-third of married women in India being children below 18?
In one sense India has already led the way in women’s empowerment. Women occupy top positions in corporate houses, financial institutions and in the arts. They have reached these positions through merit, not the favour of reservations. This will continue, making India an exemplar of women’s advancement.
But it will be foolish to close our eyes to the social debris that has collected over the centuries.
The tendency to treat women as beasts of burden is all too prevalent. Inside a family, discrimination is carried to the extent of feeding sons properly while daughters are kept on starvation diet. This has led to half the married women in India being anaemic.
The largest number of illiterate women is also in India—200 million. It’s all very well for Sushma Swaraj and Brinda Karat to forget ideologies and perform a celebratory embrace. But what about India’s social reality? Yaduvamsha still has a grip on that reality.
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