Women in politics, and at its receiving end
Randeep Wadehra

Reservations for women

edited by Meena Dhanda; series editor: Rajeswari Sundar Rajan
Women Unlimited & Kali for Women.
Pages: xl+390. Rs 600

What decides a more hospitable political space for women? If it is education and socio-economic emancipation then women in the West should have been better off than those in, say, Asia – which is not the case. If democracy is the enabling force then it is bemusing to note that women in Pakistan and China enjoy better representation than their sisters in India. Although women in India have enjoyed equal voting rights right from the time of our Constitution’s founding their empowerment still remains an issue. Women’s representation in parliament is poor despite a few individual successes. Should there be reservation for women? Before this question is answered semiological problems pertaining to commonly used terms like empowerment have been dealt with in the debate. Coming back to the question of women’s reservation in the political sphere feminists in the pre-independence era like Sarojini Naidu were not in its favour. However, in 1974 Lotika Sarkar and Vina Mazumdar advocated ‘special representation’ for women. This collection of well informed essays takes a comprehensive look at the status of women in politics – giving a global perspective to the Indian situation. It is not just the issue of women’s representation in the parliament, but the entire system from panchayats upwards that comes under the scanner. The historical, social, economic and political reasons for women’s sparse presence in political sphere have been discussed in detail.


by BS Thapliyal.
Selective & Scientific Books, N. Delhi. Pages 241. Rs 295

A consequence of dangerous and disgraceful political games, 1984 became a climactic year for Punjabis, Punjab and India. The spewing of communal hatred, the killing of innocents after pulling them out of buses and their homes in mofussil towns and the countryside, the failed attempts at ethnic cleansing of Punjab turning into general bloodbath, the Operation Bluestar, the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the resultant anti-Sikh riots have left deep scars on our collective psyche. This novel portrays the travails of a Sikh family caught in the nightmarish anti-Sikh violence and its aftermath. Lali, the novel’s female protagonist, symbolises the agony and abjectness of those evil days.

Pratibha Patil

by Kumar Pankaj & Ayushma Sharma
Diamond Books. Pages 176. Rs. 95

Pitchforked into limelight from the shadows of relative anonymity Pratibha Devisingh Patil became the first woman president of the Republic of India. And the most unlikely one too. Consider the more erudite and deserving women of substance whose presence in the august office would have been far more advisable – Najma Heptullah, Mohsina Kidwai and Nirmala Deshpande, to name just three. But the vagaries of Indian politics favoured her, albeit as a hasty alternative to another political/intellectual lightweight, viz., Shivraj Patil after more accomplished men like Pranab Mukherji and Karan Singh lost the race due to lack of consensus. However, so far there has been no occasion to regret her elevation to the President’s post. This book is understandably eulogistic in tone and tenor. It gives us glimpses of her personal and political life peppered with interesting trivia including her photo as a toddler.