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A depressing start to the year

RASHEEDA BHAGAT
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BJP activists protest against the hate speech made by the MIM MLA from Hyderabad, Akbaruddin Owaisi. — K. V. Poornachandra Kumar
BJP activists protest against the hate speech made by the MIM MLA from Hyderabad, Akbaruddin Owaisi. — K. V. Poornachandra Kumar

Instead of a serious debate on how we can make our streets and homes safe for women, we have a bunch of lunatics giving bizarre spins on women and relationships.

Even as I was debating on Saturday as who should get the pride of place in this column — the MIM MLA from Hyderabad, Akbaruddin Owaisi for his rabid hate speech or the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat for his pearl of wisdom on how only ‘India’, and not ‘Bharat’, rapes — the latter won hands down by following up his India-Bharat observations with more gyan on marriage being a contract and a woman’s limited space within that contract.

Both have spoken rubbish. The former has been disowned by saner elements among Muslims — Shabana Azmi and Farhan Akhtar were among the first to tweet against him — the latter continues to be the ideologue of lakhs of Hindus, despite scores of right-thinking Hindus ridiculing his views.

While Shabana called for his arrest and added, “They spew hatred, divide Indians and insult our nation”, Akhtar said Owaisi was “doing a disservice to the people he pretends to serve and represent.”

A bunch of clowns

In my first column after the Delhi gang rape on December 16, I had written that it was only a matter of time before “the usual suspects mouthing nonsense such as ‘women should be careful about how they dress’, or ‘party at nights’,” would surface. Well they have.

While a Congress MP talked about “painted and dented” women, a BJP MLA wanted girls to stop wearing skirts.

The Puducherry Government sought to design a new purdah system in the form of overcoats, while self-proclaimed Godman Asaram Bapu blamed the Delhi gang-rape victim for not reciting the Saraswati mantra and not calling her rapists “brothers” to stop them.

The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader Raj Thackeray, on the other hand, spewed his usual venom against Biharis by calling them rapists.

Seriously, where are these people coming from, and why does anybody have to listen to this bunch of clowns?

Or are we, the mango people, bigger clowns for having elevated such jokers to our legislatures, or worse, given them religious and ideological space in our hearts and minds?

Most dangerous

But to my mind, the most dangerous statement on the Delhi gang rape and the status of women in our society has come from the RSS Sarsangchalak. Others are clowns who are there today and might disappear tomorrow.

But the RSS is an organisation that has deep roots within this country and advocates an ideology followed/admired by millions.

More so, Bhagwat’s statement, made in Indore on Sunday, is frightening because he heads an organisation with such great clout in India’s principal opposition party of today, and maybe the ruling party of tomorrow.

First, a gist of what he said: Marriage is a “social contract; the husband says you take care of my house and I will take care of your needs, keep you safe.”

If either person violates this “contract”, he/she can “disown” the other. At one level it is tempting to look at this contract thing as rather modern! But the sub-text is scary… the woman is expected to stay in the house and be taken care of. No doubts here on who is the real boss… of course, Manu or the man!

The previous day, the same Bhagwat had enlightened us on how urban India rapes, while rural India keeps its daughters and sisters safe!

To those who are utterly puzzled by this claim, one explanation could be that on his rural rounds, the Sangh Parivar boss did not see candlelight marches and must have surmised that all is well in Bharat.

Few take on Bhagwat

There was a deadly silence from the BJP camp on Bhagwat relegating Indian women to the house and only Madhya Pradesh senior minister Babulal Gaur pooh-poohed the RSS chief, but for the wrong reasons. He took umbrage at either party being free to dissolve the contract and asked sarcastically: “then why just one and not two or three contracts”, before plunging into marriage being a saat-janmo-ka-bandhan (a 7-birth bond) crap.

On social media too, which has a heavy presence of Congress-baiters and BJP/RSS admirers, Bhagwat escaped the pillory he deserves. On Monday, while the top two trends were Asaram Bapu and Owaisi Movies, followed by Raj Thackeray in fourth place, Bhagwat was missing. Only the odd gutsy tweeter Sonali Ranade (@sonaliranade), tweeted: “Mohan Bhagwat has proved that RSS is right there with the misogynist Taliban as far as views on women go.”

Not surprisingly, she was flayed for being “fake”, “a Congress worker” and “Yes you’re right… RSS was behind the attack on Malala”. Asaram Bapu and Thackeray, of course, got it in the neck for their stupid comments.

Owaisi venom

Coming to the Hyderabad MLA Owaisi, I accidentally stumbled upon a couple of his videos on YouTube a few days ago and was both petrified and disgusted with the poison he spewed. His main target was Narendra Modi. He ridiculed the Gujarat Chief Minister, amid loud cheering and clapping, with words akin to: “Kaha ka Modi, kaisa Modi, Hyderabd aane ke liye bolo usko (send him to Hyderabad) and asked why Ajmal Kasab was hanged for killing Indians and Modi left off after killing Indians in 2002. But most dangerous was his speech where he challenged the administration to “remove the police for 15 minutes”, so that 25-crore Muslims could “take care” of over 100-crore Hindus. There was thunderous applause from the crowd at this absolute declaration of anarchy and I didn’t have the stomach to watch any more.

He is back from London; a spate of criminal complaints have been filed against him, one of the first few being by social activist Shabnam Hashmi; why he is not yet behind bars remains a mystery.

And so the New Year starts on an extremely depressing note.

On the one hand, instead of serious debate on how we can make our streets and homes safe for women, we have a bunch of lunatics giving bizarre spins on women and relationships. On the other, the woeful lack of leadership in the Muslim community is exposed yet again with an even greater lunatic like the junior Owaisi egging Muslims to go on the rampage and kill Hindus.

He has insulted Hindu Gods and Goddesses, vitiated communal peace, enjoys the luxury of going to London for his so-called medical treatment, and is given a few days time by the police to go behind bars. If they elect leaders like Akbaruddin Owaisi, Indian Muslims will continue to wallow in misery for a long, long time.

Response to rasheeda.bhagat@thehindu.co.in and blfeedback@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on January 7, 2013)
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