elections in protest against apathy towards women issues”
In the prestigious Jammu East assembly segment, most of the 75,000
voters get a surprise these days for a woman contestant who knocks at the
doors asking for the votes, is so familiar to them. Infact, more over 70
per cent of the women who form an important component of the electoral
process in Jammu (having three assembly segments) happen to be her students.
Professor Rita Jitendra who has taught for about 38 years in one of the
only two government women colleges in Jammu region, has been one of the
highly qualified contesting candidates in these assembly elections, is
a member of Jammu and Kashmir State Women Commission, also playwright
who has worked as Secretary, Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture
and languages, the only lady to have the honour of becoming its secretary
till date. Infact, there are so many feathers in her cap that if written
about all of these, one would require pages.
And this dynamic lady whose face is familiar to the entire state of
Jammu and Kashmir and whose presence is felt at every fora, when decided
to take a plunge in the state politics last fortnight, the most inspiring
words came from the veteran journalist and former Director General of Information,
J&K Government Mr Sati Sahni who just said ,”A sheer act of courage”.
Dr Jitender Singh, another famous diabeteologist of the country added more
by saying that it was not only a sheer act of courage but also of conviction.
Women issues are nothing new to Prof Jitendra as she has been working
for the rights of women since long. Initially through here writings and
later through her social service and her association with various non-governmental
organizations. Having dedicated half a century of her life to the cause
of women, Prof Jitendra feels that women are still hard pressed,
especially in a state like Jammu and Kashmir which has been severally hit
by the terrorist violence and women unfortunately have no vent for their
emotions and problems. Thus the suffering lot.
What really pains this sensitive heart who has been a writer, women
rights activist, cultural activist and a theatre personality is the fact
that even none of the political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have tried
to do something for the upliftment of women. She feels that the violence
against the women is on increase, political parties and people also are
not serious about having good candidates “But either good people should
join you in politics or you should be prepared to be governed by the bad
people,” she adds.
Women, she says, were already suffering much in a state like Jammu and
Kashmir where opportunities are very less but then terrorism added more
to it resulting which there is so much to depression and other mental ailments
among women but no cure at all. Even the ruling National Conference which
is boastful of protecting women rights, hasn’t done anything for them.
She narrates an incident wherein two MLAs where talking in the state assembly
which was in session and the third legislator interrupted and told them
to keep quiet saying, “Shut up, this is not the kitchen.” This comment
hurt her so much that from the visitors gallery where she was sitting ,
she later went up to him when the session was over and told him that had
her wife not been in the kitchen in the morning, he would not have been
sitting in the Assembly.
But then working so hard for the betterment of women of the state,
then suddenly how come she decided to contest the assembly elections? Prof
Jitendra answers: “What really depressed me was the fact that most of the
these main political parties like the BJP, National Conference and the
Congress always talk about women but in these elections, they never gave
mandate to women. Yes, there are women in the fray but most of them are
independents and a couple of women have been given mandates by these parties
which is not enough for them,” said she adding that only a women can understand
the women issues and there is a great need for giving proper representation
to the women in the legislatures and parliaments. She also believes that
the politicians would never fulfill their promises of giving 33 per cent
to the women in the legislatures or in the parliament as these are just
lip-services for them to keep women happy.
Though many political parties approached her for joining them, yet she
“launched” herself as an independent candidate as a “protest” against the
indifference of all of these parties towards the women issues. And also
to draw the attention of powers that be that women do want to join poliitcs”.
“All of these political parties failed to impress me”, she informed.
Prof Jitendra who also happens to be one of the member of Jammu and
Kashmir State women Commission (J&K SWC) is also critical of the fact
that even this body meant for fighting for women rights and reaching out
to help them, has not been able to due much for them. Courtesy state government
and bureaucratic wrangles. For the Commission functions in Srinagar for
six months and moves to Jammu for the six winter months along with other
Move offices (J&K government functions six months in Srinagar and six
months in Jammu which is a part of over 100 years old tradition).
“Does it mean that for six months, all the women problems in Jammu region
cease to exist, or that there is no issue, or for all these months no women
would face any problem? Then suddenly after six months, these problems
and issues would resurface or would be reopened when the Women Commission
office is shifted here? Asks Jitendra.
About here chances of winning which always seem to be very bleak for
any independent candidate who is not backed by any strong political party,
has no enough funds for campaigning or event he party machinery, Prof Jitendra
hoped that all the right thinking voters would be casting their votes in
her favour on her four point agenda which is women and women issues, youth
About the response that she has been getting during her canvassing,
Prof. Jitendra said most of the 25,000 women in her constituencies have
been her students, have been grandmothers and mothers. Most of them are
greatly surprised to see their old “Ma’am” coming to them asking for the
votes. But so impressed and influenced are they by their personality that
they assure her of their full support.
“I am going to them as an educated mother and that what I am asking,
votes for their mother” said Prof Jitendra who has “ballon” as her party
symbol. Why ballon? Because it soars high and high, is used in every auspicious
function, be it birthdays, weddings or any other celebrations, we use ballons,