Ahem…say it politically right!!- WO‘men’- Election Special Issue

Do we undermine what the word says or does it reveal what we don’t see?
A woman in politics has always been an interesting tabloid issue, women politicians have been hounded by the paparazzi, it’s a tale whose future is always speculated and foretold. Do we fear the fact that the clichéd line of ‘the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world’ is actually coming true, with leaders emerging from all quarters and all countries. Or is it a sublime truth that Wo‘men’ are mere shadows of the men, and mind you I am talking only politics.
The very charming Rahul Gandhi who was on campus addressing the youth said that at the risk of making his male colleagues unhappy, he has to believe that women are good for politics and there should be more women in politics, not just 33%.
Now, why am I even ranting all this? Let me keep this simple, SC election are round the corner and I was unable to find substantial data on Women who have contested for the posts of SC Chairman and General Secretary. Or is it that these posts were just believed to be for the men on campus? I had many questions and mind you I got answers that ranged from “Oh! No records” to “ The lady did not do much you know, not sure she can help your article” or even opinionated lines like, “ the ‘gundi’ (feminine counterpart for gunda) on campus!”. Baffling! Oh come on…let us be honest, how many of us even care to know who our SC Women representatives are? We love our Lady Dianas and root for the Lady Clintons; believe the Mayawatis have a punch and that Rabri makes Laloo sweeter! Yet closer home, we raise eyebrows and snigger believing that it is sufficient to have a woman just chair the post. After all, who cares what she accomplishes! At least the minorities are represented.
I am just looking for answers, please keep the growl and the scowl to yourself. Why do we need a Women’s representative post? Do not the men on campus need representation? Is it that very few women have the guts to contest in a male dominated campus, which is also vehemently influenced by community and regional considerations? I am not pointing fingers at anyone, am not blaming anyone, am just seeking answers!
Women can never stop asking and almost always seem to have the answers. So, I met the two women on campus whose names came up when I went scampering for material and posed my relevant and not so relevant questions.
A word of caution: Hold on to your seat belts!

Pritesh Dagur – “ I am not political in my outlook. I am a worker!”
General Secretary, Students Council, 2003-04

What is your take on IISc Elections and the role that women play?
Very few women stand for elections. There is an inbuilt hesitation among women and they are on the timid side. People have the attitude that ‘why do you have to do it, somebody will do it; why does it have to be me?’. This is however certainly not gender specific and I frankly do not understand why people think this way.

Do we need a Women’s Representative?
Yes! I strongly feel that we need a Women’s Representative. Someone who is approachable, amiable, discreet and strong. Someone who is a compulsive talker because then you reach out to people. Someone with a stable frame of mind and who can think of a solution. Someone who has a mindset, “I can” and who can build trust in the other person. This is how she should be. Aleya Kaushik, who held the post when it was first introduced in 2004-05, was a sensitized person. She took it to a high level with all the talks she organised and the personal approach that she adapted while meeting women individually who had some issues was remarkable.

While in office, what according to you were your landmark contributions?
While holding the post of the General Secretary, I was also the Hostel President as there was no designated person for that.
a) I personally ensured that all the geysers were checked and the faulty ones replaced in all the hostels.
b) Getting the Sexual harassment committee rolling in 2004 once the Supreme Court directive was out that every institution should have a harassment cell.

For a candidate, what would be your piece of advice?
a) They should have the strength and the conviction to take a stand.
b) Authorities put direct and indirect pressure, be able to deal with that.
c) Project students’ opinion in a strong way
d) Have a feel for what students feel
e) It has to be someone who is social, interactive and aware. Someone who spends all his or her time in the lab is not a suitable candidate.

What has your experience in IISc politics taught you? Highlight your observations.
a) The amount of fundamentalism definitely threw me off balance. People were discussing Tamil votes, Hindi votes, Delhi votes, Muslim votes! I had never thought that such a divide existed. The scuffle over menial things all based on community factor. There is a lot of extremism on campus and I felt that the campus is actually backward.
b) Complacency of the authorities was unbelievable. They just do not care. As long as you are giving some output to the department, they couldn’t care whether you are living or dying. Pleas fall on deaf ears; every issue you raise has to be followed up to ensure the solution sees the light of day.
c) How reluctant people are to fight for themselves; They are willing to crib about the problem but not solve it.
d) Some people like to believe that women are incompetent. This is an illogical discrimination and downright ridiculous. I have faced flak for being forthright and have had accusations thrown at me. What is important is that we women do not expect special privileges for being a woman instead want to be treated like human beings and get everything that a human being deserves.

Garima Gupta- “ Be what you are and do not care what others think.”
Womens’ Representative, Students Council, 2006-07, 2007-08

What is your take on IISc Elections and the role that women play?
Very few women stand for elections. There are many who believe in working, but not standing for the post. They fear what their bosses (guide) will think. The ones who are what they are and do not care what others think are the ones who come forward and work. The other set is always wary of what people will think of them and they do not come forward.

Do we need a Women’s Representative?
Yes, we need a Women’s Representative. We need a person in position who can help. Women not only face problems pertaining to the hostel but also other problems related to lab, guide and other people on campus. We at this position maintain confidentiality and do our best to help the person; directing them to the proper officials and in some cases, bringing the incident to the notice of the administration.

While in office, what according to you were your landmark contributions?
a) All hostel issues that came up, I ensured that they were directed to the authorities.
b) Other members of the women's committee helped in organising Women’s day programmes, panel discussions and film screenings
c) Many women facing distress or harassment on campus, not just students but wives also. I actively was a part of the Women’s Cell.

For a candidate, what would be your piece of advice?
a) Increase the awareness among the women that they are not responsible for the atrocities committed on them.
b) Do not be overassertive
c) Have a listening ear and direct them to the right people

What has your experience in IISc politics taught you? Highlight your observations.
Students think that the Student’s Council is never doing much. The fact is that there are many administrative glitches and we have to be persistent and patient. We need to understand why an agenda is important for people. I personally have never faced problem and my chairman is very supportive and appreciative of what I have done.

So, that was two rendezvous transcribed on paper! Good luck to the Women who are standing this year. Just remember, Impressions are made irrespective of gender!


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