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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Now, Goons Come Out In Support Of NCW Probe Team

Posted by: danish Ahmed 12:29 AM

A very peculiar situation is unfolding in the aftermath of the Manglore pub attack as the Shri Ram Sene comes out in support of the member of the National Commission for Women, Ms.Nirmala Venkatesh, who was heading the probe into the highly publicised Manglore pub attack, and whose report has already been rejected by the head of the Commission, Ms.Girija Vyas. The probe team had in its report held the pub authority responsible for the incident. After a public outcry NCW has rejected the report and the ministry has in fact issued a show-cause notice to Ms. Venkatesh. Both the NCW chief and Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Choudhury are justified in taking steps but it needs to be borne in mind the swung into action only after the media had exposed the sham that was being conducted in the name of investigation.

It is really strange why Ms.Venkatesh did not think it proper to meet the victims! Instead, she chose to meet the perpetrators in jail and actually claims to understand them. One of the first things she did was investigate if the pub had license to serve alcohol and the last thing she did is recommend NCW to cancel the license. It is really strange that it never occurred to her that she was neither an excise officer nor a law enforcement officer to question the legality of the pub.

But that's not all. Going by her statements it seems that Ms.Venkatesh may in fact, have more than a wee bit of sympathy for the perpetrators. After all, she does say that she understood the attackers and that their motive was not to beat up women. This fact and her inquiry into the legality of the pub clearly indicates that Ms.Venkatesh had no clue as to what her duties and responsibilities entailed. As a member of the NCW she should be the last person to "understand" the culprits and as member of an advisory body she should refrain from treading into territories which belong to the executive.

However, Ms.Venkatesh is not alone, not long back Orissa's State Commission for Women chief had displayed similar apathy and lack of understanding of her job profile when she carried out raids on parks in Bhubaneswar haunted by young, unmarried couples. Moral policing is usually aimed at protecting/subjugating women, so when functionaries of bodies set up to fight for women's rights themselves become the moral police, the civil society needs to introspect seriously. One of the reasons that the situation has reached this stage is the practice of using the offices of these constitutional and/or statutory bodies as rewards to party loyalists. This trend can be seen in almost every government founded body from those dealing with sports to wakf and national and state commissions. An undesirable consequence of this practice is that being politicians these functionaries are found unwilling to risk annoying their constituents. Shouldn't the process of appointing office-bearers of these bodies be more transparent and competitive to ensure that the posts go to people who deserve it and are ideologically inclined towards the cause they are supposed to further.

The slothful pace at which the campaign for female emancipation and gender equality is being carried out in India and the opposition it faces from different quarters, including the self-appointed guardians of Indian culture, offices in the National and State Women Commissions should not be doled out as political rewards and should instead be entrusted with notable feminists who have shown grit and determination to take on established misogynistic traditions and dogmas.

While Medha Patkar, Kiran Bedi, Sarojini Sahoo and even Shabana Azmi may fit the bill, to me, someone like Rakhi Sawant would be more acceptable as a member of the NCW rather than a more respectable lady politician who ends up sympathizing with male chauvinists and herself assumes the role of moral brigade.

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