Saturday, 5 January 2013

India Learns The Wrong Lessons

The Delhi rape case at first seemed to have a silver lining in that it was forcing India to introspect about the way it treats women.

Alas, the news since then has been bitterly disappointing. It appears that the only lesson learnt has been to blame the victim and "Westernisation".

This news item ends on the following note:

The continuing incidents of rapes have caused such a panic among the local villagers that they have started charting out their own laws putting a blanket ban on use of “sexy” clothes for girls to check rape cases. Since the time Delhi rape victim succumbed to her injuries in a Singapore hospital, as many as six village panchayats and government schools have put a blanket ban on use of jeans pants [sic], skirts and also mobile phones for girls, holding them responsible for such social perversions.

God! What are these earthmen thinking??

Couldn't these people see that in the very cases they were so concerned about, the victims were probably not wearing Western clothes? And doesn't this serve to strengthen the attitude of entitlement among rapists, "But she was wearing Western clothes!" "Ah, that's all right, then. Carry on."

The Hindu right wing had an opportunity to show its colours when a state minister said women would have to pay the price if they crossed a line. His party, the BJP, had to scramble to distance itself from his statement, and forced him to apologise. No prizes for guessing whether he's truly sorry, or whether his party genuinely considers his remarks out of line.

Soon enough though, the BJP was forced to pin its colours to the traditionalist mast when it defended another of its own. The leader of the RSS, the ideological fountainhead of the Hindu right-wing (how is this organisation still allowed to exist after the murder of Gandhi??) said that rape only occurs in "India" and not in "Bhaarat" (the Indian name for India), in effect blaming Westernisation for this evil. Perhaps the best rejoinder would be that rape only occurs in India, since it is balaatkaar (Hindi for rape) that occurs in Bhaarat.

God! What are these humans thinking??

With all this talk of Westernisation and Western clothes being responsible for rape, hasn't it occurred to even one of these geniuses to ask why Indian women living in Western countries, wearing Western clothes and (yes) carrying mobile phones, feel safer travelling and working there than in India? Could it (gasp!) have something to do with the men?

Since then, the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has only covered himself in further glory by claiming that women should stay at home and confine themselves to housework, while men go out and earn.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat - a ridiculous uniform with schoolboy shorts and a black cap born out of juvenile spite for Gandhi's white one, a silly fascist salute, and hopelessly outdated views. This is another dinosaur who sees the meteor of modernity but has no idea what it means for himself and his ilk.

These events only serve to convince me that there is nothing short of a culture war going on in India, and it is between secular, egalitarian, liberal, urban and educated people and regressive, feudal, patriarchal, orthodox people who are merely literate.

Thanks to globalisation, the Internet, the influential English-language media, the increasing numbers of educated urban youth, and the aspirations of countless others who see such a society not as an evil but as something to aspire to, I have no doubt which way the battle will ultimately go. But it's sad that it has to be a battle in the first place.

God! What are these adults thinking??

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