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Pratibha Patil's first brush with controversy
June 18, 2007 19:25 IST
The United Progressive Alliance's presidential candidate Pratibha Patil on Monday found herself at the centre of a controversy over her remarks on the veil, with historians and Muslim groups terming them historically inaccurate.
The Rajasthan governor had on Tuesday at a function in Udaipur said the 'Purdah' system began in India after the Mughal invasion to protect women from the invaders.
B P Sahu, a historian at Delhi University, disagreed with Patil's views, saying the veil existed much before the Mughals arrived in India.
"People are not historically aware that the veil existed in early Indian society. It was a way to show respect to the elders," Sahu said.
"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 said.
The Jamaat-e-Ulema-i-Hind said Patil's statement was inaccurate.
"It is wrong to say the 'Purdah' system began after the Mughal invasion. 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," Ahmed Abdul Hameed Nomani, general secretary of the Muslim group, said.
He, however, said it was "not an anti-Muslim statement".
"It is a widely perceived view and we would not like to see it as an anti-Muslim statement," Nomani said.
Member of the Jama Masjid's consultative committee Yahya Bukhari criticised Patil's statement, saying, "It is a purely religious matter and she has no right to interfere in matters of any religion."
He termed it an "anti-Muslim" statement. "Pratibha Patil is an educated woman. But her statement reeks of ignorance," Bukhari said.
Academician Kamal Mitra Chenoy said the statement was "historically inaccurate".
"Though it is widely believed that the 'Purdah' system began after the Mughal invasion, in fact, it was prevalent earlier," he said.
Addressing a function to mark the 468th birth anniversary of the 16th Century Mewar ruler Maharana Pratap in Udaipur, Patil had said, "We have been practising 'Purdah' in Rajasthan, which was brought about since we had to fight the Mughals. We had to protect our women and children and that is why the women were kept behind closed doors."
She went to ask women to give up the 'Purdah'. "We are into the 60th year of Independence. But the women are still behind the veil. This is not proper in view of the changing times. We have to change with the times," Patil said.