Have Women Become Victims of Politics in India?

After the collapse of the USSR, life, especially those of the womenfolk, reportedly became miserable in some of the erstwhile ‘states’ — now free countries — of the Soviet Union.

Stories, such as women selling sex to survive, became common in those places. I remember having read a story of a mother and her plight. She however, was not selling sex. Her daughter was in a hospital. The authorities there gave her a prescription that included needed medical equipment too. She had to buy those, as mostly happened in India too, even in government-run hospitals, at times. She had no money. When she came back to the hospital after ‘arranging’ for the prescribed drugs and possibly equipment — needless to say some considerable and vital time had elapsed — she was told that her daughter had expired!

What have these case studies to do with India and Indian women?

The USSR was a communist state. India as per her constitution is a socialist state. It has been said that the difference between communism and socialism is “not of kind, but of degree”. The political detractors — at least a handful of those — in this country would love to amend the constitution and do away with an amended import, ‘socialist’, an adjective (as per its use in the Constitution) that the Indian Constitution gives our country, in marketing parlance, a ‘positioning’.

If one goes through the newspapers published in the country, including those published in English, one would definitely stumble upon this debate — the validity of India staying ‘socialist’ — in which ‘noted intellectuals’ have taken part.

Another adjective, as used in the constitution, which gives India a ‘positioning’ in the eyes of the world is ‘secular’. According to both politicians and intellectuals, especially those that wear a certain colour — needless to say which — secularism in this country is under ‘threat’.

Now, one may ask what this debate concerning the constitution of the country and the political accusations and counter-accusations have to do with the country’s womenfolk?

Cut to 2014. Odisha. This writer in his official capacity — a journalist working in a prominent English language daily published from that state – was interacting with the law keepers of the Capital City — Bhubaneswar — of that state. During the conversation the following fact came to light:

Police nabbed 11 girls from a hotel at Bapuji Nagar in Bhubaneshwar. They reportedly were running a ‘honey camp’ from the hotel. All the 11 girls, police sources said, were from the neighbouring state of West Bengal and a few small-time actors were among those arrested by the police.

It may be noted that the Left-run government in West Bengal was ‘swept’ out of power in 2011 by Mamata Banerjee, who was then one of the 100 most powerful personalities in the world according to Time magazine, after a 34-year stint in office. What is happening in West Bengal under her stewardship now is for everyone to see and comment!

One may ask what are you driving at? One may even ask, after 34-years of ‘glorious’ rule the government falls and within two years of that girls, all aged between 20 and 25 years, in search of ‘decent’ livelihood get nabbed from a hotel in a neighbouring state. Then who is responsible? Sure, there is both an obvious and not-so-obvious answer to this question.

Let’s not go into politics. Let’s concentrate on the ‘case studies’ happening around us in this world. Are we not global citizens today, affected by the ‘global’ pandemic? The case studies stated above therefore are ‘glocal’ in nature. Aren’t they? And what are they pointing at? The answer is obvious.

Now one may say, “So what? These are just two or three ‘stray’ incidents — ‘stories’ in journalistic parlance”. Well, if you want to wear the hat of ‘complacency’ and behave like a camel caught in a desert storm (a camel reportedly hides its head, obviously in its body, and thinks it is saved) you are welcome. But then I will request you to remember the rape of the Dalit women, including teenagers that keep happening in the country. Do not say you have forgotten the ‘Nirvaya’ or the Hathras victims. Do not say that you have forgotten the Bagtui victims in West Bengal. The hapless, including women, were burnt alive in West Bengal, not so long ago.

Now, if you say, “Come on. Those were ‘political’ deaths!”, I will ask, with your ‘permission’: “Well, are politics required?” In the same breath, I will ask: “Have you guys seen the fighting, victorious Iranian womenfolk/girls?”

What you will say or do is your call. My job is to ask questions.

Pranab Ghosh is an award-winning Indian journalist and writer, who has worked for major news outlets of the country, including HT Media Ltd., Eenadu Digital, TNIE, Business India group etc.. His books of poems have been published by English and Canadian publishers. Read other articles by Pranab.