By Sharanya Gopinathan
Yesterday in the Rajya Sabha, Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan said the government focuses on the protection of cows, and not the protection of women. This statement came up during the discussion in Parliament around a BJP youth wing leader announcing an 11 lakh bounty on the head of Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Jaya Bachchan reportedly said, “Must take steps for protection of women aggressively. You are protecting cows but atrocities being committed on women,” said Bachchan.
I totally understand where she’s coming from. After the BJP’s recent electoral victory in Uttar Pradesh, the debates around renewed crackdowns on slaughterhouses, beef, vigilante justice and vegetarianism have been back in the spotlight. So has UP’s decision to set “anti-Romeo squads” loose on the streets with the stated intention of combating street sexual harassment, but which has actually ended up being another form of moral policing. Women activists came out against anti-Romeo squads, saying that they violated women’s privacy and liberty, putting their already-threatened freedoms into jeopardy. All this does make it seem as though the BJP cares about cows than the liberty and safety of women.
That being said, the phrasing of Jaya Bachchan’s complaint, while catchy, powerful and effective in getting your attention, may not have been the wisest, especially in the strange political times we’re in right now. I would personally definitely think twice before asking the BJP to “protect” women. The current Chief Minister of UP, BJP’s Yogi Adityanath, has in the past said on his website that women need protection from birth to death, that women don’t really need freedom, and that if you leave women free and uncontrolled, their energy will become useless and destructive. He also added that women should be protected by their fathers when young, by their husbands in middle age, and by their sons in old age.
Given his views on the freedom and protection of women, and keeping in mind that he was obviously the BJP leadership’s pick for Chief Minister of UP, it feels a bit risky to ask this party to focus on the “protection” of women the way they have focused on the protection of cows. Perhaps a better ask would be for the government (and everyone) to focus on the freedom and liberty of women, as opposed to their notion of “protection”.