At a mass wedding ceremony in Madhya Pradesh, held on April 29, state minister Gopal Bhargava gave a highly unusual gift to the brides.
The Minister of Co-operative, Social Justice, Panchayat and Rural Development handed mogris (wooden bats used for beating the dirt out of hand-washed garments) to 700 brides. The message on each bat said: “Sharabiyon ke sutara hetu bhent, police nahi bolegi (A gift with which to beat drunkards; police won’t say anything).”
Not leaving it at that, Bhargava, in his address at the ceremony in Garhakota, told the brides without mincing words, “If your husband or any other family member comes home drunk, treat him with it.” Bizarre as it may seem, this is also being hailed as an empowering move.
When Hindustan Times asked some notable names in society for their views on this, opinion was divided — some told us that it is a praiseworthy move; others felt that a solution to excessive drinking and the consequent domestic violence had to go far beyond gifting a bat.
“I think [the gift] is more metaphoric than anything else,” says designer Anand Bhushan. Even a literal interpretation isn’t a problem. He says, “I’m all for stopping domestic violence. A person who is indulging in domestic violence should be given back. There’s nothing wrong with it.”
This is India...giving bats to ladies to beat their husbands, toh dawa-daroo kaun karega pati ki? The wife will only have to take care of the husband — Neeti Palta, comedian
Comedian Neeti Palta has a lighter take. “This is India. Giving bats to ladies to beat their husbands… toh dawa-daroo kaun karega pati ki (who will nurse the husband)?The wife will herself have to take care of the [thrashed] husband,” she says, in between chuckles.
What if the bats are grabbed by the men, and the women are beaten even more, asks designer Rina Dhaka. “The minister’s intent sounds laudable, though it’s humorous,” she says. “The fact that he got 700 of them means he was quite serious. Nobody has thought of women like this, so it’s a good thing.I don’t advocate violence of any kind, but I’d consider this a compassionate gesture. His thought is avant garde and definitely original,” she adds.
Actor Ssumier S Pasricha, who plays a character named Pammi Aunty in short videos made for social media, believes that first women — or most women — have to stop being tolerant of domestic violence. “Khaali shaadiyo pe bat dene se kya hoga (what’s the point of only gifting bats at weddings)? Most of the women are also okay with the violence. Their mindset needs to be changed,” he says, adding that “women should be stronger from within”.
Khaali shaadiyo pe bat dene se kya hoga? Most of the women are also okay with the violence. Their mindset needs to be changed. Giving a bat at a wedding is not the solution —Ssumier S Pasricha, actor
Pasricha continues, “Women don’t want to use violence against men. Rather, [we should] make and implement strong laws against domestic violence. Jab problem hoti hai tab kuchh hota bhi toh nahi naa (no action takes place when a problem arises).” He adds that men should be raised in a way that they don’t beat women.
Author Anuja Chauhan, whose novels are populated by female characters, says, “I think he’s making a bit of a joke out of it. If he strengthens the laws and if he tells [the women] to call the police,that’s the right thing. What’s the point of having a justice organisation? I pay my taxes to have a police force that functions.It seems to me like a haath-dhona thing (shirking duties). Put the fear of God into [a] man and tell him not to raise his hand on his wife.”