By Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Kolkata, Nov 20 (SocialNews.XYZ) The entire past week in West Bengal was abuzz with arguments and counter-arguments over derogatory remarks about two women, both in positions of power in different degrees and both coming from the common tribal background.
The first woman in the limelight on this count was President Droupadi Murmu - the constitutional head of the country, while the second one was the Trinamool Congress legislator and West Bengal minister of state for tribal affairs, Birbaha Hansda.
The arguments started when West Bengal minister of state for correctional services department Akhil Giri, at a public programme, allegedly made some belittling comments concerning the looks of the Indian President.
While Trinamool Congress and the state government was getting cornered by all-round criticisms over the development, a similar repartee came from the leader of the opposition in West Bengal assembly, Suvendu Adhikari, as he made a statement that Birbaha Hansda will remain under his shoes.
That acted as the political balancing factor. What was a one-sided match against Trinamool Congress became a level- playing field with the point of argument focusing on the twin-factors that both the Indian President and West Bengal minister were women and both hailed from tribal backgrounds.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had been maintaining a silence since Akhil Giri's derogatory comments became viral, broke her silence. On one hand, she tendered a public apology on behalf of her minister for the said derogatory comments. On the other hand, she also raised the question on whether BJP leadership will also censure Adhikari and apologise for making such comments about Birbaha Hansda, since she is also a woman from the tribal background.
Now, in midst of such political arguments the question that is floating around is that whether such derogatory comments are just simple elements of political slugfest or are manifestations of the continuing social evils of patriarchal society, where it is often difficult to accept the achievements of a woman especially if she hails from a social or economically background.
The question gathers momentum considering that this is not the first time that derogatory comments had been made about any woman politician in West Bengal.
Veteran political analyst, Santanu Sanyal pointed out that even the West Bengal Marxists, otherwise known for their sophisticated and cultured oration style, were not free of this disease of passing derogatory remarks about a woman.
"No one can forget the derogatory remarks that seven-time Lok Sabha member from Arambagh constituency, Late Anil Basu made about the current West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee before the 2011 West Bengal assembly elections. Similarly, all remember the filthy language, that former Trinamool Congress legislator, Sonali Guha Roy, who later became the deputy Speaker of West Bengal Assembly, made about former Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's wife in November 2006, when Trinamool Congress legislators ransacked the West Bengal Assembly. As late as February 2020, Trinamool Congress legislator, Nargis Begum threatened CPI(M) legislator, Jahanara Khan of getting the latter raped. Remember in the last instance a threat was given by one woman lawmaker to another woman lawmaker. This tradition of derogatory remarks by politicians targeting women is still continuing," Sanyal said.
Academic administrator and social activist, Suchismita Bagchi Sen feels that in a patriarchal society the inherent hesitation and mental block in accepting women in positions of power, especially if that woman hails from socially or economically backward backgrounds, has continued to rule the mindset of the Indian society to a great extent.
"Neither West Bengal is out of India nor politicians are out of this social structure. So, what Akhil Giri said about the Indian President or what the leader of the opposition commented about a West Bengal woman minister from a tribal background are nothing but manifestations of the mindset of patriarchal society," Bagchi Sen said.
Dr Tirthankar Guha Thakurata, faculty with Kolkata-based KPC Medical College & Hospital and visiting faculty with the department of psychology of the University of Kolkata said that such derogatory comments concerning the looks of the Indian President is also a manifestation of the patriarchal mindset in Indian society where a woman is judged only by external beauty and not by her inherent strength.
On this matter Guha Thakurata quoted legendary American social activist, Gloria Marie Steinem, who said - "I am glad that we have begun to raise our daughters more like our sons, but it will never work until we raise our sons more like our daughters."
"On one hand, the Indian society is progressing as the parents are bringing up their daughters at par with their sons so that the girls move ahead with their inherent strengths to achieve their goals. Similarly, it would be great if the same parents bring their sons up imbibing the sensitivity of their daughters where the sons learn to respect women because of the latter's inherent strength rather than being fascinated just by their external beauty," Guha Thakurta concluded.