Globalisation and fundamentalism are the two ills that are tearing away the fabric of Indian society today
THE TIMES OF INDIA NEWS SERVICE
UMBAI: Globalisation and fundamentalism are the two ills that are tearing away the fabric of Indian society today. More than giving rise to reactionary forces, they have a direct and adverse impact on women, according to Subhashini Ali, national secretary of the All India Democratic Women's Association.
"Globalisation is, after all, a form of colonialism. And when a man is colonised, he feels stripped of his powers, which includes the power to control his own destiny. So he seeks to be the master in one area where it is still possible to have the upper hand at home. And of course, it is the woman who has to bear the brunt of his fury,'' observed Ms Ali, while addressing the Indian Merchants Chamber (IMC) ladies' wing in Mumbai on Wednesday.
So, instead of progressing into the 21st Century, we are regressing into the dark past. And this regression is being hastened along by the fundamentalist ideology of the powers-that-be "all this in the name of Bharatiya Sanskriti'' asserted the former MP and firebrand Marxist activist.
"The current political dispensation at the Centre and the BJP state governments are trying to condone some atrocious social practices on the grounds that they are part of Bharatiya Sanskriti. For instance, some recently produced social studies' textbooks in Uttar Pradesh (UP) tout `sati' as being a glorious Rajput tradition, while other such texts in Gujarat are anti-Dalit, making out as they do a clear case for the oppression of the scheduled castes. They are also blatantly communal, and are corrupting the minds of a whole generation of students,'' Ms Ali pointed out. ``This is simply not acceptable. This is not Bharatiya Sanskriti. This is evil. We must fight this pernicious trend with all our might.''
One such textbook in UP, produced during Kalyan Singh's stint as chief minister, mentioned in one of its chapters that ``after women got legal rights, domestic discord has been on the rise,'' revealed Ms Ali. Another bestselling book in Hindi on the `scientific basis of Hindu beliefs' (``written by an acharya with many titles'') notes that the role of the woman is to worship her husband and that the perfect family is that of Bhagwan Shankar's pati, patni aur do bete. Naturally, the status of women in the state, indeed in the Hindi belt, has taken a further beating in this polito-cultural climate.
Last year, 40,000 women died in childbirth in UP. However, the state government has done little to improve the lot of women, to address critical health problems such as malnourishment and anaemia in the female populace. Instead, it is busy promoting anti-women literature and allowing popular journals to propagate myths like ``using kajal during pregnancy leads to blindness in the child,'' bemoaned the activist. ``These are some of the myths our organisation has had to bust during the course of our everyday work.''
But women's groups like hers are soldiering on. That is, after all, their mission in life. And they are scoring more and more significant victories in the field. If there is a spread of sexist propaganda, there is also a growing awareness of women's rights and a slight but heartening move towards fighting for those rights.
Is it a must to fight for these rights? ``No. If the government took an enlightened, or shall I say fair, position on women's issues, groups like ours would be able to channelise their energies into more important streams like women's education. Instead of working on making our girls worthy intellectuals and community leaders as well as sound homemakers, we are expending our energies on saving them from being burnt alive by their husbands or being killed even before they are born by their mothers. Isn't this a tragedy?'' she countered.
When asked why she had chosen to star in the TV serial Ashoka, she quipped, ``Oh, I agreed in a lighter moment, Santosh Sivan is a good film-maker, and a good man. Moreover, the electronic media is showing war and violence all the time. So I felt good that they wanted to show the world's greatest pacifist.'' (The pacifist is not Ashoka alone, it is also Subhashini, if you haven't cottoned on.) For Ms Ali ``cinema is no novelty'', given that her ex-husband Muzaffar and son Shaad are film-makers. ``But it will be a change, mercifully brief, from activism and politics,'' she mused.