‘BJP Wants Credit For Reservation Bill But Shields Predators Like Brij Bhushan’
Madhurima Kundu, a student activist, says the passing of Women Reservation law is more political grandstanding than a genuine effort towards gender empowerment. Her Views
The Women’s Reservation Bill could have been brought up in the Monsoon Session (July 20, 2023 to 11 August, 2023). However, the BJP government wanted to make a spectacle of it to erase its murky track record of atrocities against women during the current regime.
The entire country has been witness to the dogged and peaceful protests by female wrestlers and world champions of India against ‘serial sexual harasser’, BJP MP, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, and how he has been openly shielded by the BJP top brass. Besides, the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ programme of the government fell flat in front of many cases of violence against women where the violators have been reportedly members of the ruling dispensation and were apparently protected by them. That is why, in order to establish a commitment towards women, the government convened the Special Session for the Women’s Reservation Bill.
Narendra Modi has always been building a strong image for himself and his government. The image of marching towards the new Parliament building and the passing of the Women’s Reservation Bill, in the Special Session, was done to leave an imprint on public memory.
The Bill has been a long standing demand of progressive women’s organisations. The pomp and show with which this bill was tabled and passed in Parliament, does not really match with the caveat built within the Bill, with regard to its implementation. The implementation has been made contingent upon the decadal census and delimitation. It is the first time in the history of India that the decadal census has been delayed. We cannot even see the exercise of the census starting anytime soon. Indeed, the next delimitation will happen in 2026.
The enactment of the Bill will definitely not happen before that. However, given the BJP government and the RSS’s views about women, this Bill is just another sham, merely to gain the attention of women voters. Political empowerment of women is definitely not what the BJP-RSS stands for. The women’s movement across the country can only ensure the enactment of the Bill, not the mercy of any ruling regime.
We know how women’s reservation in our panchayats has been bypassed with the concept of ‘pradhan patis’ in many places. However, the reservation has definitely increased women’s participation as opposed to earlier. Certainly, reservation cannot be the sole solution to the question of empowerment. Effective policies to get more people, especially women from the margins, in every sphere — from education to employment — are required.
The Common University Entrance Test, which is being conducted since the past two years, has actually led to a decline in the number of women students in colleges and universities. The fact is, the Modi government has brought out a bill supposedly for women’s empowerment, but so many policies are being brought in to actually exclude women.
If a sexual predator such as Brij Bhushan can be sitting in Parliament at the same time that the Women’s Reservation Bill is being tabled, women’s empowerment becomes a big question mark! Women’s Reservation Bill is a necessity, but not a sufficient condition for true liberation and empowerment of women.
Another issue with the Bill is the question of OBC reservation within women’s reservation. The truth is, the status of women from backward castes is not at par with women from upper castes. Thus, OBC reservation within this Bill was required, but has been completely ignored by the BJP government.
(The narrator is pursuing a PhD in Economics from the Centre for the Study of Regional Development (CSRD), School of Social Sciences (SSS), Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has been an active member of the All India Students Association (AISA) since 2014)
As told to Amit Sengupta