Rahul Gandhi has declared that his party would reserve 33% seats for women in Parliament and State assemblies as their representation is very low. He went a step forward and suggested that they would also ensure that 33% women are taken into Union government’s various services. These announcement are great for many but they also sound an alarm bell. Congress has already said that if voted to power, it will pass the Women’s Reservation Bill. Now Rahul Gandhi is also promising that his focus would be to strengthen the government spending on Education upto 6% of the GDP which is definitely a welcome step. He has also talked about the Minimum Income scheme for all. The congress party consider these announcement as vote catchers like MNREGA.
Rahul Gandhi has spoken to strengthen Forest Rights Act as well as he also wrote against the current roaster policy which was welcomed by many. Though it is a welcome step that Rahul Gandhi is speaking on various issues leaving monotonous Rafale and chowkidaar chor hair, which may not impress everyone everywhere, yet we need Congress Party to respond to the issues emerging out of these announcement. I can say that Rahul Gandhi’s interaction with various youngsters, students are quite inspiring and interesting yet he need to go beyond that as most of the narratives are build around upper caste upper class urban rich youth as if there is no other India. Rahul’s outreach should be in the rural India and is he ready to take hard questions from the Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims, OBCs youths related to caste discrimination and his party’s track record on the issue ? Can he promise things would be different this time if his party come to power at the Centre. Will he promise that he would not focus on building Ram Mandir or Gaushalas but strengthen our institutions and make them more diverse and inclusive.
Rahul Gandhi is very forthcoming in various issues which is a welcome step but he and his party are playing with various other issues which they think are ‘complex’. The Women’s Reservation Bill is as such complex issue. While I do agree that even the social justice parties have not really been pro women in this regards, Congress record on this is dismal to say the least. It is because, Congress Party like many others, never really acknowledge that women’s are as diverse, heterogeneous and different like their men counterparts. Woman or man is not the primary identity of a person as some people might make us believe. The primary identity of an individual in our part of the world is caste, followed by religion and region. Woman come after these three identities. A woman face discrimination not being just woman but because she happen to be an Adivasi woman, a Dalit woman or a woman from a different region. In Today’s India, Muslim women face much bigger threat preserving her identity with her head high. So, when Rahul Gandhi suggest passing the Women’s reservation bill, does he accept that we should ensure a proportional representation of women in Parliament as well as in the government jobs. When I say proportional, it means clear that women’s heterogeneity based on caste, religion and gender must be respected otherwise the Women’s identity project in India would pave the way for a backdoor entry of the Savarna elite or strengthening the status quo in favor of the brahmanical hegemony in our system.
I also think, how is Congress party going to reserve 33% for women. It means it will be a proportional ‘adjustment’ from all the reservation. I would like Rahul Gandhi to also commit for 52% OBC reservation and constitution of an All India Judicial Services with quota on similar lines as UPSC services provide to all. Equally important is the Congress Position on 10% quota for ‘poor Savarnas’ of Rs ten lakh annual Income variety. Will Congress do away with this variety and if it is really interested in helping the poor savarnas, then constitution a commission like Mandal commission to find out which communities are under represented among Savarnas in the government services and which are over. Let there be a state wise survey and decide on the basis of that. It will ultimately, an issue of representation and not an economic welfare programme.
I do not say it without any historical context and have seen it at different places. It is visible in seminars, in conferences and in political parties when women and feminism becomes elite savarna women’s club without any respect for diversity in terms of class, caste, region and religious identities. Attempt are made to tell us that women of the world are same without any other barriers ignoring the fact that the violence on women in Mujaffarnagar happened because of their being Muslim and that India’s ‘collective conscience’ is still not woken up to provide them any hope of justice. State has failed, political parties have failed and except a few among the human rights defenders, majority dont even want to remember.
After the ‘Nirbhaya’, we have not seen any outrage like that in India as if things have improved now and issues sorted out.
I do feel that women’s across the spectrum have been denied justice but it is also a factor that they have also ‘wisely’, not challenged their own caste and class privileges. Frankly speaking women should have been reading Dr Ambedkar, Jyoti Ba Phule, Savitri Bai Phule and EVR Periyar and would have become a factor in demolishing the caste system. Unfortunately, not many of them would quote or understand it as caste gives you lots of privileges and therefore allow women to become its ‘torch bearers’ unknowingly or knowingly.
I would also like to request other parties particularly Samajwadi Party and BSP to clarify their positions on this issue and not confine merely just opposing it. Please develop a vision document based on the thoughts of Phule, Dr Ambedkar and Periyar and engage with thought leaders, Ambedkarites, social activists and not party propagandists. Unless Bahujan movement and parties adhering to social justice come out with their vision document on the issue of representation of India’s Bahujan communities at all sectors including our Parliament, judiciary and elsewhere, we will not reach anywhere and Women’s reservation will only be a clear ploy to keep the vacant seat fixed for the Biwi, Bahu, Beti brigade. Congress is doing what is important for it and good that it is reaching its wider audience though ‘Januedharis’ in the party is still powerful and have capacity to thwart any good attempt but for us it is essential that BSP and SP should come out with their vision document of India which can be used in annihilation of caste and provide space and justice to Bahujan women which include Dalit, pasmanda, most backward communities and Adivasi women. If they fail to do it, they can not blame Congress for protecting brahmanism alone, they will have to share the blame.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at www.manukhsi.blogspot.com twitter @freetohumanity Email: email@example.com