Rahul Gandhi with women journalists | INC/Twitter
Rahul Gandhi with women journalists | INC/Twitter
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As one who has spent her early days fighting to be seen as a journalist and not just a woman journalist, I see the clock turn full circle. And in not a good way.

The Indian Women’s Press Corps, an august body promoting segregation in a profession that can only function effectively without, is in the midst of deep conflict currently. Why? Because of an interaction with Congress president Rahul Gandhi with over 50, some say 100, women journalists held at the India International Centre amidst deep secrecy.

The Congress likes secrecy, surprised though that women journalists like it too.

The controversy is on who was or was not invited. And who helped organise this selective interaction. Was it the IWPC? If so, why was it not held at the organisation’s office and opened for all members? Why were some invited, and not the rest? On what basis was the list made?

Or was it the Congress? That to my women colleagues would be more acceptable, but then the Congress too is not taking the credit. And worthies within let it be known that the initiative was not theirs but that of the IWPC. But then the president and some of the office bearers did not attend the interaction. So then the question is how could it be described as an IWPC function when the IWPC was itself not represented? And so on and so forth.

The secrecy was amazing though. And not a word came out except to some women journalists, who angrily took the IWPC to task, and found their way to IIC to attend the meeting. I was not invited, of course, so cannot say whether it was worth the effort. But then segregation of the Congress kind, “Muslim intellectuals”, “women journalists” unfortunately has never been my cup of tea.

Very angry are Congress beat journalists—and justifiably so—as this interaction with Rahul Gandhi was denied to them. Why? Simple. Because most of them are male scribes and hence did not qualify.

As a journalist who has spent her early days in the career, like many of us, fighting to be recognised as a journalist and not a woman journalist, the clock seems to have turned full circle. And in not a good way. We fought editors who sought to push us into our little corners to cover “women” functions, we insisted we would keep the same timings as men, cover the same assignments be it conflict or crime or massacres, because we were journalists, not women dammit! The fight was intense, difficult, at times impossible but we got our way and created the space where we were respected for our work. And seen as equals, good or bad.

I remember in the Indian Express when some new rookies were being taken in on the desk. They joined and soon after our news editor walked into the reporters’ section, really looking harassed and upset. “What do I do? One of the women says she cannot stay till the newspaper is put to bed (2am), another says she cannot take public transport after it gets dark,” the editor said. Needless to say they were asked to leave, a step supported by all of us who had ensured that our work was not compromised by such limitations.

So when the IWPC came into existence I did not join it for years. (I joined in a weak moment as most of the women members are colleagues and friends and did not hesitate to lampoon me whenever we met). Why do we need a separate organisation? Because the Press Club of India is a watering hole? So why can’t we contest elections there and clean it up? Why do we need a separate body based on gender, when we are all journalists? And where we are all the colleagues, covering the same stories, with the same compassion and honesty and courage. How do we justify setting ourselves apart as women scribes?

After all when Gauri Lankesh is killed, all journalists have to come together. Surely her assassination is not a women’s issue. When Shujaat Bukhari is shot down, it is surely not just a male scribe issue. Why should women journalists claim exclusivity, and a separateness that goes against the very grain of journalism?

This morning I heard Jaya Bhaduri ask why male members in the House were not speaking about the increasing, horrific, attacks on women? Is rape now just a women’s issue? Journalists are expected to report ‘women issues’ with the same skills, be they women or men. I simply cannot accept the reasoning that “women are more sensitive” for if the men are not equally so they need to find another profession. And in the years in this profession, I have witnessed colleagues (men and women) do an equally good job when it comes to reporting such issues.

Also if this argument is taken to its logical conclusion, then men by virtue of access will be better political reporters than women. Or alone can cover conflict. Balderdash!

This segregation, of course, suits the political parties that can then further divide the profession that is already under deep attack. Rahul Gandhi meeting women journalists probably has a glamourous ring to it, but there would have been a time when any effort to so segregate would have been resisted by scribes themselves. It is a tragedy that we are wilfully allowing this to happen, and instead of being part of the larger fraternity are becoming an exclusive club (and dare I say an elitist body as compared to the Press Club of India that is egalitarian in its approach).

This article was originally published on The Citizen

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20 Comments Share Your Views

20 COMMENTS

  1. The most inclusive party couldn’t find a candidate outside family while the party doing the devididing politics have somehow got 11 cr members, which is more than 90% of countries on the globe. These people also replaced their so called Bhism Pitamah after loosing one national election after sensing whats going on people’s minds and made a lower caste person the PM candidate. Great, Now we should rewrite the definition of “inclusivity” for India.

  2. nothing much to comment upon Rahul Gandhi chose to hear and answer their queries Treat it designer wear not branded wear Rahul is proactive of a cheerful disposition a politician of a digital camera an aura of simple honest and unpretending approach The ladies were elated am sure the men will have their party too

  3. Misdeeds committed by congress is unlimited.How can a person who was all in all of the most corrupt parties India ever had ,talking nonsense and have’ secret’ press conference with only women journalist(quiet suspicious) still having no knowledge of history or geography of the country ,he wants to again loot and rule.How long they would talk of so called sacrifice by their family but they never talk on the previledges ,power and position they enjoyed during their rule for years.

  4. Useless debate.It his convenor’ right to invite people they like.Does Modi invite all Tom,dick,harry for his press meet? Talking like a Bhakt finding loopholes in others except ownshelves.

  5. The term journalist was, and will remain a farce in this country. Look at one from the nytimes and compare, you’ll see the farce you are, one of many..

  6. All those 50 or 100 women should have refused to let this sort of secrecy and excusivemess creep into an interaction with the President of a national party.

    During emergency in 1975-77, journalists had crawled before political power. And, the professionals still do not appear to have learnt a lesson.

  7. Well,for a change Seema is criticizing Rahul & Congress.Other wise all these “secular”,”progressive” journos both male & female are busy in finding fault with Modis every move

  8. Sir, I do not want to start with a derogatory note. But, I am helpless. I can almost empathise with Ms. Mustafa.

    So, the dirt till now suppressed by the pedagogical stalwarts of the Fourth Estate, is coming out in the open! The misogyny deeply embedded in the psychedelics of the noble profession called journalism has manifested itself in the disgust of the “left outs” in the exclusive address of Mr. Rahul Gandhi to a select few prime women journalists. The Shankaracharyas of the very tribe who are up on their feet to finish gender inequality, misogyny, and what not: will they show the decency if not the courage to stand up for their own feminine colleagues? Most certainly, they have other more engaging agendas on prime time.

    Now, who will fight for the isopolity of the minority represented by Ms. Mustafa and her sympathesisers?

  9. Why do you think it’s called the Indian women press corps??? Ofcourse it is an all women corps so what the heck is with the title of this article??? Please stop with all this hate and publicity stunts… Grow up

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