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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Women's Reservation Belief and Disbeliefs

The Women’s Reservation Bill was introduced amid much controversy in the Rajya Sabha a few weeks ago. The manner in which the proceedings unfolded, convey the sorry tale of democracy in our country and the practice thereof, wherein MPs get physical over disagreements over policy. But more importantly, it clearly highlighted, yet again, the degradation of what was once a noble and just cause of women empowerment, which has been reduced to a shameless greed for power in the name of one’s gender.

Firstly, the policy of reservation as an elixir to uplift sections of society is flawed. Reservation systems sacrifice merit for mediocrity. Right from the birth of India as a republic, leaders have spoken out against the reservation system.  In a letter to all chief ministers on June 27, 1961, Nehru said the following about reservations -  …I have referred above to efficiency and to our getting out of our traditional ruts. This necessitates our getting out of the old habit of reservations and particular privileges being given to this caste or that group…I dislike any kind of reservation, more particularly in services. I react strongly against anything which leads to inefficiency and second-rate standards….If we go in for reservations on communal and caste basis, we swamp the bright and able people and remain second-rate or third-rate. I want my country to be a first class country in everything. The moment we encourage the second-rate, we are lost. I am grieved to learn how far this business of reservation has gone based on communal considerations….This way lies not only folly but disaster.

Proponents of the Bill generally give the following arguments 
  1. This Bill will ensure proper representation of women – In the elections of 2004, about 53.57 % of women exercised their franchise and sent their representatives to the legislature. The basic assumption behind this bill that women vote only for other women, is deeply flawed and against the fundamental principles of democracy. The members elected in the parliament have been chosen by both male and female voters and represent the people of their constituencies – both men and women. Ironically, reserving 33% seats for women would limit the choices of other women for electing their chosen representative.
  2. More women in legislature will empower women – Women have made great strides in all spheres of life and today, they are empowered like never before. A case in point is the employment data available from the Labor Bureau. Since 1971, the rate of employment of women has risen by more than 100%, while the rate of employment of men has decreased by a few percentage points. In case, anyone wonders about rural India, the rate of employment of women in rural areas has increased by an even greater margin (132%) since 1970. Today, numerous laws have been enacted in favor of women and equal opportunities abound. Women lead major political parties today and hold key positions in others. This all was achieved with the representatives in the legislature that were democratically elected and not by reservation. Since the purpose of legislation is to enact laws, one wonders what new laws can be enacted by artificially increasing the number of women law makers in an undemocratic fashion. The elected members of the legislature have been sincere and efficient about enacting laws for women empowerment.

The primary reason why the Women reservation Bill is a myopic piece of legislation, that furthers vested interests and ideologies, besides imposing arbitrary criteria, is because it is discriminatory, undemocratic and might even be unconstitutional.
  1. It is unconstitutional because Indian constitution explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of caste, religion or gender. The proposed Bill perpetuates gender discrimination. While it does allow for special provisions for the welfare of women, these provisions should not be permitted to infringe on the basic democratic rights of the rest of the population. 
  2. It is undemocratic because of two reasons – it disenfranchises about 33% of the electorate – or about 22 crore people, as per the figures available from the Election Commission, and takes away the democratic right of about 11 crore males to contest in elections.The basic tenet of democracy is that people should be able to choose their representatives. The state should not be allowed to limit the pool of representatives available to the public to choose from. Should this be permitted, democracy loses its meaning because the state could potentially declare its own agents to be the only available representatives. Limiting the available representatives based on religion, gender or caste is completely antagonistic to the fundamental principles of our democracy and constitution.This Bill also violates the right of about about 11 crore people by preventing them from contesting in elections. It discriminates against emerging male leaders who would not be able to contest in elections from their constituency and hence the nation loses out on the contributions of these people.  
  3. Lastly, the concept of reserving 33% seats is totally arbitrary and no reason or justification has been provided for this number. Even in advanced western democracies like the US and UK, the number of women in legislature is less than 20%.
 Celebrated women leaders like Sarojini Naidu have been against preferential treatment to women. In particular, they have vehemently opposed reservation for women in the legislature and very vocal about it. When asked about this issue, this is what Sarojini Naidu had to say – “Why do you want to make women realize that they are not at par with men? Why reservation for them when they can do equally well or even better than men in many spheres of life? Why this discrimination of reservation against women, yes discrimination. Let them gain confidence and allow them to be proud of their achievements. Let them feel that what they are today is only because they deserved it and not because they were given any special treatment or they enjoyed any special privileges.”

On 16th Nov, 1931 a memorandum on the “Status of Women in the proposed new Constitution” jointly written by Sarojini Naidu and Begum Shah Nawaz was presented to the British Prime Minister. The draft memorendum was circulated in May to various constituencies inviting their views on the “reservation” issue. As noted in the 1931 annual report of All India Women’s Conference, there was, at the time, only one constituency that favored reservation of seats in the Legislature – “But even this constiuency has since completely changed its mind”

In their letter to the Premier and Chairman Minorities committee on the status of women in the proposed new Constitution (Government of India Act, 1935), the three organizations (All India Women’s Conference, Women’s Indian Association and the Central Comittee for the National Council of Women in India) demanded complete and immediate recognition of women’s equal political status. However, they insisted that no reservations be made for women in Legislature.

We are … enjoined to resist any plea that may be advanced by small Individual groups of people of any kind of temporary concessions Of adventitious methods of securing the adequate representation of Women in the legislatures in the shape of reservation of seats, nomination or co-option whether by status, convention Or at the discretion of the provincial and central governments. To seek any form of preferential treatment would be to violate the Integrity of the universal demand of Indian women for absolute equality of political status.

What the great women leaders of yesteryears saw as a threat to the integrity to the cause of women, is something that the new brand of feminist leaders vehemently espouse. This fact alone speaks volumes about what women empowerment has been reduced to – a naked greed for power in the name of one’s gender !
Unfortunately, very few political parties in India have the will power and determination to serve the best interests of the nation. The political parties have consistently sacrificed the nation’s interest for their own political agendas. Reservation on caste and religion and caste politics to divide the nation was bad enough. Now, gender politics seems to be the new frontier.

The proposed Women’s Reservation Bill is discriminatory, arbitrary , undemocratic and unconstitutional. This is yet another attempt by radical feminists to use their gender for furthering their own political interests, at the cost of the nation and ironically, other women.

M. K. Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of peace and the Father of the Nation was born on 2nd October 1869 at Porbandar in Gujarat. Gandhi Jayanti is celebrated on the very day every year as the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, Father of India. In his autobiography My experiments with Truth Gandhi recalls that his childhood and teen age years were characterised by education in a local school, marriage to Kasturba at the age of 13 and an intrinsic love for ‘truth’ and ‘duty’.


At the age of the eighteen, he went to England to study law. In 1891, Gandhi returned to India and set up practice at Rajkot. In 1893, he received an offer from an Indian firm in South Africa.
With his two minor sons and Kasturba, he went to South Africa at the age of twenty-four. Colonial and racial discrimination showed its ugly colours in the famous train incident, when he was thrown off the compartment meant for the ‘Sahibs’. During his more than two decades of stay in South Africa, Gandhi protested against the discriminating treatment that was meted out to Indians. He protested against the Asiatic (Black) Act and the Transvaal Immigration Act and started his non-violent civil disobedience movement. A satyagrahis camp known as the Tolstoy Farm was established at Lawley, 21 miles from Johannesburg, on 30 May 1910, in order to shelter the satyagrahis and their families. The South African Government had to heed to the voice of reason and in 1914 repealed most of the obnoxious acts against the Indians. The weekly Indian Opinion (1903) became Gandhiji’s chief organ of education and propaganda.
Gandhiji returned to India in 1915. After an interrupted stay in Santiniketan in February-March, 1915, Gandhiji collected his companions of Phoenix and established the Satyagraha Ashram in Ahmedabad city. This was shifted in June 1917 to the banks of the Sabarmati. This Ashram became platform for carrying out his cherished social reforms prime among which were Harijan welfare rehabilitation of lepers and self-reliance through weaving Khadi.
Between 1917 and 1918 Gandhi participated in two peasant movements in Champaran (Bihar) and Kaira (Gujarat) and in the labour dispute in Ahmedabad itself. World War I ended on 11 November 1918; Gandhi protested against the Rowlatt Bills and founded the Satyagraha Sabha (28 February 1919). The end of the World war also saw the dismemberment of the Khilafat (Caliphate). This hurt the Indian Muslims deeply. Gandhi was approached for counsel; and in a meeting of the All India Khilafat Conference on 24 November 1919, he proposed that India should respond by non-violent non-cooperation.
For Gandhi ‘Non-violence’ and truth were two inalienable virtues. He summed up the entire philosophy of his life as: “The only virtue I want to claim is truth and non-violence. I lay no claim to super human powers: I want none”.
The year 1926 was declared by Gandhi to be his year of silence. His famous march to Dandi in March 1930 started a countrywide movement to violate the Salt-Law. Gandhi was arrested on 4 May 1930, and the Government struck hard to crush the movement, but failed. So Gandhi was set free on 26 January 1931; and following a pact between him and the British Viceroy, Lord Irwin (5 March 1931), he was prevailed upon to represent the Congress at the second Round Table Conference in London. Gandhi was completely disillusioned with the attitude of the British, which had renewed its policy of ruthless repression. As a result the Civil Disobedience Movement was resumed in January 1932.
Gandhi was in prison when the Communal Award was announced in August 1932, providing for the introduction of separate electorate for the Depressed Classes. He opposed this attempt to divide the Hindu community and threatened to fast unto death to prevent it. He started his fast on 20 September 1932. It created consternation in the country, but the situation was saved by the conclusion of the Poona Pact, which provided for special reservation of seats for the Depressed Classes in legislatures, but under joint electorate.
On 8 May 1933 he announced a fast for 21 days for the Harijan cause. After coming out of prison Gandhi devoted himself exclusively to the cause of the ‘Harijans’. The weekly Harijan now took the place of the Young India, which had served the national cause from 1919 to 1932. After 1934 Gandhi settled down in Sevagram near Wardha to form a new Centre for his enlarged Constructive Programme, which included Basic Education (1937), designed to bring about the universalisation of education.
In 1942, his ‘Quit India’ slogan was to serve as the final signal to British dominion in India. The partition of India and Pakistan came as a personal shock to Gandhi. When the nation was rejoicing independence (1947), Gandhi went to Naokhali to ameliorate the conditions of the communal riot victims. On 30 January 1948, Gandhi was assassinated in New Delhi.
The man of the century had the courage of heart and spirit of the unafraid. His life and teaching reflect the values of this country and the values of humanity. He had been a beacon light to an army of freedom fighters who practised non-violence in world and deed.


Mahatma Gandhi was a simple man, with simple tastes and high values. Respecting that, even though Gandhi Jayanti is a national holiday, the festivities are minimal.
A prayer meeting is held at Rajghat, Gandhi’s samadhi in New Delhi. To mark the respect that Gandhi had for all the religions and communities, representatives from different religions take part in it. Verses and prayers are read out from the holy books of all the religions. Gandhi’s favourite song, Raghupati Raghava, is invariably sung at all the meetings associated with him. Prayer meetings are held in various state capitals as well. Gandhi Jayanti is observed all over the country, both in government and non-government forums.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Renaissance Movement

The Renaissance was a popular cultural movement that began in Italy and later spread to the rest of Europe. It spanned roughly from the 14th through the 17th century. The Renaissance was a great intellectual reawakening that encompassed the revival of classical learning and profoundly affected art, literature, philosophy, religion, science, politics and other aspects of intellectual inquiry. Renaissance scholars employed the humanism method to study and search for realism and human emotion in art. Renaissance thinkers desired to learn from classical or ancient text written in Latin or Greek. Scholars searched Europe’s libraries for works of antiquity which had fallen into obscurity for long. In such texts they found a desire to improve and perfect their worldly knowledge.

Important features of Renaissance


Humanism was one of the most important features of Renaissance period. It was a method of learning. The humanist studied ancient text in the original and evaluated them through reasoning and empirical evidence. Humanist studied poetry, grammar, ethics and rhetoric. Humanism was an intellectual reawakening among the scholars of Europe. They retrieved, interpreted and absorbed the language, culture and ancient Greek texts. Humanist scholars acknowledged the supreme ability of the human mind. The humanist scholars played a vital role in shaping the intellectual capacities of their European people. Political philosophers like Machiavelli and Thomas More revived the ideas of Greek and Roman thinkers, and applied them in critiques of contemporary government. Theologians, Erasmus and Martin Luther, introduced new concepts of reasoning and faith.


The Renaissance period saw the emergence of some really great painters and artists. The most famous among them includes Leonardo da Vinci, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and Donatello. The period is steeped in art, architecture and painting. In architecture, Filippo Brunelleschi was foremost in studying the remains of ancient Classical building. Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael reached great heights in their artistic endeavor that they became icons.


With a momentous and sweeping change taking place in art and architecture, the Renaissance brought about a scientific revolution heralding the beginning of modern age. There was a blend of science and art during the Renaissance, with artists such as Leonardo da Vinci making observational drawings of anatomy and nature.


The Renaissance witnessed a massive religious unrest. The Protestant Reformation movement in Europe led by Martin Luther to reform the corrupt practices of the Roman Catholic Church was met with widespread resentment among the people. It is believed to have started in 1517 with Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses and thought to have culminated with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. The movement started with an attempt to reform the malpractices of the Roman Catholic Church. The Papal was blamed to have been indulging in the teaching and sale of indulgences. The selling of indulgences and the Church’s policy on purgatory was the most controversial point.

Beliefs and practices that were vehemently opposed by Protestant reformers included purgatory, particular judgment, devotion to Mary (Mariology), intercession of and devotion to the saints, most of the sacraments, the mandatory celibacy requirement of its clergy (including monasticism), and the authority of the Pope.

Later, this movement led to the emergence of separate protestant churches. Thus, Renaissance can be said to a great intellectual awakening among the European people.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Volume- I, Issue-II.

The Criterion: An International Journal in English

ISSN 0976-8165

Volume- I, Issue-II.



Depiction of Muslim Women in Samina Ali’s Madras on Rainy Days

- Saykar Satish Govind

Modernity in Girish Karnad’s Tughlaq

- Shivaji S. Kamble



The Metaphor of the Family as Mileu for Social Comment – A Study of Edward Albee’s The Sandbox and The American Dream


Ecology as a Mode: The Poetry of D.C. Chambial and Kulbhushan Kushal

- Dr. N.K.Neb



Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Weep Not Child: A Revolutionary Sprout versus Colonial Phantom




- Darryl Salach

Blurring Borders

- Khurshid Alam

Losing the Girls

- Brian Heffron

Two Beloved Poems

- Donna Baier Stein

My Love Trusts

- Alacrity Stone


- Melissa Studdard

Country Bluebird Reimagined

- William Crawford


- Ravi Naicker


- by Dr. Katti Padma Rao Translated by Siva Nagaiah Bolleddu Guntur


- L Douglas St Ours


- Chuck Taylor

Short Fiction:


- Anita Singh

The Mirror

- K.L. Stover

Excerpt from Novel The One Percent

- Jeremy Birkline


- David LaBounty

The Cookie Man

- An. Ray Norsworthy


- Mitanjeli Tischler


They and Us Killed Us, A Review of Ayi Kwei Armah's The Healers

- Nana Fredua-Agyeman


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