01, Aug 1993
August – 1993
The BJP’s claim of being “within striking distance of the Centre” is bogus. But only the purblind will deny that, as of now, the party which is playing with fire seems to be the only dynamic force in the political arena
PAGE NO. 3
Manusmruti or gender justice?
THE saffron brigade charged with the euphoria of the demolition of Babri Masjid last December and giddy with the prospects of coming to power in the next general elections has truly come into its own. Among the public outpourings from its various echelons have been wide-ranging opinions on the role and place of Indian women.
Early in January 1993, Swami Muktanand in his draft proposal for a revised Indian Constitution gave a clean chit to “traditional hindu” practices of sati and dowry. On the specific issue of polygamy, he opined that all restrictions on the number of times a man could marry should be removed completely.
In April 1993, Mridula Sinha, President of the BJP’s Mahila Aghadi truly put her foot in her mouth. She said in separate interviews to The Telegraph and Savvy magazine:
“Yes, yes often it is the woman’s fault (replying to a question on whether a woman can be blamed if the husband beats her). She can provoke a man to such an extent that he beats her. And sometimes, a woman can be so ziddi. We tell the woman to try and adjust. After all, it is her family.”
“My father bought me a husband for just Rs. 5,000 and my husband has been earning for me ever since. A thousand-fold return on investment. In fact, 90 per cent of the marriages in India take place without dowry demands.”
Quick to recognize the damage it could do to the party, the wily L.K. Advani, freshly elected BJP President, not merely chastised Sinha publicly but during the National Executive meeting of the party at Bangalore released a Social Policy Document that, in its section on women and children strongly condemned “heinous crimes against humanity like sati, dowry, child-marriage etc.” The document also states that efforts need to be made to rectify the marginal participation of women in low-productivity jobs.
In a separate section titled “Common Civil Code” the party opined that such a code, as envisaged in the Indian Constitution, will “promote a sense of fellowship as well as common citizenship and reinforce the process of national integration”. The BJP, apparently, is oblivious of the relationship between the demand for a common civil code and justice to all women, irrespective of their faith.
To refurbish the tarnished image of Hindutva further, Advani has recently made another move. Sushma Swaraj, a sophisticated woman whose husband was till recently a socialist, has been made one of its official spokespersons. Media analysts have commented on the shrewdness of the move in the run-up to elections. Swaraj and Sinha now happily co-exist in the same political family.
Which of them is the true face of Hindutva?