Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"Modern" Women - An Insignificant Vote Bank?

Up until a few weeks ago, Pramod Muthalik was almost unheard of and the Shri Ram Sene even more so. However, when 40 henchmen of the outfit resorted to rather extreme social vigilantism to instill “traditional Indian values” in five unarmed women in a Mangalore pub, fame for the man and his organization was instantaneous.

The timing could not have been more perfect. With the country’s general elections around the corner, this provided the perfect opportunity for politicos to jump on the moral policing bandwagon with an eye on their vote banks. In their trademark style, politicians have chosen to completely overlook the real issue at hand—that of the brutal attack on five unarmed women—but instead talk themselves hoarse about the increasing “westernization” of Indian society. Very few, besides some women leaders, have taken a stand against what is clearly an attack on democracy.

Considering that politicians and political parties choose to air views that will appeal to the masses, thus ensuring themselves a solid vote bank, is there a clearer message for us in the fallout of the entire incident?

As educated, independent women, we have thus far enjoyed the freedom to indulge in recreational activities that are now being frowned upon. Does this now push us into a minority—a section of voters whose views and opinions do not matter, simply because we are too miniscule a section to upset anybody’s applecart of votes.

Leaders of state like Karnataka CM Yeddyruppa and Rajasthan CM Gehlot lashing out against “pub culture” and opposite sexes “holding hands in malls” certainly appear to be setting the tone for the upcoming elections. In fact, the term “pub culture” has come into its own, becoming something of an all-encompassing synonym for westernization of dress and social tradition.

The divide is getting clearer—for “pub culture” or against? In all of this, the real issue has been lost. Do women really have a voice or must we cow down to regressive opportunistic political forces just because we do not have the numbers to rock the vote?

In any case, just who does one vote for? A weak political party that cannot defend its women citizens against blatant abuse or one that clearly shelters, and possibly supports, the perpetrators of that abuse?

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