Apart from carrying out his duties as the chief of the RSS, Mohan Bhagwat seems to have found time to lay down a code of conduct for married couples, in particular women. He feels that women should stay at home and look after the chores and satisfy their husbands failing which the latter would be
obliged to disown them. Mr Bhagwat may prescribe a household role for women, but it is clear that he needs to get out of his home in Nagpur more often and get in touch with both Bharat and India on which he has also expressed some bizarre views. The anger over the gang rape in Delhi has prompted all sorts of responses, some patriarchal and insensitive in the extreme, from politicians. But Mr Bhagwat is no common and garden politician. He is the ideological mentor of the BJP, the main Opposition party and earlier a party of governance. It is no secret that the party takes all major decisions after the RSS approves, as we have seen in the case of the decks being cleared for a second term for BJP president Nitin Gadkari. So, Mr Bhagwat needs to weigh his words carefully before making such retrograde statements. His thoughts have a profound effect on the RSS cadre, the very people who work on the ground for the BJP's candidates.
Mr Bhagwat's words reflect the inherently patriarchal notion that the woman's station in life is dependent on the largesse of men. Mr Bhagwat, having led much of his adult existence in an organisation which is made up solely of men - the RSS does have a women's wing which does not enjoy much power - seems stuck in a time warp about women. His remarks can only be of embarrassment to the BJP which wants to project itself as a gender sensitive and inclusive party. Instead of scrambling to defend Mr Bhagwat, the BJP should have come out much more strongly against such remarks. In allowing itself to be so dependent on a force like the RSS, the BJP can never really develop a personality of its own.
If there are rules in society which lay down strictures for wives, then we have not heard of them and neither it would seem have the millions of protesters, both men and women, who have come out against a system which supports the suppression of women's rights. No one in a position of power and responsibility as Mr Bhagwat is should allow their careless words to be used as justification by people to perpetuate atrocities on women in the name of tradition and culture. At a time when it is trying to focus on viable issues for the next election, the last thing the BJP needs is this kind of input from its ideological mentor. Running the RSS is a full time job, perhaps Mr Bhagwat should focus on that and leave societal codes of conduct to those more qualified to lay them down.