NEW DELHI: In protection of the vulnerable
It was clearly a rights day in the Lok Sabha. Minister of Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi apologised for acting coy, referring to transgender people as “the other ones’’; and a Bill seeking the death sentence for child rape convicts was passed. While the first was widely welcomed, particularly because the Minister was giving in to a demand from the upset transgender community, which felt Gandhi had slighted them—and her terminology used during a debate on the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill had evoked sniggers among the MPs in the house.
She, however, said that she was embarrassed “for her lack of knowledge” but did not snigger. On the other count, though there have been a series of horrific cases of child rape in recent months, activists and even a section of women parliamentarians were not sure that the death sentence would prove to be a deterrent. Or would it further endanger the life of a child rape victim, in the sense that it could lead to rape and murder, so as to stop the case from being reported, as allegedly happened in the Kathua case. It was, in fact, due to the outcry over the Kathua and Unnao rape incidents that the Ordinance was promulgated.
Ruckus over Assam NRC
The Opposition seemed a bit divided over how to corner the government on the Assam NRC publication. Nearly four lakh people lost their citizenship rights. The Congress acted particularly befuddled. In the Lok Sabha, much to the chagrin of the TMC and the SP, the Congress members walked out instead of rushing to the well to protest, as was decided. With two of its voluble Assam MPs, Sushmita Dev and Gaurav Gogoi, away in their home state to tackle the fallout of the NRC, there was none to shout slogans. In the Rajya Sabha, the Congress was better coordinated. It may not have matched TMC and SP’s lung power, but played the supporting cast in full measure.
As a result, the Upper House had to be adjourned. It was only later in the day, when Congress chief Rahul Gandhi tweeted his (‘we (MMS) initiated NRC, they (BJP) mishandled”) view on the NRC that the GOP stand became clear. And Anand Sharma demanded the government call an all-party meeting forthwith.
Caught between rock and a hard place
The Congress was clearly caught between a rock and a hard place. It could not take an out-and-out pro-Bengali stand, like Mamata Banerjee did, fearing Assamese backlash. The NRC, many feel, panders to sentiments of regional chauvinism and would help the BJP in the polls. Such was the confusion on what stand to take that Rahul Gandhi used the back entrance to possibly avoid the media, which is permanently fixed around the front gate. Sonia Gandhi, too, was absent from the House and Rahul confined himself to his parliamentary office.