Thursday 7 March 2013

International Women's Day and India; a perspective from within

International Women's Day and India; a perspective within
Tomorrow the world will celebrate the International Women's Day and we will also be a part of the celebrations.  The Women's Day was instituted by the United Nations in 1977 to celebrate the spirit of  being Women in the world and to recognise the supreme sacrifices that women in the world make to enliven our lives.  In India too we celebrate the Women's Day, but do we Indian really believe in respecting Women, their rights, their freedom and understand the sacrifices they make.

A Women, who is the very essence of our life, who brought us into existence, can be your mother, your sister or your wife.  We always treat our mother and sisters with respect but do we really care for the millions of women in India.  If you pick up today's paper, you will find that each and every page has some kind of news of ill treatment meted out to women.  Sometimes they are raped, eve teased, or harassed.  If not by anti socials and criminals then by their own family members in the name of dowry.

India is a male dominated society with patriarchal system in place but our culture has taught us to respect women since time immortal,  many of our Goddesses are women in form of Laxmi, Parvati, Saraswati and so forth.  We have had many rulers in the history who have ruled many of our lands.  Many are often quoted as pillars of supreme sacrifice for our motherland like Rani of Jhansi.  Many were reported to so beautiful that a alien ruler attacked Chittor just to look at Rani Padmini.  Sultan Allaudin Khilji was unsuccessful in his attempt to gain Rani Padmini who died a valiant death rather than fall prey to the evil and lustful designs of Allaudin.  Then there was the only woman Emperor of India, Razia Sultana, ruler of Delhi.

One of the few women who lived and died setting an example for us to follow are Ahilyabai Holkar.  Ahilyabai Holkar's husband Khanderao Holkar, was killed in battle and rather than let the kingdom go to waste, she took upon herself to protect the Malwa kingdom.   History has it that she personally led her armies to many a battles and fought hard with her and Malwa's enemies shoulder to shoulder with her soldiers.   If there was Ahilyabai Holkar at one end in the West, then there was Rani Rashomoni in the East of India in Bengal.  Like Ahilyabai, Rani Rashomoni to had to take over the zamindari of Janbazar, Kolkata when her husband died.  Like Rani Padmini she to was beautiful.  And to add to that she was fearless.  Her clashes with the British during their Raj in India are already recorded in our history books.  She compelled the British to abolish the fishing tax on fishermen by  blocking the shipping trade on a part of Ganges.  She also defied the British orders by undertaking Puja procession, which were banned by them.  

These women were from west and east of India, South India was not far behind with queen like Kittur Chennamma at the helm of Kittur Kingdom in India.  She was a ferocious fighter and gave the British rulers many a headaches.  She is as revered in whole of India as her counterparts from south India like Abbakka Rani, Keladi Chennamma and Onake Obavva from Chitradurga.

Who can forget the first epitome of woman's valor in India, the Rani of Jhansi.  She set forth a example which even men in today's world find hard to follow.  Even today if any female does a valiant act she is referred to as Rani of Jhansi.  The Rani fought and died valliantly in what was the, then first official battle of freedom of 1857 against the British Raj.    Rani of Jhansi shook the British Raj 's destroying their divide and rule policy by uniting the hindus, muslims, sikhs in the first battle of independence.  It had such an effect on the British Kingdom that they abolished the East India Company and took over the reins of the Raj in their own hands.

Then we have a leader who is acknowledged as the world leader in the theosophical society.  Mrs.Annie Besant was a English woman, but she is one of the most idolized one in India.  Indians always thought of her as their own.  She helped us form the Indian National Congress with Allen Hume to take on the British might.  She was eventually made President of the Congress in 1917.    We owe every bit of our freedom to women like her and Sarojini Naidu, Aruna Asaf Ali, Sucheta Kripalani and Vijay Laxmi Pandit.  They fought equally ferociously as our freedom fighter, many a times going to prison, undertaking fasts unto death and marshaling the swathes of Indians against the Raj.

The list goes on and on.  But are we really treating our female counterparts as equal.    Right from birth, she is not needed or required.  We require a male heir so many of us proceed to kill the girl even before she comes into the world.   The girl child is still thought of as a curse in many under privileged families of India.  She is not allowed to educate herself.  Rather she is taught the knowledge of 'tending' home which will supposedly help her get married.  

One of the women, I admire most is Indira Gandhi, the first woman Prime Minister of India.  That she came to power in a masochist party, society and country in itself is legendary.  But the way she handled the Bangladesh War and instilled a deep sense of patriotism in our people and the troops at that time is a case study for statesman or rather stateswomen ship.   Nixon, the then President of United States is said to have been wary about her.  She influenced all classes of Indian Society from liberals to rightists, from rich to the ultra poor. And she has influenced me.

Despite of providing free education up to graduation level by the Government of India, the female literacy is very poor in rural India.  The common refrain from the rural people is 'What will she do after learning, she is only supposed to get married.'  The women's literacy as per census of 2011 is 65.46% as against 82.14% of males.  This means that of every 100 women only 66 get some kind of formal education as against 82 males.    

Then there is always a Nirbhaya like incident happening every other day in some corner of the country.  People say that we should hang the rapists, but will that improve the conditions for women in this country where women are thought of as some kind of bonded labour.  They are in our existence just to fulfil our worldly desires.  We as individuals never treat them as equals.

In India, bollywood  is third most followed industry after religion and cricket.  But there too, in recent times we are seeing degradation of women in form of item girl songs like 'Sheila ki jawani', 'munni badnam hui' and 'chipko lo saiyyan fevicol se'.   They say that films are often potrayal of what the society as a whole, thinks.  If you see the current lot of films you will understand that like the films we too think of women as items of use rather than our equal partners in our life.

When the western world is watching the story of CIA agent Maya in 'Zero Dark Thirty' we are busy watching films like Murder 3, Jism 2 and   Films like these actually fulfill our naked desires with voluptuous female bodies and wanton scenes.  They actually are mirrors of the degradation of our society as a whole.  

To celebrate a women's day we need to be mature enough to accept the identity of women, not only our sisters, mothers and wife but all of the women of the world as our equal partners in freedom, education, growth and progress.

People always give examples like Sunita Williams, Kalpana Chawla, Indira Nooyi or Chanda Kochhar to say that we have progressed as a country in saluting the equal rights of women.  But I say Kalpana Chawla or Chanda Kochhar are successful because they strove to become what they are not because we respected them.  

So stop creating poster girls of a few women who have surpassed the line of excellence and try to make every women of India like them.  If they can't be Sunita Williams and Co, at least respect them for what they are, they deserve that.

Happy Womens Day

Vijay Prabhu

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  1. Kaajal
    Thanks 4 posting, i liked yr post.


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