Kavita Suri

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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir


Symbol of Unity


“Fighting 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. Meet 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 and children.

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, she adds. 

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