To stop horrors like Hathras and Balrampur, we need to groom parents of tomorrow

Since the wandering searchlight of public attention is back on crimes against women, case after case is spilling out. The Hathras case is at the forefront. It has a caste angle, and the media has descended in full strength. Opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Vadra and Derek O’Brien sense a political opportunity to shame the Yogi Adityanath government.

About a nine hours’ drive from Hathras, the rape and murder of another Dalit woman has come to light in Balrampur, again in Uttar Pradesh. The accused are two Muslim youth. Both ‘liberal’ media and ‘secular’ politicians stay mute when that happens. But it has been pried wide open on social media, and some media outlets have gingerly followed the gruesome gang-rape, in which the postmortem report has shown major injuries in at least 10 places on the 22-year-old woman.

Social media has also put out for discussion 16 rapes and sexual harassment incidents in Congress-ruled Rajasthan in just last three or four days.

The problem, mainly with the sanctimonious ‘liberal’ intelligentsia, has been brazen selectivity and politicisation of such incidents. When two castes are in question, they are quick to jump in; when it is two religions and a Hindu woman is the victim, they keep mum. When such atrocities happen in a BJP-ruled state, they whoosh down with shrill outrage; when they occur in a non-BJP-ruled state, they disappear.

For these self-appointed liberals and feminists, it is about ‘their rapes’ and ‘our rapes’.

This hypocrisy discredits the outrage, colours justice, and obfuscates the real societal rot that keeps perpetuating this kind of violence. It makes the masses disillusioned with one-sided political correctness which whitewashes Islamic misogyny, and makes them swing to alpha males like Donald Trump, who has a bleak record on gender sensitivity.

Fresh from the 2014 election victory, the prime minister had placed his finger on the sexual violence problem in his August 15 speech from the Red Fort:

“When we hear about these rapes our heads hang in shame,” he said. “In every home, parents ask daughters lots of questions as to where she is going, when will she return, and ask her to inform them when she reaches her destination.

“But have you ever asked your son where he is going, why is he going and who are his friends? After all, the person committing the rape is also someone's son,” the prime minister had said. “It’s the responsibility of the parents to stop their sons before they take the wrong path.”

The pessimistic truth is: the mindset of today’s parents can only be changed that much, not fully. Most of our parents, even in cities, carry the code of a feudal, agrarian society in which the son bears the major burden of the economy, and shall produce sons in the future so that land-holding and succession falls neatly into place.

The daughter must bear somebody's son someday to keep this system running. She must do housework, farm work, and even tending to animals quietly. She is ultimately a machine like the tiller or chaff separator. A gloried machine at best, because she makes babies. A machine doesn’t have physical needs, so she eats only what is left after the men have eaten, presents herself for sex only when the man is in the mood.

A machine does not assert itself. When a man is angry or feeling inadequate or in tearing need to rehearse power, he takes it out on the machine…the woman.

Sorrily, being cut off from our traditional education since the English Education Act of 1835 has also taken us away from our own culturally potent images of womanhood.

Brahma, the all-powerful creator and the part of the holy Hindu trinity, is not worshipped anywhere except just two temples – Pushkar in Rajasthan and Kumbhakonam in Tamil Nadu – only because of how he behaved with Saraswati. After creating her as the goddess of knowledge and wisdom, it is believed that Brahma developed an intense attraction for her. The Devi told him off, and according to lore, it is Saraswati’s curse that has deprived Brahma of worship and adulation for centuries.

The Devi in the form of Durga or Kali slaying the evil in male form ties every part of India, yet a male-centric, agrarian economic hangover, terrible law enforcement and pathetic education override that.

India is not unique in deep-rooted male bias. Even in so-called progressive western societies, such chauvinism flows even through the arteries of language.

“We talk about how many women were raped last year, not how many men raped women. We talk about how many girls in a school district were harassed last year, not about how many boys harassed girls. We talk about how many teenage girls in the state of Vermont got pregnant last year, rather than how many boys and men impregnated teenage girls,” says Jackson Katz in his famous Ted Talk on ‘Violence Against Women: It’s a Men’s Issue’.

“So, you can see how this passive voice has a political effect. It shifts the focus from men and boys and on to girls and women. Even the term violence against women is problematic. It’s a passive construction. There is no active agent in the sentence. It’s a bad thing that happens to women, but when you look at that term ‘violence against women’, nobody is doing it to them! It just happens. Men aren’t even a part of it,” he says.

Swami Vivekananda connects this lament to the Indian culture: “The principal reason why our race has so degenerated is that we had no respect for these living images of Shakti.” By educating a woman, a whole family can be uplifted, he said. He cites the Vedic examples of Maitrayee and Gargi.

It all will finally boil down to how well we fix our education. The National Education Policy is promising, and the National Curriculum Framework is supposed to kickstart significant corrections.

To transform society, we need to change the way parents bring up their children. We can’t change today’s parents much. We can only mould tomorrow’s parents by paying attention to what they are being taught today.



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