I am severely uninternetted at the moment, but that’s not the only reason I’ve not posted anything this year. (Heh. This year. Like 2013’s been around for months.) I can’t get the Delhi gang rape (see posts below) out of my head and there is enough — more than enough — being written and ranted on the subject. Prominent folk in India have a habit of saying idiotic things and they’re living up to that reputation with fantastic fervour. By and large, I’ve ignored this rubbish because it only makes a little more obvious what most of us already know: We are a smug, misogynist people and there’s no quick fix that will solve this problem. Primarily because to a vast majority of Indian men and women, there’s nothing wrong with the way they think. This is evident from the fact that leading politicians say the abhorrent things they do, on record, with a know-it-all smile; glowing with confidence in their perceptiveness. Then when there’s a hue and cry, they’re genuinely shocked. It would be amusing if the statements they made weren’t as revolting as they are. Now I’m not sure why Madhya Pradesh Industry Minister Kailash Vijayvargiya’s statement today has got me hopping with such rage. Maybe it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. Maybe it’s that Vijayvargiya chose to refer to the Ramayana to buttress his attempt at insightful social observation. Maybe it’s the internet at my disposal and that I have no work to do at this precise moment. Who can tell?
So here’s what Vijayvargiya said:
Ek hi shabd hai – Maryada. Maryada ka ulanghan hota hai, toh Sita-haran ho jata hai. Laxman-rekha har vyakti ki khichi gayi hai. Us Laxman-rekha ko koi bhi par karega, toh Rawan samne baitha hai, woh Sita-haran karke le jayega.
The translation that I’ve seen circulated in news media is this:
“One has to abide by certain moral limits. If you cross this limit you will be punished, just like Sita was abducted by Ravana.”
While that’s certainly the spirit of his quote, it’s not a precise translation. Here’s my more literal attempt:
“There is one word — decorum. If propriety is violated, then an episode like the abduction of Sita takes place. There are boundary lines akin to the Laxman-rekha drawn for every person. Whoever crosses those boundaries will find Ravan waiting for them and he will abduct Sita.”
Not only is Vijayvargiya an imbecile for thinking that a woman should keep within these boundaries that he’s imagined, clearly he isn’t familiar with the Ramayana (which is particularly ironic when you keep in mind that Vijayvargiya is a member of the BJP. The reason BJP came to prominence was that it demolished a mosque that was built on a spot believed to be the birth place of Rama, the hero of Ramayana as we know it today).
1. Contrary to Vijayvargiya’s claim, the Lakshman rekha does not exist for every person. In the Ramayana, the boundary line that Lakshman drew was an extreme measure undertaken to protect Sita in a very uncommon situation. (The story of the Lakshman rekha is here.) It was not imposed upon her before or after and neither were such boundaries imposed upon any other character in the epic. Not just that, the boundary was a spectacular failure in that it did not protect her because a boundary line does not have the ability to recognise the bad guy, particularly when he’s sly. In fact, what the Lakshman rekha shows is that you cannot protect someone from ill-intent by draconian measures.
2. If anything, Sita was actually following decorum when she crossed the Lakshman rekha. Ravan was in the guise of an ascetic. Hinduism urges people to respect and give charity to ascetics. The reason the abduction of Sita is depicted as an unpardonable act is that Ravan played upon this value system and misused it to slake his lust or avenge his sister, who had been treated with appalling cruelty by Rama and Lakshman). Sita did what she should have done — she offered a thirsty ascetic some water.
3. To justify rape, Vijayvargiya has actually made a reference to an episode in which the man did not rape the woman. Ravan abducted her, yes. He does not, however, force her to have sex with him. He gives her a security detail and pretty much leaves her alone. If only a rape was quite so respectful an act. Contrast this to Rama and Lakshmana who cut off Ravan’s sister Surpanakha’s nose because she has the temerity to express the fact that she finds him attractive. There is tremendous irony in the fact that it is Lakshmana who draws the Lakshman rekha to protect Sita, given the unprovoked violence he’s committed against Surpanakha.
But like I said before, this is all complete and utter rubbish. Yes, we should get pissed off and rage so that these idiotic people think a little before articulating their messed-up thoughts. It is, however, deeply exhausting to keep up with their stupidity.
Edited to remove the photos that are far too pretty to be clubbed alongside an imbecile’s spoutings. They deserve their own post and by Jove, they shall have it.