The Congress on Monday sought to downplay the controversy raised by the UPA-Left’s presidential nominee Pratibha Patil with her remarks that the “veil” was a legacy of Mughal rule.
Historians and Muslim groups termed her observation as “historically inaccurate’’ while a red-faced Congress claimed that the main purpose of the Rajasthan Governor was to highlight the plight of women in the country.
“I will not venture into the chronology of when the purdah system started. In some parts it may have been before (the Mughal rule) and in other parts after,’’ said Congress spokesman Satyavrat Chaturvedi, sidestepping queries whether the party endorsed the views of its presidential nominee. He also warded off questions whether the Congress would ask Patil not to issue any statements henceforth. “It is for the leadership to decide,’’ he said.
At a function in Udaipur in Rajasthan on Sunday, Patil had remarked that the purdah (veil) system was introduced in India to protect women from Mughal aggressors.
Historians reacted sharply to Patil’s comments. “People are not historically aware that the veil existed in early Indian society. It was a way to show respect to the elders,” said B.P. Sahu, a historian at the Delhi University. “But the idea that the purdah system started as a result of the invasion by the Mughals is one of the stereotypical ideas that have been taken from the works of British historians,” he added.
Academician Kamal Mitra Chenoy, a professor at the School of International Studies (SIS) at the Jawaharlal Nehru University here, said: “Though it is widely believed that the purdah system began after the Mughal invasion, in fact, it was prevalent earlier.” The Jamaat-e-Ulema-i-Hind’s Ahmed Abdul Hameed Nomani said: “There are several areas in the country where women do not wear the veil and there are several other areas where the veil has always been the practice, even before the Mughals came to India.”