A shaken nation

It is imperative for us to abandon our narrow mindset, or, if I could say, ‘khap’, mentality to achieve gender equality

In the New Year 2013, we all prayed for a miracle to happen but it was not to be. The 23-year-old gangrape victim passed away in Singapore but her loss generated a revolution of sorts and stirred the conscience of the nation.

We see action initiated across several fronts. There are discussions, debates on various aspects of the brutal gangrape in the electronic and the print media. As a society, it is imperative for us to abandon our narrow mindset, or, if I could say, “khap”, mentality to achieve gender equality. It is sad that it took a tragic, brutal and inhuman incident to spur us to action. While the blame for the brutal gangrape keeps shifting from the police, the Delhi government and men’s attitude towards women to deflect pressure, the reality is that all of us are responsible for this and we have a chance to take remedial action.
The government at the Centre has made its intentions clear when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi received the body of the gangrape victim at Palam. Mrs Gandhi also assured that the fight of the nation’s “beloved daughter” would not go in vain, promising swift and fitting punishment to perpetrators as well as stringent laws for protection of women.
In the past two weeks we have seen a great deal of positive action taken by home minister Sushilkumar Shinde as he said the country needs to crack down on crimes against women with “an iron hand” and has also asked leaders of all national and state political parties to give their views on reviewing rape laws. I hope that all state governments will help the Centre work towards an effective anti-rape law. Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir has promised that the judiciary would be behind the common man and the apex court has also reacted quickly. Action is visible. For example, the Supreme Court has agreed to expedite the final hearing of the special leave petitions filed by the Kerala government and others in 2005 challenging a Kerala high court judgment acquitting all except the prime accused, S.S. Dharmarajan, in the Suryanelli sex scandal case. The Suryanelli case relates to the abduction and sexual assault of a minor by several men over a span of 40 days in 1996. This should be a positive signal for courts all over the country.
We do not have a perfect government as no such thing exists. It is also a fact that our system is rotten, but to stress only on negatives when the atmosphere is ripe to propel reforms will be to miss an opportunity. The media is doing its job of highlighting issues and the decision-makers should welcome this. Looking at the last three weeks we can see the tragedy as crimes against women continue unabated and cases of crimes against women pending at all stages surface.
We are all agitated, we are all angry but the head must rule the heart. Vigilant justice and harsh words are not the solution. The media and many motivated individuals — with the use of technology — can report incidents from the interiors of the country in seconds. They are the ones who are fighting a battle on our behalf. During a conflict, a few missiles fly in the wrong direction but this is acceptable damage. When it comes to fighting crimes against women we should remember that we are battling a centuries-old prejudice.

Politics never takes a vacation. After the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, the political pot is boiling in several states. The anti-incumbency factor is lurking in every state, with the exception of Tamil Nadu, where dynastic battles within the DMK are wreaking havoc on what is left of the party. The recent statement of DMK supremo M. Karunanidhi naming his younger son M.K. Stalin as his successor will only start a new conflict. Stalin is the chosen one and, from ground reports, this is the right decision.
AIADMK leader J. Jayalalithaa knows politics and remains focused. I think she will aim for 25-30 seats for the AIADMK in the 2014 general elections and will depend less on the allies. She can travel in any direction; in coalition politics, this is quite an achievement.
We are witnessing a lot of movement in Andhra Pradesh even as a worried Congress and the UPA government struggle to come to a conclusion on the intensified demand for the creation of Telangana. After a series of meetings of Mr Shinde, Mrs Gandhi and senior political members, a decision is on the cards. I wonder if Mrs Gandhi will also think of changing the Andhra Pradesh chief minister and the Pradesh Congress Committee president.
We also see a lot of action happening in Karnataka as former chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and the BJP continue their secret war on “numbers”. It is sad that both Mr Yeddyurappa and the BJP were unable to resolve internal conflicts despite some damage control by Arun Jaitley. The question here is that will the Congress be able to reap the benefits that have emerged out of the dissent in the BJP? In Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka it is the regional parties that stand a better chance to gain from the changes that took place.

India is a cricket crazy nation but the BCCI is more of a business enterprise than a sports body. It has squeezed the India-Pakistan series between the full series with England. The results are for all to see as India has lost the ODI series to Pakistan. Over the years, the Indian cricket team has survived and prospered with a formidable batting line-up, but most of our cricketers need rest. Also, the Indian Premier League has the glamour and money that most cricketers could only dream of. The T20 format has pushed Test cricket into the background. There are very rough days ahead for Indian cricket but we need to end our losing streak.

The writer is a former Union minister

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