The Department of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia along with the joint association of WomenPowerConnect (WPC) and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) held an interactive dialogue titled, “Vocabulary of Change: Gender and Youth in Politics” on Thursday, 21st August 2014, at the FTK-Centre for Information Technology. [Audio Below]
The interactive dialogue was to be an interaction between various political leaders and the youth – especially young women — of Jamia and other Delhi based universities. Prominent speakers present at the event included former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) member, Shazia Ilmi; Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) Prabha Thakur; General Secretary of National Congress Party of India (NCP), D.P. Tripathi; and former President of Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) and AAP member, Alka Lamba.
The welcome was given by Prof. S.M. Pasha, Department of Political Science, Jamia who said that when talking about the ‘Vocabulary of Change’ he thought it essential to have read the book “The Grammar of Politics” by Harold Joseph Laski, to get an idea of what was to be talked about. According to him, the youth is going to play an important role in the future of India since they make up about 66% of the entire nation’s population. The other speakers to welcome were Ms. Damyanty Shridhan, Senior Advisor of FES India, who said, it was important that “when we talk about politics, we have to talk about gender as well,” as they had become an integral of the recent elections; and Ms. Radhika Khajuria, Program Director of WPC who hoped that this would lead to a start of other discussions.
As part of the Second session titled ‘Women and Elections,’ journalists Pamela Philipose and Arti Jain gave a macro perspective of women involved in politics. According to Ms. Philipose, the 2014 General Elections were “masculinized and criminalized.” To her, the greatest deterrent is the huge amounts of money that were being pumped into the election. She stated that 60% of women do not participate in politics because of the fear of facing physical violence. They are also prevented from voting. When looking at the higher level of politics, such as in the national and state assemblies, there was a “water-tight compartmentalization” where most women were not allowed to enter.
Ms. Philipose went on to say that she only saw promises being made in the elections. She lamented that ever since the December 16, 2012 rape, even though almost all party manifestoes talked of women issues, “the language was of protectionism instead of rights.”
The third session titled “Youth and Elections,” focused on the youth aspect of the dialogue. This session included political leaders such as Shazia Ilmi, Prabha Thakur and D.P. Tripathi. Before the politicians were given a moment to speak and interact with the audience, Mr. Anil Verma, member of Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) laid out the various statistics of youth and women participation, a preview of the current members of parliament, and how the media affected the elections. In his opinion, Social Media was the new battle ground that had played an important role in this political campaign. Mr. Verma stressed that youth participation was essential in the political discourse for any real change to take place.
The first of the politicians to speak was Mr. D.P. Tripathi who explained how the BJP came into power as the Congress was always talking about the past and BJP was talking about the future. This was, in his opinion, how it obtained the “aspirational vote by the aspirational class, which is the women and youth.”
Next to speak was Ms. Prabha Thakur, who took to the podium and asked the youth to do a comparative study between all electoral candidates before casting the vote.
Ms. Shazia Ilmi talked about her past and family, about how she came from an orthodox Muslim family and yet she prevailed in her career. She stated that Shah Bano case was a critical point in Muslim female liberation and that it had taken the power away from “the Mullahs.” But she warned the audience not to indulge in stereotypes. According to her, the focus should not be on appearances. “The focus is only on the body. We have to transcend from focusing on the body,” she said.
During the Q&A session, Ms. Alka Lamba and Ms. Shazia Ilmi were asked whether they thought it ironic holding a seminar on “Youth politics” at Jamia since the institution had banned the Students Union Elections for almost a decade now? Did they think that student union elections are necessary and if so, why hadn’t they said anything about it?
Ms. Lamba replied that she being a former President of the DUSU, thought it necessary for a healthy election environment on the university level. As far as her party was concerned, their manifesto clearly stated that they wanted Student Union Elections to be held at every university in the country, as long as they were done in an orderly manner and some guidelines were established as to who could participate, till what age, and how academically sound they were.
Ms. Ilmi, however, avoided the question and left early without answering the question.
1. Listen to Shazia Ilmi’s talk here: Shazia Ilmi – Dialogue on Gender and Youth in Politics [MP3]
2. Listen to Alka Lamba’s talk here: Alka lamba – Dialogue on Gender and Youth in Politics [MP3]
3. Listen to the Q&A Session here: Q&A – Dialogue on Gender and Youth in Politics [MP3]