Hitting back at the PM Narendra Modi over his insult at her in Rajya Sabha, Congress lawmaker, Renuka Chowdhury said on February 11 that there was no GST on laughter and she did not need anyone’s permission to laugh. She also added that Modi’s remark against her showed his mindset towards women. Renuka Chowdhury was speaking to the media on the sidelines of the “Difficult Dialogues” conference on gender in Panaji. She told NDTV that she has found support from women across the nation. “LLRC” or ‘Laugh Like Renuka Chowdhury’ is the hashtag and young women are forming Surpanakha clubs, she added.
While PM Modi was speaking in Rajya Sabha on February 7 he referred to Aadhar being conceptualized during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. This had caused a loud laughter by Renuka Chowdury. The Rajya Sabha speaker and Vice President Venkaiah Naidu not only chided her but also advised her to consult a doctor if she has some problem. The PM requested the speaker that he must not stop Renuka Chowdhury. Then he said satirically, “Many years after Ramayana we are getting to hear such a hearty laughter”. In fact, the PM was referring to Surpanakha, a character from Ramayana projected as a ‘loose woman’. The PM’s satirical remark led to roaring laughter and thumping of desk by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs. Later a video comparing Renuka Chowdhury with Soorpanaka was shared by the Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, on his Facebook and Twitter pages.
There was a spate of reactions to the remark of PM and the behaviour of the BJP MPs. The Congress said, “We condemn PM Modi’s derogatory remark in the Parliament against a former Union Minister and RS MP Renuka Chowdhury. We also urge the RS speaker Sri. Venkaiah Naidu not to act in a partisan manner and accord due respect to a fellow member of the house”.
Calling the PM’s comment a “cheap” and “sexist” the Congress MP Sushmita Deve said, “The Prime Minister has a psychological block in understanding the role of women in Indian society since he has abandoned his own mother and his own wife.” Recalling other instances where the Prime Minister has been accused of making sexist comments, like calling Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s late wife Sunanda Tharoor a “50 crore-rupee girlfriend”, Dev said his comments are akin to “cat calls on a street”.
The former chief minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit said, “It is not the kind of language which behoves the PM of a country”.
Sagarika Ghose in her write-up in The Times of India on February 12 under the caption, Scared of Surpanakha? Congress MP Renuka Chowdhury dared to cackle, so male MPs jeered her down castigated the men parliamentarians. She wrote, “Laughter clubs are proliferating across India, and during yoga sessions full throated laughter is even regarded as therapeutic. But universal jeers and sneers at Renuka Chowdhury’s laugh remind us that a woman who laughs can make men cry. Women parliamentarians who dare to openly challenge powerful patriarchs forget that they must always remain only the sorcerer’s apprentice. When male MPs throw chairs and hurl mikes in Parliament have Speakers ever thundered what’s wrong with you and do you need to see a doctor? A badly behaved male parliamentarian does not remind us of asuras or rakshasas because men politicians are not demonised”.
The reaction of PM Narendra Modi and of the BJP MPs in Rajya Sabha to the cackle of the Congress law maker Renuka Chowdhury and the chiding of the latter by the Raya Sabha Chairman, Sri Venkaiah Naidu display the mindset of the BJP -RSS towards women. The PM and the BJP MPs have once again proved that the Sangh Parivar shares one of the traits of religious fundamentalists, control on women’s behaviour. All religious fundamentalists are keen on controlling women’s behaviour and sexuality. The Manusmriti, which the RSS wanted to make the basis of the Indian Constitution, contains many derogatory statements against women. Some of them are really shocking.
· 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.
· 2/215: Wise people should avoid sitting alone with one’s mother, daughter or sister. Since carnal desire is always strong, it can lead to temptation.
· 3/10: Wise men should not marry women who do not have a brother and whose parents are not socially well known.
· 3/240: Food offered and served to Brahman after Shradh ritual should not be seen by a chandal, a pig, a cock, a dog, and a menstruating women.
· 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.
· 5/150: A female child, young woman or old woman is not supposed to work independently even at her place of residence.
· 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.
BJP is the political wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) with the aim of capturing political power through democratic process and achieving the goal of establishing Hindu Rashtra. Most of the members of the BJP are from RSS or its affiliated organizations and they are all trained in RSS ideology which is exclusive, revengeful, patriarchal and discriminatory towards minorities, dalits and women. RSS is an exclusive organization of men and women are not allowed to be its members. As a result often male chauvinism is reflected in the statements of RSS and BJP leaders. Hence there is no wonder that the BJP MPs burst into laughter with the thumping of desk when PM Modi made an insulting remark on Renuka Chowdhury’s laughter in the Rajya Sabha.
Restricting women’s freedom and dictating to women how they should behave is one of the strategies of some organizations affiliated to RSS. Insulting and attacking boys and girls who are seen together on Valentine’s Day or girls going to pubs is one of their activities. “Love Jihad” is a double edged sword used by the Sangh Parivar organizations to malign and attack Muslim youths as well as to restrict the freedom of Hindu girls in the choice of their partners.
As a part of protest by Karni Sena against the movie, Padmaavat 2000 women singed up to commit Jauhar (suicide by immolation) if the film Padmavaat was released. They were defending the honour of a mythical queen of their community. The men of Karni Sena chose the easy way of vandalizing public property, terrorizing school children and blocking roads while the state administration colluded with them. None of the men was ready to give up his life for the cause. On the other hand women must make sacrifice to uphold the honour of patriarchal order. The men of Karni Sena did not speak of giving up their lives to uphold Rani Padmavati’s honour. This is how the right wing groups hoodwink women and keep them under the domination of men.
The right wing organizations and religious fundamentalists all over the world try to keep women always under the control of men even, denying them their basic human rights and using religion as opium in this process. The assertion by Renuka Chowdhury that she does not need anyone’s permission to laugh in the Parliament and her courage to condemn the insulting remark by the Prime Minister should inspire millions of women who live under the hegemony of men in India to break the shackles of slavery.(Published on 19th February 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 08)