Only Muslim lady in Maharashtra cabinet
at work to bring
Mrs. Fauzia Khan is the first Muslim lady who took the oath as a
minister in Maharashtra Government ....
Women generally are
considered weak in our patriarchal society and men feel they need to
be protected. Is it true? Well it may be true in some contexts but
there are instances where women have dared where men chicken out or
‘weaker’ women have proved to be morally much stronger. Here it also
needs to be stressed that only physical strength or strength of arms
is not real strength, it is moral values which make really strong.
Those who have moral superiority need not fear anyone and cannot be
Though no one can say women are
inherently morally stronger but women tend to have better morals
than men. There are number of reasons for that. Men aspire more for
power and domination than women and hence resort to more morally
unsound practices. They are involved more in crime than women and
women tend to be more ethical in their behavior.
With very few exceptions women have not
waged wars. Most of the ferocious and highly destructive wars in
which millions of innocent human beings were killed were launched by
men. In the last century two world wars were launched and fought by
men, women only suffered. Women are far more sensitive to human life
than men. It is women who give birth to life and sustain it. She
carries human life for nine long months in her womb and than, after
giving birth, nurtures it for years before child becomes self
Men, on the other hand, to realize their
own ambitions or wealth or power, would kill thousands of human
beings within few seconds by dropping bombs or launching deadly
missiles. Who caused atom bomb to be dropped on Nagasaki and
Hiroshima killing more than two lakh people at a time? Not a woman.
For men, power and authority are far more important than sensitivity
to human life.
In communal riots in India too men have
been real culprits than women. In my 40 years of investigating and
monitoring communal riots in India I have not find a single instance
in which any woman plotted and executed riots, much less killed any
Hindu or Muslim. It was only in Gujarat that one Maya Kodnani is
alleged to have instigated men to kill innocent human beings in
Narodia Patia. I have found no other instance.
However, I have come across several
instances in which women have saved the lives of innocent people.
These women are real inspiration for peace loving people. I would
like to throw some light here on the role of these women. Some I
discovered while investigating riots and some I read about in
newspapers and subsequently met them and some we had occasion to
felicitate them on behalf of Women for Secularism, an organization
working for rights of women at grassroots.
I came first such instance during
investigation of communal riots in Ahmedabad in 1969. Now I do not
remember her name but she was a vegetable vendor living in
Jalimsingh Ni Chawl in Ahmedabad where there were two Muslim
families as her neighbors. During the riots of 1969 a mob surrounded
the Chawl and demanded that the Muslims be handed over to them to be
killed and their household looted.
This woman the vegetable vendor, heard
this and came out of her room with her sickle with which she used to
cut her vegetables, came down the stairs and stood at the entrance
challenging the mob to step forward to kill Muslims. I will cut the
head of anyone stepping forward with this sickle, then you can kill
me and walk over my dead body to kill the Muslims. None came forward
and the mob of 500 dispersed.
I met this lady during my investigation
and asked her why did you risk your life to save Muslims? She said
first of all they were my neighbors and it was my duty to save their
lives or die before they were killed. Secondly they were from my own
village in Rajasthan. What face I would have shown to my villagers
if they were killed. Thirdly, it was my duty to save human lives.
They were innocent and had nothing to do with the ongoing violence.
But there were men in the Chawl, they
could have come forward to save their neighbors’ lives. If these men
had no courage, what could I do? I did what I could to save my
Muslim neighbors. She was indeed an inspiration for hundreds of men.
These men hid inside their homes while this woman alone took the
Another instance I know of was of Mrs. Yadav from Aligarh when communal riots broke out there in 1994. A
bus carrying baraat (marriage party) going towards Lucknow was
parked in the bazaar and driver had gone for some work. A Hindu mob
came to set fire to the bus. They were mostly women and children
going for the marriage. Mrs. Yadav was passing from there along with
She saw that bus will be set afire
killing 40 women and children. She looked around for something with
which she could ward off the mob. She found an iron rod, picked it
up and charged the mob with it. The mob ran away and she asked her
son to drive the bus towards their house. Fortunately the driver had
left the ignition key in the bus itself enabling her son to drive
the bus off to their compound thus saving 40 lives single-handedly.
The Chief Minister Mulayamsingh Yadav
himself met the lady and rewarded her with 1 lakh of rupees for her
courage. I also met her when I went to Aligarh for investigation.
She told me she was not sure whether she would be able to save their
lives but I considered it my duty to at least make an attempt. More
than courage, she said, it was my duty to save innocent lives,
especially women and children. They all would have been reduced to
ashes. I am fortunate to save their lives.
In this case too there were many men
around but none showed courage or interest to save these innocent
lives where a woman alone could pick courage and wielded rod and
saved these lives. More than any thing else women after all are more
sensitive to human life. She became talk of the town in Aligarh for
her unusual feat.
In 2008 riots broke out in Bhainsa in
Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh. A house of Muslim Syed Osman
was set afire on October 10 in which whole family including women
and children would have been burnt alive but for the courage of
Tuljabai 61 and her son and other women members of her family who
saved their lives. Others looked on. Again a woman came forward
showing extra-ordinary courage and others showed no concern.
Communal minded men were busy killing and destroying.
Communal riots broke out in Sangli,
Miraj, Ichalkaranji and Kolhapur district in early September 2009 on
the eve of Ganesh festival 7-9 September 2009. During these riots 60
mosques and dargahs (mausoleums) were destroyed or damaged. But
several Hindu women from these villages not only saved Muslim lives
but also repaired these mosques and dargahs. For example the Gram
Panchayat of Kavthepiran, which is run by women, decided to repair
the damaged Muslim religious places and try to get life back to
normal. These Hindu women said, “Our Muslim sisters played an equal
role in getting the award for our village. There are over 100 Muslim
houses in the village and some had started leaving the village after
the riots. But we stopped them. All women from the village visited
the Muslim houses and assured to protect them.” Thus they prevented
Muslims from migrating from villages and assured them of security to
their lives and properties. This sanity in the midst of communal
frenzy by men was shown by illiterate rural women.
Some of these women were Hasubai Buchare,
Rekha Chanade, Vandana Gaikwad and Nisha Butade, all grassroot
workers. I met them in Icchalkaranji where we felicitated them on
behalf of Women for Secularism in a convention held on 13th November
2009. I found them very courageous and though some of them
illiterate or with very little education, spoke with great verve
against those who organize communal violence to serve their
political ends and vowed never to allow such violence in their
The communal violence in Kandhmal
district wherein about 40 Christians were killed by some Hindu
fanatics, also saw many Hindu courageous women who came forward to
save lives of Christians fellow villagers in 2008. Some of these
women were Ms. Ranchi Pradhan, Ms. Suruchi Pradhan of Rudenia
village, Ms. Satyabhama Nayak and Ms. Nabojini Pradhan who showed
exceptional courage in saving lives of many Christians or protect
their houses. We felicitated all of them in the convention of All
India Secular Forum. (Pradhan is the title used by Hindu tribals of
These women are also all illiterate and
grass root workers. Their humanism is very much alive and are free
of communal prejudices. They proved to be more of human being than
Hindu, Christian or Muslim. It gives us great hope and proves two
things: one, that women are far more compassionate than men and two,
illiterate women are far more free of communal prejudices than
highly educated urban people.
The Women for Secularism is, therefore,
concentrating on these grass root women and mainly working among
them. These women suffer much more at the hands of tradition bound
men, especially those men who are votaries of communal ideologies
and yet these women are far less prejudiced and are more humane.
They are our asset and we must see that they get their
Constitutional rights. They need to be better organized than they
are today. There is also great need to build awareness of their