FB arrests: Why India's women leaders remain silent?

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Indian has seen a big uproar over a series of controversies sparked off by posts made on the popular social networking site called Facebook. Several quarters, including the judiciary, opposition parties, civil society and common men flayed the action of arresting or detaining people who 'dared' to take on power centres but one thing was surprising: Not a single prominent woman leader in this country has spoken a word against the arbitrary actions, particularly in Palghar where two young women were arrested for questioning Mumbai's shutdown following the death of Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray last month. Did the likes of Sonia Gandhi, Sushma Swaraj, Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati or Jayalalithaa condemn the action of harassing the women for doing virtually nothing?

Condemning FB arrests? Even women leaders get people arrested

Perhaps these politicians' silence is an approval of the crude game called power politics. If we expect that being women themselves, these politicians will come to the rescue of the unfortunate female duo in Maharashtra, we will be grossly mistaken.


Take for example, Mamata Banerjee, who speaks a lot but little constructive. One of the recent Facebook post controversy broke out in her own state West Bengal. A university professor in Kolkata was arrested for he had forwarded a cartoon lampooning Chief Minister Banerjee and some of her party leaders by e-mail. The professor faced gross humiliation and there no action was taken against the police officers who had carried out the arrest. Also, the chief minister insensitively rubbished cases of rape, saying they were stories made to malign her government. Even an upright police officer, who was investigating the case and a woman herself, was transferred to a less important department for expressing a version contradicting the CM.

Traditional quarters say women leaders encourage gender equality and are sensitive but Mamata Banerjee showed neither she believes in gender equality nor she is sensitive about a crucial matter involving a woman's honour.

She also said once that rape cases are on the rise because men and women interact more freely now. What difference is there between the arbitrary khaps and a democratically elected leader? One gets a feeling that these women leaders speak from a position of weaker power in social terms.

Other leaders like Mayawati and Jayalalithaa can beat any of their male counterparts on grounds of corruption charges levelled against them. Women have enough sympathisers who think feminism can soften the cruel world of power politics dominated by men but in reality, women empowerment in India has also seen the creation of a breed of insensitive and corrupt politicians from the other gender.

Political perception is the order of the day, human concern is secondary

The practitioners of power politics or those who are close to the power centres turn so obsessed with the game in hand that they have little time for looking at other issues, even if they demand some humanitarian concern, with a sensitive mind. We see how the National Commission for Women treat issues involving victimised women in Mangalore or Guwahati with such disdain. Sonia Gandhi visited Haryana to condemn rapes and promised action but in effect, nothing really changed. For the ground reality in the vote-politics stops a democratic but vulnerable state from flirting with a strong but undemocratic society.

KS Vimala, Karnataka vice-president of Janawadi Mahila Sangathan said the gender issue has nothing to do with such attitude of our female politicians. She said it is the perception of politicians, whether men or women, which leads to such insensitive reactions. She mentioned about Mamata Banerjee, Karnataka BJP politician Vimala Gowda and Delhi CM Sheila Dixit while speaking about the women leaders' insensitive attitude.

A Sushma Swaraj may not find it comfortable to take on the Shiv Sena over the Palghar arrests for that could lead to a serious problem between the BJP and the Sena and affect an already troubled alliance called the NDA. Smriti Irani, another BJP politician, takes up cases but selectively. A woman politician with goodwill may also find it very difficult to prevail over male members in the party for the difference in opinion can put her own reputation at risk. Sonia Gandhi is not expected to voice a concern for her own Congress is in power in Maharashtra. Hence the Shiv Sainiks carried out a happy hunting.

Mayawati, who is more concentrating on her poll prospects at the moment, following this year's drubbing at the UP polls and is compelled to maintain a close relation with the Congress for various reasons, will find it unwise to get involved into a distant and irrelevant problem that has brought the Congress administration in Maharashtra much brickbats.

Women political leaders have a sense of insecurity

Women who have claimed to become a political boss with or without some mentor's help (mainly male) are brave enough to condemn a case of human rights violation but they will not do for once they reach the top, they also starts speaking the language of power, absolute and corrupt. Women political leaders grow a megalomaniac attitude once they are in control of power perhaps because the one-sided male domination that they face during their formative years makes them aggressive and insensitive. That is why, we see the same Mamata Banerjee who takes a physical pounding for demanding justice for a challenged raped girl, rubbishes a rape as an effort to malign her after she becomes the CM. She suffers from a sense of insecurity when an innocuous cartoon lampoons her or when a farmer asks an innocent question. She retaliates fiercely.

Sonia Gandhi, similarly, prefers sycophants to uphold her leadership as did her mother-in-law while Mayawati and Jayalalithaa display authoritarian tendencies to ensure that they do not have any challenger to face. Amid all this, these leaders lose connectivity with the common people.

More involved with local issues

These leaders perhaps also lack a bigger vision about what's happening nationally. Jayalalithaa is hardly interested in issues beyond Tamil Nadu and involving Tamil sentiments and so are Mamata, Mayawati and Sonia. Having a localised understanding of things also limits the capability of these politicians. The Palghar incident involved violation of gender rights but India's top women politicians are not confined to the question of gender. It is the hard power politics which ultimately matter for them.

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