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Anger over gender jolt at Rahul meet

Ranchi, Feb. 9: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has often harped on women empowerment, apparently to reach out to an “untapped section” of the society that is often “underestimated” in vote bank politics.

However, his partymen in Jharkhand did not deem it necessary to include any woman from minority communities on the list of invitees to an interactive session with the Gandhi scion during his visit to the state on Friday, February 7.

Around 650 Muslims, Christians, Jains and Sikhs were selected randomly for the meeting, but strangely not a single representative of the fair sex was allowed to interact with Rahul, who is leading the party’s campaign for the Lok Sabha elections.

Around 100 minority community women, mostly Muslims, had applied for entry passes. But their requests were “turned down”.

With the Congress now assessing the political impact of Rahul’s visit, several women minority leaders and workers are feeling alienated.

Upset with the treatment meted out to them during Rahul’s visit, a dozen Muslim leaders and workers have already sent mails of anguish to the central leadership.

“We were treated as if we are inferior. On the one hand, the party talks of women empowerment; on the other hand, we are discriminated against. Why this double standard? We wanted to share our views and the problems faced by minority women with Rahulji. We returned empty-handed,” said Kausar Parveen, a Ranchi district Congress leader.

Party MLA Sarfaraz Ahmed tried to play down the issue. “I think it was a practical decision. Had the party allowed Muslim women to take part in the interaction, other minority groups would have raised a similar demand. That means, we would have to increase the number of audience three times. And then, it would have turned into an election rally, instead of an interaction session,” he argued.

However, leaders like Hasina Ansari, the president of All India Weavers’ Congress Association, bluntly reject Ahmed’s logic. “Why should a man be our spokesperson?” she questioned.

“The hour-long interaction was telecast live . Not a single person raised an issue related to minority women. You are dividing the society on the basis of gender. The state leadership should accept its mistake. At least a dozen women should have been allowed at the session,” she added.

Some party insiders claimed that the plan to allow minority women was dropped after some Muslim clerics from Santhal Pargana refused to join the interaction along with women.

State Congress spokesperson Ajay Rai said the episode was being blown out of proportion. “It is propaganda against the party. Unfortunately, within the party some people are trying to stoke fire. Rahulji had met minority women after the meeting,” Rai said.

The spokesperson did not reveal the whole story.

A delegation of five Muslim women, including Ansari, former principal of Ranchi Women’s College Zeenat Kausar and three ward councillors, had to struggle real hard to meet Rahul.