Nepal has already seen/done some of the things that are happening in India today
Click here to read on the OpEd page of today’s TKP
Following the latest happenings in Indian politics and society is a kind of déjà vu experience for many Nepali people. The upper house of the Indian parliament last week passed a bill that provides 33 percent reservation for women in the parliament (Lok Sabha) and state assemblies. We already have that in action. The Delhi High Court last year decriminalised gay sex. Our Supreme Court did that at least two years before any court in India acted upon it. And we have at least one openly gay MP in Nepal who appears on the pages of The New York Times and Time. Who in Nepal could believe that an Indian newspaper recently reported the plan of the Delhi Police to hire women in its traffic police department?
Even in fighting, or compromising for that matter, we seem to be ahead of our Indian comrades. They are talking about possible talks between the state and the Maoist rebels. One side is asking for a halt to the violence, the other is demanding an end to the armed operation against them. One side has proposed the names of mediators while the other side has mutely frowned upon that move. The press here is also reporting an alleged rift in the top Maoist leadership. We reported about all these things a long time ago. We have lived through offers of talks, several rounds of talks, their breaking, rifts in the leadership and all. We have been there, done that.
But, seriously, our politics may be in great need of proper management, society seems to have moved progressively ahead perhaps without us being aware about it because of pressing economic and political problems. The credit goes partly to the Maoist movement that aimed at dismantling the feudal structure of society and partly to democracy that opened up Nepali society in 1990. We have waged more fights and gained more in terms of rights and awareness than any other society in the region.
Take, for example, employment of servants, domestic help. The trend is quickly disappearing in Nepal albeit slowly in Kathmandu city; but in Delhi, running a home without a maid servant seems impossible. A lot of middle class families and professional people employ women from south India or men from Nepali villages to do their household chores. And these women, Indian women, let’s not talk about Nepali men, are underpaid, perhaps exploited; and they can’t say anything about that as they are unorganised. Sometimes, I feel if they were in Nepal, the Maoists would have already brought them under some sort of All Nepal House Maid Association and helped them wage a movement demanding better pay, permanent posting in a house and perhaps pension after retirement!
Indian society is so vast and unequal that it can’t be generalised. But the intensity of the opposition to the Women’s Reservation Bill in parliament by some parties and politicians is simply astonishing. More so as India has the commendable history of having one of its most powerful, controversial and tough prime ministers in a woman, Indira Gandhi. Her daughter-in-law is now the most powerful politician and allegedly the de facto prime minister of India. The main opposition leader is a woman. The speaker is a woman. The president is a woman. The leader of the second largest ruling party is a woman who, for some mysterious reasons, directed her MPs in the upper house (Rajya Sabha) to abstain from voting last week. It was because some of these women and many other men came together that the bill got passed in the upper house. But it would not be surprising if the same didn’t happen in the lower house in the coming weeks. Some leaders, particularly from the impoverished states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have come heavily against the bill. The fact that women in these two states are in a better situation than women in southern India makes their opposition even more horrifying.