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Has situation of women changed from historic Draupadi to Draupadi of democratic India?

By Martin Macwan* 

A picture of a male, mocking and pulling a woman's sari to strip her naked in the presence of full-fledged male dominated assembly appears before our eyes, the moment we hear the name ‘Draupadi’. Most men in the assembly are encouraging the sari stripping man and his action. The five husbands of Draupadi, Pandavas, are sitting there with their faces hung in shame, unable to help their wife, since they had betted and lost their wife in a gamble.
Does a man have right to put his wife on a bet? Shouldn’t he seek her consent before betting her? These questions had little meaning then; as both the law and the religion dictated that the Kauravas had every right to deal with Draupadi, whom they had won in the gamble. Attempt to protect Draupadi, hence was ‘Adharm’. The Kauravas could have humiliated Draupadi in loneliness but they had decided to drag her by holding her hair in full view of the assembly and disrobed her.
This story has been taught to all children to highlight the fact that Shri Krishna, with his miracle, lengthened the Saree so much that the Kauravas failed to disrobe Draupadi. It is never emphasized how mean, both the groups of men, the Kauravas and the Pandavas were.
It is but natural that women from both the Kauravas and Pandavas clans were present when this demeaning act happened. However, we have never heard about either the presence of women there or how they reacted to this episode. Thereafter the unequal and slave-like status of women was codified in the ‘Manu Smruti’. In Indian history, this became the glaring example of Uniform Civil Code for all women, irrespective of their caste status, that they were merely the slaves of men. To humiliate women, to batter women and to outrage modesty of women became privilege of men.
In modern and Independent India, the bearer of ‘Draupadi’ name is our most respected and honorable President of India. In the eyes of public her glorified appointment as the ‘First Tribal Woman President of India’ is a political move keeping in mind the general elections of 2024 to capture the Tribal vote.
Draupadi Murmu hails from Odisha and previously held the position of Governor of Jharkhand, the State with dominant tribal population, not a partner of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Though she is the first citizen of India and the Constitutional head, she was neither invited on the inaugural occasion of the new Parliament Building, nor her message was sought for to grace the occasion.
Though as the head of all the Armed forces of India, the President failed to enter the Sanctum Sanctorum of a temple in the capital. However, her image of sweeping the floor of a temple is popularized.
‘Draupadi’ of the past history was fortunate to have no other than Lord Sri Krishna by her side to protect her modesty. Today, in the State of Manipur, when three tribal women were forced to strip and paraded naked on the roads in the day light and in the public gaze by a frenzy mob who continued to molest them too before gang raping the youngest woman in an open field, there was no Lord Krishna, no the Prime Minister of India and not even the National Commission of Women was present there to help them. 
Unfortunately, we did not hear a voice of protest from our honorable President of India too.
The mob had killed the father and brother of a woman who attempted to protect the woman. To add to the indignity of the nation, reportedly the police was helpless, mute spectator when the crowd took away the three women from their custody.
How has the situation of women changed between the era of historic ‘Draupadi’ and the ‘Draupadi’ of democratic nation governed by the law? Has the sexual violence on the women decreased irrespective of the best and multiple legislations?
Draupadi of  historic past was fortunate to have Lord Krishna to protect her modesty. Manipur women had none protect them
The segregated data on the atrocities on both the Dalits and the tribals in India have been available only from 1974 and 1989. As per reports between 1974 and 2021 a total of 58,606 incidents of rape on Dalit women have been registered, whereas between 1989 and 2021, a total of 21,318 incidents of rape have been registered on tribal women.
This is an incomplete picture, as in the initial years, not all the states reported such crimes; besides, during the two years period the Government did not publish such segregated data, and not all the rape cases are reported to the police.
In the backdrop of the most popularised term ‘development’ since 2014, a natural question follows: Would the incidents of sexual violence in the presence of development increase or decrease? India has reported a total of 31,967 incidents of rape on Dalit and tribal women between 2014 and 2021 in a period of only eight years under the rule of NDA, which amounts for 40 percent of the total cases as reported above in past 46 years.
Do we hear even a little protest in the country against the increasing sexual violence on Dalit and Tribal women compared to the mammoth protests against reservation?
The incident of Manipur is the height of barbarity. To protest this inhuman condition programme is being organized on 10th August 2023 in Gujarat with the following details. Name of the programme is द्रौपदी से द्रौपदी तक (From Draupadi to Draupadi).
Under this program, a women led convention will be held on 10th August 2023 at 11 AM at the Dalit Shakti Kendra, situated near Sanand town in Ahmedabad district. A saree will be displayed on the occasion in which the precarious condition of Dalit and tribal will be displayed through images and figures.
This saree will be sent to the President of India, three women governors of India, the chairperson of National Commission of women, women leaders of national political parties, the most vocal women journalists highlighting the conditions of women, women artists and sports persons who too have voiced their concerns with a request to wear this saree on the occasion of flag hoisting on 15th August 2023 on the occasion of 76th Independence Day of India.
After the convention, the participants will reach Nehru Bridge, Ahmedabad, and hold a peaceful demonstration for 30 minutes. At the end of the programme, a delegation will reach the Ahmedabad General Post Office and post the sarees to the listed women leaders.
All the people who condemn the incident of Manipur and the increasing sexual violence on Dalit and Tribal women are invited to join and participate the programme.
---
*Founder, Dalit Shakti Kendra

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