Is ‘Women’s reservation’ a backdoor entry for the Savarna elite

Vidya Bhushan Rawat at deekshabhoomi
Vidya Bhushan Rawat

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 announcements 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 up to 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
announcements 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 chowkidar chor hair, which may not impress everyone everywhere, yet
we need Congress Party to respond to the issues emerging out of these
announcements. 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 built around upper caste upper class
urban rich youth as if there is no other India.

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.

Reservation Bill : a complex issue

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 regard,
Congress record on this is dismal to say the least. It is because, Congress
Party like many others, never really acknowledge that women 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 happens 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.

Feminism become
elite savarna women’s club

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 become 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 Muzaffarnagar 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 don’t 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 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, Ambedkarite, 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 cannot blame Congress for protecting Brahmanism alone, they
will have to share the blame.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat

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