Praise for My Books

"Manreet Sodhi Someshwar is a gifted writer of great promise. I have a gut feeling we have a new star rising in Punjab's literary horizon. She has an excellent command of English and a sly sense of humour."
- Khushwant Singh on The Long Walk Home

"An enjoyable tale of a sassy girl's headlong race up the corporate ladder."
- India Today on Earning the Laundry Stripes

Monday, 26 August 2013

The Indian Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks... Or a Case of Hum Nahin Sudhrenge

Once again, an incident of gangrape, this time in Mumbai, is shaking up Indians. Frothing and foaming, we're denouncing our police, our law courts, our political leaders, frothing frothing frothing ... but not bothering once to pause and think that, perhaps, the change has to begin with us? This isn't rocket science - Gandhi said, Be the change you want to see in the world - so why is there such apathy to introspect? 

Doesn't the incident of gangrape reflect the status within which women are held in our society? Shouldn't we then question why the status of women is such? What are the factors behind the unequal treatment of women? 

I wrote a blogpost some months back, The Indian Rape Epidemic, which I shared on social media in the wake of this latest incident. I suggest in the post that the foundational texts of Hinduism discriminate against women and since our society is predicated on such customs and practices, we need to reinterpret these texts for a modern time. Expectedly, there were protestations regarding a 'liberated ancient India', the foreign influence of purdah and Victorian customs which have corrupted our good selves ... 

I collected my thoughts and responded to each of these. Have a read through - in case you feel similar protestations welling within your good self - and see if they make sense for you. 

Protest 1. Tribal societies in India are Hindu and yet 'easy on virtues'

     Tribal societies in India are animistic, mostly, not Hindu

Protest 2. Hindu scriptures probably talk patronizingly of women but so do all world religions

     Are all ‘modern’ (as opposed to animistic) world religions - which includes Abrahamic & Hinduism - unfair to women? Yes, absolutely. They are, in fact, predicated on a male-as-dominant-gender view of the world. However, the West has had its age of enlightenment which is reflected today in the overall position of women in those societies. (We killed a rationalist in Pune some days back and are currently rampaging to Ayodhya ...) Indian civilization is one of the 2 oldest continuous civilizations in the world. One reason it has stayed relevant is that Hinduism has seen challenges and reform through its history - Rammohan Roy, the father of modern India, was denounced by Hindu clergy for attempting to abolish Sati and child marriage which were upheld as Hindu traditions. Our texts - with antiquity of 2000+ years mostly, and traditions, need to be questioned and reinterpreted to stay relevant with modern times.

Protest 3. Look left and right - the status of women isn't any better

     The Caste system is unique to India and one on which Indian society has been predicated for 2 millennia. This system ranks humanity in a pyramid - Brahmins at the top, Shudras at bottom - and women, oh yes, they’re deemed to be so low as to have no caste assigned to them. Hallelujah.

Protest 4. Ancient India was liberated. It is the foreigners who corrupted us through customs such as Purdah and Victorian practices

     Ancient India was liberated? As evidenced in the Kamasutra? Dunno. Manusmriti, again a defining text of Hinduism, of a hoary 2000 year age, is explicit in the treatment of women. Among its prescribed tenets for women is routine beating, eating after the husband, etc. One particular gem: Wise people should avoid sitting alone with one’s mother, daughter or sister. Since carnal desire is always strong, it can lead to temptation. The purdah was adopted by high-caste Hindus as a way to associate themselves with Muslim nobility. Victorian treatment of women died with the Victorian period.

Protest 5. Something else is happening here. 

     'Something else’ is happening here, you say. What we are witnessing is a modern society with medieval moorings in a stage of transition. The carefully selected men we have bred through female foeticide, jobless today but with an innate sense of entitlement, are colliding against the young women who are stepping out of homes and reclaiming the world. Gender sensitization, implementation of laws, better policing - none of these will work unless we acknowledge the unequal status of women in our society and work to actively change it. Which will come when we begin to question and reinterpret the foundational texts of our society that we take for granted.