With the coming of android phones, we have witnessed many creative offers from companies inviting people to use their internet networks and packages. The competing companies have made sure they stay in the race by offering people high-speed internet which is better than others’ and at competitive prices as well.
Idea has always grabbed attention of smart phone users through its innovative and unique ads. It made an impact on the users by trying to cash in on topical social debates by incoroporating them in its advertisements, mixed with humor. The recent IIN (Idea Internet Network) ads have similarly gained the attention of android phone users by making unusual internet offers and assuring high speed internet This time, the IIN ads have focused on education. However, these ads appear irrelevant and do not make the slightest sense.
On a serious note, are these ads supporting the ideals of women’s rights? In this Idea IIN ad (watch the video here) we see a group of women in a Haryana village who under male dominance have never been allowed to step outside their homes since ages. In the ad, they are shown to be dedicated to education and are seen making efforts to come together and learn through the Idea Internet at their homes. In the end, the woman leading the group is seen thanking the phone, for having let them educate themselves, by bowing her head to the phone. In a place like Haryana where the Sex Ratio is 879 females for 1000 males, below the national average of 940 (as per census 2011, one can imagine the kind of impact these ads could have.
In my view, this ad is absurd. The gender statistics in Haryana on such parameters as literacy, domestic violence, casteism, female foeticide, honor killings etc., are devastating and a shame. Under these circumstances, the illiterate women in the ad are shown to be educating themselves through internet and along with a 3G network. The women instead of retaliating are expected to adjust to the conditions and to remain within the imposed limits. The ad fails miserably to convey basic ideas of empowerment and encourages illogical views like “We are completely okay even if there is no college, we will learn at our homes using our 3G networks, while we serve our husbands.” Instead of encouraging women to fight this patriarchy and orthodoxy the company is seen supporting patriarchy in its fullest sense.
This ad reminds us of the revolution started by Savitri Bai and Mahatma Phule for women’s liberation and education. This revolution went against the caste ideology of Brahmanism and encouraged women’s education. These women were politically, socially, economically oppressed by caste Hindu males and the movement started by Savitri Bai and Mahatma Phule aimed at emancipating women. Contrast this with ideas like “College/School ghar aajavega toh chalega” being spread by the IIN ad. How miserable it would have been if Savitri Bai had encouraged girls to study at home instead of going to schools? The thought itself is unimaginable.
‘Justice in Ram Rajya’ ~ Cartoon by Unnamati Syama Sundar
The Hindu Code Bill proposed by Dr. Ambedkar, which also aimed at women’s liberation through legal rights and special provisions in politics and higher education, was later rejected by the Brahmin Nehru. So strong was Dr. Ambedkar’s commitment that he even resigned from his post but never quit the fight for women’s liberation and development in every competitive field. These historic struggles and their legacies remind us how these revolutionaries’ thoughts were far ahead of their time. Will these struggles be remembered by the caste Hindus in every modern field or will the Hindutva minds keep on propagating and objectifying women?
Will they ever ask, “If the women are not allowed to step outside their houses, how will they be allowed to use Internet in smartphones with 3G network?”
The question on Hinduism remains unanswered. Is it the impact of Hinduism which has led to the airing of such ads? Is it not against the Indian Constitution which views domestic violence against women as a serious and punishable crime? To blame these ads alone won’t be fair. Observe the brutality against women in the scriptures. Look at the daily soaps and ads in which women are expected to look fragile, have a fair complexion, to always obey their husbands, be virginal devis who keep their devs happy and satisfied despite their cruel behavior. So would it be fair if we don’t call these ads and serials Hindutvawadi, Manuwadi and anti-constitutional?
To protest against all these Hindutvawadi and Manuwadi serials and ads which not only project anti-educationist ideas but also propagate them a strong people’s movement is required. I have learned through my experiences that whereever a caste Hindu goes he carries his vedas and Manuwadi thoughts with him. For example, in an initiative to empower women started by Mr. Modi under the name of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Save girl child and educate her) campaign, you never find a mention of the greatest feminists of India like Savitri Bai Phule, Mahatma Phule, Dr. Ambedkar, Periyar etc. It is only when India adopts Dr. Ambedkar’s views on emancipation of women can it emerge as a strong feminist country.
In conclusion, I refer to Dr. Ambedkar’s address at the All India Depressed Classes Women’s Conference commenced at Nagpur in 1942 under the presidentship of Mrs. Sulochanabai Dongre of Amraoti:
“I am a believer in women’s organization. In the eradication of social evils they had rendered great services. I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved. I am both happy and convinced that they have made progress. Learn to be clean. Keep from vices. Give education to your children. Instill ambition into them. Inculcate in their minds that they are destined to be great. Remove from them all inferiority complex. Do not be in a hurry to marry. Marriage is a liability. You should not impose it upon your children unless they are financially able to meet the liabilities arising from marriage. Those who will marry will have to keep in mind that to have too many children is a crime. The paternal duty lies in giving each child a better start than its parents had. Above all, let every girl who marries stand by her husband, claim to be her husband’s friend and equal, and refuse to be his slave. I am sure if you follow this advice, you will bring honor and glory to yourselves.”
Anitya Sanket is a Class 11 Arts student who is interested in subjects like Sociology, Political Science, Economics and History. He admires Dr. Ambedkar and is inspired by his life and work. He aspires to battle against caste and wishes to be a social scientist and reformer.