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Upper-caste conspiracy

Published : Apr 09, 2010 00:00 IST


J.D. (United) leader Sharad Yadav (right), Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, talk to the media after meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on March 9.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

J.D. (United) leader Sharad Yadav (right), Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, talk to the media after meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on March 9.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Sharad Yadav, the Janata Dal (United) president, warned that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government might fall over the Womens Reservation Bill issue. He said we will fight against the passage of the Bill in the Lok Sabha in its present form. We will allow reservation for women only when a quota within the quota, for Dalit, OBC and minority community women, is incorporated. In that case we will not mind if the reservation is even 50 per cent, he said in an interview to Frontline. Excerpts:

What is your objection to the Bill?

We want representation for women belonging to the really depressed classes. The Bill does not reflect the true picture of Bharat. It gives no representation to women from the majority bloc of Dalits, OBCs and minority communities, who constitute 90 per cent of the population of women. If we allow the Bill to be passed in its present form, the seats will be captured by a handful of upper-caste women associated with non-governmental organisations. Women political workers who have evolved through a long period of struggle in the political process will be left behind. This Bill is a well-planned upper-caste conspiracy to reduce Dalit, OBC and minority representation in the Lok Sabha and in the Assemblies. We will not let this happen.

But with both the BJP and the Left parties supporting the Bill, the majority is in favour of passing it. How will you stop its passage because you hardly have more than 50 MPs with you?

It is a misnomer to say that the majority is in favour of the Bill. All MPs, cutting across caste and party lines, are scared of losing their seats, but they are too scared to speak out. In private, they all beg us to protect their seats. For an MP, his constituency is as dear to him as his life and he will cling to it until his last breath. An overwhelming number of MPs are on our side on the issue although they may not say so.

But these MPs are bound by the party whip. Then how will you prevent the Bills passage?

There is something called conscience vote, too. It happened once during Indira Gandhis time. It can happen again. There is a revolt brewing within all parties.

But the government did get the Bill passed in the Rajya Sabha. It can do the same in the Lok Sabha too use marshals to remove the protesting MPs.

We will see how they get the Bill passed with the help of the marshals. We will fight and will make the entire country rise in protest against the Bill. If they try to force the Bill on the people, it will create tension between communities.

Dalits, backward castes and minorities have suffered the hegemony of upper-caste people for centuries but we will not allow that to continue. We will fight and fight to the finish. Yuddh hoga [There will be war]. The government might even fall.

But why such stiff opposition? Why dont you first allow the passage of the Bill in its present form and then press for quota within quota?

Very good. You are asking us to allow them to behead us first. What is left after that? Unless they reserve seats for Dalits, OBCs and minorities, we will not allow the Bill to be passed.

The government says quota within quota is not constitutionally possible.

Womens reservation, too, is not constitutionally possible, but is the government not amending the Constitution for this purpose? Why cant they amend it simultaneously to provide for quota within quota.

Would that not delay the entire process?

So what? Besides, there will not be any delay if there is a will to give representation to the really suppressed woman, who toils in the fields, who gets raped by upper-caste people, who is not allowed to draw water from the same well as the upper-caste people, who is kept like a slave all her life. This is an upper-caste conspiracy to keep the lower castes suppressed forever.

Even the Left parties, which have always stood up for social justice, are supporting the Bill in its present form. How will you explain their support if what you are saying is true?

Who are the leaders in the Left parties? All upper-caste people. They have always opposed all other forms of reservation but are supporting this now because they all come from the upper castes.

You seem to have a basic distrust of all those who are supporting the Bill.

Why not? We have suffered centuries of discrimination by upper-caste people. There is no reason to trust them now. We want everything in black and white, clearly spelt out. If their intention is actually to give representation to women who are deprived or suppressed, then let them give a quota within the quota.

If the government agrees to your demand for a quota within quota, will you then agree for 33 per cent reservation?

By all means. In that case, they can even increase it to 50 per cent, we will not mind. All we are saying is that the majority among the suppressed women should get representation.

Alternatively, they can also leave it to the political parties, even that is acceptable to us. But this Bill is not acceptable to us under any circumstances because it is against all norms of political morality. There was no survey, no commission. How did the government arrive at this arbitrary figure without thinking about its implications?

(This story was published in the print edition of Frontline magazine dated Apr 09, 2010.)



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