When it comes to participation in politics, women are yet to go a long way in India. However, a bunch of women politicians have made their mark in the country’s political landscape, and this year has seen a few of them making news for all the right and wrong reasons too.
Check out a few such instances from 2020:
The year began as a tough one for India, as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed in October 2019 provoked nation-wide protests from various quarters across the country. Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, in February 2020, called out the CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NCR) in her Parliamentary speech – making headlines for weeks to come.
“You did not come to power on the vote of the Hindu right alone. You came to power because of a very large section of ordinary people. The aspirational middle-of-the-road voters cast aside whatever reservations they might have had about your past, and believed you when you said 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas' which they took to mean development for a united India. They believed in your alternative narrative of merit, of transparency, of a world without nepotism,” she had said in her fiery speech.
It was only a month ago that Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami was arrested by the Mumbai police over a case of alleged suicide abetment. (He later alleged that he was manhandled by the cops.) Among many other prominent politicians from the ruling BJP government, Cabinet Minister Smriti Irani also raised her voice against the arrest, calling it an attack on press freedom.
Those in the free press who don’t stand up today in support of Arnab, you are now tactically in support of fascism. You may not like him, you may not approve of him,you may despise his very existence but if you stay silent you support suppression. Who speaks if you are next ?
— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) November 4, 2020
Not a stranger to controversies, the former television actress however was criticised for her stance, as this was seen a double standard on her part. After all, the BJP has been accused of doing the same to many journalists across the country – the most recent one being the arrest of four journalists who came to Uttar Pradesh to cover the Hathras gang rape case – and Irani has never even acknowledged the same.
Tamil Nadu-based actor-politician Khushbu left the Congress Party to join the BJP in October. Just two weeks after making headlines for the same, she was arrested by the police while she was going to Chidambaram. She was to participate in a protest organised by the BJP against VCK president Thol Thirumavalavan, who had made misogynistic comments on Manusmrithi.
Arrested.. been taken in police van. we will fight till our last breath for the dignity of women. H'ble PM @narendramodi ji has always spoken about the safety of women and we walk on his path. We will never bow down to the atrocities of few elements out there. BHARAT MATA KI JAI! pic.twitter.com/71CKjFewri
— KhushbuSundar ❤️ (@khushsundar) October 27, 2020
The arrest was done to avoid people gathering in Chidambaram during the pandemic, and she was released within a few hours. However, Khushbu was not one to mince her words in her tweets on the same:
Cowards #VCK. Dont rejoice. Its your failure. Arrested bcoz they know we are a force to reckon with. We will not bow down. @BJP4India @narendramodi
Ji shall take every step to ensure the respectability of every daughter of this soil.Darpoks VCK, respecting a woman is alien to you
— KhushbuSundar ❤️ (@khushsundar) October 27, 2020
In November too, she was in the news after she met with a road accident while en route to Cuddalore to join BJP’s Vel Yatra. A few BJP leaders were arrested for conducting the Yatra against explicit orders by the State government due to the ongoing lockdown related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In August, DMK MP Kanimozhi, from Tamil Nadu, was in the news for a cause which the State feels strongly about: Hindi imposition.
Today at the airport a CISF officer asked me if “I am an Indian” when I asked her to speak to me in tamil or English as I did not know Hindi. I would like to know from when being indian is equal to knowing Hindi.#hindiimposition
— Kanimozhi (கனிமொழி) (@KanimozhiDMK) August 9, 2020
Raising her voice against the tendency to equate knowledge in Hindi as a criterion for being Indian, she claimed that the CISF has promised action after the incident.
Incidentally, a few days later, she wrote to the AYUSH Ministry of the Centre government, seeking suspension of the Secretary for allegedly asking participants who did not follow Hindi to leave a webinar organised by the Ministry. Out of more than 300 participants, around 40 were naturopathy doctors from Tamil Nadu.
Notably, Kanimozhi’s party – Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam – has been vociferous against Hindi imposition since the 1950s, and had even demanded secession for an independent nation called Dravida Nadu.
Congress General Secretary (Uttar Pradesh) Priyanka Gandhi – along with her brother former Congress President Rahul Gandhi – made news in early October, when they went to the Hathras village in UP. The sibling duo, along with some Congress workers, was arrested by the police when they were en route to visit the family of the gangrape victim who had succumbed to injuries earlier. The police manhandling of Priyanka was widely criticised, while the police stated that they were arrested under The Epidemic Diseases Act, for not maintaining social distancing and not wearing face masks.
Priyanka also condemned the UP police for cremating the victim’s body at night, without the family’s presence or consent.
Creating a narrative that defames a woman’s character and holding her somehow responsible for crimes committed against her is revolting and regressive.
A heinous crime has been committed at Hathras, leaving a 20-year-old Dalit woman dead.
— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) October 8, 2020
Later on, the fake news brigade also dragged Priyanka’s name into controversy, by falsely claiming that she hugged a Naxalite woman at the Hathras victim’s home. It was later proved that the woman whom Priyanka was pictured hugging, was the mother of the victim.
— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) October 12, 2020
Trinamool Congress MP Nusrat Jahan evoked the wrath of Muslim extremists – reportedly from India as well as Bangladesh - in September, over an ad in which she was dressed as Hindu goddess Durga. The 30-year-old Bengali actress-turned-politician even received death threats on social media, after she posted the ad on her Instagram account. Some trolls, claiming to be Hindus, also went on a tirade for “defiling” Hinduism.
Since Nusrat had to be in London for a film shoot after the controversy erupted, she had purportedly requested the British police for protection from the “extremists” who were threatening her.
According to some reports, the Ministry of External Affairs coordinated with the Indian Embassy in London for her protection. Earlier too, Nusrat had been abused by trolls for marrying a Hindu man and wearing vermillion like Hindu married women do.
(Edited by Varnika Gupta)