2 June : Today a debate cum workshop on the Women Reservation Bill was organised jointly by the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP) and Critique-A Discussion Forum in the ICSSR Complex, Panjab University Chandigarh. A Karvan of 20 women activists, journalists and intellectuals under the leadership of Mansi Sharma, an activist and Amrita, a journalist reached Panjab University to initiate the debate.
The debate started with the welcome address delivered by Dr. Ambuj, organiser critique. Prof. Manjit Singh, director CSSEIP highlighted the significance of the women reservation bill and the complex nature of the gender problem reflected by uneven development in India. Prof. Singh also stressed to take into account the limitations of identity politics in a parliamentary democracy where people often become victim of number game. In a house of 545 members of parliament there are only 11 per cent women at present, said Mansi Sharma speaking on behalf of the campaign for 33% reservation for women in the parliament. Criticising the delay in passing the bill said Mansi that a large number of women activists have joined hands and a campaign has been launched from Jhansi in three different streams covering North East, South and Western India respectively. Women activists will generate discussion in favour of the bill and before meeting at Delhi on 6th June they will visit 57 cities of India. A joint representation would be submitted to the government of India in which existing women MPs have also been invited.
Amrita, a columnist, while advocating early passage of the bill in the parliament expressed her reservations about the professed achievement of gender equity through the bill. A large number of questions were raised by the advocates, teachers, research scholars and students regarding the possibility of reservation within reservation. Speaker after speaker sought clarification as to how the bill would ensure justice to women from rural areas, tribal and dalit women, and women belonging to the minorities who need immediate protection from the marginalising impact of the market. Questions were also raised from the floor expressing doubt on the possibility of advocacy for women rights by the elected women in the parliament as they would be part of political parties interested in their narrow power ends rather than in gender equity. However there was unanimity in support of the proposed bill for 33% reservation for women in the parliament.
The debate ended with the vote thanks proposed by Dr Lallan Baghel, one of the founders of Critique, and now teaching philosophy in Panjab University.