DMK MP Kanimozhi questions "veil of secrecy" over tabling of Women's Reservation Bill

The Thoothukudi MP asked what consensus was built and what discussions were held before tabling the legislation in the Lok Sabha.

Published: 20th September 2023 01:15 PM  |   Last Updated: 28th September 2023 03:56 PM   |  A+A-

DMK MP MP Kanimozhi in the Lok Sabha

DMK MP MP Kanimozhi in the Lok Sabha (PTI)

By Online Desk

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP Kanimozhi on Wednesday questioned the Narendra Modi government over the women's reservation bill, and criticised the "veil of secrecy (that) shrouded" the drafting and tabling of the bill and demanded to know if relevant stakeholders had been consulted.

Asking what consensus was built and what discussions were held before tabling the legislation in the Lok Sabha, the Thoothukudi MP in the Lok Sabha said, "I myself raised this issue (the women's bill) many times in Parliament... the government's reply was very consistent. They said, 'We have to involve all stakeholders, political parties... and then build a consensus before bringing the bill."

"I would like to know what consensus was built... what discussions were held. This bill was brought shrouded in secrecy... we did not know why this (special) session was called for. At the all-party leaders' meeting there was no mention of this bill... I don't know if any of the political leaders were called for deliberations. Suddenly the bill popped up on our computers... like a jack-in-the-box," Kanimozhi said.

"Is this going to be the way this government will function?" she asked, in reference to the kurta and pyjama with a pink jacket. The jacket will have lotus motifs new uniforms with lotus motifs for Parliament staffers. "Like we are suddenly seeing lotuses blooming from the uniforms of secretariat staff. Is everything going to be a surprise like this?"

While participating in the discussion on the constitutional amendment bill 'Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam', she said the clause pertaining to 'after delimitation' in the bill should be removed as there could be an inordinate delay in the implementation of the reservation for women.

She also called the delimitation process "a sword" over South Indian states, referring to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin's statement. He said it was like a sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of Tamil Nadu. and southern India as this exercise would reduce their representation in Parliament. "This is a political manoeuvre, if seats in Parliament are increased on the basis of the population then this will reduce the political representation of South Indian states", he said.

The 33 per cent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, as proposed in the bill, will come into effect only after census and the delimitation exercise.

"How long should we wait to see this bill implemented? It can be easily implemented in the coming Parliamentary elections. This bill, you should understand, is not a reservation but an act of removing bias and injustice," she said.

Asserting that women wanted to be treated as equals and did not want to be pedestalised, she said, "Stop saluting us. We do not want to be saluted, put up on pedestals, worshipped, or called mothers, sisters, or wives; we want to be respected as equals. Let us get down from the pedestals and walk as equals. We have a right to this country as much as you do. This country belongs to us, this Parliament belongs to us, and we have the right to be here."

Even before she could begin her speech in the Lower House of the Parliament during a five-day special session, she was heckled by other members. She said in Tamil that she was not able to understand anything. She then went on to quote social reformer EV Ramasamy 'Periyar', "... when I see the BJP heckling us... the pretence of men - that they respect women and strive for their freedom - is a ruse to deceive them."

Kanimozhi also said she has no qualms in accepting that the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa was a very strong woman. Jayalalithaa was the leader of AIADMK, the rival of DMK in Tamil Nadu.

The women's reservation bill, named Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, introduced in the Lower House by Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal, will come into effect only after a delimitation exercise is completed and is, therefore, unlikely to be in force during the next Lok Sabha elections in 2024.

The bill, which was introduced in the Lower House on Tuesday, is also the first bill introduced in the new Parliament building.

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