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Bringing In The Manusmriti Through The Back Door

Bringing In The Manusmriti Through The Back Door

The Wire on 17th July published shocking news for all those who believe in the values of the constitution of India:  “Thakors Ban Inter-Caste Marriages, Mobiles For Girls; Congress MLA Lauds Move”. The freedom fighters had a dream of India being liberated not only from the British rule but also from superstitions and discriminatory and exploitative practices. They dreamt of a liberal India in which all citizens enjoy equal rights and opportunities. They dreamt of an India where women will be empowered to make their contribution to build a prosperous, peaceful and harmonious India. It is really disgusting to see the efforts made by the reactionary forces to take India back to the dark ages.

The decision of 800 Thakor leaders of 12 villages of Banas Kantha District of Gujarat is a naked violation of the spirit of the Indian Constitution. It is a fundamental right of an adult Indian to marry a person of his/her choice. In fact the Indian courts have encouraged inter-caste marriages because it is the only way to break the stranglehold of the caste on the Indian society. The Thakor leaders have decided to impose a fine of Rs. 1.5 lakh and 2 lakhs for girls and boys who marry outside their community.

The decision to ban the use of mobile phone only by girls is also discriminatory. First of all banning the use of mobile phone which has various benefits itself is retrogressive approach. There is nothing in the world that cannot be misused. Knife which is expected to be used to cut things is sometimes used by disoriented persons to kill other human beings. It is foolishness to ban the use of knife on the pretext that it is misused by some persons. What is required on the part of the community leaders is to educate the young people how to use mobile phone for positive purpose and that too for limited time in a day. The students who come to Universal Solidarity Movement (USM) Indore for one week leadership training are allowed to use mobile phone only half an hour a day, from 8.30 to 9.00 p.m. But the students are made to understand the purpose of restricting the use of mobile phone is for focusing on the training. At the end of the training many children confess that they were wasting a lot time by the excessive use of social media and they resolve to restrict the use of mobile phone for half an hour a day.

According to the leaders, the purpose of banning mobile phone for the girls is to motivate them to concentrate on study. "We have decided to prevent girls from using mobile phones so that they focus more on studies. The rule is valid for all college-going youth from the community as they use mobile phones to make videos and waste time”. The real purpose does not seem to be encouraging study. If focus on study was the real intention, mobile phone should have been banned both for boys and girls. The intention of the leaders seems to be restricting the freedom of girls. Through the use of mobile phone the girls have access to information and knowledge which are vital for their empowerment. In fact, the community leaders want to keep women under the control of men by denying access to information and knowledge.  

It is very unfortunate that the local Congress MLA, Geniben Thakor, who also belongs to the community, supported the decision of the leaders. The Congress party should have learned by this time that by adopting the reactionary practices of casteism and communalism it is not going to win the minds and votes of Hindutva hardliners. Soft Hindutva of the Congress was thoroughly defeated by the hard Hindutva of the BJP during the last Lokh Sabha election. The Congress party will not be able to capture the electoral space by adopting soft Hinduta that is a very poor imitation of the BJP. The Congress party should have chided the MLA for its anti-women and anti-constitutional stand. Being a woman, the MLA has betrayed not only the women of her community, but also the women of the whole country for the sake of electoral gains.

One of the bounden duties of the government is to safeguard the constitution of India by taking action against the persons who violate its provisions. The Thakor community leaders might not have violated the letter of the constitution, as they have carefully worded their decision in view of escaping any legal sanction. But definitely the decision is totally against the spirit of the Indian constitution. The functionaries of the BJP government have not condemned the decision of the Thakor community leaders. Sometimes silence is deemed as indirect approval and support. This is nothing but reverting to the Manusmriti.

The Sangh Parivar was totally opposed to the present constitution of India when it was adopted. In fact the RSS publication, Organizer, in an editorial on November 30, 1949, rejected it and demanded the Manusmriti to be adopted as the constitution of India. It read, “But in our Constitution, there is no mention of the unique constitutional development in ancient Bharat. Manu’s Laws were written long before Lycurgus of Sparta or Solon of Persia. To this day, his laws as enunciated in the Manusmriti excite the admiration of the world and the world and elicit spontaneous obedience and conformity. But tour constitutional pundits that means nothing”. The BJP has adopted a strategy of not taking action against the violation of the constitutional provisions instead of amending the constitution. Thus Manusmriti is allowed to sneak into the social life and the governance system.  

The Manusmriti envisages a caste based hierarchical society in which women are expected to be subordinate to men in all matters. Hirday N Patwari in his write up, The Status of Women as Depicted by Manu in the Manusmriti ( http://nirmukta.com/2011/08/27/the-status-of-women-as-depicted-by-manu-in-the-manusmriti/) has quoted 40 numbers as discriminatory of women. Some of them are derogatory in nature. A few of them are really shocking.

1)   2/213: It is the nature of women to seduce men in this world; for that reason the wise are never unguarded in the company of females.

2)   2/215: Wise people should avoid sitting alone with one’s mother, daughter or sister. Since carnal desire is always strong, it can lead to temptation.

3)   4/43: A Brahman, true defender of his class, should not have his meals in the company of his wife and even avoid looking at her. Furthermore, he should not look towards her when she is having her meals or when she sneezes/yawns.

4)   5/151: Girls are supposed to be in the custody of their father when they are children, women must be under the custody of their husband when married and under the custody of her son as widows. In no circumstances is she allowed to assert herself independently.

The BJP was in the forefront of the agitation against the verdict of Supreme Court, allowing women between the age group of 10 and 50 to enter Sabarimala temple. It organized thousands of women to agitate against the decision of the Supreme Court. The so called educated women of Kerala under the influence of religion protested against their own right to freedom and equality. This is an example for the shrewd strategy of the RSS-BJP to implement the provisions of Manusmriti without changing the constitutional provisions.

The BJP governments both at the centre and the sates may not take any action if other caste communities also introduce discriminatory practices against women and people belonging to other castes as done by the Thakor community leaders of Gujarat. It is in the long term plan of the RSS-BJP to convert Indian society on the pattern of the society envisaged by the Manusmriti. At the same time the BJP may not change the constitutional provisions for equal rights for women and men.

Another example for the violation of the spirit of the constitution of India is ever increasing incidence of lynching.   Lynching by mob has become so common that it has lost its news value. Mob attacks killed 8 persons within a week of July. On July 20, more than ten men attacked and killed four people-two men and two women- in the Gumla district of Jharkhand state. They were accused of practising black magic. Three men were beaten to death on 19th July at a village in Bihar by a mob that accused them of stealing cattle. In the third incident a 55-year-old man was lynched in the Neemuch district of Madhya Pradesh for allegedly stealing and killing peacocks. In all these incidents people took law into their hands without any fear of being punished under the law of the land.  

 A new trend in lynching is forcing the victims to say, “Jai Shri Ram”. It is so threatening that Pavan K Varma wrote an article in The Times of India on 23rd July, under the title, “ Weaponising “Jai Shri Rama”: It militates against Rama’s benevolent image which inspires millions of Hindus”. In a letter to the Prime Minister on 24th July, 49 eminent personalities, including film maker, Aparna Sen and historian, Ramchandra Guha, said that “Jai Shri Ram has become a provocative war-cry today”. They appealed to the PM “to put a stop to the name of Ram being defiled in this manner”.

Mob lynching was made popular in India by the gaurakshaks often with the tacit support of the state machinery. Christophe Jaffrelot in his article, A De Facto Ethnic Democracy ( Majoritarian State: How Hindu Nationalism is Changing India, edited by Angana P. Chatterji, Thomas Blom Hansen and Christophe Jaffrelet) has explained the collusion between the police and the gaurakshaks. An example for this collusion is shown from Haryana. “The president of the Haryana branch of Gau Rakshak Dal (GRD), Yogendra Arya, who is also national vice-president of the GRD, sits on the board of the Gau Seva Ayog- Haryana government institution devoted to cow welfare- with ten other people who like him are long standing members of the Sangh Parivar.”

Christophe Jaffrelot in his above mentioned article describes how India continues to be a de jure democracy; but it is being converted into a de facto ethnic democracy on the pattern of democracy in Israel. The signs of this transformation are “the vanishing of minority representation in elected assemblies and the role that vigilante militias play in conducting Hindu nationalist cultural policing with the blessing of the law enforcement agencies”. Allowing the customs and traditions in tune with Manusmriti to be revived with the active support of the Sangh Parivar organizations, is another aspect of the distortion that is happening to the Indian democracy.

(jacobpt48@gmail.com)

(Published on 29nd July 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 31)