We are passing through extraordinary times. Unprecedented events are unfolding at multiple levels — impacting our political, social and personal lives. The recent opening up of political spaces with the stunning electoral debut of the fledgling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the heart of the Capital, has initiated what could possibly turn out to be beginnings of alternative politics. The tired and discredited political class has been squarely put on the mat. The political culture of impunity, privilege, corruption and crime, is being questioned over and over. Few would deny the potential transformative impact of the current political momentum. But it’s not just the political realm that is in the throes of churning.
Since the gangrape of a young medical student in Delhi last December, the national conversation has expanded - even if under duress — to include subjects seldom discussed in the political discourse. December’s massive upsurge on the streets of the Capital and across the country — resonating with the outrage of the anti-corruption movement a year earlier on — had pushed the political establishment to the wall. The insistent voices from outside the party structures forced the political leaders to engage in a conversation about violence against women. The landmark legislative reforms propelled by Justice Verma marked the long-pending and much-needed shift in the legal framework within which gender violence is now being discussed.
Cut to December 11, 2013. The Supreme Court verdict setting aside the Delhi High Court verdict decriminalising homosexuality, has touched off yet another storm — this time on gay love, sex and sexual orientation. If violence against women was seldom discussed in the national political discourse — same-sex love/relationships were a tabooed subject. The entire political spectrum shied away from talking about it, let alone taking a stand on decriminalising same-sex relationships. Like the many silences that were broken of late — compelling our politicians to deal with issues otherwise easily dodged, the Supreme Court verdict has shattered the hush surrounding gay and transgender persons. The recent turn of events has yet again triggered a national conversation that no political party was keen on having, especially in this election season. Whether or not the judiciary should have lobbed the onus of decision back to Parliament — particularly when the courts have acquired the reputation for intervening in executive and legislative decision — is another debate.
At this moment it’s pertinent to ask: is the political class — old and new —unable and unwilling to keep pace with the social churnings? Has there been any worthwhile impact of the popular movement post December 16 on the ongoing election campaign of major and minor political parties? It’s no exaggeration to argue that, unlike corruption, violence against women has not figured in the electoral discourse of the Congress and BJP. Even the AAP which stands for a radical political discourse seems to have shortshrifted the issue. When it comes to same-sex love, the political indifference is even greater. The chances of the issue finding space in the election campaign, not only as a sectional but a human rights issue, seem slim at the moment.
The disconnect between the aspirations of women and men and the political parties seems far deeper on gender and same-sex love than on reform and governance issues. But it is in the interests of the political class to keep pace with the transformative movements which are altering the lives of women, transgender and gay communities. They must seize the moment to change themselves and the national discourse.