Jan 28, 2009
India - a melting pot of beliefs, a melange of faiths, a multitude of languages.
In India, culture manifests itself within the multi-layered and multi-coloured lattices of region and religion. Therefore, any attempt to look at culture as a homogenized entity would be erroneous to begin with. The diversity contained in what is called Indian culture indicates high degrees of interaction, assimilation and integration for all communities in the lived sense. Even a cursory look at daily life of any section of Indian society will reveal the continuities between various kinds of cultures and the experiential basis of these continuities. Culture cannot be viewed outside of a social context. We find across the length and breadth of the county that cultural practices vary according to social patterns that have been historically and geographically determined to a very large extent.
Indian culture - from a strictly ritualitic point of view - has been appallingly male-appeasing. A plethora of 'traditions' and 'customs' existed - and many still exist - which explicitly and emphatically advocate discrimination against females and award them a secondary status in society. These include casteism, widow burning, untouchability, dowry, terminating the girl child. And sadly, quite a few Indians will go to any extent to defend these practices. What's more, there is no guilt or remorse involved, not even a feeling of wrong-doing, all in the name of 'culture'. India takes pride in celebration of womanhood. But again, she doesn’t like it when a girl child is born. We have an unnecessary and completely unrealistic grand opinion of ourselves – a sense of greatness which is completely hollow, an artificial construct so delicate it can burst like a bubble.
Over the years, however, women have begun to realise they have an equal right to live and contribute as an active member of a society, and that they too enjoy fundamental human rights like men. The emergence of the women's movement, popularly (and condescendingly) called Feminism, concentrated on changing the intellectual fields for women. By and large, it began to play a major role in directing women’s feeling of themselves as the other sex.
In many ways the Indian women’s movement has far outstripped the women’s movement in the West in recognizing the wide range of issues that impinge on women’s equality and emancipation. In India, religious fundamentalism and sectarian nationalism have additionally become obstacles to women’s advance. The women’s movement in India analyses how desecularisation of polities has affected societies.
Culture in India, considering the multiplicity of our social fabric, has little to do with religion. Mixing the two is merely a dangerous strategy adopted by extreme-right groups to capture political power. The obsession to identify Indianness with religion leads to the violation and erosion of the rights of Indian citizens, and to collate religion and politics thrusts forward an obsolete and injust patriarchal ideology in the guise of 'Bharatiyata'.
In the name of tradition and culture, there is active recreation of old social evils so vociferously fought against for decades by the women’s movement. These include some absolutely abhorrent practices such as untouchability, suppression of property rights, child marriage, sati, veil, and restricting women to the home.
Misula*, an adivasi from Gujarat, recounts her very identity being challenged and suppressed, terrorized into declaring herself as part of the majority community. Urmila*, a dalit activist from UP, underlines that although she belongs to a caste where women and men are treated with some semblance of equality, extremist forces make incursions leading to observance of social evils. Similarly, Vaishnavi* from Jharkhand narrates the struggle of adivasi women over land rights, and their heroic stance to safegurd and protect their life pattern and sources of livelihood. Intimidating tactics adopted by right-wing parties in UP include the harassment of and discrimination towards the minorities in their daily lives. While they make a big noise about the film on Benares widows by Deepa Mehta, they show utter apathy for the thousands of women abandoned by their families during the Kumbh melas.
Religion has always been used to suppress women’s rights and to sanction women’s oppression. The religious texts also make women a party to their own oppression by creating and endorsing definitions of the ‘ideal’ woman. These definitions are largely penned around a misogynist and patriarchial image. Women, they say, are essentially mothers. They are also defenders of tradition and bearers of the family honour. These descriptions aim to keep women backward and divorced from the mainstream, even as real-life situations force them to come out in defence of their rights.
And that is why the mayhem that unfolded in Mangalore certainly angers us but does not surprise. It is yet another dagger through our broken hearts. It was once again a brutal reminder that as a country we have decided not to grant protection to half the population. Those who carry out the assaults are unabashedly bold and unrelenting, because they know that there is a political and judicial construct that will help them get away with their crimes. That explains why after the attacks and the outrage that followed, they have been freely intimidating the victims and also the brave young man who came to their rescue.
So what next, after no holding hands with men or even no talking to them? Chastity belts?
Jan 25, 2009
"Freedom is that instant between when someone tells you to do something and when you decide how to respond."
Freedom is the right to live as we wish. This right, however, died a painful death on Saturday, when 'activists' of a self-styled pro-Hindutva moral brigade which calls itself the Sri Rama Sene barged into a pub in the coastal city of Mangalore and assaulted (physically and sexually) a group of young girls. Oh yes, they had a 'reason' for their impotent behaviour too, as most impotent men always do. According to these 'morally uptight' local Talibanis, the girls were "violating traditional Indian norms".
A deranged mob of about 40 'men' forcibly entered the pub, claiming 'unethical' activities were on inside, and that some of the public had complained. They then viciously attacked the hapless girls and also outraged their modesty. The young men accompanying the girls to the pub on the busy Balmatta Road were also assaulted when they tried to protect their friends, as also were the staff who'd collectively risen to help.
Claiming responsibility for the attack, state deputy convenor of the Sene Prasad Attavar said that it was a spontaneous reaction against women, who flouted 'traditional' Indian norms of 'decency'. He said these girls were Hindus who dared to get close to Muslim men.
Sadly, Karnataka - a state that once had a strong image of peace and tolerance - seems to be heading in a very different direction now.
Source: TOI, NDTV, IBN
Okay, here's what I gather from this incident. "Indian Tradition and Culture" is a manuscript written by a bunch of goons and hooligans. The manuscript itself is a list of dos and don'ts that these morality-preachers collate and dispense at will. They decide what comprises morality and decency according to what they deem fit, and it only pertains to the females of the nation. It definitely advocates the use of violence and sexual perversion - liberally and frequently.
This piece of literary genius does not include (or rather overlooks) such mundane things as terrorism or dishonesty or crime in general. It only stresses on matters of utmost importance to India today - namely, what women should and should not do/ wear/ eat/ drink, where they should and should not go/ look, how they should sit/ stand/ talk/ pee/ shit/ barf, whether they should live/ see/ breathe without permission from the authors of the afore-mentioned script, how they should always provide for the sexual repression and frustration of these esteemed authors, and the like. As for men, well, some of them wrote the manuscript, didn't they?
All I can say is that Manu, the acclaimed author of the Kohinoor of Indian literature, Manusmriti, smiles in content and indulgence at his faithful protégés. After all, did he not say that a woman is an embodiment of the worst desires - hatred, deceit, jealousy and bad character - and so should never be given freedom? The saviours of India surely know where to fuel their regressive mindsets from!
"Day and night women must be kept in dependence by males (of their families), and, if they attach themselves to sexual enjoyments, they must be kept under one's control."
Edited to add:
I just had to publish this comment from some anonymous 'moral' fellow who's too much a coward to display his/ her name while commenting - "one thing i want to know is how do we control a person who is beyond decency limits & who will draw the line? since the government & NCW have failed in this, common man has no other way but to resort to such wild behaviour. I saw the TV. what sri ram sena said is correct, these people usually take drugs & behave badly & dress badly also. NCW should be held responsible for this." This person should be lynched for insulting the common man by saying they'd believe in what the Sena did! And there's more to cover his/ her posterior - "I do not support sri ram sena either. They need to resolve this issue by peaceful protest Like wearing a black mask & sitting for dharna infornt of bad people & bad places. They should not hit people." Yeah, right!
Edited again to add:
Here's what the founder of Sri Rama Sene, Pramod Mutalik, has to say after Saturday's appalling incident - "We oppose this. Women have to be protected as the law has failed. Parents are worried about their wards going astray in materialistic pursuits. We are the custodians of Indian culture." Like hell you are! And like hell the parents gave YOU the authority to 'protect' their daughters! And, surprisingly, he says "there is no need to raise such a hue and cry about the incident". Sure, there's no such need; Manu made that clear eons ago!
Jan 24, 2009
Jan 18, 2009
The girls, both 7, dressed up in traditional bridal finery of gilded sarees and gold jewellery. They wed the frog 'princes' in elaborate ceremonies amidst chanting of Vedic hymns. The priests garlanded the brides and tied the magalsutras on behalf of the frogs. The girls were pronounced as wives of the amphibians before the sacred fire at the auspicious hour. The ceremonies concluded in sumptuous feasts.
And like any traditional Indian wedding, there were 'baraatis' and 'gharaatis' as well! The villagers living in the western part of the village acted as relatives of the brides and those from the eastern part acted as relatives of the grooms. Relatives of the brides came in a procession to the grooms' adopted homes to fix the marriage and later went to the temple pond to catch the frogs. The frogs were tied to long sticks bedecked with flowers, as they awaited their resplendent brides.
Sadly, unlike the popular fairy tale, the ugly frogs could not have turned into handsome princes when their brides kissed them. That was at least a 'fairy tale', though. The poor amphibians were thrown back into the temple pond after the ceremony.
An elderly woman of the village said the ritual was practised traditionally for several generations to 'ward off evil spirits and diseases' from the village. The district collector R Palaniswamy says he deputed a team led by the local social welfare officer to visit the village and submit a detailed report. The district administration, he says, proposes to evolve 'comprehensive schemes' to enlighten the villagers against such evil and ignorant practices.
Funnily, this evil and ignorant practice has been going on right in front of his unseeing eyes, year after year.
Source: The Times of India website
Now, here's the reactions from various readers of the news:
"The only thing missing in this report is whether the persons performing these rituals were thrown in the pond with the frogs. Ignorant goons. Please leave kids alone!"
Nope! The villagers are still on terra firma.
"Why attrocities only on females? These folks should start marrying off the males now. Poor goverment policies. Shame on people and netas of India."
Yes! Why are ONLY females always married to dogs, trees, snakes, stones and what not? How on earth are THEY always responsible for anything that does or may happen (in this case outbreak of 'mysterious diseases)? And why should it happen at all - to anyone, male or female?
"This is a violation of frog rights! :)"
Sarcasm at its best! Sadly, the smile doesn't come.
"It is astonishing and sad that such bizarre practices are still practised in this era. I am curious to know if these girls are allowed to marry 'human beings' later on or are they supposed to live life praying for their 'Frog Prince'."
Trust me, I won't be surprised if they live their lives as lawfully wedded to and faithful wives of the animals.
And, finally, to add salt to the wound comes this comment that left me seething:
"This looks exactly like an article a Western newspaper would publish about India. What exactly is evil about this custom? Was anyone harmed here at all in this ritual? Is this more evil than universal Christian custom of eating Jesus' flesh and blood at church (transubstantiation)? The only thing evil here is the reporter's bizzare hate towards harmless age-old Indian traditions."
Perfect! The best defense is offense - so start mudslinging other religions and traditions. Christianity has its own set of superstitions - agreed. So instead of sitting pretty and talking big, fight against those as well!
And how was no one harmed? What about the girls? Their dignity? Their self-esteem? Their rights as a human? Their respect as an individual? Oh, I forgot, the poor girls were not supposed to have any of those.
Just to think (let alone believe!) the girls are in any way responsible for what happens/ happened/ will happen/ can happen/ may happen in the village is tantamount to harming them. How would you like it, Mr. wise guy, if someone blames you for the tsunami of 2004 and forces you into holy matrimony with a whale?