Patriarchal Doublespeak in Indian Parliament
The budget session of Parliament is over. The session that had begun with the widely condemned installation of Savarkar’s photo in Parliament’s central hall ended with revealing glimpses of patriarchy and doublespeak in Indian Parliament.
We all know that bourgeois parliaments all over the world are essentially talking shops and that the Indian parliament shares the same genetic code. The job of the parliamentary forum is essentially to shroud the undemocratic and illegitimate acts of the government and the state in illusions of democracy and legality. But few parliaments in the world can probably hope to match their Indian rival in terms of sheer criminalisation of politics and vulgarisation of the political debate. Which other parliament can hope to stoop to the level of vulgarity that has been recorded in India in terms of the Women’s Reservation Bill, which has been ‘deferred’ yet again on the alleged ground of there being no consensus? Since when has consensus become a prerequisite for introduction of a bill?
The gimmick surrounding the women’s reservation bill has now become absolutely sickening. The government would reiterate its commitment to the cause of reservation of seats for women in Parliament and State Assemblies, a handful of MPs from parties like the Samajwadi Party, RJD, JD(U) and Samata Party would then go berserk in Parliament and then the bill would be deferred indefinitely amidst talks of a ‘gender war’. If the BJP and the Congress are really in support of women’s reservation then the bill should have an assured support of more than 60 per cent members in both houses of Parliament. And yet we are told that the bill cannot be introduced because there is no consensus! Was there a larger consensus for POTA? What prevents the Speaker from enforcing the necessary discipline and decorum in the Lok Sabha and allow the bill to be tabled and debated? It is now open knowledge that the ‘socialist’ MPs who display all their lung power and physical prowess to stop the women’s reservation bill are actually cheered and encouraged by many MPs of the BJP and the Congress. Supporters of women’s reservation will have to identify and expose this larger patriarchal alliance at work.
Contrast the NDA government’s alacrity to defer the women’s reservation bill to the secretive, almost guerrilla manner in which three bills including the controversial bill to repeal the IM(DT) Act was placed at the last moment of the budget session. It was a Friday listed not for any government business but only for bills proposed by ‘private members’. Yet the government and the Speaker invoked an extraordinary provision to legitimise the introduction of these bills at the fag end of the budget session.
The repeal of IM (DT) Act was made possible only because it fits in with the scheme of autocratic majoritarianism and police state. So, the BJP convenes a joint session of Parliament to manufacture a majority for POTA, and smuggles in the repeal of IM (DT) Act secretively, but the Women’s Reservation Bill continues to be held up by a few unruly MPs!
Clearly, the issue at stake is not merely a bill or two, but that of patriarchal and majoritarian subversion of the parliamentary system. The Women’s Reservation Bill is due to come up once again in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. All true pro-women forces must go all out to ensure a final showdown on the Women’s Bill in that session.