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Women in the Constituent Assembly

This womens’ day, we reflect on the contributions of the women members of the Constituent Assembly that framed our Constitution. The Constituent Assembly was formed in 1946, before India gained independence. The Assembly consisted of 389 members, out of whom 15 members were women.

Each of them had extensive experience in the national freedom struggle and local movements relevant to their place of operation. They also shaped  the Indian womens’ movement and balanced these interests with nationalist goals. Along with this, they faced the challenges of sexism within the constituent assembly and patriarchal mores in their personal lives, all of which contributed to their ideas of what a future India would look like.

In episode 4 of the DAKSH Podcast we spoke to Priya Ravichnadran, an independent analyst in the field of politics and policy making who has written extensively about the women in the Indian constituent assembly in her blog ‘15 for the republic’. We explored with her, the motivations, experiences and rich lives of these women – both inside and outside the Constituent Assembly and mused on how far we are from the idea of India they had worked for.

Show Notes

  1. Priya Ravichandran’s blog available at ​​https://15fortherepublic.wordpress.com/

  2. The Constituent Assembly Debates available in the Parliament’s digital library at https://eparlib.nic.in/handle/123456789/4

  3. Speeches of the women members of the Constituent Assembly ​​https://rajyasabha.nic.in/rsnew/publication_electronic/Selected%20Women%20Speech_Final.pdf

  4. Priya Ravichandran, The Women Who Helped Draft Our Constitution, Mint https://www.livemint.com/Leisure/dLi6ZIdW6CgswZCGdOA9VM/The-women-who-helped-draft-our-constitution.html

  5. HS Anupama, Samvidhana Mattu Mahile, Ladai Prakashana publications, 2019 in Kannada (ಸಂವಿಧಾನ ಮತ್ತು ಮಹಿಳೆ)
  6. Youtube series by The Scroll on Women in the Constituent Assembly hosted by Priya Ravichandran. The first episode is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ldVv2TFZME

In the accused Naryan Kamde  865 is charged under Indian Penal Code Section 306 abatement of Sucide.Vikas Dubay is dead he’s been killed after an encounter broke out. This is the big breaking news that’s coming in. Suspense is finally over the Mumbai trial court today gave more with Momhamad Amin Cassab death sentence for murder and waging war against the country 17 months. The Consitutent assembly will frame the Constitution in terms of paragraph three of the resolution.

Welcome to the Daksh Podcast. I’m Anindita. I work with Daksh which is a Bangalore based nonprofit, working on judicial reforms and access to justice. The Constitution of India is today the bastion of our national identity, and all the principles we hold dear. Its origin, however, was fraught with uncertainty and chaos. to draft this document. The Constituent Assembly was formed in 1946 when independence and partition both loomed large, and it was the result of many political negotiations with the British colonial regime. The document was debated and discussed by a team led by Dr. BR Ambedkar, who eventually framed the Constitution We cherish today.

The assembly consisted of 389 members, who are a group of diverse individuals from the subcontinent, each with extensive experience in the freedom movement, and ideas for what a future India would look like. Amongst them, while 15 exceptional women Ammu Swaminathan, Annie Maccarene,  Begum Aizaz Rasul, Dakshayani Velayudhan, Durgabai Deshmuk, Hansa Jivraj Mehta, Kamala Chaudhary, Leela Roy, Malti Chaudhary, Poornima Baneerji, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, , Renuka Ray, Sarojini Naidu, Sujeta Kriplani and Vijaylaxmi Pandit. Most of them were a part of the Indian Women’s Movement, along with various other political and social movements that spoke to their experience. In this episode, we chat with Priya Ravichandran and independent analyst in the field of politics and policymaking who has written extensively about the women in the Indian Constitution assembly in her blog 15 for the Republic, we understand from her the motivations, experiences and the rich lives of these women, both inside and outside the constituent assembly.

Hi, Priya, welcome to the Daksh podcast. We’re really happy to have you here today. Hi, I’m really excited to be here too. It’s one of my favorite topics to talk about and subjects to deep dive into and I’m looking forward to doing that. So we know that the constituent assembly was formed before India was independent. And the system of elections as we understand it today didn’t exist at the time. Priya, can you tell us how are these Constituent Assembly members chosen were they chosen by appointment or what kind of election were used to take place then

it was partly nomination and partly appointment. The system of elections that came into being post independence or at least post Republic was not similar to what we had before. So when the decision to establish a Constituent Assembly took root, and it happened with the cabinet mission plan in 1946, the original plan was to have every citizen who was eligible to vote to actually vote the Constituent Assembly members into place. But then soon after 1946 Once a cabinet mission plan happened and the proposal took place, and the idea of Indian independence actually started to take root, they realize that it was a huge undertaking, and there was no process in place to have an actual universal adult suffrage at that point in time. So what the Instead did was in 1946, the Provincial Assembly elections took place. This is where every province within the country voted for their assembly members, the Provincial Assembly Members elect a person who would be part of the constituent assembly debates. So when this conversation was taking place, the women’s movement who had already been far enough in the process of being able to get universal suffrage within India brought up the topic of having women members within the constituent assembly. And All India Congress Committee at that point decided it would be a good thing to have women as part of the assembly itself. And they asked the All India Women’s Committee, which was the premier women’s movement organization within India at that point, to nominate members and they also asked the Provincial Assembly members to put names forward of women who would go on to become Constituent Assembly members. So it was both a mix of nominations.

and elections. And this was pre partition. So we had 300 Plus Constituent Assembly Members post partition, it came down to 299, of which 15 were women. So getting down to the main topic of discussion, these remarkable 15 women.

Why do you think these were the 15 that were chosen? Do you think they had some sort of economic or social privilege that helped them get there?

And they were definitely privileged. There was no question about that. I mean, they were representing roughly 18 million women of independent India at that point. And even if you consider how many were eligible to vote ,15 was like a really, really small percentage. I mean, less than point not too not not too percentage of women of independent India at that point, were assembly members. But it would be a stretch to say economic privilege helped in getting all 15 women, I mean, social privileges, yes, you can argue that there were social privileges, just the ability to rise to the position that they were in, during that point in time to find comradeship to be a part of associations, which talked about women’s movement, which to get the kind of education a lot of them eventually got or to even be a part of political discussions and conversations that male members were predominant, was definitely a privilege of these 15 women they had seen a wide range of social injustice is just between themselves, you know, you had child marriage, you had caste based discrimination, you had widowhood that stripped away rights and economic rights. You had people who had inter caste marriages, who had faced discrimination from within family and society itself, and women who were looked down upon by men in the constituent assembly itself. So definitely, they were elite at very many levels, but it would be unfairly treating the people who had to fight their way into that into it’s a blanket statement.

Yeah, that’s, that’s, you’re very right in saying that, so maybe we can contextualize by talking about specific members. I just wanted to take the example of Malti Chaudry. She is a representative from Odissa, and she was educated at Shantiniketan, big part of Gandhian movements. She was also there in the Salt Satyagraha for which she was imprisoned with her two year old daughter. And she had a huge impact in her own region, she led local movements. But still, from what I read in your blog, I find that maybe she was not so comfortable in the constituent assembly. Can you tell us a bit more about how you found out about this? And do you think that women were actually heard in the constituent assembly, so Malti Chaudry did not take part in actual Constituent Assembly debates, out of the 15 women who are elected to the Constituent Assembly debates, by number 1949. When they finally agreed upon the final constitution, only 11 of them were part of the constituent assembly. Three of them dropped out because of various reasons. Malti Chaudhary’s Case case was interesting because she stepped away because she didn’t feel that her voice would matter. The idea that they would have to sit amongst men who had fought longer battles are who had fought much more critical nationalist battles, and to fight for a constitution, which she felt was heavily borrowed. It was after all based for a large percentage on the 1935 India Independence Act. So she felt it was not original. And that was something that went against her principles. One of the things that we do have to remember is that the Congress and the Muslim League were the only two parties that were part of the constituent assembly. And once partition was over, almost all the members were Congress members. And even though there were variations in the thought process, there were people who represent the far left as much as the far right was represented. But even in that mix of ideologies, there were people like Malti Choudhary, who was a diehard Marxist, she was one of the original Marxist thinkers within the women, Marxist thinkers in the country. And she felt that it was just not representative enough of her ideals and her principles and the kind of values that she envisioned the constitution to be. The other thing I think, it’s very hard to say if they felt heard, there were significant moments where they were part of critical subcommittees within the Constituent Assembly where they could raise their voice and, you know, raise objections pass amendments, but out of 299 men there were 15 women, the PRS legislative actually did research on this and less than 2% of the words actually spoken in the Constituent Assembly where women’s voices so it’s difficult to say if they were heard at this point, but they didn’t leave an impact is what I would like to think about

because a lot of the principles or the reform measures, or even the laws that were argued within the Constituent Assembly debates, were things that were inspired by social reform movements that many of these women were part of, or nationalist movements that these people were part of like Malti Choudhary biggest thing was upliftment of, you know, the minority communities, especially within her principality. So that kind of knowledge was definitely brought to the fore, but it was not by these women alone.

I mean, one of the examples I can think of is Hansa Mehta. Her background was that she was the daughter of Divano Baroda, and she was also the first woman Vice Chancellor of any university in India. But in the constant assembly, she was really arguing for the uniform Civil Code, which is a problem that we are still grappling with today. Now, for our listeners, the uniform Civil Code, simply put is, when all inheritance, Marriage, Divorce, that is all personal laws are the same irrespective of religion, which we don’t have today, right? Our inheritance laws and everything are governed by what religion we follow. So can you tell us about how, you know some of the ideas of the of these women in the constant assembly today find a place in the Constitution when we read it, then how will we connect it to what they said? 

So Hansa Mata was a big proponent of the uniform Civil Code. And that was purely based on the rights that it would offer to women. The problem at that point, and the reason why it eventually became a part of the Directive Principles, rather than part of the fundamental rights was that it was considered a social revolution in some way, like if the way to even look at the Constitution of India was that it was considered a social revolution, you are going to bring democracy, you are going to bring universal adult suffrage, you are going to bring all the values and principles that are usually enshrined into a democratic country, through this constitution to people who have never had that kind of an environment before. So a lot of the things that eventually did become part of the Directive Principles of state policy, were things that were part of the social revolution were things that would uplift people and to make them into a more cohesive democratic society. The other reason was also because of the religious tensions that were raised, where the uniform Civil Code was concerned, you will have to really put yourself in the place of the members who are arguing for UCC and against the UCC. This was a time of partition, you know, Pakistan, Punjab, Delhi were burning on the other side, Bangladesh was having its own problems. You had all these provinces that were trying to decide whether they were going to be part of independent India or Pakistan, the Nizam of Hyderabad was revolting. You had all these princely states that were trying to find their own position within India. So seen from that perspective, the reason why the UCC eventually ended up becoming a part of the Directive Principles makes a lot more sense because they were not ready to take that step yet. They were not ready to commit to something that would possibly divide India and further religious lines, which would cause further religious revolt. And as much as Hansa Mehta wanted to see UCC as something that would lift women’s movement up, lift women up make a case for women’s right. That was not the only thing that other people were looking at. To answer the other question on, you know how effective these people’s ideas are the things that we need to look into Constituent Assembly where the women debated every social movement or every social reform that eventually became a part of the Indian Constitution has its roots in the kind of work that these women and the women’s movement that they belonged to did and made a foundation starting from like 1950-1970, and on you know, everything from vocational education in India to equality, labor laws, these were all part of social movements that these women had fought for and the AI WC has like extensive records of the kinds of debates that happened. Hansa Mehta’s equality Charter, the women’s equality charter talks in great detail about all these kinds of things. So while it is difficult to isolate pockets of debate where these women made an impact, or by these women, had their say, and eventually managed to make a change, I like to think every part of the Constitution where equality comes into play or where equal rights makes itself known, was because of these women. 

Also, as you mentioned, given the times that they lived in the fact that Hansa Mehta have fought so hard for uniform Civil Code is truly something you know, it’s remarkable because even in today’s time, which arguably a there’s a lot less bloodshed on community lines, though I can’t say that it’s not an issue. We’re still so hesitant to take it up, right. But going back to you know your answer from that, I find that these women lead very rich lives outside of the constant assembly. And they were part of a lot of social movements. And if I understand correctly, the freedom movement that we now seem to look on as a sort of just freedom from colonial forces, was, in fact, you know, a culmination of a lot of parallel movements, social economic movements, peasant movement, Zamindari movements, and as you mentioned, the women’s movement, which is fairly crucial. But where do you situate these women from the constituent assembly in this entire field, did they lay their loyalties to various other movements, did that reflect more on their arguments in the constituent assembly?

Um, so there are two ways to look at it. One is the origin of the Indian women movement itself, and what its roots were and what it sought to achieve. And the other, you can call it the first Indian feminist movement, and the movement that came, I would say, post 1935. Once they got the right to vote, and everything was much more political. They saw themselves as equal. So it was women as political partners, rather than women as a subject of reform. The first part was heavily influenced by the kinds of attitudes that they were subjected to by the men in the country and within their immediate society. And the nationalist movement again, has two layers to it. One is where these women saw themselves as political partners, yes, but only within the framework of the nationalist movement. And at the same time, they were also trying to set themselves apart from the International suffrage movement. So at one particular point in time, the British women’s suffrage movement and the Indian Suffrage Movement kind of running on parallel tracks, the British women were talking about equal suffrage and upliftment of women for the entire Commonwealth for the entire all the women under the Empire. So, post 1935, post 1940, these women saw themselves as political equals to their nationalist counterparts. For two reasons. One, they wanted to set themselves apart from whatever white savior complex they assumed that the British woman had going on. And secondly, to ally themselves with a nationalist movement rather than set themselves apart as women fighting for women’s rights, universal adult suffrage was considered the goal and equality in the eyes of law, under every circumstance was considered the larger goal. Because the assumption was that by combining social movements with nationalistic movements, there might be a backlash, and they might not be able to get everything that they want to by combining these two, and they might be looked upon as interfering with nationalist ideas, even voting rights for that matter. When they were talking about it. Gandhi and Nehru pointed out that they will end up confusing everyone, when they’re talking about women’s rights when everyone else is talking about independence itself, which is why you know, it helps to see these as different waves.

But I think Priya, maybe this whole thing started even before the National Movement evolved as a political movement, where we are trying to identify ourselves as a nation that was preceded by social movements. So even under the British realm, you have your Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, you know, advocating for the more rudimentary women’s rights like education for women, or widow remarriage. And I think right from there, there was a lot of resistance from the Indian community, saying that if you stand for an India, if you are Indian, you’re against the British and therefore, looking inwards or reforming any of the Indian culture is pro British. Do you think that was that sentiment where women were torn between? If I fight for women’s rights, then I’m not really fighting for India’s independence? Do you think that sort of dichotomy existed? Or is that putting it too simplistic. 

No, it existed much later, once independent conversation started really strong, like, I would say, Quit India moment was like the start of that kind of thought process where the idea that women’s movement could not exist independently of the nationalist movement, and it has to be a part of it. And you either talk about universal adult suffrage, where women gain an equality under law for everything, or don’t talk about it at all, and it helps to not see all these women as one whole. There were a lot of divisions even amongst themselves like Just going back a little bit more when 1917 was the first official, Annie Besant and Dorothy Jinarajadasa  and all these people, they got together to form the first women’s national movement, basically, and this was to fight against social reform. And at that time, independence was not even a serious consideration or was not even a serious part of the conversation. It was just around the kind of injustice that women suffered in the country. So you know, your education, your vocational activities that women could do, just getting women out in the public eye, fighting for rights for widows, inheritance rights, for daughters, Sati, widow remarriage, everything could be bundled under that period of time between 1970 and to say, 1930s with the formation of the All India women’s committee in around 1927, and the women’s India Association around the same period of time 1925 27, these social reform movements, kind of all came together under the AIWC umbrella. But the problem at that point was that the AIWC it ended up becoming a group of women who were highly educated, well traveled, and a sort of elitist group of women who also counted amongst their members, British and Irish women Annie besant,, it was not a single voice, there were women who said, you know, we need to fight for social reform moments before anything else. And there were women who said, We need to look at Universal Suffrage as the beginning of equality for everybody. And there were women who said, you know, equality, by way of suffrage should be the part of the goal. But that’s not the beginning. The only reason why the 15 women or the women who eventually became part of the constituent assembly made their mark was because at some level, they all ended up saying that, okay, let’s agree on one thing at a time. And let’s say women’s rights is the starting point for everything else. We have come a certain way, as far as social reform movements have gone, you know, there have been people who have fought alongside us men who have fought alongside us to agree that certain social practices are taboo. So this would be the beginning of everything else that will come. So at least, by law, we are equal, so we can make sure that everything else is managed around that.

That makes a lot of sense. Like, I mean, like the example of the only woman Dalit member in the constituent assembly, you write, that she Dakshayani Velayudhum in her own lifetime, she did not have the right to cover her upper body because that was the cast rule that she was subjected to. And she has overcome those kinds of odds to come all the way to the constituent assembly. So, I mean, I’m sure from what you’re saying that, you know, they come from very diverse experiences. For instance, when I was reading about Lila Roy, and she was a very fiery revolutionary that you see her trying to train other women in firearms and bomb making. That was one way of looking at things. But there were other women alike, which are Vijaylaxmi Pandit who certainly wouldn’t be going down that path or like Sarojini Naidu who is writing poetry at the same time, so you’re right in suggesting that they were very diverse. But it’s interesting that you say they eventually sort of had to come to some sort of a base platform, which I understand this equality as a right and then take off from there to actualize all the various values that they stood for individually. Also now to come to their personal lives a little bit because it seems to be quite spicy.

From what I know, Vijaylaxmi Pandit who we’ve already spoken about so much and was Nehru’s sister was briefly married, the Muslim diplomat Syud Hussain according to Islamic rights, and this would did not go down well with her family and Nehru and Gandhi sort of separated them and packed her off to Savarmati ashram to reflect on her actions. But meanwhile, you have someone like Sarojini Naidu, who was born a Bengali Brahmin but married into a Naidu family. So that was a hugely controversial thing and the time is an inter caste marriage.

So I was just thinking, do you have like snippets like this of people’s personal lives where they’re, you know, not just fighting for the country, but a little bit for themselves and how much the social reform and political reform affected them personally,

Durgabai Deshmuk who  had entered into a child marriage at around the age of eight, she refused to go live with him once she attained maturity. And that was something that interestingly her both her father and her brothers supported. She went off to get an education. Well, after independence, she fell in love with a Chintaman who became a part of the Indian federal union government, and her marriage was witnessed by Nehru

And a lot of what the social movements that she kick started was based on her experience in her village and in her society that she underwent as a child bride, Durgabai Deshmukh, I think her husband was the uncle of KR Narayan, the first Dalit President of India, and her marriage was witnessed by Mahatma Gandhi. And it’s not the spicier side of thing but Vijayalakshmi pandits personal experience post her marriage to Ranjit and widowhood. Subsequent widowhood once  he died in prison, informed a lot of Nehru’s views and even her own views on the inheritance laws in India. She lost all of her  inheritance because he died without a male heir. So that informed a lot of her views on and even Nehru’s views on inheritance. A lot of Nehru family connections come into place when you start like picking them apart. So Nehru was connected to Padmaja Naidu, who was Sarojini Naidu’s daughter for a certain period of time, there was a lot of gossip around.

It’s, it’s fascinating to see the kind of interconnections that are there. Between them Nehru was like, you know, he was the original Kevin Bacon in six degrees of bacon, you can always some person who you can connect to Nehru in some way. He was, you know, Twitter would have fun with it. But he was responsible for a lot of things at this point in time. But yeah, it’s actually very fascinating to see. And, you know, that also goes back to your question about what kind of privileges that they had just the fact that they were within this environment of firebrand nationalist movements, and within the circle of friends and people, it’s a very Delhi thing, but they were within the political bubble, and they all managed to get except for, you know, outliers, like Annie Mascarane or actually, I just wanted to, you know, can you tell us something about Annie Mascarane before we can dive into the Delhi club as you put it. 

So Annie Mascarane was its, she was one of the more interesting people in the constituent assembly for the simple reason that she was like such a firebrand, who actually went on to become a Constituent Assembly Member Lila Roy was the other person but Annie Mascarane, just the number of times that she has been imprisoned or the number of times that she has been subjected to physical violence as part of the nationalist movement was like stunning. And this was something that sets her apart from almost all the other women who are part of the constituent assembly. And she was famously chastised by Mahatma Gandhi at one point for the speech that she gave, I have not been able to trace the speech, but she was famously chastised for having like a tongue that you could not control. And he wrote to the Divan of Travancore, saying, you know, you have no control over Annie Mascarane. This is extremely sexist and patriarchal and Travancore itself was one of those places where the spiciest bit of politics was happening, thanks to you know, C. P. Ramaswami Iyer, the divan of Travancore, and the many politics surrounding their relationship and Travancore relationship with India itself. So her politics and the way that she fought for her place within the Travancore assembly itself and within the internationalist moment is like, fascinating in many ways. And just the fact that you are talking about a woman politicking in a very volatile environment and actually managing to get her way is fascinating. Yeah. So to put in context for our listeners, Annie Mascarane, her main platform was to get an elected representative government in Travancore, which at the time was a princely state. So she goes and gives a speech that we do the contents of which we still don’t know, but after which Mahatma Gandhi, you know, says some pretty nasty things like she shouldn’t be mouthing off, she should like mind her language or something. I don’t really remember what he said, What what did he say Priya? He said, I know that you have no control over your tongue and when you stand up to speak you blab anything that comes to your mind. This speech also is quite a specimen if the newspaper report is correct, I have sent the report to bitanu pillai you can read it. Such indiscreet talk can do good neither to you not the poor people of Travancore besides by your act, you put your whole far six to shame.

But but this is something that he has set to the Divan right. He wrote it to her saying that, you know, he has written like this to the Divan, but then you know, interestingly, I don’t think Gandhi was quite as against princely states as she was her whole platform was that so he didn’t identify with her movement in the first place.

He didn’t. And I think whatever the contents of the letter were just the idea that this woman could go to a public platform make a public speech that brings down somebody of repute was like very antithetical to Gandhi’s values and the kind of speeches that even Gandhi gave, I don’t think he ever publicly chastised people, unless, of course, it was part of the nationalist thing. He never publicly chastised anybody that was a very non violent, or to even his speeches and his actions. So Annie Mascarane was everything that the Gandhian movement was not in a way, it’s interesting that this was the way that she was kind of introduced to the more national politics that level. 

But good for her, she still found a voice in the continent Assembly later. Okay, so finally, I just one last question, which is, what are the ideas that these women gave us that are worth reflecting on even today and that have relevance today? 

you know, to go back a little bit to why I got interested in what these women are doing and why I think they should be talked about and why their actions within the assembly and outside should be reflected upon is a lot of the things that Indian women fight for today, within the kind of laws that we want past, the kind of responsibility that we want the government to have when it comes to dealing with women, versus things that these women are already fought for. And in a large part, settled the matter. They had an understanding that these were all going to be a part of the Constitution. And it was also reflective of the kind of ideas that almost all the Constituent Assembly members had about a democratic republic, India, which is that, you know, once this constitution comes into place, and once the social reform movements are put into place, and once these fundamental rights are given to people, that is going to be a social revolution, where people will uplift themselves to make themselves worthy of this constitution. What are the kinds of ideas that we need to take away from these women is just that there is nothing new that we are fighting for almost everything that we have fought for, was achieved by these women. So just knowing that we can write the kinds of things that we want to write about, based on those conversations, rather than starting everything a new, it’s almost like trying to recreate the alphabet over and over again, because we didn’t know that ABC exists, or nobody told us that there was already a way of putting words together through letters and these were the letters, our language around the women’s moment is that every time somebody comes up with something, there is something in the constitution, debates that have been talked about, there is something within these women’s movements that have already been talked about, so, lets use that language to punch up more, lets use that language as a lift off , rather than to go back again to, reinvent, reinvent the deal kind of thing. That is part of it and the other thing is , India in 1947 when it got its independence was one of the largest liberal democracies in the world at that point of time and we became voters much before we became citizens, the idea of being able to vote for our own representative was one that came much before the actual republic thing took place and we were also one of the first countries at that point of time to give, to grant universal adult suffrage to women without a violent women’s movement. Almost all the men at that point agreed that yes universal adult suffrage regardless of sex needs to be established, regardless of caste or community needs to be established. The first province which gave  women right to vote was madras province in 1921 then bombay and then every one else followed. Since then it has been a huge battle to get all the women enrolled and all women to participate in the elections itself. Parvin Swahaney, his book describes it beautifully, the first elections post the constitution in 1952 elections, they were trying to get women registered and one of the barriers they faced, even british faced,but they ignored was that in alot of places,like orissa, bihar and madhya pradesh, women would register themselves as wife of-, daughter of-, sister of-, they didnt give real names. And just the effort that went into getting them to register with their own names was huge , they were not able to vote, 28 million  women out of some 80million women were not registered because of this problem and there was this whole propaganda that had to be set up by election commission to , you know they sent women to all these villages to you know , told them why its important to vote, why its important to register their own names, they were given separate booths, parda was allowed as part of voting   , all these things, alot of effort went into putting universal adult suffrage into place. The division between social movements and political movements happened and when it happened the women were not able to did not have strength to bring those social movements also forward that doesnt mean that the didnt happen, they were there and they happened, now post 1950, what have we done to build upon it? This thing we should consider and the thing we should really think about because , it was not easy then, it is definitely not easy now but it doesnt mean we have to completely ignore their contribution to society or to india’s architecture itself. This is one one of the biggest reason why these women need to be talked about again and their  contributions need to be talked about again.

Can you give us an example of maybe, of one of the matters that was settled then but, one of the easiest examples is that of reservation, womens reservation , almost all these women disagree that reservation was the only way women can participate in  politics or the only way women could participate in , be a part of assemblies or you know parliament. They felt that they had earned themselves enough merit to be automatically be part of Indian Political system and reservation would under value their effort or not giving enough currency to their merit or you know to their thought system itself. There are other arguments that are pro and against reservation now but that was something almost all these women agreed upon. Including Dakshayani Velayudhan, Annie Besant including Hansa Mehta, they were all against reservation.

Thank You so much for your time Priya, Its been a pleasure not only talking to you but also reading your blog

Thank You so much, thank you so much for inviting me, ive had a great amount of fun talking about this

Thank you and i look forward to more of your writing coming up on this. Yes absolutely.

That was my conversation with  Priya Ravichandran.  And you’ve been listening to the Daksh podcast. This episode was hosted by me Anindita Pattanayak. If you liked the show, don’t forget to follow or subscribe to us wherever you listen to your podcast so that you don’t miss an episode. We would love to hear from you. So do share your feedback either by dropping us a review or rating the podcast where podcasts apps allow you to talk about it on social media. We are using the hashtag daksh podcast, it really helps get the word out there. Most of all, if you found some useful information that might help a friend or family member, share the episode with them. Especially thank you to our production team at made in India. Our production head and editor Joshua Thomas mixing and mastering Karthik Kulkarni and Project Supervisor Shawn Phantom. If you want to find out more about this topic, please have a look at the reading list in the episode description. And to get in touch visit our website DakshIndia.org that’s D A KSH India dot o RG Thank you for listening




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