Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Marketing Victimhood

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

It is not surprising that BJP leader Sushma Swaraj has asked for Ashok Chakra to be given to the victim of Delhi rape case who died in Singapore. Now, she has been made an ‘iconic figure’ and her ‘sacrifice’ is being ‘projected’ as inspiring for a society which is still afraid of revealing her ‘identity’. Though her father has revealed her name in an interview to a British Daily yet it is shocking that he himself suggested that she never thought of marriage to her ‘boyfriend’ as both of them belonged to different castes. Unambiguously, Sushma Swaraj and BJP have shown their dirty side of politicizing an entire issue and making political gain out of it. Rather than addressing the root of the cause, they still reinforce the misogynist values of our society.

Ashok chakra is the highest civilian honor given for Supreme sacrifice for the country. The girl who was raped in Delhi was bold and wanted to live life. She was a normal girl with simple dreams and needed justice. She is no more and though she has become a rallying point to revive the age old debate of violence against women and gender discrimination in our society. She became victim of our systematic failure and hence cannot really be put in the category of the Ashoka Chakra awardee. Rather than thinking of awards on the girl, it would be better if we focus on justice delivery and making our public space decriminalized. It is also important to ensure safety of women at home and that is only possible through a sustained and reasonable public debate.

But is any reasoned debate possible in a society where the right wing ‘nationalist’ smell danger of their survival. Moreover, the sustained debate some time blur the thin line of sex and rape as if sex is crime and all those who talk of freedom of body and mind deserve to be treated like ‘prostitutes’. The problem with such a mindset is that they feel that ‘prostitutes’ have no rights and that they can be raped at will. It is important to understand why ‘rape’ laws are ‘explained’ in term of ‘outraging’ women’s ‘modesty’ because all related to the fact that social system defined by the power elite ensured that a woman remain guilty for ever once she was violated. That is why the provision of hiding her name continuously even when we wanted her to be a role model without any question being asked as how do you give a Ashoka Chakra to woman whose name is invisible and remain unknown?

Today, the debate is taking a new turn on the women’s right. And that is why we are now witnessing numerous reactions from the right wing forces about it. It is not surprising when Vibha Rao, the chairperson of Chhattishgarh Women’s Commission says that ‘women are responsible for the violence and rape on them as they dress ‘attractively’ and should know their limit. In fact, Vibha Rao heads a commission which should ensure women’s safety and well-being but then how can she go beyond the ‘lakshmanrekha’ drawn by her parental organization, the RSS. She has virtually condemned the aadivasi life style when she says that once you have sex before marriage or beyond one individual, you lose your right to complain. One can understand the fear of blackmail in many cases as happened many times on Dowry related cases but why can’t we promote the idea that man and woman do not seize to be man and woman after marriage. Their individual identities must remain irrespective of their marriage.

The RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has not spoken anything absurd as we all know the Sangh put its foot in mouth after deep deliberation. India, for Savarkar, is the holy land of Hindus; it is their ‘pitrabhumi’, their father land. And in their definition, the Sangh has clearly based its theory on Aryan theory of superiority of Varna and values enshrined on the basis of Manu Smriti. During the 1990s when the Ayodhya movement was growing the Sangh sponsored Saints had developed a constitution of their own based on ‘Manu dharmshastra’ which will promote the idea of ‘vaidik dharma’ and Sanatan Dharma where women will be idolized like ‘Sita’. An ideal woman is one who follows her husband like ‘Sita’ and does not question her man. It is clear when Bhagwat said that marriage is a ‘social contract’ where man has to earn for livelihood and woman has to take care of family and home and that is why any woman’ violating’ this norm is not a woman of ‘substance’ for the Sangh Parivar and its ideologues. That is why we the Hindutva women justifying every statement of their parents organization and speaking only on an individual cases as well as ‘tougher’ laws to deal with ‘rapes’ and ‘violence’ against women.

Mohan Bhagwat’s mindset is clearly known to all of us. He has raised the issue that ‘rapes’ are modern ‘phenomena’ and happens only in ‘India’ while all these things were ‘unknown’ in ‘Bharat’. Well, India is governed under the modern secular constitution and therefore most of the cases are filed and get into limelight while ‘Bharat’ is still ruled by ‘khap-panchayats’ and caste hierarchies where no report is accepted in the police thana. In Bharat, women are not expected to go out independently and as long as she is submissive they will ‘protect’ her and fight for ‘her right’ but sooner she ascertain her independence they would lose no time in terming her ‘characterless’. Mohan Bhagwat and his mindset feel the biggest threat in the form of women’s liberty which is possible only when India is coming close to world civilizations and people are asking questions and thinking about them. Now, the girls are going to colleges, in institutions and asking questions which is the bone of contention for the Hindutva world view as they have realized that women’s independence is a threat to our ‘social values’. What are those ‘social values’ that you have to pretend that you know lesser than your husbands or male wards, you have to cook the best food for them, you have to feel proud if your husband beat you, you have to produce more children so that the ‘Muslim’ population does not grow more than you.
The religious fanatics feel the biggest threat in women’s identity. Lot of debates were happening about what is violence and even marital violence but one question was missing that as long as religion play leading role in our life women can never claim for independence. How is anyone who take oath under a priest whether Hindu-Muslim or Christian, ever consider a woman equal to man. Most of these religions actually justify ‘marital’ sexual violence. The religious values have clearly mentioned that a woman cannot really say know to ‘her’ husband and must please him. These values are superimposed through our films and mass media. If anyone want to know more about women’s right and how they should live can procure some of these ‘publications’ which are making huge profit out of our religiosity and ignorance.

The continuous focus on ‘Women’s issues have threatened the status quoists and that is why the issue of culture and customs are now coming up as they would like the issue to be confined to ‘rape’ cases so that the age old prejudices remain untouched and unaccountable. Bigger discussion on women’s right is threatening these fanatics who are raising the fictitious issues of those divides which exits in India. There is no doubt that there is an urban rural divide but the fact is also true that our rural hinterland is devastated by caste hierarchies and is a true reflection of the caste based social order where women meant nothing.

The girl who was raped need justice even when she is no more. She has ignited people’s mind at the moment and brought all the likeminded forces together and hence this opportunity should not go in vein. Her death has become a rallying point and the fire must burn to bring all the related issues including sexuality, consensual sex, rights of the child, issue of dalits and aadivasi women and more. Just focusing on her individual cases and seeking its remedy through the ‘constitutional’ legal matters while keeping your misogynist cultural values alive would not bring any change and women will continue to suffer in such a situation. Therefore it is time to call bluff to all these fundamentalists who want to divert our attention from the larger issues of women’s equality and confine us to debate an individual case as if this is a Congress BJP issue or confine to one particular city or state. Violence against women and her systematic oppression is part of cultural values of South Asia and need a massive mass movement to eliminate this caste and gender based discrimination and violence. Until then there should not be any full stop on our resisting voices.

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