The Congress leader who eats in Dalit houses should also take care that the Dalit people are allowed to live, CPI(M) MP Brinda Karat said at the Kalindi Deshpande Memorial Lecture here.
She was speaking on the ‘Women's movements and confronting contemporary challenges.'
Referring to the recent incident of a Dalit boy eloping with a Brahmin girl in a village near Delhi and his family getting threats from the police and the Brahmins of the village, Ms. Karat said caste and citizenship were the biggest challenges in front of the women's movement.
“We are living in an India today where democracy is being subverted in many ways,” she said.
Launching an attack on the khap panchayats, she said they were bringing up the gotra issue only to conceal the bigger question of caste.
Narrating her visit to the families of the Dalit boy and the Brahmin girl, she said the Dalits had been threatened by the Brahmins that if they didn't return the girl, they would ‘take' one of the Dalit girls. The father of the boy had spent Rs. 1.5 lakh and sold his land to search for the couple. The police had even picked up another Dalit youth from the village to threaten the others.
Ms. Karat, who demanded a separate law on honour killings earlier this month, said the fear was so large that it showed ‘the vulnerability of the Dalit boy, who was only one and a half hours away from Delhi and yet couldn't point a finger at the police and say they were wrong.'
Stating that fundamentalism is a major challenge to democracy, Ms. Karat said France's ban on the burqa in public spaces will only strengthen fundamentalism.
“The concept of what constitutes freedom should be clear. Claiming to be right under the pretext of secularism is wrong,” she said.
There is no difference then, between countries who force the veil on their women and countries who force them not to wear it. Either way, the freedom of the woman is not respected, she said.
On the issue of food security, she said the government's decision to start a targeted PDS with selected districts and then expanding it to the rest of the country to make it universal is a poor compromise. “This selective method will do more damage than good. The partial universalisation should not end up being sham universalisation,” she said.
She said the kind of work that women are being offered in the neo-liberal system is another challenge that has to be overcome.
In the 65 MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) sites that she had visited, she found that women are made to lift approximately 1500 kg of soil everyday and get paid Rs. 100 whereas their male counterparts who are industrial workers get Rs. 350 for the same amount of work.