The Most Expensive Piece of Property – The Woman

Rape, according to the Indian law, is a sexual act and a violation of that sexual body. The law narrowly defines what can and cannot constitute rape and many of these definitions are limited by its inclusions or exclusions of body parts, gender and acts. And most importantly, the mental state and reasoning behind such an act.

I fail to understand the reasoning behind the construction of such laws. But when you do look a little closer into the fabric of Indian culture and its society, you realise that it perhaps springs from the fact that sex is taboo in our society, talking about it is worse and rape is often a weapon that is used against a woman and her entire family, her caste and worse.

A woman is directly related to the family’s honour. She is like a pristine idol, kept in the depths of a temple, meant to be worshipped and needs to be protected against all invaders. She is not seen as an individual,  and is more of a very important piece of property. And like anything so precious, also a burden.

The easiest and the best way to break such honour would be to aim at the woman. To invade her, physically. To strip her and parade her around (which isn’t considered rape or anything close, according to Indian Law). The reasons could be plenty – a brother saw a woman from another caste/sect/religion; the family did something that the community believed was wrong; the woman chose to see herself as something more than mere property.

By this very definition, once a woman is out of the confines of the altar room, she becomes public property.

While this explanation might seem far fetched (and I’m sure there are detractors who would argue against this), this to me seems quite true.

How else would you explain the stripping and parading of a 40-year old woman, because her son was in a relationship with a woman from another caste? How else would you explain statements like ‘she asked for it because she was out with a man at night’? How else would you explain statements that a woman invited rape because she showed her legs?

Rape is a form of punishment and assertion of authority for all this and more. It could be because you challenged one’s authority by stepping out of your bounds, by questioning things you weren’t supposed to question, by doing things you weren’t supposed to do, by denying someone of things that they believed was their right.

This isn’t specific to men or women. Men get raped too in those little hell holes, but it is rarely talked about.

When the image of a woman is a piece of property, and when that is the image you have been shown through your life and the idea reinforced by people not punishing you when you sample some of the goods… one starts believing that. Perhaps movies do have a role to play… because in our movies, ‘no’ means ‘yes’ and a molestation can easily get the girl of dream into your arms.

Women believe that too… that they are property, meant to be taken care of, tended and protected. They believe it is their right and that their only duty is to look good, stand good and take care of the family. In the modern world, you could possibly have a ‘job’ that would keep you entertained and give you a little bit of spending money, but you do not think you should have an opinion of your own. The only thing you could aspire for is to look beautiful and provide good sex and children. And you use the technology of the modern world… creams that make you fairer, that tighten your vagina so you husband still ‘loves’ you.

Then you step out into this modern world where women do not think of themselves as property. If they do, they choose what to do with that property. And that angers you. What are you supposed to do except hit back at those images and reassert your beliefs? And you do not expect to be punished because you think what you are doing is your right, and nobody ever questioned you when you tested your limits in smaller ways earlier. Nobody slapped you away for pinching a woman’s ass on the bus. Nobody ever called you out for whistling at women on the road. You were just trying your hand at gaining a piece of the property that seemed to be out there for everyone, unguarded.

Is that what happens?

It could explain the statements made by several people. It could explain why the woman was always to blame. But then, this happens to men, women and children.

I don’t know. Perhaps this is a small part of the truth. Because this cannot explain the little things that people do to the ones they know and perhaps love. Is that just sheer perversion? Another twisted way of laying claim? Or another accession of power?

And this cannot explain what kind of animals could beat, maul, rape and do worse to a girl who was just trying to perhaps get home, and then live with it.

We are still looking for answers that creates such beasts.

Why Caste Matters & Does Not in India

The NYTimes found the fact that India appointed a Muslim as the director of the Indian Intelligence Bureau a strong enough point to draft an entire article around it. The author wondered if Egypt would take a leaf out of India’s book and follow such a ‘secular’ model.

The article has a simplistic view of India, which is perhaps good for the country’s global standing. They author believes that India is actually secular and democratic country.

As a citizen witnessing numerous riots and clashes in everyday life, I am not sure I agree.

In terms of titular heads of various organizations, we have been quite effective in placing all castes and religions.

We had Muslim Presidents, Sikh Presidents, Prime Ministers, Supreme Court Judges etc.

But the fact that we are making such a big deal about appointing a Muslim as a direction of the IIB just shows that we are not really secular. In a secular country, the religion of a head should not matter. His religion does not really come into play in a post as high as this. We have appointed him for his skill and accomplishments. Does the fact that he is a Muslim make a difference to how he functions?

Caste and religion play an important role in everyday life.

Take Karnataka for instance. The governments here are deeply divided. Janata Dal, which used to be a popular, ‘farmer’ party, leans heavily towards Gowdas. Party loyalists know that you are not as favored if you belong to any other class.

But if you are a Lingayat, you would side with Yediyurappa. He promises you the riches.

I’m not making this stuff up. Just read any news articles in the past few months, where every minister has openly talked about this.

They do not care if they topple the government as long as someone from their caste stays in power.

Take Bihar. It is a constant war between the lower and the  upper castes. Lalu Prasad Yadav won repeatedly, as some articles pointed out, not because he brought in great development. His caste has more members in a more powerful position. And he does represent the underdog vs the Thakurs etc.

There are again the Yadavs and the Gurjars and the Tiwaris, who all have to fall back on areas that are strong with their castemen to gain votes.

I used the words ‘caste men’ specifically here, because in these areas women are yet to smell the air of ’empowerment.’

Though they legally have the power to vote, what is the ratio of women who do vote according to their choice and not what their husbands state.

Sure, the government ads show ghunghat-clad women happily powdering chillies or milking cows that will be sold and get them money, ergo empowerment. But what is the statistic for women education in these areas? What are the statistics for the deaths of women in these areas?

There are some cases that manage to leak out of the caste-enclosed communities and we read about murders in the name of family honour, rape meted out as punishment and more. But I constantly get the feeling that the actual numbers are much higher than what we get to read about.

But then, we are one of the few nations in the world to have had women Prime Minister, Chief Ministers and cops in high position. And we worship female deities as well. We have entire festivals dedicated to them, rather than leaving them on the lower altar.

That does not preclude rapes, murders, female infanticide, lower education rates, child marriage to older men and many such things.

The Indian mind works on a strange level. We are able to beautifully compartmentalize things like ‘laws’ and ‘reality’.

So, there might not be much fuss about a Muslim being a director, or a woman being a PM. Because these are things that affect us for half an hour in the morning, so to speak. We do not consider the larger impact of these things. But a woman walking down on the street late at night, a man offending your God in front of you – these are things that actually get you going.

Once that spark is lit, the other things come into play.

We aren’t democratic. For  most part, it still remains a sham… booth capturing, fake votes and lots more. We still have the system of reservation in every single aspect of our functioning.

It starts at the school level… and then continues through your life, where a guy who perhaps does not even want to be a doctor gets entry into a medical school because a) reservation quotas b) it becomes a point of honour for his family. His talent and aptitude rarely are considered here.

We are not even particularly secular. We discriminate based on sub-caste, caste, religion, gender, language and region. We are as fricking racist as one can get.

And yet, we function. As a whole. Either because we turn a blind eye to a lot of things that don’t go down easy, or we ‘adjust’. And we believe that two wrongs might just equal a right.

So, I would like to hear more about why we are NOT like Egypt. Why we are believed to have a culture of dialogue, peaceful and respectful arguing, and not a rock-throwing, boycotting, conspiracy-mongering atmosphere.

Back to Cow Slaughter

In a sign of increasing radical-ness in liberal Karnataka, the BJP government proposed a ban of cattle slaughter a few months ago. It did meet with wide protests, or wide acceptance, depending on what newspaper you read.

I read this article in the Caravan today, which gives a more interesting perspective on the history of the issue.

As BJP, RSS and other radical organizations put it, the cow is sacred to the Hindus and cow slaughter hurts sentiments of the people, hence must be banned.

But as this article points out, the Hindus in this case is largely the upper class practitioners – the Brahmins.

It is the farmer who milks them with his hands, bathes them, polishes their skin to keep insects away, washes the cowshed, mates them with the healthiest partners available, stays awake all night during delivery to make sure the calf doesn’t hit its head on the ground and the cow, in its post-delivery depression, doesn’t kill herself by eating the placenta. These along with several such chores of affection and care give him that legitimacy to the animal over those who give a token roti to a wandering city cow, and leave them to survive on rotten vegetables from garbage heaps, which include toilet litter, construction debris, and medical waste.

And the farmer is not a Brahmin generally. (And I was pleasantly surprised to see Devegowda opposing the cow slaughter!) As the article further points out:

So there is a disconnect between the realities of lower Hindu castes, Dalits, tribal people, Christians and Muslims who rear cattle, and that of a few cultural elites from the Brahmin and Brahminised upper castes who don’t like to get their hands dirty doing manual labour, but construct a theory of the sacred cow.

So is this a caste thing? Absolutely! Were you hiding under a rock all these days? This isn’t just about cow slaughter, but they are also promoting vegetarianism as a ‘healthier’ way of life. The point here isn’t what is healthy – it is about a choice to lead your life a particular way. If we begin banning slaughter of animals because of religious sentiments, it will have to be applied for every religion equally. Along with other food items that could offend someone’s sense of religion.

Some of my friends argue that this is a case where “majority” should have a say. And the majority is vegetarians, they say.

Is it true? Even by the statistical count of the castes that consume meat, this falls short of the “majority.” Not to mention all the religions that support meat eating as a way of life.

I am not saying anything new here. Most of these arguments have been presented by both sides and all we can do is wait, and hope sense prevails in the Government. As I mentioned much earlier, this is a violation of fundamental rights of a citizen. We should be able to eat what we choose and practice what religion we choose.

So, by that definition, how can I be jailed if I choose to eat beef?

What is shocking to me is the amount of support I am seeing from people who I thought knew better. This is the only the symptom of a disease, which if encouraged now, will swallow all the progress India has made so far.

Hindutva was merely a word I had grown up with. I figured it would be used lesser as I grew up and people became more intelligent regarding the problems with Hindutva. But it seems to be gaining popularity. Of course, what is popular is not always right but it definitely gets people to listen and some to agree.

What do they agree with? That cow slaughter is bad. Is it? Look at the business part of it. I do not have exact figures to quote about how much beef is sold and the revenue from it, but it is  basic business sense that if you ban the consumption of one form of meat, it will lead to an increase in demand on other forms and thereby an imbalance. Not to mention the livelihood of several people is at stake.

True, some other states have banned cow slaughter. Which states? Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat. States where BJP or some faction of it holds a majority. States that strongly promote Hindutva. States where caste politics rule, communal riots are common and the line between religions runs deep. (Okay, I don’t know much about Rajasthan, but I definitely do mean the other two).

That is not the path we want Karnataka to take. We do not want our cities to have another Godhra, for people to hate their neighbours simply because of religion and someone cooks meat. I am not exaggerating. The issues always start small somewhere but there is a political and religious agenda behind it.

Caste politics is an ugly truth in India’s political platform. And the current batch of politicians seem to be doing exactly what the British did – divide and rule. Except there are more fragments now – Hindus, Muslims, Dalits, the ‘higher caste’ people… whoever they might be.

There are already several temples and more saffron-robed people in the region compared to 5 years ago. Religious freedom is the key to harmony, and to progress.  I want the freedom to wear what I want, eat what I want and drink what I want without the government interfering. This is why we are a democracy. It is shocking enough that people of my generation, who are supposed to be growing more lenient, have more hardlined ideas. We don’t want this to grow.

And giving in a single inch on an issue is just opening the flood gates for the religious kooks to just rush through it and trample all the progress we have made in co-existing peacefully.

The crimes done in the name of God

The SC postponed the Ayodhya verdict – again. I know perhaps a lot of people are relieved with the decision. I do not know any of them personally, so they cannot tell me why this is a good thing?

The weekend is salvaged? Perhaps. I give you one. But what else?

The verdict is a sword hanging over our heads… like the exams that you would rather get done and over with. If you were the sorts who liked it when exams were postponed, do not continue reading.

Every single person I know could say this little fact – “Friday there’ll be trouble.” For the people who are not aware of the situation… some million years ago, Hindus had a holy ground. It was believed that was where Lord Ram was born, hence very auspicious. And then the Mughals invaded the country and they went ahead and built a Mosque on that place. Did people really care about that? I don’t know. I haven’t read enough history to know if there was trouble at this point. What I do know is that the Mosque acknowledged the place as the birth place of Ram till some point. And then really recently, as recently as the 1990s, when God was only a name and religion a tool for the politicians, morons broke down the mosque.

Naturally, hell broke out in India.

I literally mean hell. I remember being about 8 years old around then… My mother, my bro and me had to take an auto home because our vehicle broke down. It was pouring… and the auto we did get was driven by a Muslim. A devout guy by all appearances… he had the cap, the white Kurta and the long beard. My mother told me years later that she was apprehensive. There were reports pouring in from all over the country – on the few news channels we had, which didn’t sensationalize things (not that this needed masala) – about riots, people being killed and worse. But we didn’t have a choice.

The man drove us home safe, taking routes that would be free of rioting. He even helped my mother carry in her bags and did not charge her extra, she said. I was too young to really remember or even notice the implications of most of the things happening around me. But the thought my mother voiced struck with me throughout the years. My mother offered him a glass of tea because we were all soaked in the rain… that was all he did accept.

And that reminds us often that it isn’t what people wear or worship which matters. He was a true Muslim… he believed in helping a woman who was in need. His words, apparently.

Which brings me back to the current problem – the people who are fighting out there don’t give a shit about religion. It is a political game. Which is why every single person I know can say that “there is gonna be craziness happening after the verdict”

No matter which side the verdict supports, the other one will create trouble.

And isn’t it a sad state we live in that such things are fact? Most of the people of my generation (the ones I know at least) don’t care about the verdict.

If you ask me, tell both sides to fuck off and build a school there to teach children that religion is a horrible thing and it sucks.

Of course, that’s me being optimistic. The best we can hope is for the land to be touched for the next 100 years till the memory of it fades and greedy people slowly encroach the land… and then in about another 300 years, if the world still exists, the whole thing will happen again.

I cannot remember the last time we had communal riots. My mind has a low memory for such things… and in school, all you cared about was the holidays.

But one thing remained in my head… a little hillock in my farm. It was pretty groovy… with a cave and all. Due to a long story, Muslims wanted to worship on that hill and my grandfather had given them permission. The hill was half blown away during the riots. The next time I went there… the cave no longer existed. That has been the most prominent sign of the riot in my head. A lot more tamer than some people who probably went through it, I know.

And the Godhra riots. Yes. That is in my memory. How could anyone forget that carnage? And that the man responsible for it is not just out of jail, but is running the same state?

I know some of you think that he is a genius… that he has done a lot for his state. But this seems to be a case of history repeating itself. Does the fact that someone pours money into something, while standing on the dead bodies of the people he/she killed, make it okay to forgive the person?

Hitler, too, believed in the ideas he was propagating. Several other criminals I’m sure have contributed to economic growth… but it does not excuse their criminal activities.

Both Hindus and Muslims were killed in the Godhra riots. Is there a point in pointing fingers at which religion started it? If we have to blame, the blame squarely rests on those politicians who led to the destruction of Babri Masjid. The politicians who stood aside and cheered and instigated people to kill each other. Yes. You know the names I am talking about. The very people who have claimed no regret for the acts they committed.

If this was in the name of God, I’m sure God is weeping at the murders done in his name.

Bottomline – is there a point in postponing the verdict? Is there a point in India trying to pretend to the world that we are a “peace loving country” who have no corruption? The verdict could be postponed further because of the CWG, which is a disaster enough. Maybe I am being cruel but I just want to get it done and over with. Finish destroying what you will so we can rebuild it the right way. Kill those people who started it so we can move on to building a country without religion.