Oooooops - I completely forgot about this column which appeared in The Week...
Will the Aam Aurat win in 2014?
Are we being optimistic, upbeat… or plain foolish and naïve? As I write my first column of a brand new year, I want to stay positive and think about good things. I am one of those who genuinely believes if you start the year on a high note ( literally and metaphorically!), the mood lingers and influences various aspects of your life in rich and marvelous ways. The Aam Aadmi is on a roll. But what about the Aam Aurat? For far too long, the Mango Women of India have been left out in the cold. Now, all of a sudden, they are pinning their hopes on just one man – their superhero, Arvind Kejriwal. They are expecting a lot out of him, starting with making women’s issues central to his party’s agenda. We, the women of India, demand nothing less than a firm handling of the dreaded ‘C-Word’. ‘C’ for Corruption. Well, in my head and heart, the fight against corruption unambiguously and unequivocally, includes a fight for women. Historically, women have always been the ultimate victims of a corrupt system. Arvind, therefore, is morally obliged to get far more pro-active when it comes to women’s issues. If he does that, and really quickly too, the female vote will automatically go to him. As it is, women in droves have expressed their confidence in the new kid on the block. Now that he is in the gaddi, we expect him to announce several long term policies that will transform the lives of women across the country. For starters, he can make sure the Nirbhaya Fund that was announced with such fanfare, is actually disbursed where it is most needed. The women of Delhi (as, indeed, the women across India) want to experience change that is real, that is tangible, that is effective. We don’t need to be fobbed off with empty promises and grand sounding programmes that go nowhere. We want to step out of our homes with a feeling of total security. We want assurance we won’t be attacked / raped/ murdered / molested / kidnapped / harassed / taunted / teased / touched / abused. Is this too much to ask? Surely not!
The awful truth is that post-Tejpal and post-Ganguly, the work environment has dramatically altered. This is an unpleasant development. Most men are openly declaring they don’t want to risk their reputations by hiring women. While in offices where women in impressive numbers are already present, men are making sure to marginalize them. Men are also hiding behind a new persecution complex and playing victim! Imagine the absurdity and irony of it all. If that’s not bad enough, there is a campaign underway urging men to hang together as team players and exclude women. This is just one small part of the double discrimination.
Here’s where Kejriwal can play a crucial role. Previous administrations have failed the women of Delhi over and over again. The all important “mindset change” we keep referring to, has not happened. If the police do not see violence against women as a major crime, the message simply will not get delivered. If Arvind makes sure his cops behave and do what they are obliged by law to do ( protect women), chances of such crimes diminishing are pretty high. Police who fail in this duty must be severely punished, even if that means suspension or sacking. If Arvind can demonstrate that he means business, he will earn the gratitude and respect of countless women.
The Aam Aadmi is in a good spot right now. That spot may not last forever. Arvind has a few short months ahead of him to establish his credentials as a serious player on the national scene. Women are an important component of his constituency. As Kejriwal takes his show to other states and gets further emboldened to stake a bigger claim to national politics, he’d do well to court the ladies! The long neglected female vote is finally getting its due. 2013 has proved to be a watershed year. The worm has finally turned. Sorry, but no amount of laceration, penance or self-flagellation can compensate for centuries of bad behavior. The Aam Aurat doesn’t want excuses, nor is she willing to ‘recuse’ the guilty. Arvind has a tough job ahead of him. A quiet revolution is underway. All Arvind has to do to woo us is set an example himself. The AAP must get more women on board. And the message has to go out loud and clear : Crimes against women will be dealt with swiftly and strictly. Once that happens, the Aam Aadmi and the Aam Aurat can live together happily ever after!
Have a superlative 2014, readers!