Open letter to Arvind Kejriwal
Dear Meritorious Chief Minister,
Congratulations on the sweeping win of Aam Aadmi Party in the Delhi Assembly elections. As someone cheering the rise of the promise of more inclusive democracy in India, I have been following the story of Aam Aadmi Party since the beginning.
Yesterday should have been a day of celebration. It was not. The reason is your all male cabinet. Worse, for all your claims of listening to the people and being accountable, there has not been so much as a whisper of explanation for excluding women from the seat of power in Delhi. The Aam Aadmi Party that bragged about the quality of its women candidates is apparently at a loss to find a single one worthy of the cabinet.
In your speeches, you admitted to arrogance of victory in Delhi leading to the defeat in the Lok Sabha Elections. This time after warning followers, your arrogance in Delhi will lead to the defeat of 46% of those who supported you, while you cannot be shaken from your position for the next five years.
Because it is arrogance that decides that you will deliver women safety, yet sees no need to include women in the cabinet. Women are more impacted than men by issues related to water, education, health or inflation, as those tasked with the functioning of the household in limited resources in the vast majority of Indian society. It is women who ferry water the most, make compromises in nutrition to be able to afford food daily, care for the ill and as the ones giving birth to babies and caring in their early years are also a large segment of healthcare consumers in addition to routine health issues common to all. It is women who face greater resistance to ambitions in education. It is women who face catcalls and gangrapes and sexual harassment far more than men.
Being a woman in India is a different view of the world than being a man in India. No matter how sensitive or capable a cabinet minister, I doubt if he will THINK like a woman. The idea that a woman’s thinking does not need to be present at all in the highest decision making body for the state is misogyny. In all your grandeur, you may imagine that men are more efficient and deliver best, but the fact is that many women not from the upper classes cannot speak freely to men. In all your wisdom, you may believe that it is not important for the Minister for women and children – who would be the one meeting victims of brutal rapes once this intoxication with your own yet-to-be proven competence dies down. I doubt a victim sees it the same way. Or is the plan to speak with doctors and male members of the family instead of the women or conveniently use some woman MLA without authority for the purpose?
I don’t doubt that a man handling the wellbeing of women and children is a refreshing deviation from the norm, but the need for PR stunts is over. Does a cabinet that cannot even see competence in women in understanding issues of women better than men respectfully handle the difficulties of women? I don’t think so.
So far, it seems AAP is happy to use women volunteers to work. Will use a few women candidates to stop looking like cavemen, use their eloquence as spokes people and high profile campaigners but when it comes to nurturing women or recognizing their competence or being willing to share in POWER, AAP so far seems to have come up with a big fat zero.
From seven candidates in the previous election to six in this election. From one woman to none. Your party has consistently claimed to plan to empower women, but in this one year what we see is a deterioration. Not just a failure of Aam Aadmi Party to put up women candidates in any proportion vaguely corresponding to that mythical representation, or decreasing numbers in the tiny number offered.
A woman MLA who joined AAP in its darkest hours, stayed loyal, worked her ass off for the party, including being one of the strong pillars for your own efforts in Varanasi, has experience being on the women’s commission, IS a woman herself is apparently not “competent” enough to be on a cabinet where a male lawyer handles the portfolio for women and children. And I am sure the other women candidates have competencies too. You don’t get to be a good councillor without being able to handle authority or work. Two of AAP’s women MLAs have been councillors. One of AAP’s woman MLA’s is an ex-cabinet minister in the previous AAP cabinet.
Here is a quote from your party website, since a sub-category of your supporters no longer seem to think I am in Indian interest:
“We believe that until the Women’s Reservation Bill is passed by Parliament, there is a lot that political parties can do to ensure proportional representation for women. “
Here I am, getting organized “blocking” of my handle by your supporters on Twitter, for upholding the views of YOUR party that you seem to have forgotten. Or was that an election Jumla?
There is a Muslim and a dalit in your cabinet and rightly so. I don’t imagine this is an accident given that several other favorites are not on the cabinet, so I assume it is okay to take the representation of women for granted, while other kinds of representation are still respected.
Worse, you or your spokesperson don’t even think this important enough to address openly and with your much advertised accountability. Not before the cabinet swearing in, not after. It is not like you are unaware when you retweet an absurd tweet by Javed Jafferi about Bandana Kumari being a Deputy Speaker as though that should be enough. What power does a deputy speaker have to govern?
In essence, in your ARROGANCE you are saying that men will deliver women’s needs and women are not competent enough to do it. Let alone governing other aspects of the state. This is classic patriarchy and gives rise to the question, “Changing politics, yes, but for better or worse?”
If Hindus ruling a secular state is right wing supremacy, how is men ruling a supposedly gender respecting state anything but MALE SUPREMACY?
I also suggest that when AAP campaigns in the future, bragging about its women candidates, it discloses whether the candidates are good enough to be trusted in the cabinet, or just fillers for your statistics on women representation. This is important, because if your women candidates are not competent, then why should the constituencies you conned into voting for them suffer from their “incompetence” while you protect your government and reputation from it? Hain na?
Think about it. It is the start of your government and you have begun it with a grave wrong to gender equality. This will not go unnoticed. Not by citizens, not by AAP’s political opponents. While nothing can force you to give this represenatation to Delhi’s women for the next five years if you decide against it, it will be a blow to the Aam Aadmi Party itself in other places too.
Women's rights aren't merely about "delivering safety". Women have a world to share. Not passive consumers of governance by men.
— Vidyut (@Vidyut) February 15, 2015
A blogger who had great hope in AAP and is now worried about AAP being a problem to women’s rights.