Friday, January 25, 2013

Satyamev Jayate: Respect your women, India:


Satyamev Jayate: Respect your women, India: Republic Day 2013

"Satyameva Jayate" in English means: Truth Alone Triumphs. This is a mantra from the ancient Indian scripture. Upon independence of India, it was adopted as the national motto of India. The history of the Republic of India began on 26 January 1950. The country became an independent dominion within the British Commonwealth  on 15 August 1947.

"Satyamev Jayate": It is inscribed in Devanagari script at the base of the Indian national emblem. The emblem is an adaptation of the Lion Capital of Asoka which was erected around 250 BC

Need to change mindset of Hindu and Indian males towards women

This 2013 Republic Day, I wish to pass a message of truth-Satyamev Jayte, in an effort to change the mindset of Hindu and Indian male about the place and respect of women in our society and homes. We say Sita - Ram, Radhe - Shyam, Gauri - Shankar, Latchmi - Vishnu, always reciting women’s names first. Mythologically, all deities are supposed to have evolved from women - Shakti. We Hindus have so many festivals honoring our Goddesses. But this honour and respect are only confined to lifeless foreign made (mostly Chinese) murtis, idols, images and statues made of metals, stones and plastics. Why in reality we treat our living Goddesses, our women with such contempt, disrespect and scorn, contrary to the teachings of our religion? Doesn’t that make us big hypocrites?
India is great-some of its leaders and people shame it
India is a great country, we can boast about success stories and past leaders. But how about NOW? Which way, India? In Manoj Kumar’s Bollywood movie, Purab aur Pacchim, there is a song...” Hai preet jahan ki reet sada...” (Where love is our custom....).  In a London hotel, Manoj Kumar boasts about India...sabbhayta jahan pehle janmi... where civilization took birth. Some may argue this.
Manoj Kumar's exemplary Bollywood movie on virtues of cultures of east or India. He boasts about civilisation taking birth in India. That, however is questionable, given the mistreatment bestowed on many Indian women by men.
As a primary school child at Vaqia Indian School in rural Ba, Fiji in 1960s, we grew up reading Jules Vernes “ Around the World in 80 Days”  In the story, Phileas Fogg of London and his  French valet Passepartout attempt to circumnavigate the world in 80 days. In 1873 India, on the way to Allahabad, they come across a procession, in which a young Indian woman, Aouda, is led to a sanctuary to be forcefully sacrificed by the process of suttee (Sati) the next day by Brahmins. They rescue her from a ritualistic death.
Jules Verne's 1873 novel tells the tale of Suttee pratha (Sati system) in India where an Indian princess is rescued by an Englishman from a ritualistic death. The book has been adopted in films and plays as well.
I learnt this dark Indian treatment of its women at a very early age. Though fiction, it was a fact, which was later depicted in Aamir Khan’s historical movie, Mangal Pandey-the Rising where a young widow is rescued by a British soldier. It made me wondering. How is civilization supposed to have started in a place where the British have to rescue women, who against their will, are burnt on the pyre (funeral fire, chita) of their dead husbands? British passed laws in 1800s, outlawing this uncivilized act of atrocity and others by Brahmins male in particular and Indian men in general, towards women.
Aamir Khan's "Mangal Pandey-the rising" depicts a widow being rescues by a British soldier during the barbaric system of Sutte pratha ( Sati System of widow burning)
You will say, but in our scriptures, we show a great deal of respect and fairness for women. Wrong again. Ahilya in Ramayan was wrongfully punished, and depicts a man’s injustice towards women. Look at Mahabharat, where Pandavas wager Draupadi in a game of gambling, as if women were common chattels of men. It appears we still have numerous men in India today, disrobing Draupadis, without any Krishna in sight. None came to rescue the Delhi victim in a bus.
Draupadi being disrobed by men in  mythology Mahabharat, but was saved the honour by Lord Krishna. But there is no Lord Krishna in reality for other hundreds and thousands of Indian women in institutionalised system of mistreatment ignored and tolerated by a male-dominated system
Some say, when Mother earth, Dharti Mata came to take away her ever-suffering daughter, Sita for Dhari-Prawesh , a curse is rendered that our women will always be suffering and crying as Sita was made to do. It appears that curse has become a reality in India when a G20 survey revealed that India is the worst country for a woman to be born. As the tip of the iceberg is tilting after revolution caused by Delhi rape, we are now seeing the full picture of an unjust Hindu and Indian system against women.
Painting of Sutti pratha, the ceremony of burning of a Hindu widow with the body of her late husband on the funeral pyre (Chita). Is that what civilisation is about? Are we still tolerating similar barbaric and nonsensical rituals degrading our Hindu and Indian women?

Lajja (Shame, modesty)
As Indians are obsessed with Bollywood, I normally use those examples to send home a message. One of the best Indian movies on rights and plight of women is Lajja, meaning shame and modesty. Lajja is a 2001 Hindi film, based on the plight of women in India. The movie recounts the story of four women, and stars some of the best known names in Hindi cinema, including Rekha, Madhuri Dixit, Manisha Koirala, Mahima Chaudhry, Jackie Shroff, Anil Kapoor, and Ajay Devgan.


Bollywood movie 'Lajja" (Shame) depicts  plight of four women named in various names of Sita: Maithali, Janaki, Ramdulari and Vaidehi. Perhaps one of the best Indian movies on rights of women in India, and ranges from issues of Dowry, Infanticide and violence against women.
The movie satirizes the honor with which women are placed in society and the restrictions on them. The fact that the four women's names (Maithali, Janaki, Ramdulhari, and Vaidehi) are all versions of Sita, the ideal Hindu woman's name, is a message in itself. It ranges from dowry to infanticide, to violence, male chauvinism and gross inequality for women in India.


Rekha boldly fights infanticide in "Lajja" but how many women are really fighting against this criminal activity and that of foeticide (killing females in womb) as depicted by Aamir Khan's TV serial 'Satyamev Jayate.
One highlight for me was when Madhuri Dixit raises a commotion in a stage play Ramayan and this leads to an outcry where she is assaulted by the audience. What she raises is that why should Sita alone go through Agni paricha? (Purity test via fire). Ram was also away from Sita, so should he not, like Sita, also prove his purity. I suppose it does make sense, and implies discrimination against women rooted in epics and mythologies which are causing problems in parts of India today.  In this modern world with equality and human rights, many of these rituals and beliefs are outdated and excess luggage. In this 21st century India, we need to show greater respect and honour for women in society and homes, and not confine them to stone statues in temples and tales in scriptures.


Agni Paricha (Purity through test of fire) - do women in India still have to prove their chastity when men can get away with anything, including bigamy and extra -marital affairs? Women need to stand up and fight against a male-initiated system and rituals unsuitable for 21st century. Gone are the days when women need to suffer at the hands of men, blaming their Karma.
This India Republic Day, I thank the departed British for bringing in laws to protect our mothers, sisters and daughters from some of the barbaric systems, rituals and practices taking place where civilization is supposed to have taken birth. Like indentured Indo Fijians in Fiji, Indians in India owe a great deal, apart from Indian Railways and English language, to the British.

On this Republic Day, I urge all Indians in Indian Diaspora, to raise objections against the mistreatment of women in India through their respective Indian High Commissions, so Delhi can listen to international objections about their poor governance and tolerance for mistreatment of women. Foreign Indian High Commissions need to pass a message to Delhi and Congress that India cannot forever take pride and bask in glory of  their military, IT, science, medical and economic prowess. NOT when half the population, its women, have yet to feel the equality, social justice and human rights that a civilised democracy, in fact the largest democracy on universe, is supposed to deliver. Satyamev Jayate  We thank British for leaving India more civilised.

Bharat Mata and Indian women have been depicted as Shakti, accompanied by a lion. it is time Shakti took its power and started fighting an unjust system and stand up to ancient religious and cultural system subjugating and downgrading women.

[E-Mail: thakurji@xtra.co.nz]

THAKUR RANJIT SINGH
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