UP Congress is on a high these days. After Congress Chief Rita Bahuguna’s infamous words on rape, the debate started that chief minister Mayawati said the same things to the then chief minister Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav after she visited the Maderasa in Allahabad where some Muslim women’s were raped. Why were the channels running it for the whole day. Was it an effort to douse the flames created by the brahmanical sophistry? Is it just a slip of tongue or the very psychology of our political class which use victim as a tool to score a political point?
Well, if you have seen some surveys on these channels, then a majority of Indians have send roses to Rita Bahuguna. I think this is there way of doing Gandhigiri on channels and feeling happy that ‘some one’ had the guts to take their ‘cause’. Justifications are there that Ms Bahuguna meant something else but if you see the whole social history and later on the post independent India’s socio-political climate, then one should not wonder that word rape has become a political instrument and the person who is victimized is tortured more by our actions and deeds.
And I call it mindset of a pervert society. A society which is full of fear from openness and which shows its strength through masculinity. Is not it strange that the victim of rape violence is asked to cover her face and live in indignity and hide while the perpetrators roam around with shouting slogans and taking shelter under various taboos. And this is what I call brahmanical mind beautifully exposed by Dr Mulk Raj Anand in his epic novel ‘Untouchable’, as how a priest of temple try to allure a girl Gulabo who is a sweeper in the temple to enter into the sanctum-sanctorum of the temple where she is normally prohibited to enter and then try to molest her. As soon as the girl retaliates and condemn him, the Brahmin priest shouts ‘polluted… polluted… blaming the girl for polluting the temple by entering into its sanctum-sanctorum.
The responses of both the UP government and the rival political party are according to their power base. But the way the whole script is being played showed that the even the women politicians play the script largely written according to the code of Manu Dharm Shastra, a code which degraded them and made them an object of ‘pleasure’.
No one knows the plight of those women who become victims and in whose name these political dramas are enacted. The script changes and politicians takes over and make it like a Bollywood scene where the aim of the director is not to really show injustice but to give more ‘material’ to our bruised and unsatisfied male egos, something to watch.
Our responses have been crude and humiliating and when this rhetoric comes from women then it become more painful. So, it is a country where the laws are made in such a way where the victim is more victimized and those who do it walk with their head high.
Just as section 377 was set aside by Delhi High Court, many of the activists, including those claiming to work for social justice, felt that by allowing the homosexual to do things according to their choices would amount to breaking of our social relations and that we are a society based society and individuals do not matter.
Why individual should do not matter? How can a society be developed by killing an individual. Dr Ambedkar said about Indian society: ‘The Indian society does not consist of individuals. It consists of innumerable collections of castes, which are exclusive in their life and have no common experience to share and have no bond of sympathy. Given this fact, it is not necessary to argue the point. The existence of caste system is a standing denial of the existence of those ideals of society and of democracy.”
Once we understand this feeling of Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar, we can easily analyse the root cause of our structural problems influenced by the brahmanical social order where for different set of rules and punishment meant for different communities. Therefore a rape committed by a Brahmin would definitely not attract the same punishment as done by some other community.
The atrocious laws and social taboos in our societies have turned against individuals and those who challenge to live according to their own life style face the brutality by the society. One should not therefore be amused about our whole marriage system and how it is an event to ‘celebrate’ and show your ‘strength’ and ‘power’ in the village rather than being an entirely private event of a few. And there are communities and traditions when you celebrate the first night ‘victory’. Also, communities have their way defined how to find the next morning whether the girl was a virgin or not.
It is therefore not ironical that during a mass marriage ceremony in Madhya Pradesh that the doctors were called to testify the girls after two of them developed labor pain. Now, mass marriage customs are very popular in India as it gives the political parties a license to become the custodians of the community. But as my friend Joane Payton referred why marriage can not be a private affair. Why should the state promote dowry by promoting such practices. There are number of other things as pointed out by some people that some marriages were just replayed to extract the paltry Rs 5,000/-. In fact a former Madhya Pradesh minister once said that people lodge false cases of rapes for compensations.
Now, that is the problem with the political parties. They link women’s dignity with compensation. At the same point of time we will have to understand how a woman has to face this violence in our society. Hence, she lives a life of miseries and there are no efforts by the family to revive her. That is why most of the people do not even want to let the incident out in open and file a case in the police. They know that if the ‘truth’ is out the girl would not be able to marry. And hence in many cases the women themselves refuse to accept the charges.
Of course, when rape becomes a male chauvinist debate among different constituent then it is shameful. Rather then condemning the act, we the launch counter offensive about why it was not done with others. Rita Bahuguna’s shameful tongue was the same brahmanical wisdom of challenging another woman. May be she wanted to look more sympathizer then Mayawati. Perhaps, she should remember Khairlanji which happened a few years back in Maharastra.
Rape will always be a powerful weapon in the armed struggles, communal disturbances, social upheavals as long as women’s virginity and purity are the ‘honor’ in our society. As long as we consider them as a matter of our ‘ijjat’, it will be used as a tool to dishonor them. Whether some boy picks up quarrel with another one in the village, it is the sister who has to face the consequences. The villagers will moan, communities will fight but the girl would be destined to live a life in isolation and misery. She can not come out hence even if she receive hefty compensation, unless our families are properly counseled no rehabilitation can take place and the money would go to the parents who would then find out a person for her and she would be tied for marriages but the stigma of being raped would also be there. There are very few cases where the girl would live a life of honor as she will not be accepted by the larger society.
The Supreme Court gave a historic verdict today after hearing a very passionate petition of an orphan girl who was raped by a warden in the Nari Niketan in Chandigarh. This girl is mentally challenged with an age of 19-20 years of age with an IQ of 9 year old. She became pregnant and she does not want to terminate her pregnancy now. It said that the girl has a right to keep her baby. Let us not go into what is right and wrong. Important point is that this girl’s desire to live her life with dignity must be appreciated.
The problem is many times, to save them from an adverse verdict, the lawyers advice the alleged rapist to ‘marry’ the girl and withdraw charges of rape. Law has never been reformative and any person who is different from others, find it difficult to get a good lawyer to present her case. How can the court grant permission to alleged rapist to marry the girl. It is because of the social taboos. Fact is that India may not be officially a Hindu Rastra but the laws of Manu are very powerful in our society and they prevail over a secular constitution.
Ofcourse, Manu’s Islamic cousins are not left behind. There are hundreds of Imranas and Mukhtar Mais who face these indignities. And what does Panchayats do, which many of our friends appreciate so much in the name of ‘golden’ culture? These Panchayat do not listen to the victim. They victimize them further. Imrana was asked to marry her ‘rapist’ father in law and call her husband as son while Mukhtar Mai was ordered rape by the ‘Jirga’in Pakistan. One need courage and patience of a Mukhtar Mai to face the law which is against her at every step. Therefore most of the women live in indignities as the psychology of rape is just not to kill the girl but to make her virtually a living dead where you are killed many time every time when people pour you with different questions and discuss about your fate. It also creates a psychology of indignity and guilt around her and her family. Laws have never been useful at all and politicians more dangerous than ever. One can find how many time they went to help Imrana. A typical response would be ‘either it is a community matter or ‘we have not read about it or heard it’.
The only answer against such heinous crime is to fight against it and not feel guilty and humiliated. And one woman who challenged it and became an icon was Phoolan Devi. Educated upper castes called her ‘dacoit’, but none ever came forward to encourage her live a life of dignity after she was raped and molested by the Thakurs in rural Kanpur Dehat region. She did not accept the defeat. She did not lead a life in miseries. She decided to avenge it. Many people might not justify what she did and none can justify those violent acts yet Phoolan revolt against the brahmanical system is an example that rather then feeling shame of their misdeeds, it is time to pay back with interest. She did not ask for any brutality or rape. She denied being part of any murder of people in Behmai yet she lived like queen. Whether you call it larger then life image or not, but Phoolan never believed in submitting herself to the fancies of these upper caste thugs. She became a legend in her life time who lived life with dignity and self respect.
But her legendary status was used by political class for their own reasons. She was converted into a docile homely woman who is very caring and very epitome of ‘Bhartiya naari’ i.e. Indian womanhood. She would tie Rakhi to many of these politicians who became her brothers and used her for political purposes. She got married and entered to parliament. Her status was used by the ambitious political class. A strong woman who fought against brahmanical patriarchy was therefore merged in it by the corrupt political class.
Politicians will thrive. The victim and their families will live life of marginalization. For a few days the media will make big stories and politicians know it well. Nothing will happen to them. Their ‘pativrata’ wives will not come for the rescue of bartered woman. They will stand by their corrupt husbands and relatives. That is what brahmanical value system tells us that nothing is bigger than blood relations…’ jis desh jaati main janm liya balidan usee per ho jawaen, which means you must sacrifice your self for your region and caste and defend it at any cost. At the end of the day even if we get out of the political debate of Rita Bahuguna and Mayawati, it is important who is good or bad, just find out who are the people facing charges of rapes in various jails of the country. Who are the victims? May be Rita Bahuguna can find the answer. Many of the shudra critique of Bahujan theory suggest that the violence perpetrated on Dalits are done by the shudras. They ignore the fact that Manusmriti was not made by the shudras. They forget that brahmanical violence may not be physical but more institutional and through knowledge. Rita Bahuguna has added Joshi in her status and her only quality to become president of Uttar-Pradesh Congress was her being a Brahmin. Just by having a Dalit cook at house does not resolve the crisis as she said. What she said was not an outburst but a continuous assumption of our patriarchical political thought that does not want to address the root cause but use the incident for political purposes. A counter social cultural revolution of Dalits-bahujan is the only alternative to brahmanical polity of India in which women are inherent partner in the movement otherwise, rape and molestation of women will always be a tool to not only spread terror among the marginalized sections of society but also used by the very exploiters who use it as a political weapon. Unfortunately, it is the bankruptcy of our political parties that they think to revive their political fortune on an incident which is a shame and need a sensitive approach to deal with.
(Vidya Bhushan Rawat -Working as a full time human rights defender. Have made several documentries and also written books on the issues of human rights, Dalits, women and minorities. He could be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )