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Towards the empowerment of Indian women

Women's property right

From time immemorial, the women in this land of ours were treated as a sort of thing. Her placing in the society was not at par with other human being. She has no rights. She cannot move nor do anything at her will. In Hindu Shastras, she has been branded just like animals. From the verses of Ramayan as written by Mr. Tulsi Das, " Dhol, ganwar, shudra, pashu, naari- Ye sab tadan ke adhikari," one may easily draw inferences as to what status has been granted to our mothers. Similarly, we can understand that of Dropadi of Mahabharata was reduced to the status of a bitch, as she was the wife of five husbands (Pandwas). She was not only, the wife of five husbands; she put at stake in gambling by none else than the so called Dharmraj Yudhishthar! In 'Manusmrati' the ancient Hindu Code-book, the status granted to women is quite visible and she was put to the lowest rug of humanity as she was treated at par with the animals and slave by the proprietors of Hindu Dharma. Such was the placement earmarked to our mothers, sisters and even great grand mothers that the heads of humanity bend upon down with shame!

That is why Dr. Ambedkar was of the firm opinion that until or unless, by applying dynamite, the Hindu Dharma-shastras are not blown up, nothing is going to happen. In the name sanskaras, the Hindu women are tied up with the bondage of superstitions, which they carry till their death. They are also responsible for inculcating these wrong notions learnt by them through baseless traditions and preaching of the Shastras in the budding minds of their offspring.

Otherwise also the women in India have remained a matter of joy and a source of amusement as such she was used and misused by men just to serve their evil ends. She has been used just like a machine for procreation. It has also been mentioned in Hindu Shastras that the woman is the bond slave of her father when she was young, to her husband when she is middle aged and to her son when she is a mother. Of course, all the epigrams, aphorisms, proverbs, platitudes and truisms bear necked truth about the stature of women in India.

It does not mean that no efforts have been made in the past to bring dignity to women. As in Europe, Christianity inaugurated the Era of equality, liberty and fraternity by preaching that a prince and pauper are equal in the eyes of God. There is also a very long tradition of social reforms by our saints and other social reformers. But the proprietors of the orthodoxy thwarted these efforts. In the absence of any legal sanction or authority, these efforts could not sustain.

In this direction Dr. B.R. Ambedkar has tried to brake down the barriers in the way of advancement of women in India. He laid down the foundation of concrete and sincere efforts by codifying the common Civil Code for the Hindus and the principle is capable of extension to other sections of the Indian society. Prior to these efforts of Dr. Ambedkar, the destiny of the Indian women depended upon the wrong notions and perceptions chalked out by the proprietors of orthodoxy.

The prevailing two schools of Hindu Law viz. 'Mitakshara' and 'Dayabhag, created and sustained inequality. According to 'Mitakshara' the property of a Hindu is not his individual property. It belongs to what is called coparcenary, which consists of father, son, grandsons and great grandsons by reason of birth. The property passed under Mitakshara by survivorship to the members of coparcenary who remain behind, and does not pass to the heirs of the deceased. Whereas Dayabhag recognised the property held by the heir as his personal property with an absolute right to dispose it of either by gift or by will or any other manner that he chooses. The chaotic conditions of the Hindu law were reduced to eat propositions in the form of judicial pronouncements and codification was the legislative recognition of the judge made law. Dr. Ambedkar himself had explained lucidly the reasons for consolidation and codification.

Article 25 of the Indian Constitution permits all the freedom. The reforms introduced by Dr. Ambedkar through "Hindu Code-bill" have been adhered to and have been accepted by and large. He, by codifying Hindu Law in respect of marriage, divorce and succession, rationalized and restored the dignity to women. Prior to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 and Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the Hindu Law was uncodifyed in a large measure, though Hindu Women's Right to Property Act, 1937 was the subject legislative intervention. The Sharda Act is also worth mentioning. It has set the seal of authority upon that piece of social reforms, which the heads of orthodoxy were, imposing and impending.

In Hindu Code Bill, the principles of codification covered:

(i) Right to property,
(ii) Order of succession to property,
(iii) Maintenance, marriage, divorce, adoption, minority and guardianship.

Needless to say, the Bill was a part of social engineering via law. It was by any standard of any time a revolutionary measure. It was really a first step towards the recognition and empowerment of women in India. Under these revolutionary measures, a woman will have property in her own right and be able to dispose of her property.

The Hindu Code Bill introduced by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly on 11th April 1947. A debate on this bill continued for more than four years and still remains inconclusive. Here once again, the orthodoxy prevailed upon the reforms. In the words of Dr. Ambedkar, it was killed and died unset and unsung. He felt that the then government led by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru was not eager to clear the Hindu Code Bill. He, therefore, tendered his resignation but continued to participate in the Parliamentary debates on the request of the Prime Minister.

Sharp criticism of this Bill in and outside Parliament led many to believe that it might inflict heavy damages on the Hindu society. Even the President Dr. Rajendra Prasad got scared and issued a threat that he would withhold his assent even if it had been passed by the Parliament. But the efforts of Baba Saheb Ambedkar were lauded also like anything. The Times of India on 26th December 1950 carried a statement of Dr. Ambedkar in which he said that the Bill aimed at removing the legal obstacles in the social advancement of women. Justice P.B. Gajendra-gadkar while congratulating Dr. Ambedkar for the role he had played in drafting and piloting the Bill said, "If Dr. Ambedkar gives us Hindus our Code, his achievement would go down in history as a very eloquent piece of poetic justice indeed."

In recent past, a lot hue and cry is being made over 'Women's Reservation Bill' by the different sections of the Indian society, different political or apolitical organizations but nobody seems to be honest in its perspectives. The political empowerment is a must for the all round development of the women, but as in the case of dalit politicians and legislators, our efforts may prove futile. We must concentrate on imparting social education before giving any concrete shape to their political empowerment to the women. Without academic and social education, the political empowerment of women in certain parts of the country had proved futile. In Panchayat Raj set up in U.P. and elsewhere in the country, the uneducated women are subjected to exploitation at the hands of government machinery. It will not be prudent on our part to restore the rights of the women belonging to the affluent section of the society only. Therefore, our efforts should be directed towards all round development of each and every section of Indian women by giving their due share. It is a must to maintain and protect chastity, dignity and modesty of women. It is the need of the hour to give due share to each and every section of the Indian women. I am sure, without removing social stigma, no progress or development could be achieved.

Now the question arises as what sort of empowerment our women needed prior to restarting their equal property rights? There are lot of nodal agencies including the national Commission for Women said to have been working for the welfare of the women apart from governmental efforts. Where does they reach in this direction? Leaving a meager number of urban and suburban women, the Indian women are still crying for simple justice. Which is not even allowed to have been accessed to them. With their age, no bar, they have been raped, kicked, killed, subdued & humiliated almost daily. Why? Because of our indifferent attitude towards them. This indifferent attitude and approach of our crops up at the time of the birth of female child. They are subjected to rebuke and ignored so far as their education and other facilities are concerned which are required for their proper and healthy growth/development. The male child is given preference over the female child? With this attitude of our own, we use to suppress and remained unfair towards the fair sex.

First of all we must try to treat our female child as par our female child as par with our male ones and thenceforth restore equality amongst them. No restoration of property right would be meaningful without making her mentally strong. We must allow them to think breathe and act independently and bring her out of the shackles of slavery. Do not impose the filthy rites, rituals and superstition citing the examples from our dated SHASTRAS. Don't treat women your slave or servant who has come to this world just to cook your food, wash your dirty clothes, and fulfil your other needs.

Please mined it that they are your mothers, sisters, wife (Life partners). If we able to mend our ways, the restoration of their property rights to them would be meaningful.

Let us be a little bit honest to diagnose the illness by taking into consideration all the aspects and aspirations in changed scenario, circumstances and atmosphere. Only then we could have a perfect planning to achieve our cherished aim that is empowerment of Indian women and could be able to restore their property and other rights in order to bring her at par with other human beings. This could be achieved only if we are able to blow up the heinous Hindu-shastras by using dynamite as affirmed by none else than Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the emancipator of the millions including Indian women.

Regards to all.

Bhopal,26th February 2001.

Commander in Chief

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Published on: March 13, 2001