The Narishakti Vandan Bill, which received the President's assent on Friday, is being opposed all over the country. At Banaras Hindu University, it is seen as a part of a series of attacks on the rights of OBCs, as the passage of the bill comes at a time when OBC category students are demanding reservation for the OBC (Other Backward Caste) category in hostel allotments. Students at BHU organized a demonstration and public meeting against this bill in Varanasi on Saturday evening.
The Women's reservation Bill, named the Narishakti Vandan Bill, has been opposed by OBC groups on the grounds that it does not have provisions for OBC reservation. However, most parties demanding separate reservation have also voted in favor of it. But opposition to the bill continues to grow.
Kanchana Yadav, a scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said in a video, "Leaders like Sharad Yadav and Lalu Yadav fought for the inclusion of OBC women in the Women's reservation, but now we see that the bill was delayed for 27 years to deprive OBC women of their quota. We want to ask the government, where are the OBC women in this bill, who make up 26% of society?"
Students of Banaras Hindu University, who recently launched a movement demanding reservation for OBC students in hostels, braved the rain to protest against the law. The students organized a peace march from the Mahila College crossing to the Singh Dwar gate and submitted a memorandum to the local Station Incharge. The memorandum has been addressed to the President of India. Ajit Yadav, Samrendra Reddy, Ankit Patel, Aman Chaurasia, Manish Verma, Deepak Sonkar, Ajit Kal Bhairav, Vishwajeet, Kumar Umesh Yadav, and hundreds of other students attended the demonstration.
Jeetendra Kumar Yadav, a student at Banaras Hindu University, said during the protest, "This bill aims to provide reservation only to OBC women because Scheduled Castes women already have reservation within the existing SC quota. In the SC quota of 15%, 10% has been allocated to men and the remaining 5% to women. Similarly, in the ST quota of 7.5%, 5% has been provided to men and 2.5% to women. This bill has nothing for women belonging to the OBC and minority."
Women from marginalized sections have voiced their opposition to the law, which is touted as a symbol of women's empowerment. Speaking at the inaugural session of the 9th National Conference of AIPWA (All India Progressive Women Alliance), Meena Kotwal, Founding Editor of Mooknayak, said, "Dalit women face double marginalization in our caste-ridden society. Their living conditions have been made so dire that their life expectancy is almost a decade less than that of upper-caste women. Casteist practices like manual scavenging still exist. Sanitation work is caste-determined even today. Dalit women have to break through the double barriers of gender and caste to live a life of their own choices."
Arfa Khanum Sherwani, a journalist with The Wire, said, "The Modi Government is trying to tell us we must celebrate because the Women's Reservation Bill has been passed. Women of the country have understood the betrayal entrenched in the act. If the reservation was really meant for women, there would have been celebrations on the street, not just by BJP MPs."
In a symbolic protest against the law, the team of OBC Morcha in Jharkhand burnt symbolic copies of the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam in Ranchi. Meanwhile, in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand, the Rashtriya OBC Morcha burnt copies of the bill amidst a massive demonstration.
Noted writer and intellectual HL Dushadh said, "Supporters of 'quota in quota' in the Women's Reservation Bill - RJD, SP, etc., Bahujan parties may have supported the Nari Shakti Vandan Bill for various reasons, but their supporters, intellectuals, activists, etc., are very angry about it. This bill is against Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution. He asked which class of women in the country is abused, exploited, murdered, kidnapped, and raped the most. NCRB data shows that SC, ST, and OBC women are mostly victims of violent, sexual harassment, and humiliating incidents in society. In that case, why was a separate quota (reservation) not set for them in the 33% women reservation?
In comparison to urban and educated upper-caste women, SC, ST, and OBC women are weak and exploited and need empowerment. Slogans are being raised, 'The women's bill in which OBCs do not participate - that bill is not ours'; ‘Implement OBC quota in 33% women reservation – otherwise vacate the chair!’"
He added, "Certainly, after the passing of the Nari Shakti Vandan Act, it can be said that the Modi government has taken advantage of the historical mistake made by the Congress in 2010, for which the Congress will have to work hard to compensate. However, the passing of the Nari Shakti Vandan Bill may create an atmosphere of celebration among BJP's Mahila Morcha and all its junior leaders, but there are signs that the bill is going to prove to be a nail in the coffin of the Modi government."