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Will modern day Draupadi 'break her silence'? Gujarat women protest Manipur outrage

By Pradip More* 

The word 'development' is heard again and again, if development was taking place, would violence against women 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 the Dalit and Tribal women compared to the mammoth protest against the reservation? The incident of Manipur is the hight of barbarity. A huge procession and demonstration was organized from Draupadi to Draupadi in Gujarat on 10 August 2023 to protest against this pathetic condition.
A saree was displayed in this conference of women at Dalit Shakti Kendra in Ahmedabad, in which the situation of atrocities on Dalit-Tribal women was illustrated. The saree was sent to the President of India, three women governors, two women leaders of all political parties, women journalists who raised their voice on the issue of violence against women, women activists, and sensitive women artists and requested them to wear the saree on Indian Independence Day during the flag hoisting ceremony on 15th August.
Women's conference condemned the violence against women in Manipur and women representatives from 12 districts of Gujarat state as well as 7 different states spoke about the status of women in their respective states.
After the conference, the rally started from Dalit Shakti Kendra and reached the Nehru Bridge, in Ahmedabad. All the women who participated in the conference displayed specially designed sari on Nehru Bridge and raised slogans asking President Draupadi Murmu to break her silence on violence against women. 
All the women lined up with poster-banners and protested for 30 minutes by condemning the incidents in Manipur through sloganeering. After this a delegation went to Ahmedabad General Post Office and all the sarees were posted to the nominated women leaders.

From Draupadi to Draupadi

A picture of a male, mocking and pulling a woman's sari to strip her naked in the presence of full-fledged male dominated state 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 disrobe 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.
In modern and Independent India, the bearer of Draupadi name is our most respected and honorable President of India
It is but natural, that women from both the Kauravas and Pandavas clan 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 the 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. Smt. 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 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 one 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 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 Nation, reportedly the Police had helplessly been mute spectators 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? The segregated data on the atrocities on both the Dalit and Tribal in India have been available only from 1974 and 1989 respectively. 
As per reports between 1974 and 2021 a total of 58,606 incidents of rape on the Dalit women have been registered whereas between 1989 and 2021, a total of 21,318 incidents of Rape have been registered on the Tribal women. This is an incomplete picture as in the initial years, not all the states had reported such crimes besides during two years period the Government did not publish such segregated data and not all the rape cases are reported to the police.
---
*With Dalit Shakti Kendra

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