Indraprastha College for Women, known for its distinguished presence as a women’s educational institution, marked the Golden Jubilee of its Department of Political Science and organised a National Conference on 15th-16th September, 2016, for the same.
The two-day long Conference, themed around Women, State and Power: Reflections on Democracy witnessed several eminent Speakers. The Chief Guest, Ms. Lalitha Kumaramangalam, Chairperson of National Commission for Women, New Delhi, along with the Guest of Honour, Ms. Indu Agnihotri, Director and Professor at the Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi, directed the course of the conference in their opening address. Ms. Kumaramangalam, through her speech, encouraged the young audience to think before accepting the deeply ingrained practices of the patriarchal society. Ms Agnihotri further explained the significance of keeping the movement for women’s rights alive in all phases despite the challenges the society poses.
The Principal, Dr. Saraf, welcomed one of the founder members of the department, Dr. Sushil Bharadwaj, as a special guest for the Conference. The first session witnessed Prof. Mary. E. John as the Chair, and Dr. Jagmati Sangwan and Prof. Ujjwal Kumar Singh as speakers. The theme for the first session, State and the Institutions of Democratisation, was discussed with special reference to honour killings and electoral politics.
The first Speaker, Jagwati Sangwan, the National General Secretary of All India Democratic Women’s Association, is a name synonymous with Women’s Rights in the State of Haryana. She shared her knowledge and experiences on honour killings’ victims and the State’s response. Professor Ujjwal Kumar Singh, the former Head of the Department of Political Science, University of Delhi, spoke about the State, Democracy and Legitimacy in India and presented some eye opening realities to the audience. With startling facts, he left the audience wondering about the nature and the current status of the State.
The second session, chaired by Dr. Babli Moitra Saraf ,themed at Politics of Culture and Identity, hosted Prof. Mary John, Professor and Senior Fellow at CWDS, Delhi, and Prof. Madhu Kishwar from the CSDS as speakers. Prof. John talked about the participation of women in electoral politics, and framed a trajectory of the ups and downs the movement has gone through. Prof. Kishwar, on the other hand, elaborated on the multilevel nature of identities.
The Conference opened on the second day with three eminent speakers having expertise on topics that concern women inadvertently. Chaired by Dr. Anupama Roy, the panelists, Dr. Madhulika Banerjee, Prof. Nandini Sundar and Ms. Aparna Moitra discussed about gender perspective in development and ecology. The first Speaker, Dr. Banerjee, talked about gender, knowledge and medicine – its recipe and formulation- and the role of the state in the same. The second speaker, Prof. Nandini, then enlightened the audience about the problems faced by women due to changes in their environment, encompassing every definition of change – from climatic to social change. The third speaker, interestingly, presented to the audience the case of Henvalvani Community Radio, Uttarakhand, and reflected upon hill women’s perceptions and articulations about climatic change.
The concluding sessions of the conference took a completely different turn, when real life fighters shared their stories of struggle and violence. Under the theme, State and Structures of Violence, founder of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, Ms. Parveena Ahanger and acid attack survivor, Ms. Laxmi shared their survival stories. This being the most emotionally charged sessions of the conference evoked many opinions, questions and condolences, from the audience’s side.
The celebration ended with the College Principal’s words of wisdom, along with cultural performances such as a dance recital on Draupadi by Gargi Goswami, and a play titled Mooch Neech Ka Papda, by the college’s dramatics society, Abhivyakti. The play, showcasing gendered stereotypes, was received by a huge round of applause by the audience. With this, the 2-days long National Conference commemorating 50 years of the Political Science department closed with countless ideas and questions to ponder upon.
Featured Image Credits: Nilakshi Basumatary and Asmita Jagwani, Dept. of Political Science, IPCW