The times we are living in are certainly bizarre. The twists, turns and tumult we have witnessed over 81st constitution Amendment Bill reserving 33 per cent of seats for woman in the Lok Sabha epitomises the plight of the underprivileged sections of the Indians. The media and the intelligentsia have worked in tandem to push the Bill that would have stacked the privileges more definitively into the hands of the socially dominant but numerically small minority of uppercastes. And surprisingly the so-called progressive left is a in league with the communalists in turning the Bill into an Act. Thanks to the concerted bid by a thinking section of MPs, the Bill has been stalled providing more time for debate. The rationale for reserving a sizable block of Parliamentary seats could be questioned in a society where women have progressed politically only by being proxies of their fathers and husbands. But 50 years after independence if the nation discovers that no meaningful change has occurred in the status of the women, it becomes imperative to accord them the due place in the legislatures, the very engines of social change. But equally genuine are the apprehensions of those sections which see in the move a covert attempt to tilt back the power balance in favour of the uppercastes. Such feats are not unreal. Women of the 15 per cent uppercastes being educationally and socially forward, more articulate and capable of pretending to be casteless are likely to usurp the entire quota of seats. In doing so they will set the clock of social change back. And one-third of seats are no small slice of the legislative power.
Demand for sub-reservation or proportional reservation of 33 per cent seats does not deflect the issue from the essence of gender justice. It merely pleads for imparting grassroots character to the issue of gender justice. It is perfectly in harmony with urges of the time. Indian democracy will grow robust by being representative of the entire social hierarchy of its people.
Even logically the plea for proportional representation of social groups is totally sustainable. If women alone are perceived to effectively represent the gender, how could this be denied in context to social groupings. In fact the reservation for the SCs and STs since the dawn of independence
lends the latter a greater legitimacy than the former. As evidenced by the facts, only three of the 42 Lok Sabha members are from among the OBCs and a single Muslim. This is enough proof that the 33 per cent reservation will enable some castes or social groups to monopolise the legislative powers.
It is rather bizarre to find the leftists in league with communalists on the issue. The leftís concern for class struggle is understandable. But how long will the synonimity of caste with class in Indian social context elude them. No wonder then why the Leftist caravan refuses to proceed beyond West Bengal and Kerala. The Left seems to be caught in its self-created dilemmas. It need to look within to probe as to why Bhumihars (an offshoot of Brahminís) dominate the CPI in Bihar while the CPM leadership continues to be under the grip of uppercaste migrants from the crstwhile East-Pakistan. It has learnt no lessons from the exit of Gowriamma too.
The Muslims too have joined the chorus for proportional reservation for women from the minorities. They cannot be faulted for such advocacy. Steep decline in their legislative based reservation will have to be borne by Muslim dominated constituencies is also a guiding factor. The Shah Bano controversy had generated lot of discussion on the status of Muslim women. Pleas were made for the uniform civil code from diverse camps. All such concerns will be put to sechious test now. Reservation of some seats for Muslim women will mean substantial advance to their cause and status. But the communalist lobby with its total opposition to the shown that the advocacy of uniform civil code was more a stick to beat the Muslims with. When it comes to offering them any space, they are resolute in showing their back.