A fresh elections and a new result; yet Harayana seems to be stuck right where it was

  • Namita Bhandare
  • Updated: Oct 24, 2014 22:49 IST

At this point, Haryana is poised for change, not just in government but for a new deal and a new direction for its women. It certainly deserves a chief minister who is more empathetic and better informed. Not one who sounds like an echo chamber of the khap panchayats in his state.

The battle to control women’s bodies just got a bit more heated with the new Haryana chief minister, Manohar Lal Khattar, spouting his own version of the old song: Girls must dress decently, pre-marital sex is an abomination, yada yada yada.

The 60-year-old former RSS pracharak, who has never married, sounds like an echo chamber of the khap panchayats in his state that advocate bans on mobile phones, jeans, dancing in public and so on, needless to add for daughters, not sons.

Days before he landed the top job, Khattar told IBNLive that khaps were justified as they ‘tried to abide by Indian culture’. They maintain “the tradition of a girl and boy being brother and sister…these rulings help prevent rape too,” he said.

Perhaps Khattar is ignorant of a 2011 Supreme Court ruling that deemed khaps illegal. Perhaps he has yet to read the Constitution, which guarantees equal status to women. Perhaps he is simply unaware of the fact that in close to 90% of rape cases, perpetrators are known to victims — and include brothers, uncles and fathers.

Perhaps he might educate himself a bit and change. One lives in hope.

But why single out Khattar? Misogyny knows no bar; neither political party nor ideology nor age. In the recent past, we’ve heard one Maharashtra minister, RR Patil, ‘joke’ about a rape-accused rival candidate (‘he should have raped after the polls’). We’ve heard another fellow in West Bengal, Tapas Pal, threaten political opponents with rape as retribution, only to be lightly rapped on his knuckles by his woman boss. And we’ve had sundry apologists like Mulayam Singh Yadav and his deputy Abu Azmi weigh in on how boys will be boys and why women who have sex outside marriage should be hanged. Every new statement comes weighed down with a dreadful feeling of déjà vu.

Within the Sangh parivar, the battle against love jihad and sundry other non-Indian cultural violations such as live-in relationships is nothing more than an attempt to control the bodies and sexuality of Indian women. Even as the love jihadwalas fret and fume, student organisations like the BJP-affiliated ABVP list out their priorities for the welfare of the students they represent. After promising to ‘change the face’ of Delhi University, you would imagine that these would include better hostel facilities, an anti-racism campaign, safer campuses or even extending the photo-op friendly Swachh Bharat Abhiyan across colleges.

But no, the new generation of a new India will agitate against love jihad. And never mind that Union home minister Rajnath Singh asks: What is love jihad? The ABVP would do well to start by educating him first.

The tireless soldiers of the ABVP will also campaign against live-in relationships, presumably even those from pre-approved religions and sub-castes. How is this even a student issue? Why is it the business of any student organisation to determine whether adults should cohabitate or not? Writing for the news website, Scroll,

Aparna Mahariya, a student who says she comes from a family of RSS activists, had this to say: “Respecting women is not about choosing for them.” Respecting women is about ‘respecting their choice’.

These are times for fresh beginnings. The ABVP has swept the Delhi University polls. Haryana, with one of the worst sex ratios in the country, has just bid goodbye to 10 years of Congress rule. At this point, it is poised for change, not just in government but for a new deal and a new direction for its women. It certainly deserves a chief minister who is more empathetic and better informed.

Politicians who are really concerned about rising crime against women would do well to seek real solutions — swifter judicial justice, zero tolerance for all crimes, equal status for women, police reform, educational reform, including sex education reform. Or they could heed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech — ‘teach sons right from wrong rather than try and control daughters’. Now that would be a start.

The views expressed by the author are personal.

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