Meet India's youngest MP - Agatha Sangma

Discussion in 'Foreign Relations' started by Daredevil, May 31, 2009.

  1. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Meet India's youngest MP - Agatha Sangma
    By: Sheela K Date: 2009-05-31 Place:Tura

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    IN A man's world, it's hard for minority tribal groups to hold on to matrilineal traditions. No one knows it better than Agatha K Sangma, 29, who won from her father's constituency of Tura, Meghalaya, not once but twice over the last year. The first win came in May 2008, when she stood in a by-election after her father Purno Agitok Sangma decided to give up the seat to join state politics. The second win in the 2009 General Election brought her a ministership in the Manmohan Singh Cabinet.

    Three ethnic groups Khasis, Jaintias and Garos dominate this perennially cloud-kissed state. All follow the matrilineal system, where children take the mother's family name and daughters inherit ancestral property. This does not necessarily mean women are on top in this state, facing little or no social discrimination at all.

    Ask any knowledgeable woman here, and she will tell you that Khasi, Jaintia or Garo women are not first class citizens, that they are often not the "boss of the house" and that their empowerment is a myth. "As voters, women outnumber men in Meghalaya, but they are political non-entities because they can neither become or elect village and tribal chiefs, where so-called democracy begins," says Patricia Mukhim, editor of The Shillong Times.

    According to Mukhim, even the matrilineal privileges are misleading. Despite inheritance it's the right of the 'khatduh' or youngest daughter women cannot take property decisions without the sanction of male members in the family. And the responsibility of carrying on the family line usually means procreating and remaining within the domestic confines. It gets worse in the case of broken marriages; customs warrant that a woman bring up her children without maintenance from her ex-husband.

    Little wonder then that Meghalaya took a tad over 35 years to elect its first woman member of Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Parliament), when it first plumbed for Agatha K Sangma last May. Adversaries were quick to attribute Agatha K Sangma's overwhelming electoral victory last time she defeated her nearest rival and seasoned Congress candidate Zenith K Sangma by a margin of 99,855 votes to her father's political clout. This time, she campaigned largely without her father's assistance and still made it to the Lower House, although with a much reduced margin of 17,945 votes.

    Her father, Purno Agitok Sangma, had won from the Tura parliamentary constituency consecutively for a record nine times before deciding to return to local politics. Tura, the headquarters of the Garo Hills of Meghalaya, is virtually the senior Sangma's fiefdom.

    Purno Sangma, incidentally, was the Speaker of Lok Sabha (LS) and had led the crusade against the move to nominate Sonia Gandhi as India's prime minister owing to her 'foreign origin'.

    "Just because she is my daughter does not mean she is incapable or cannot take independent decisions like contesting the election," says Purno Sangma of his MP daughter, who is named after his favourite writer of detective fiction, Agatha Christie. His other daughter, who is "apolitical" according to him, is named Christie.

    Agatha asserts that plunging into politics was "quite natural", but she never quite banked on becoming a minister. It was Sharad Pawar, himself a proud father of Supriya Sule, an MP herself, who pushed for Agatha Sangma representing the NCP in the Manmohan Singh government as a junior minister.

    "I am grateful to the people of Garo Hills for electing me as their representative in the LS," says Agatha, who joined the Delhi High Court as a lawyer after doing her LLB from Pune University. She did her MA in environmental management from Nottingham University in the UK. "Today's India needs the zeal of young politicians as much as the wisdom of elders," she adds.

    But Agatha admits her electorate has entrusted a huge responsibility on her young shoulders. Other than being the "best regional ambassador to the nation beyond", her mandate includes improving the lot of women at home. "The matrilineal system notwithstanding, women in Meghalaya have to battle for their rights just like their counterparts in patrilineal societies," she says.

    She plans to ensure proportionate representation of women in administration and the political arena there by allowing them to have more say in local and traditional bodies and work towards better and prompter justice for women suffering from violence and other atrocities matriarchy is no insurance against victimisation.

    The need for Agatha and others of her ilk has never been felt more, what with more tribal males in Meghalaya demanding a switchover to patriarchy. Organisations such as the Syngkhong Rympei Thymmai (Male Liberation Group) feel matriarchy is alienating the state's tribesmen from the overwhelmingly patriarchal world. Besides, it is encouraging non-tribal people to marry tribal girls and gain access to their property.

    The patriarchal values of majority cultures are in any case challenging matriarchy, points out social worker Hasina Kharbih. "Women in Meghalaya are increasingly victims of rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence," she says.

    Putting her degree in environmental management to good use, Agatha's agenda includes motivating the rural women to judiciously utilise forest resources besides checking deforestation a major cause of landslides in the hills and water harvesting. Despite being one of the world's highest rainfall areas, Meghalaya has acute drinking water problem owing to poor retention. Sure seems like the young MP and minister has much to deal with in the days ahead.

    Meet India's youngest MP
     
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  3. indian_sukhoi

    indian_sukhoi Regular Member

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    My View, She doesnt looks like 29year old women. but more like 20-21 years of age.

    Has she said, India needs the zeal of young politicians as much as the wisdom of elders. Its good to see young and educated members elected to be MPs.

    Hope she will bring a Development to her state and proved a good leader. Meghalaya is beautifull place worth to visit.
     
  4. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Looks can be deceptive, so, lets not charter into those waters. As far as I'm concerned, it is good to see young blood in parliament, they will be more dynamic and down to earth when it comes to solving peoples' problems unlike the older politicians who are always surrounded by sycophants.

    We need to nurture more young and dynamic politicians to represent our country.
     
  5. S.A.T.A

    S.A.T.A Senior Member Senior Member

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    Why don't Indian politicians(or political parties)nurture promising young politicians outside the family.
     
  6. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    SATA ji, its just like doctors, engineers, lawyers, cricketers etc want their kids to be in same profession as they are, politicians also feel the same. They are all being professional to their credit :D
     

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