-By SANJAY JHA
“ When God created two sexes, He may have been overdoing it”.
Sharad Yadav, the portly, chubby-cheeked, black-bearded veteran politician has threatened to hang himself from the tallest tree with the thinnest thread or consume tick-20 poison ( actually meant for cocky rodents on a nocturnal prowl). Now I do not have any reservations if that is breaking news or news flash or lightning thunder on our TV channels. After all, it is not every day that a professional practitioner of kurta-pyjama politics in the Hindi heartland , and that too a seasoned, hard-core cow-belt politician, threatens suicide. Yadav reminded me of a lachrymose Rekha in the 1970s Gemini melodrama, Maang Bhari Sindoor, ready to break bangles every time Jeetendra’s white-shoes turned caramel brown , and consume an unbranded tonic ( resembling cough-syrup Glycodin) in one deadly gulp, head held high at 85 degrees . In the absence of Bollywood humour of the Govinda variety thanks to striking feuds this Indian summer, Sharadji or Socrates has provided us with some much –needed comic relief. Now that’s what women can do to otherwise fairly rational men .
While he has not yet contemplated anything as remotely deathly as his bearded counterpart, Mulayam Singh Yadav is equally obdurate in his philosophy. His party hates computers, English and women, and his recent fall-out with Amitabh Bachchan is on account of the latter’s habitual bad boy behavior of blogging. Yadav, whose ubiquitous fund-raiser Amar Singh is supposed to be a ladies man ( am assuming most of those lovely apparitions suffer from chronic incurable cataract), is viciously trenchant in his criticism of the Women’s Reservation Bill terming it as a calculated “conspiracy”. Whew! Can you just imagine poor ole Manmohan Singh , moving circumspectly in Sansad Bhavan past the midnight hour in dark robes and a pen-sized torch, sending secret SMS messages to MPs with a not-so-subtle ultimatum to vote in favor of the 33% reservation bill, or else?????
Of course, Mulayam Singh conveniently forgets how his opportunistic party exploited the late Phoolan Devi, the much-publicised bandit queen, whose mysterious killing still remains unresolved. She was a woman, Yadav saab, but when it suited your political strategies, she was made into a sacrificial lamb. Jayaprada’s ludicrous case this time around exposed a woman’s vulnerabilities in a male-dominated world, where slime, sleaze and scurrilous elements are used to create a stigma on a woman with political aspirations.
Doubtlessly women’s emancipation and genuine empowerment is a serious national challenge. We still remain highly chauvinistic, and a repugnantly parochial society. Frankly, it has amazed me as to why we have never had capital punishment for dowry deaths ( a sickening phenomenon) , and special fast-track courts for providing speedy time-bound justice in cases of rape, sexual harassment, eve-teasing and other social crimes against women ? Even in the so-called sophisticated urban landscape, gender discrimination rules. India’s high-profile executive professionals from the tender gender still complain about the glass-ceiling effect. And even if a well-deserving Chanda Kochar or Shikha Sharma head large financial institutions, it invariably creates a hurricane like hullabaloo. During the contemptible attack on women in Mangalore pubs, one heard the lone voice of Renuka Chowdhary rising in protest. Ultimately, it took the collective resonance of a social networking site to embarrass the Ram Sene and leave them pink-faced. For women in India, there is still a long way to go. The Bill is timely.
I agree with the Yadav brothers , only to the extent , that the last thing I want is Shobha De as my Page 3 Minister of Internal Affairs and Meera Sanyal as Derivatives Minister of Empty Cabinets .Or an assortment of famous divorced columnists as Minister of Animal Husbandry . Or Ms Sheetal Socialite as Minister for Imports. I had rather endure Mamata’s screech and Mayawati’s speech than the elitist wisdom of our celebrity brigade. Of course, the Bill will have to ensure that it results in fair representation to those women who have an authentic commitment, and are not mainstream entrants because of the “Rabri syndrome”.
I would , however, offer a modified suggestion to the Women’s Reservation Bill:
1) Keep it time-bound , for a maximum period of 20 years only or four general elections, whichever is higher . A reservation cannot be justified in perpetuity, as it has to have a defined outer limit by which time a level-playing field and necessary social empowerment ought to occur. If not, it has an inherent flaw. Honestly, if twenty years at the highest level of policy-making ,popular representation, nation-wide exposure and good work does not change things, nothing can or will. 20 years is two decades in a fast-moving world, impatient with status-quo.
2) The reservation portion to be at a maximum of 20% instead of 33%, with women free to contest in limitless unreserved seats as well.
3) In short, it should be a 20/20 bill; 20 per cent for 20 years.
They say that that if you help a woman, one seems patronizing. If you don’t, you are a pig. Perhaps Sharadji and Mulayam’s best bet is to turn the tables and demand a Men’s Reservation Bill instead, what with some recent medical research reports suggesting that we macho men with the stylish stubbles ,gleaming bald plates and affected baritones are now the real “ weaker” sex? If we are then denied our natural birth-right, then the suicide threat will be totally justified.
Then Sharad Yadav and Mulayam Yadav and whoever else can go hammer and tongs, tick-20 bottle in one hand; “ Hamaari Maang (e) poori karo”!