I was on a call with my team when I received the news of the passing away of Kamla Bhasin, one of the most prominent icons on gender issues and feminism. Coming as a personal loss to me, I shared the sad news with my team -- a mix of passionate young women and men -- and my heart and mind were at little peace after hearing them talk about Kamla Bhasin.
Interestingly, it was not only the female members of my team who had compassionate things to say about Bhasin, even the male members were full of praises for her. For South Asia’s most prominent feminist face (she always preferred to be called a South Asian herself) it would be a real tribute that her fight didn’t include women only but also reached out to men with an equally compelling and compassionate heart. Through her life and work, she not only motivated women to take up their equal place in society, but she also made a strong case among men to let some of their privileges go that discriminate against women in our daily lives. Women are trying their best. Now men must play their fair part.
I had the privilege to work with Kamla Bhasin to advocate for the enhanced political participation of women by passing the Women’s Reservation Bill in parliament, which proposes to amend the constitution of India to reserve 33% of all seats in the lower house of the Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha) and of all state legislative assemblies for women. There is growing evidence that women's leadership in political decision-making brings in improvements that transcend typical political boundaries and affect every aspect of our lives. It needs not much convincing that the Women's Reservation Bill is one of the most important pending bills in the Indian Parliament.
Nevertheless, for Kamla Bhasin feminism was not a front that she was fighting with a definite end in her mind. For her, fighting patriarchy and misogyny was part of a daily improvement plan targeted at our very own houses, families, fathers, brothers, husbands, and friends. Though she was a worthy warrior of women’s causes everywhere around the globe, she never had any known enemy or hate towards anyone. Above all she hated borders. Syeda Hamid, former member of India’s erstwhile Planning Commission and herself a powerful women’s rights activist, wrote while paying her tribute to Kamla Bhasin, that “she epitomized peace, she was feminism, humanism, above all she was that four-letter word which trembles on our lips; she embodied that word love”.
Kamla Bhasin will be missed dearly - as a powerful feminist voice, as a true peacemaker, as a movement builder from the ground up, and above all as a kind heart and presence among thousands of women activists and professionals like myself who idolize her and, by the virtue of her company, learned a lot from her. Rest In Power Kamla Bhasin!