By – M.R.Lalu
As he prepares for his third resounding comeback, the prime minister’s pleasant surprise for the women in India in its maiden legislation in the new parliament building would undoubtedly open avenues for them from across the country. This is going to give his brand value a push and its impact is bound to reflect in 2024 as well. The opposition’s outcry on the timing of the proclamation is a debatable subject. But the impact of the move made by the government was so profound that the bill was passed with a booming support from all parties. And the voice of disagreement was too low to be heard. A longstanding demand by half of the country’s population has been shelved for mere political reasons and it was evocative of the hammering impact of the highhandedness of a particular gender and its dominance in lawmaking. Criticisms apart, the bill and its alluring connotations would further sharpen the prospects of women in a democracy. But don’t forget, the wounds of Manipur and Bengal and other parts of the country are yet to heal. Though the bill is passed, would the condition of the ordinary women in India change? Will it make their life safer and less vulnerable to bigotry? Suspicion to that effect keeps mounting and the governments need to have answers.
The Modi Government’s Nari Shakti Vandan Abhiyan is purely a logical attempt to refurbish the feminine energy for the welfare of the country. This has also been in a way connecting to what we can call India’s civilizational understanding. As an ancient civilization this land had indicated on various occasions through the marvels of its scriptures that women have never been a folk that its societies have kept under suppression. With its varying color of societal depiction of diversity, the socio-spiritual progress of this landscape was considered incomplete without the women being taken on board. Amid a cascade of criticism on the timing of the bill’s introduction, the country celebrated its smooth passage in both the houses of the parliament. With its absolute majority the Modi government could give the bill an easy and unhurt mobility and the element of compulsion with which its opposition had to act was probably speculated and preconceived. Almost certainly, with this firm conviction the government decided to convene the special session of the parliament. As the national elections are eight months away, no party, with the least commonsense would dare to topple such a bill of unquestionable importance and the Modi government once again exhibited its ability to take tough strides.
Independent India has witnessed multiple attempts being made to provide reservation to women in the parliament. Starting with the Deve Gowda regime in 1996, attempts to introduce the bill were made by almost every government. In 1998 when A.B.Vajpayee occupied the high office, the National Democratic Alliance under his leadership attempted a smooth sailing for the bill. On failing in the first attempt the Vajpayee government reintroduced the bill in 1999, 2002 and 2003 as well, but the bill failed the majority test always. During the Manmohan Singh regime the bill was tabled in the Rajya Sabha on March 9, 2010 and was passed but the government did not take it up in the Lok Sabha. Modi and his party entered the electoral fray with its 33 per cent quota promise for women in 2014 and repeated the same in their manifesto in 2019 as well. But the government shelved it until now, probably aiming for a momentous electoral harvest. By increasing the number of women in parliament, the meaning of India being the largest democracy will deepen. This would further intensify aspects supporting gender equality and meaningfully chisel out prospects for gender receptivity.
It was almost a century ago in 1920, America; the oldest democracy granted its women the right to vote. But for non-white women it was again barricaded with barriers keeping them away from the democratic processes. Black men and women were finally granted the right to vote in 1965 but the discrimination in the name of color still continues. India from the very first day of its democratic electoral process took the women of the country along. The course of its modern political history tells us stories of women holding respectable positions in the government and judiciary and the country’s defense sectors. At present, in almost every sector women power is a principal component. And for Narendra Modi, entrusting more women with key portfolios in his government was an unprecedented decision. This has also exemplified the fact that the women in the country hold equal abilities and courage that of the men and what they were devoid of were opportunities.
Ancient India, from the days of Vedas held opportunities galore for women. We need to understand that a period did truly exist in India’s civilizational chronology wherein neither child marriage nor sati system prevailed. And the Vedic period for that is known as the golden period of gender equality witnessed women scholars teaching and propagating the Vedic wisdom. Vedic prophetesses of those days mediated philosophical dialogues and controlled schools that carried Vedic studies. Women in the Vedic era enjoyed equal liberty and freedom as that of the men and the prominent Hindu concept of “Shakti” was a depiction of pure feminine energy which they believed without which social upbringing was impossible. India has its unique spiritual identity that recognizes the feminine power in the form of goddess. When male-centric religions across the globe believed in one muscular God, India, starting from the Vedic period or beyond held this golden view of respecting the Nari Shakti in its absolute spiritual disposition. Its temples and religious rituals were equally embedded with the power of both the masculine and feminine. The reason why Sita is equally respectable like Rama in Indian society is our understanding- recognition of the power of the feminine energy. Undoubtedly, this is the case with other spiritual characters and deities too.
This was never the case with other religions. Even today there is an unbelievable lopsidedness maintained between men and women in religions that are mainly male-centric. The social unrest in Iran and the oppression of women in Afghanistan turning their life a hazardous prerogative, give us real instances of horror and medieval barbarity even today with gender discrimination being activated to satiate the instinct of male domination. To make a reference from the most prominent Catholic theology, the turbulence and dissatisfaction among its women members is the result of a patriarchal system which is based on the conviction that the man is predestined to command and the woman to obey him. The Roman Catholic Church male-dominated for centuries, has recently declared reforms enabling religious sisters with voting rights at the synod, which is a papal advisory body. The Pope’s decision to give the women of the church access to its high-flying administrative bodies should be seen as a cleansing process that would at least at a minimal level eradicate certain anomalies. In India, the Modi government would be undoubtedly known as a government of real change. This should aptly work for the government, a description that would go for decades to remind the polity about its unprecedented determination for decision making.