CA Students’ Conference Controversy: ICAI removes Women from Front Row on Guest’s Demand

No ladies, no girls, no girl volunteers should even stand during the session, please hurry up as he can come anytime, allegedly announced by a committee member through his microphone
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The ICAI’s (Institute of Chartered Accountants of India) International Conference for CA students 2024, held in Kolkata, is facing heavy criticism following allegations that women and girls were removed from the front rows at the request of a guest.

No ladies, no girls, no girl volunteers should even stand during the session, please hurry up as he can come anytime, allegedly announced by a committee member through his microphone.


Footage from International CA Students Conference Organized by ICAI

During the conference for CA students, ICAI President Mr. Ranjeet Kumar Agarwal highlighted the increasing number of women Chartered Accountants in India. Ironically, the same women were removed from the front rows of the session at the demand of chief guest Swami Gyanvatsalya from BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir.

The Swami threatened to leave if his condition was not met, leading even female event organisers working backstage to vacate the area and sit at the back of the hall. Despite this, Swamiji spoke about making India ‘Vikasit’ and a ‘Vishwaguru’ by 2047, revealing a stark contrast between his words and actions.

This is not the first time Swamiji has made such demands. In 2020, he left an event without delivering a speech after seeing women in the front row. However, that incident was handled with more dignity, and the pride of the women present was not compromised. In contrast, at the ICAI’s conference, prominent figures in the organisation acquiesced to his unreasonable demand, drawing widespread condemnation.

CA Students Conference Controversy

A comment was made by an anonymous attendee of the conference below the Reddit post that, “I was present here and every single woman in this entire auditorium was silent. How can the managing committee commit such a blunder by inviting this pathetic excuse of a human to an international conference ? I hope everyone responsible for this is fired.”

Changing the mindset of those who view women as inferior or subordinate is challenging, but it should not justify actions that appease or cater to such beliefs. If the reports about ICAI removing women from the front rows are correct, a mere apology cannot suffice to address such actions.

Furthermore, as organisers of an international conference, it is incumbent upon them to conduct thorough background checks on guests and keynote speakers, ensuring their qualifications to address such a diverse audience. When significant negative allegations or instances of discrimination arise concerning a speaker, consideration should be given to replacing them with individuals who genuinely inspire and uplift both men and women equally.

If the ICAI took the positive step of cancelling the session and appointing someone who ensures gender equality, it would greatly boost the confidence of women CAs, showing their institute’s commitment to supporting them through challenges. However, these allegations are serious and unexpected from a prestigious institution having 4 lakh members. Such institutions have a duty to protect their members.

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