Thursday, January 29


Initially when the news appeared I was only appalled, furious, ashamed and sad. Today when the great Yeddyurappa said this I was at a loss of words. He says that "this (pub culture) was not a part of our culture and it led to unfortunate incidents like the one in Mangalore." It is wrong at so many levels. You are rationalizing the criminal and inhumane actions of the goons. You are asking women to not socialize. While it can be read to be in the same spirit as being told to avoid dark lonely alleys to avoid rape, it is not the same. It is rather in the spirit of "you invite rape" argument.

I am a Hindu, and proud of it. But with such incidents on the rise, with political parties and factions that "symbolize" Hindus indulging in such actions or passively watching these things happen, I don't know if I should be proud anymore. Since the Hindu religion, as we know it today, does not have the confines of one particular book or one particular God, it should ideally be all welcoming and encompassing. It is an amalgamation of centuries of what happened in the Indian subcontinent. We have no diktats, no commandments.* If there are any rules or guidelines they are more about rituals. And even they are not uniform. Each region has its own version. You can get married in thousands of different ways and still be married the Hindu way. With the millions of Gods, conflicting philosophical traditions all a part of the same Hindu religion, I thought it is the most tolerant of all religions. In fact the Indian subcontinent as a whole should be the most tolerant of all. We have lived for centuries with different religions, cultures and sub-cultures and developed a version of our own. Many attacked and ruled us, we took something from each of them and still maintained our identity, a continuously evolving identity. With economic progress and modernization we took more to the values of human rights and women's rights that were lost over the centuries.

And now we are regressing. Trying to define Hindu religion and Indian culture solely by what was wrong with it before. Sometimes I think that maybe if we had some set guidelines or one single book things would be different. But then the very spirit of Hindu religion, the Indian culture, would be lost. I remember asking my history teacher in school about how crusades and coercive conversions could be acceptable in any religion. And she said they are not. All religions preach peace and humanity. It is people who reinterpret them for their power struggles. What she said holds true even today.

But then it not only a matter of religion. It is more so about law and order, and the functioning of Indian democracy. If even the few fundamental rights of all sections of society cannot be ensured by elected government, can we claim to be a good democracy, the one where the rule of law prevails? If elected governments cannot act against anti-social and criminal elements in society, should we even have them? The central government has not said anything about the way the situation is being handled. I am all for maximum state autonomy and unintrusive center, but it is the center's responsibility to ensure that the State governments are upholding law and order. The home ministry has to ensure that the home is safe. Instead MNS is free and feared. This Sri Ram Sena is doing what it pleases. I am sure Lord Ram would be turning in his proverbial grave.

It saddens me deeply that our country is rapidly going down this path. Coming from a family where women are highly respected, where there never were any restrictions just because I am a girl, immense trust and encouragement and a very religious atmosphere, and then married into a similar family, I sometimes wonder if I am living a delusional life. If there is something wrong with my family, and we do not understand the real meaning of being Indian and Hindus. If all those people around me who grew up in similar backgrounds are also part of this long dream, and we all are gradually waking up to reality. Will we all survive this 'real' world? Or is the 'real' a dream and we will wake up to another beautiful tomorrow?
* This does not mean that religions with one particular book, God or set commandments are inferior or not tolerant in any way. It is not meant to offend or disrespect anyone.

Update: Ultraviolet has an open letter to the Karnataka government and reflects my sentiments about the violation of women's rights.They say it better than I would.

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