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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Rape is rape, in India as in Bharat

By Swapan Dasgupta

In the late-1980s, and for a time between 1987 and 1991, Devi Lal became a prominent player on the national scene. Deeply rooted in the politics and rural ethos of Haryana, he was known for his earthy wisdom and disdain for all things that didn’t fit into his ‘kisan’ experience. A particular target of his derision was that section of the country that has come to be known as ‘India’—as opposed to ‘Bharat’. The true representative of this land, Devi Lal used to say, were those whose addresses would be prefixed with the name of the VPO—Village Post Office.

It was an interesting formulation and perhaps something that even Mahatma Gandhi with his utopian notions of self-sufficient village communities would have tacitly approved. The problem was that it left a lot of people (including myself) with a feeling of being second-class citizens. Urban India may well be the Devil’s workshop but it happens to be the only place many Indians can call home.

Nor is it accurate to regard rural India as the natural epicentre of virtue and holiness. In his lifetime, Babasaheb Ambedkar was eclipsed by the larger-than-life influence of the Mahatma and the Congress. But it is worth remembering that the Dalit icon always regarded Village India as the citadel of prejudice and oppression against all those who were damned for being ‘untouchable’ by birth. The self-governing qualities of the local panchayat didn’t inspire Ambedkar. To him and to many who were concerned with caste-based oppression, rural hierarchies didn’t have space for those who were condemned to live apart. The stereotype of happy kisans harvesting grain, flanked by women in colourful clothes, didn’t always incorporate the brutal underbelly of an economic order where some communities were regarded as sub-humans, and their women treated as commodities.

Rape, the RSS chief asserted in Silchar last Friday, is essentially an ‘Indian’ phenomenon. He is only partially right. The brutalisation of women is more widespread in the ecosystems of Bharat—and has been so for centuries.

Mohan Bhagwat is also entirely right when he maintained that the respect for women is idealised in Indian culture. But he would be the first to admit that traditional society was less than welcoming and applied very different standards to those groups it regarded as being outside its social orbit—an attitude that has been transmitted into the widespread disrespect for white, women tourists. The deep reverence for ‘stree shakti’ in Bengal, for instance, didn’t prevent the cruel custom of sati and the social degradation and sexual exploitation of widows by ‘respectable’ sections of society. It also didn’t prevent collective sanction for the sexual exploitation of women from the ‘lower orders’.

A feature of the vibrant social reform movements that arose in the 19th and early-20th centuries was their willingness to first admit the shortcomings of Hindu society and then address the question of possible remedies. Some of the reformers—notably Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Swami Vivekananda—were modernists and had imbibed the intellectual currents of the West. But others such as Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar were steeped in tradition and approached the question of reform from a humanist perspective.

The point to note is that for the Hindu stalwarts of the past two centuries, there was a clear understanding that the Hindu, both as an individual and as a collective, wasn’t the epitome of perfection. In today’s context, going by the admission that cosmopolitanism has distorted the minds of ‘India’ and encouraged unwholesome attitudes towards women, the issue to be addressed is: what can be done to change society? After all, there must be glaring imperfections in the modern Hindu that facilitates the ready acceptance of misogyny—the utterances of the Congress MP from Jangipur and a senior BJP minister of Madhya Pradesh being two recent examples. (I am confining my remarks to Hindu society because it sets the tone for India.)

More to the point, the heads of cultural organisations such as the RSS must begin to ask why their unceasing activism over more than eight decades hasn’t altered things. Why have the samskaras they have sought to inculcate in their followers not had a wider effect on society? Maybe the fault doesn’t lie in the samskaras—although a little less patronising attitude towards women would help greatly—but in the priorities of groups that have sought to create a moral leadership for India. If there was greater emphasis on regenerating the institutions of what goes by the name Hinduism rather than on exercising control over a political party, the nation would have been better served.

There is little point celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda in style unless the grand speeches are complemented by serious attempts to cleanse the temples of venality, casteism and even the exploitation of women devotees by perverted priests. Vivekananda spoke and wrote at length of the Brahmanical religion’s cruel indifference to the plight of the Sudra and the Chandal. Was he exonerating Bharat and indicting India? Was he creating false binaries?  

Any rape, whether it happens in Delhi or rural Madhya Pradesh, is a collective blot on both India and Bharat. There is little point in saying that one is pristine pure and the other contaminated because it is just not true. We are the children of the same country and together we must hang our heads in shame. 

Sunday Pioneer, January 6, 2013


PBRF said...

>>>"Swami Vivekananda [was a] modernist and had imbibed the intellectual currents of the West."

Swapan, Vivekananda, in his philosophical essence, was as "modern" or as "traditional" as his Guru Ramakrishna.

>>>"Brahmanical religion’s cruel indifference to the plight of the Sudra and the Chandal."

Did Vivekananda use the word "Brahminical" to describe social problems? Or is that a label missionaries taught you in your "convent" school. Are you really any better educated than other "convent" products like Sagarika Ghose?

Brajesh said...

Hindu society has probably forgot to evolve in its long history and needs to reinvent, assimilate as many different views and transform their rituals making it relevant to the times we are living in.

A "Rape" is a rape, whether it happens in Urban India or Rural India. In olden days, we didn't had police to report. All the reporting happened though the Army of King, whoever was the ruler and Society at large was itself the "deterant" to any crime against women/men. Even today if a Man is after a women, society calls him "Characterless". There was a great fear of being called "Charitra-Heen", which is the worst label that a man have on him.
And that's why in old days a lot of emphasis was on character building. But where is all that now ?
Word CharacterLess has no meaning in Urban India but still has great significance in Rural India. Moreover nowadays, if you Label some as Characterless (for sexual acts) in front of MSM, you would be considered even worse than that "Characterless" fellow. Speak this and next day you would be the headlines of all the leading English News Papers and Breaking News for English Channels.

Are we modernising ourselves or blindly westernising ourselfs? We need to think.

Policing alone can never solve the issues like rape, but society can. Social Pressure has much impact than Police Pressure. Males need to respect women and vice-versa, but you can't force anybody to respect someone.

India needs to evolve with times and philosphers and thinkers views needs to be debated in entirety rather than word by word.

If that's how Media will start interpreting every word and sentence probably people will be forced to read it from pre-written texts as few of our New Generation leaders have already started.

Anonymous said...

Only when Swami Vivekananda saw discriminatory practices in a certain part of Kerala He called it a "lunatic asylum".

In fact Sri.Swami Vivekananda has nothing but unalloyed praise for Hindus' Varnasrama Dharmam.

Anonymous said...

It came as no surprise that rajdeep sardesais & various ill informed panelists pounced upon RSS tearing Sri.Mohan Bhagwat's statement apart to malign Hindus once again.

Instead rajdeep sardesais ought to have questioned why hard core criminals get elected as our representatives.

When secular charlatans like rajdeep sardesais peremptorily discuss any issue credibility becomes the casualty. One of the women among the panelists even went to the extent of supporting (sic) Soorpanakha decrying what Sri.Lakshman did to her.

Such quarter baked upstarts contribute nothing but zilch.

Let us never forget a perjuror like sonia gandhi was compared to Hindus' Lord Sri.Ram Himself by the same dubious rajdeep sardesai.

Anonymous said...

Why pretend governance in India strictly adheres to Dharma Sasthrams?

Among various factors alcohol & drugs are condemned as vices. There are many ministers involved in drugs & prostitution trade. What is edifying about Indian movies. Rape scenes have always been the staple desensitizing us.

Swami Vivekananda goes into raptures while talking about Nachiketas. How many of us follow Nachiketas as role model?

It is erroneous to take to Spirituality after hitting the forties. Culture is something that takes generations to build assiduously. It should be the duty of each parent to introduce God and not schools. Indian schools are run by christian missionaries full of contempt towards us Hindus.

RSS Mohan Bhagwat hit the right notes when he pointed out the hedonism embraced by Indians.

I remember when Anoushka Ravi Shankar's daughter as a young girl visited India pointed out the same in an interview.

Anonymous said...

I have written a lot about my own life & various relatives.How I was FORCED to step out of the house & work to bring home Rs.500 by various relatives comprising of both men & women.

I understood Indians have a very callous & casual attitude towards sexual abuses including rape.

If only I had been given Yoga Vashistam , Upanishads , Srimad Bhagavatham , Sri.Ramana Bhagavan's Teachings at a very young age instead of utterly USELESS history of India etc etc undergoing torture in a concentration camp called indian school I could have spared myself all kinds of misery.

This is my irrevocable conviction.
There is really nothing out there to achieve in this world. If so why so many rich , poor , influential , sick , healthy almost all kinds of people came seeking Sri.Ramana Bhagavan ??

Anonymous said...

RSS is the protector, supporter and purveyor of all that is ugly in the Hindu way of life. They will only give lofty speeches, but not do anything that is socially worthwhile. Rivers need to be cleaned, caste system has to be abolished, communalism, women's issues - all require attention beyond the government and RSS can not and will not attend to these problems. RSS is rotten from within.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, Can you suggest away out for rectifying all these problems listed by you can not be done by RSS. Publish an article in detail in any national news paper please.

srvs said...

Rape is rape only in the eye of the victim. another person cannot represent the feelings of the victim. As such it is the victim who shall determine if it was a rape. When a husband and wife quarrel and the wife in unrelenting the husband has forced sex with wife after which both forgive and forget the past and become lover once again. this not only saves the family of any divorce and a broken family and children. This acts as a medicine for cure of the situation. there fore rape in my view is not a rape. Rape by known person like friends and relations is also not a rape because the victim does not feel so. But if it is by any unknown stranger to the women then it is rape depending on the victim who feels polluted by stray elements in society.
Some women prefer rape over normal sex as it gives full satisfaction with 30-45 minutes of active play while normally the man is down after 3 minutes leaving the women unfinished.
Please revisit the subject of rape the definition is not absolute.