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From ‘Mother India’ To ’Bharat Mata Ki Jai’: ’Azadi’ Eludes Indian Women

by Shobha Aggarwal, 1 May 2016

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sacw.net - 1 may 2016

Women in India do not appear to be active participants in the debate around the chanting of the slogan ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. Even the debate in the media is dominated through discourse by men. The chanting of this slogan – necessary to prove ‘patriotism’ – is an obsession only of the so called ‘patriotic’ men. Generally men belonging to right-wing political parties are aggressively seen chanting the slogan ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’; rarely is a woman heard chanting it except on a political platform. The slogan is not just a construct of a Brahmanical patriarchal mindset, it is an insult to women-hood and camouflages the ugly truth of how women are treated in this country. The ‘Mother India’ – a 1957 Hindi film – while depicting oppression and suffering of Indian women also glamorizes it. The image of an ideal woman carried by generations of Indian men is of an all sacrificing woman in face of insurmountable adversities and has given rise to similar expectations from all women. In the same vein the slogan ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ gives a free hand to the patriarchal capitalist forces to exploit the geographical region called India the same way as its women. The harsh truth is that just to stay alive and not being murdered at the hands of the patriarchal forces in this country is an arduous task for women. If a woman survives not being murdered either in the womb or after birth then she faces the risk of being burnt alive at the funeral pyre of the husband (Sati) or for not bringing sufficient dowry. The female child is so much undesired by most communities that according to 2001 census data even “non-violent” Jains were competing with Sikhs when it came to female foeticide – an uncomfortable fact around which there has been little debate. Hindus, needless to say, are worse when it comes to “missing women” in India. For women, odds for survival are better in rural India compared to urban India. The chances of survival further improve if a female child is born in a minority Muslim or Christian family. Anyone in doubt only need to check the statistical data of the Census of India of the last three decades.

If a girl child manages to survive by bypassing foeticide and infanticide the next big battle for her is how to avoid getting raped. And when it comes to rape for the sick male mind age is no bar. From a two month old female child to a seventy year old woman it is a fair game for men. And how does a two month old girl child save herself from her male relatives or neighbours? As far as domestic violence goes, women being at the bottom of the pyramid in most communities even a male from the most oppressed section of the society feels free to beat up his earning wife and spend all her savings in consuming liquor. Staring and stalking faced by women in everyday life is a social reality as is sexual harassment of women at public spaces, public transport and work place. Discrimination in jobs – civil as well as military – is rampant; under-representation of women in parliament, judiciary and executive is considered the norm. And yet the women are referred to as the better half. This is the height of patriarchal cunningness.

Left to themselves, the Indian men would rather that women are banished even from public spaces. Therefore men have made public spaces almost inaccessible for women. Going out alone at night is unthinkable for women in most cities in India, but even in broad daylight it is not without risks. Just walking in Connaught Place (main business district in New Delhi) abuses like mother fucker, sister fucker pour in your ears like molten lead all the time. In the daily life of a woman the issue is not really whether one chants ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ or not as long as she does not have to get her sensitivities and sensibilities hurt by repeatedly being forced to hear abuses centering around a woman’s private parts to wit ‘teri ma ki …’. Often one feels like stopping and hitting these men at the most sensitive part of their anatomy but alas! Openly spitting, blowing their nose, making guttural sounds and urinating constantly in public spaces is a favourite hobby of men irrespective of their class or educational status. A crass and crude show of male power!

Subjugation of women in India is the only kind of oppression that cuts across caste, class, community and race. Women would prefer if men give up these uncivilized, obscene, vulgar, brutal practices against women rather than merely chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. In a country where the incumbent Prime Minister refuses to let his wife live with him in his official residence, the hollowness of the slogan is all too apparent. Women don’t really care about the slogan. Women in India want ‘Azadi’ not idolatry! Just let the women exercise their constitutional right to equality and liberty in all spheres of life – political, economic, social and cultural without any discrimination. Till then the chant should be:

Women of India unite, you have nothing to lose except your patriarchal chains

(The writer is a woman.)