Category Archives: Society

A feminist take on the Rani Padmavati-Bhansali controversy

By now you must be already aware of the attack on film-maker Sanjay Leela Bhansali on the sets of Rani Padmavati, the movie that he is making on the legendary Rajput queen.

The controversy broke when the prospect of some romantic scene between Allauddin Khilji and Rani Padmavati began to surface in various newspapers.

If you know the tragic story of Rani Padmavati you also know that she had to commit Jauhar because of Allauddin Khilji. Jauhar means jumping into a burning pyre to save yourself from a marauding army of rapists and plunderers. Although there are different opinions on whether she should have committed Jauhar or not – the confusion is mostly in the liberal circles – she is respected for her valor, and the legend is an integral part of the Rajput culture.

So obviously people were incensed that their beloved queen who died due to a barbarous villain, was being shown as having a soft spot for the villain. Whether Bhansali actually intended to do that isn’t clear because since then he has been denying it, the general perception was like that.

Since Rani Padmavati was a woman and she died, willingly, to save her honor, feminists are debating whether it is right to hero worship a woman who died to save her honor. What can be more worth saving than life itself, they say? Feminists are specially disturbed that honor-killing or honor-self-killing is again being extolled in the name of history and pride.

Keeping this issue in mind Neha Srivastava has published an article in DailyO titled “Allauddin Khilji harassed a woman. Romanticising his story is an insult to women“. In the article she recalls when she visited the historic Chittorgarh when she was 15 the story of the brave queen deeply affected her.

From a feminist angle she points out that the poet, Malik Muhammad Jayasi, who originally wrote “Padmavat”, totally objectifies Rani Padmavati by turning her into a mere object of desire. She writes:

Jayasi’s entire poem is a travesty in its own right, for all the male characters dominate the narrative and the main character Padmavati is reduced to nothing but an object to be desired and possessed. Her thoughts, her fears, her wishes, her hopes reduced to sidelines as a madman’s lust overcomes him so much so to preside over wanton murder. Why? Because a woman cannot say “NO”. Even if she does, it is of as little consequence then, as it is now.

It is a work of female objectification which I, as a woman, do not find romantic in any shape or form. Even when faced with the prospect of attack on her home and her people, the Rani says a vehement “NO”. But since a woman’s “No means Yes” since time immemorial, that doesn’t dissuade “lover boy” Khilji, who wanted another “possession” for his harem, where he could rape her whenever he wanted, use her to entertain guests and perhaps even trade her like a material possession.

Many commentators have remarked that the reason why Rani Padmavati doesn’t feature in official records even when Allauddin Khilji and her husband Ratan Singh do, is because it embarrasses the patriarchal mindset of both the sides. Historic chroniclers like Amir Khusro on Khilji’s side mention her just in the passing because it was embarrassing for Khilji to have lost her in front of his eyes even after having won the battle to capture her. On Ratan Singh’s side, it must had been humiliating to agree to show her reflection in the mirror to a lecherous emperor to avoid imminent bloodbath. This is what liberal feminists should object to, not whether, since her records are not there, it’s fine to twist her story according to one’s convenience or not, but, she not getting her rightful place in the recorded history of the country.

Image source

 

 

Do you really understand what words like insaad jarayam and deeda danishta mean?

Delhi police still using Persian and Urdu phrases

These are the “common” words the Delhi police thinks, are very easy to understand by the common folks. Yes, maybe in the 17th century, but not now.

According to a PIL filed by advocate Amit Sahni the archaic and difficult Persian and Urdu words and phrases used by the Delhi police during its day-to-day functions should be replaced by common Hindi and English words that are easily understandable. According to the text of the PIL,

It is not only cumbersome for Delhi Police officers, who have to learn these archaic Urdu/Persian words but also for accused/counsels and even judicial officers to learn these words in order to understand the proceedings of police. It would be reasonable and convenient for everyone concerned if such archaic words are replaced with simple words of Hindi/English.

This is what the Delhi police has to say in response:

The words used are neither archaic nor difficult but on other hand replacement of these words in ‘Hindi’ as suggested in the petition would create a lot of difficulties, both for litigants and the lawyers.

No difficulty has ever been experienced by anybody including lawyers in understanding the words and phrases, being used by the police. Further no extra time, money infrastructure and manpower is being used to teach these words to the personnel training.

Here is an example of a few “neither archaic nor difficult” words the Delhi police uses when you go to file an FIR or simply deal with some paperwork:

  • Insaad jarayam – Prevention of crime
  • Majroob – Injured
  • Imroz – Today
  • Inkashaf – Disclosure
  • Musammi – Mr/Ms
  • Mustaba – Suspect
  • Adam pata – Untraceable
  • Muddayi – Complainant
  • Muddala – Accused
  • Tameel – Execution
  • Aala-a-qatal – Murder weapon
  • Taftish – Investigation
  • Daryaft – Plea
  • Hasab jabta – As per law
  • Missal – File
  • Tarmeem – Amendment
  • Ishtagassa – Petition

These and around 350 such words are used by the policemen and lawyers in the northern regions of the country. These words became a part of the vocabulary during the pre-Independence and pre-partition days and they never got changed.

The police response is quite silly. How are these words “neither archaic nor difficult”? From what angle? The semiliterate policemen and women are not even aware of the common vocabulary and how come they are expected to not only learn these words, understand them, but also use them in proper context while documenting legal cases? Remember that your entire case rests on the sort of language used in the FIR.

Another stupid argument given by the police against changing these obsolete words that it may be against the ideals of inclusiveness and national integration. How do these cryptic words help the police sustain the ideals of inclusiveness and national integration one fails to understand. It is just another tactic to keep law and order as inaccessible as possible and as intimidating as possible to the common person.

What being liberal truly means

Many often claim, with profuse clarity, “I’m a liberal!”

What does being a liberal mean? It means being open to new, different and sometimes even opposing ideas. It doesn’t matter if those ideas belong to a time 3000 years ago or 3000 years into the future. If those ideas are good, if they are good for the humanity, if they are good for the planet, if they are good for our culture and society, if they’re going to bring a brighter future for our children and future generations, they are to be supported, they are to be propagated and they are to be defended against bigotry, close-mindedness, greed, extreme religious beliefs and cultural backwardness.

Whether you are a liberal or not, if you are a right-thinking person, you can never disagree with a truly liberal person.

So why are liberals suspected and derided these days, all over the civilized world (I’m talking about the regions where you can be limited without being flogged or decapitated)?

The problem is that there are very few individuals who actually understand what being liberal is. Just because you espouse a cause, you begin to think that you are a liberal (I’m not saying you as you the reader, but people who do that). Going against convention is not being liberal. Doing the right thing is. But then again, you may think that you are being right by going against convention. This is totally fine. We all have our own notions of being write and being wrong. This is not the point. Being liberal means being open to the idea that yes, you might be wrong and you need to do some more reading, some more introspection. You need to expose yourself to alternative thoughts. You don’t. In fact, the so-called liberals are the most close-minded and intellectually and ideologically stuck-up people one can come across.

This is one problem with liberalism.

The other problem is that in the name of being liberal, a cultural, intellectual and political racket is being run by a closely connected network of journalists, writers and politicians. In different regions of the world they have different objectives, but their goal is to constantly misinform people and keep them in a state of insecurity, fear and suspicion. For example, the so-called liberals in India are constantly trying to pitch one religious community against the other, one caste against the other and one region against the other. All this is done in the name of supporting causes and particular communities. Do the communities and causes being supported benefit from such support? Who cares? The issue is not about bringing benefits to the “supported” causes and communities. The issue is taking one’s agenda forward.

The largest number of NGOs working for the “downtrodden” in the world are in India and going by the definition of being liberal, we can safely assume that a big majority of people associated with these NGOs are one way or another “liberal”. For more than 50 years a government specifically working for the poor and for religious communities has been in power. This government, despite gargantuan corruption cases, overwhelming incompetence and administrative apathy that can break all world records, has been so far the cynosure of the liberal fraternity. Still, poverty pervades every region of the country. The religious communities, according to the apprehensions raised by the very same liberal fraternity, are in great peril due to the rise of majority-community fundamentalism. All these 50 years of being ruled by a liberal and minority-community-friendly government have yielded no liberal-utopian results. Why so?

Because in the true sense, liberalism has never been there. Opportunism, yes. Intellectual sycophancy, yes. Nepotism, yes. Scavenging on the poverty and backwardness of the country, yes. Communal and casteist politics, yes. Actual pluralism, no. Actual secularism, no. Actual liberalism, no.

I’m not saying there are no true liberals. Of course they are. They have existed since the time immemorial and this is how we have reached from living in the caves to building a structure as tall as Burj Khaleefa. But they have always been in a tiny minority just like they are now. Just because you Tweet in favour of LGBT persons, intellectually try to legitimise extremist tendencies among particular religious groups and ridicule particular religious traditions you don’t become a liberal; you become a nuisance.

A true liberal is interested in change, not in the state of affairs. A true liberal doesn’t just rant, he or she aspires to make a positive change. A true liberal is not interested in “my thinking is better than your thinking”, he or she is interested in what is right.

The problem is not with the Hindu-Muslim culture but the secularism racket

Hindu Muslim unity

Every multi-cultural amalgamation gives rise to at least some sort of beauty. I have often written on my blog that the most beautiful and perhaps the most famous Bollywood bhajan Man tarpat hari darshan ko aaj was written by Shakeel Badayuni, composed by Naushad Ali and sung by Mohammed Rafi. Nobody doubts that the coming together of Hindu-Muslim cultures has given rise to breathtakingly beautiful architecture, poetry to cherish for ever and instances of love and friendship legends are made of. Very few people doubt that.

So when noted Muslim writer Murad Ali Baig says

The fusion of Hindu and Muslim culture during Mughal times is a tradition all Indians could cherish.

Link

nobody should have a problem with that. So what’s the problem?

The problem is the phony secularism that has been thrust down the throats of unsuspecting people of the country in the name of vote bank politics. Minorities in India – mostly Muslims and Christians – are always portrayed as victims and the majority – Hindus – are perpetually portrayed as aggressive perpetrators and majoritarian bigots. They are constantly put on the back foot. This is where the problem arises and this is why the majority population feels cheated and enraged. When different religious communities are treated according to the sort of political benefits that they bring, secularism simply becomes a sham.

Being disabled and being proud of it

Either via Facebook or different online groups, I often get to interact with people with different disabilities from all over the world. There is this one particular topic that has caught my attention: there are many people with disabilities, especially in the West, who are proud of being disabled. They are so proud that when somebody talks about “treating” that disability, they are offended. They often argue that they are fine with how they are and they don’t feel bad about it.

I especially mentioned “West” because they have a totally different lifestyle. I haven’t had an opportunity to talk to people from either India or from other lesser developed countries unfortunately, but it will be interesting to know their take on this.

When I am asked how I feel about my disability (in fact I don’t just have a single disability in the conventional sense, I have multiple disabilities due to cerebral palsy) I don’t say that I’m proud of being disabled, I say that I am proud of myself, despite my disability.

I don’t see disability as my identity. For me it is not something to the tune of what Descartes said, “I have cerebral palsy therefore I am”. For me it is more of a hindrance. I will come back to this thought later on.

Comparatively things in West are easier. Most of the places are accessible. Even restaurants and bars are quite accessible for that matter. People can easily use public transport. There are more disabled people in schools, colleges, food joints, railway stations and offices compared to a place like India. There is a solid social security system. The rehabilitation programs are much better and concrete. The food is good. There are better career opportunities for the disabled. They don’t have to spend lots of energy on fundamental day-to-day survival. For instance, if they want to go out for dinner, it is much easier. Here in India, if you use a wheelchair, merely the act of getting outside of your house onto the road can in itself become an ordeal, forget about having a fun filled evening with your friends or family. I have disabled friends who haven’t gone out for years.

You feel less and less disabled if your daily needs are easily met with. When you don’t have to think twice before visiting a local general store. So one has this luxury to feel good about being disabled. Disability, as they often say, is more environmental and less physical, at least when it comes to an average lifestyle – climbing a mountain can be difficult for both disabled and enabled people at certain levels.

A few months ago we moved to Indirapuram. Since these residential localities are being developed according to modern lifestyles, competitively they are far more accessible compared to conventional towns and localities. When we moved, our building didn’t have a ramp. We talked to the RWA and now we have ramps in every building. There are two fully functional lifts in every building. From the compound of the building to our apartment I don’t have to encounter even a single step.

Nearby there is a shopping mall. I won’t say that the mall was constructed keeping accessibility in mind but most of the modern malls are built in such a way that people can easily use trolleys. Since they use trolleys, they have ramps wherever there are steps. Although perpetually in a state of disuse, most of them have “toilets for the handicapped”. Consequently, without encountering a single obstruction, I can go to the mall, purchase the daily necessities of life, and come back. I have never felt so independent. I don’t have to depend on anybody. In the previous blog post when I wrote about roadside barbers, I can easily roam around in the entire area without any problem. I don’t even have to tell anybody before going out because everything, at least to me, is fully accessible.

Make some changes in the apartment and I will be able to do practically everything. Does this make me disregard the fact that I am physically disabled? It suits my environmental definition of disability.

But I’m independent as long as I am in this comfortable zone. What if I want to climb up a mountain? What if I want to go on trekking? What if I want to travel in a train with my family? What it I want to explore in a jungle on a my own? What if I want to run around with my daughter and play all sorts of games with her?

All these things I want to do but I am unable to do because of my physical disability. Now you can say that if I put my mind to all these things, in one way or another I can accomplish them. Sure I can. But then it will be more about proving a point rather than doing and enjoying those things.

When we were kids we were shown a movie in our school (I studied in a special school, mostly for spastic children). There was this boy who wanted to climb a mountain and reach its peak. The only problem was that he had cerebral palsy and he had more than 90% physical as well as speech impairment. His family and their friends got together and made a plan. Together with 6 people they started their expedition. The used rope and they built a special wooden platform on which the boy could sit without falling off. With every push of the rope he squealed with happiness and eventually after hours of struggle they all reached at the top and the boy was ecstatic.

When the teacher asked us how we felt after seeing the movie, my only reaction was “What’s the point? He didn’t climb the mountain, he was just carried there.”

Similarly when people say that they are proud of their disability the immediate question that comes to my mind is, “What is your exact point?”. Let us suppose that all the ramps, fancy wheelchairs and everything else that helps you live a “normal” lifestyle are taken away, will you still feel proud of your disability? In my opinion you are simply trying to prove a point and nothing else.

Disability for me is a hindrance because it stops me from doing things that I would like to do in my own way. I’m fed up of compromises. I don’t want to do things just for the heck of doing them, I want to do them because I want to do them, and in a way I want to do.

Does the thought that I may never be able to do them make me miserable? It used to, but not now. Does the thought make me less confident and think less of me? Again I will say, it used to, but not now.

I’m not proud of my disability, but I am at peace with myself. I know my worth and I have people around me who love me and appreciate me for my inner qualities. Nobody around me is happy about my disability but they are certainly happy about the way I deal with it, and I think that’s what matters. The rest is jingoism.