Why India's temples and politics need Trupti Desai
Political parties would do well to connect with the likes of her as they raise India's profile as a modernising society.
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Trupti Desai is an angry young woman, who has earlier been agitated over other issues, not always related to gender. Yes, it is interesting that she had been given a Congress ticket in the past, which makes one wonder if, as some have suspected, there could be a political agenda behind her agitation? Could it have been launched purely with the hope of embarrassing the state and central government. Religion is an Achilles heel for the present dispensation, and so if they can be seen to be old fashioned, or come down heavily on agitating women, it will naturally create an image of a gender insensitive government.
Perhaps, because it was a well-planned, apparently well funded enterprise, where she could collect a bus load of like minded women, and ferry them to a religious place (all prepared to be locked up) - questions could be raised as to how she managed to do all of it. The answers are apparent, but in this particular case, does it matter? Even if she had a political agenda, it cannot distract from the urgency of her demands and their need.
Whatever might have been the instigation, nothing can take away from the fact that her cause is genuine, this time.
Change, undoubtedly, needs to be brought into patriarchal institutions. Religions , all over the world have a history of patriarchy and most of them have resisted reform precisely because of that. It is also about time these radical movements found followers, because that it is the only way religion can be changed to become more inclusive. The Church of England faced pressure for a very long period, before it admitted women into its fold. We are still a long way from getting a woman Pope reigning from the Vatican, and Islam , as it is practised, has its share of gender prejudice.
Most religions are headed by charismatic male figures, and religious rituals and procedures are dominated by them. It has become a profession for them, one that it difficult to give up, once power has been tasted and enjoyed.
However, to be fair, Trupti has genuinely managed to garner large numbers of voluntary support, especially amongst young women, as she is only doing what suffragettes in the UK and other countries have done. She has taken up a very emotive issue which affects women, and has brought the national limelight upon it.
Even if she joins a political party now, or after a while, it is still remarkable that she undertook an agitation that most women would shy away from.
So let's give her credit for that.
Where I think our admiration begins to falter is if we reflect on the fact that she has not been able to continue with a well thought out plan. Can a single agitation, with a handful of women change religious practices? Only if she has the energy and strength to follow through.
These can become convoluted issues, because they are about social and religious reform, and all political interference in these cases should be resisted.
The farther this government stays away from meddling with religious issues the better it will be. Perhaps the best way of addressing the issue post facto, is for the government to make its intention clear right at the beginning. The chief minister of Maharashtra could have clearly announced the need to deal swiftly and only with the law and order problem, before the agitation was launched.
Quicker responses are required in social agitations because they involve people seeking justice. Trupti's case is an interesting one. In fact, all political parties would do well to connect with angry young women, like her, as they break the stereotype and raise India's profile as a modernising society. They will bring a lot of energy and fresh thinking with them