The raving and ranting of Mulayam Singh Yadav and his political friends about the women’s reservation bill has reached ridiculous proportions, and the Samajwadi Party leader’s statements are becoming increasingly obscene. From what he says in the public domain, it is explicitly clear that he has scant, if any, respect for the other gender. He seems to be in the mould of those chauvinists who believe a woman should neither be seen nor heard, should live within the confines of the home, bear children, cook and clean and look after the mother-in-law. Surely the leader of a political party in democratic India, circa 2010, should refrain from making such statements.
It is an eye-opener to hear men oppose the bill on the ground that it defeats the freedoms enshrined in the Constitution. Whatever the ‘faults’ in the drafting of this bill, the reactions from ‘male’ India make one determined to fight for reservation for women despite being wary of reservations per se.
The excuses educated, intelligent and urban Indian men find to preserve their seat of power are truly despicable and scary. It makes one aware of the terrible flaws in our education system and the deficient values it imparts and endorses. The education system also encourages gender hierarchies and a regressive attitude towards women — especially wives and daughters. Indian men deify their mothers at the cost of a fruitful relationship with their wives, proving that the invisible umbilical never gets chopped.
The deep insecurities of the Indian male have risen like scum to the surface. Their inability to face the challenge posed by the rapidly growing numbers of women at work has unnerved them en masse. Equality of opportunity is the call, but they do not see it. Their blind dedication to the ‘mother image’, having been controlled and pampered by their mothers, has led them to believe that they can do no wrong. It has also made them retaliate in an unacceptable manner against women. The failure of the male specie to share the responsibility of being the repository of tradition, ethics, values and culture has made them socially weak and disconnected. This is the sad social reality across caste and class.
The favourite excuse these days — that is used to combat the passing of the bill in the Lok Sabha — is that men will continue to rule by using women as a front. However, history has shown that being a ‘puppet’ has always been a very short-lived phase. The charade is usually played out consciously and used merely as a way forward into the larger public space.
When Indira Gandhi ruled, the ‘men’ in the Congress behaved in the manner of obedient, unquestioning wimps. There was a wonderful photograph taken by Raghu Rai showing Indira Gandhi at her table, her back facing the camera, surrounded by Congressmen in caps facing her, obediently taking down orders much like scared high-school boys. Those men and their descendants are still running scared. The bill will compel the change from male dominance in Parliament to a semblance of equality.
Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav, along with their band of detractors of this bill, are making a caricature of themselves. They will lose more political ground with this stance. Times have changed and the old, tired and irrelevant rhetoric and political machinations, laced with assumptions that are no longer valid, are being rejected. The complete disconnect of such leaders with a rapidly changing nation, infused with fresh aspirations and wanting to reach out beyond the existing, exploitative structures, is starkly visible. The manthan is in full swing.