The struggle will be long
Hindu mythology is replete with misogyny. Vyasa fathered two of Vichitravirya's widows' children. They were frightened enough for one to have shut her eyes while being set upon by Vyasa and for the other to turn pale with fear. These reactions, which are described as reasons for Dhritarashtra's blindness and Pandu's diseased body, are obviously signs of forced traumatic sexual encounters. Vyasa is the author of the epic in more senses than one.
But then, Brahma the Creator also rapes his daughter. Shiva, when he returns after a long absence, is so distrusting of Parvati that finding a strange child at her door he cuts off the child's head. He does not even stop to ask Parvati about the provenance of the child. Thus is born vakratunda Ganesh, a deformed child with the head of an elephant and the torso of a man.
We have been brought up on all this to believe it harmless.Yet it reflects a psychology in which women are used and abused and distrusted. Years ago, Damodar Kosambi taught us to examine Hindu mythology critically but all that has now been forgotten. Secularism has come to mean that we have to be appreciative of all religions, none of which is better than the other when it comes to misogyny.
This will be a long struggle not so much of Bharat versus India but of young and modern and aspirational India against the older conservative India. All political parties have been found on the wrong side of this debate. Brinda Karat was the only political activist who joined the crowds. Jaya Bachchan, Shabana Azmi and Hema Malini were out there, but in their own right as artists. The 'inheriting' sons and daughters of MPs stayed away, confused and fearful.
Soon, there will be a scramble to win votes from the anger of the movement by the same people who stayed away in the hour of the citizens' need. What would be more effective is for the movement to find its own political expression and make sure that their votes are not given away cheaply to the same old gang. It will require innovative thinking to succeed.
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