The Assam NRC draft has jerked up a catch-22 situation in India. Citizenship has become the navel of our Socio-Political discourse of late and it has erected a new debate which has seemingly seduced every major political entity of our country. While some are vehemently against the deflowering of Indian territory, the others are titillating the alleged defaulters—of course, both factions have political desires. Given my choice of words in the preceding sentences, one may have easily misreckoned me as some pervert. Have you? If yes, this is the meat and potatoes of this write-up—to abort the sexual augmentation of elements that are otherwise characteristically normal.
Coming back to Citizenship, every second citizen of India is a woman who has been failed terribly by her male counterparts. On the face of it, this ‘every second citizen’ is beguiled into a life of that of a second-class citizen—and this didn’t happen overnight! In my opinion it all started with a selfish person, probably a man himself, drafting a ‘How Society Should Function’ handbook. Buttressing the selfish man’s opinion were our ancestors, and now even us, who apotheosised him and his handbook. Aphoristically it is our irrationality that eventually established this trash-book as a gospel truth. It was our servile flattery towards this handbook that lead to the enslavement of our women. It is us who gave the killing thing the power to kill us, and now we are on the brink of a gender war. The writing on the wall is aboveboard, have a dialogue and avert this war!
Conversation is important; we ask others how they feel about something because we want to tell them how we feel about it. Male apathy towards female is due to the lack of conversation that the two sexes have. Hence they are oblivious to each other. Also, owing to the teachings of the handbook, if it ever happens, a conversation between a man and a woman is always anticipated as a conversation between siblings, lovers, cohabitants and other ‘master-slave’ binaries. The Idea of them being colleagues, and thus equals, is never manifested. Gender justice can never be achieved if this conversation curtain is not flung open. Thereupon efforts must be made, and it’s the men who should initiate, to establish a dialogue with the women of the society.
Conversation means engagement—engagement with the society. The handbook in question puts a woman’s chastity under the scanner if she engages voluminously with the men. The word ‘chastity’ is contextually misogynistic. Only women are expected to be chaste, not men. Such sex-selective terms must be redefined. The cannon—if it has to be fired—must be fired with equal force at all the sexes. The burden of chastity is only for the woman. Man, on the other hand, can boast of his numerous engagements. Many even keep a ‘scorebook’ to build a masculine pretense. Yes! For men, it is masculinity; for women, it is unchastity or even prostitution.
Just like chastity, prostitution, too, is trapped by contextomy. From where I am standing, prostitution seems to be no crime. Not our conscience, but it’s the handbook that demeans it as a crime—a crime that only a woman can commit. A woman unshackling her body outside wedlock is deemed a prostitute, but not a man. Also, prostitution isn’t prostitution if committed under religious patronage. Our scriptures are sufficed to prove this point. In Ramayana, Valmiki illustrates how Kaushalya conceived Rama only after Dasharatha performed the Yagna. As is written in the Shastras, after the Yagna, the king used to lease out his wife (or wives) to the Purohits as a religious offering (Valmiki Ramayana: Bal Kandam, Chapter 14). Since Ram is divine and Ramayana is sacred, no one dares to question Kaushalya’s chastity. Also in Ramayana, Surpanakha’s chastity is contested for she was enamoured with Rama, but no one questions Lakshmana who mutilated her. Why? I can only conclude that religion is the bedrock on which patriarchy stands. Thus, to destroy it, the dynamite has to be applied to the religious texts and scriptures.
If it’s not religion then why is the head priest always a man and not a woman? Why are menstruating women denied entry into temples, while the same temples run rehabilitation centres for inebriated men? Why does religion exploits widows and not widowers? If you’ll think upon these, you might concur with my expostulations.
Also falling under religious sanctions are marriages. The institution of marriage in India is the cruellest system to enslave women. It demands a woman to lose her identity and live as someone’s auxiliary. A married household is a political system—proximately theocracy—where the wife is supposed to be subservient. The plight of a woman in the institute of marriage is primarily because the ‘Finance Ministry’ is controlled by the man. Consequently, a woman is coerced to depend on her male counterpart for even the most menial things. Thus, women must step-up and take up the baton in their hands. Not only will this liberate them, but will also make the Institute of marriage egalitarian. Economic emancipation is as important as social emancipation, if not more.
An end to patriarchy can only be met if women take the fight in their hands. It’s the woman who’ll have to ‘educate, organise and agitate’. It is obnoxiously abhorrent for a male to lead a fight for women empowerment. As Periyar says, “Will rats be liberated because of cats? Will goats and cocks be liberated because of foxes? Will the wealth of Indians increase because of the British? Will the non-Brahmins attain equality because of Brahmins? If one thinks over these questions, one can realise the truth. One can firmly believe that women will never attain liberation because of men.”
But what if a male-lead movement successfully liberated women? Then, too, the women will always have to remain obliged to the men for liberating them. As ironical as it may be, we’ll be back to square one from such a success. Therefore, women must lead and men must follow. I can say with utmost certainty that no liberal man would negate to follow women on a mission; a mission to destroy male hegemony, a mission to liberate themselves, a mission to create an egalitarian society. Thus, it’s our collective responsibility to join hands, identify the handbook (or handbooks) and destroy it (them). If need be, we must even go to the extent of committing alleged blasphemy to attain the rights of half the population. For then only will ‘We The People’ be achieved.
Dushyant Yadav is currently a sophomore undergraduate student. He is a staunch Phuleite, Ambedkarite, and Periyarite, dedicated to Social Justice.