The ongoing World Hindu Congress (WHC) here on Saturday saw gender getting a bold voice at the packed conference hall, where Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and former IPS officer-turned- social activist Kiran Bedi addressed a gathering that would baffle any fan of the stereotypes of Indian women.
Sitharaman arrived at the venue just as the delegates from Fiji were discussing the core factors related to female foeticide with their Indian friends from Delhi’s “Yamuna paar” over coffee and cookies.
“You are encouraging a certain picturisation of women, where she’s made a commodity, a certain narrative, story, where she is being projected as a doormat, and you are comfortably watching it, shedding tears. The moment (the) government tries to come in, we will have equally n-number of women saying ‘Oh, moral policing!” she thundered.
Sitharaman stressed the need for women to document their achievements--a suggestion that left many eyes welled-up. Later, the women gushed about Manusmriti, Natyashastra, pride, honour, opportunities, working conditions, rituals, hawans, matching bangles and lipsticks, and the right crackle of kachaurees, all in the same breath, almost. The “big bindis”, worn in bright and proud vermillion stood out. Many delegates complained about the lack of time for a wider interaction. And the WHC provided ample proof of the fact that a change of address did matter, especially, when “Bharat” was mentioned in place of “India”. The global Hindu is grounding the ingredients for cultural, economic, spiritual and intellectual “resurgence” in the mortar,the idea of Bharat with the pestle of “pride”. The brittle element of fundamentalism is out. The Bharatiya curry, minus the onion and garlic, is hot and brewing at the Hindu Congress.
A glass door separated the voice of gender and education. The latter saw a more passionate and louder exchange of ideas. The veterans, Kapil Kapoor (former pro-VC,JNU) and Madhavan Nair, former ISRO chairman, chaired two vibrant sessions on curricula innovation for higher educational institutions and enhancing quality and efficiency through networking. Kapoor agreed with his “friend Aristotle” while supporting the idea of teaching Sanskrit in schools and declared that he was “not a Marxist” while saying that the Indian education system divides people and creates islands.
Nair pitched for the need to create “knowledgeable and employable products” in students. He said, “There was a big hue and cry about the percentage of students for higher education. But I have a view that students, who complete 10-12 years of education, should become employable. They should have the knowledge and skills and should be empowered. We have to see that the students’ efforts are channelised in an area of their liking.”
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