It was the year 1977 when Morarji Desai was just about to become the 4th Prime Minister of India. It was like any other day for Morarji Desai, people gathered at his house on Duplex Road just like every morning. But there were 100s of women standing outside the house, carrying not garlands like other visitors but with the banners which read “Women for Democracy and Democracy for Women”.
what sparked the protest was Morarji Desai’s interview in Times Magazine, which quoted Desai saying that he has revised his views after the experience of three women Prime Minister, “I have been the greatest champion of women and have put more women in the legislatures than anyone else. But I have changed my views after the experience of history and three women Prime Ministers – Sri Lanka, India and Israel. And [Mrs] Thatcher will be the same if she becomes Prime Minister of Britain. You see, women, on the whole, have better, softer qualities than men…. but when a woman becomes devilish, she beats all records. No man can equal her….”, said Morarji Desai [Prime Minister Morarji Desai in an interview in Time magazine].
Morarji Desai’s comment added fuel into the fire, and lead to huge procession against him, but Desai took back and said that it in reference to foreign, not Indian women. “Not only do we want a withdrawal of the remark but an assurance of women’s rights to participate equally at all levels of decision making,” Woman journalist, Rami Chhabra, quote from India Today.
Within a day the procession was organised, and it was done all over the phone, women ranging in age 20 to 70 came together, lead by Raksha Saran, their chosen spokeswomen, confronted the Prime Minister house. Although Desai seemed to be embarrassed, but he refused to shift from his original stand.
In start Desai was cool, but later he lost the cool after women started shouting names like Mussolini, Hitler, Idi Amin, to disprove his statement on women leaders being worse than men.
Finally Desai accepted the memorandum from the women and expressed his regret in Parliament. But that didn’t fizzle the protest as rightly one member of that angry procession said, “This is not the end. It’s only the beginning….”.