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How Indian women will be under a Modi sarkar

Last updated on: May 13, 2014 11:44 IST

How Indian women will be under a Modi sarkar

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Mitali Saran

How appealing does a strong man look when he's twisting your arm, asks Mitali Saran.

As the general election kicks off, here is something for the ladies to consider.

It's also for other sufferers of India's wildly skewed power equations; but most of all for the ladies, since you constitute half the population - or would, if you weren't constantly being picked off in the womb, in infancy, or in marriage.

Narendra Modi's best buddy and right-hand man Amit Shah said, in a speech in UP: "This election is about voting out the government that protects and gives compensation to those who killed Jats. It is about badla (revenge) and protecting izzat (honour)."

While Shah was explicitly talking about vengeance by ballot, most thinking people will recognise this as implicit incitement.

That should make them nervous; but if you happen to have ovaries instead of testicles, or in fact if you're anything but an adult Hindu male, it should terrify you.

If you've been listening to the BJP's campaign ads -- and it's hard to miss them -- you know that they say two things: First, that the pride of the Hindu nation and culture is paramount, and second, that Modi will restore and nurture that pride.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Mital Saran

Modi will never let the nation's head be bowed; Modi will never allow this soil to be desecrated; Modi will protect women; Modi will be the alpha male leader we all fantasise about.

This language -- pride, honour and protection -- expresses fragility and fear, and spreads fragility and fear. It is used by people with brittle egos, who prefer sabre-rattling to rational discussion because it's hard to make rational sense out of irrational fear. They find safety in numbers, and fear what is different.

If you think that this is psychobabble, remember that it is the language in which khap panchayats encourage families to murder their own children; the language in which men go out and rape and gangrape women, and the language in which other men condone that; the language that causes men to shatter women's bodies and lives with acid; the language that encourages dowry demands and female foeticide and infanticide.

It's the language that causes families to ostricise and traumatise their gay children, causes religious communities to turn on one another, and nations to get stroppy and declare war on one another.

It's the language of the kind of masculinity that thrives on domination, not cooperation, on homogeneity rather than heterogeneity, and on majoritarianism rather than individual rights. It values hierarchy, not equality, and sentiment over rationality. It presumes obedience and acquiescence, not irreverence and challenge. It is, in fact, the masculinity of an 8-year-old boy.

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Photographs: Reuters
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How Indian women will be under a Modi sarkar

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Mitali Saran

BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters that Amit Shah "captured the mood of the nation."

Sadly, that is the kind of nation we are. Think of the grim sex ratios in India (including in Gujarat, where it stands at 918 females to 1,000 males, and where the child sex ratio in 2010 stood at 880 girls to 1,000 boys).

Think of India's pervasive rape culture, its entrenched patriarchy, its domestic violence, its maternal mortality rates, its undernourished children, its sexual exploitation and thinly disguised slavery.

And that's what we've achieved under a fairly inclusive dispensation often heavily influenced by women.

The 'mood of the nation' that Sitharaman invokes merely re-energises this murderous, oppressive patriarchy.

It's as if the social fabric, lately strained by a small effort at self-improvement, is yearning to bounce back into its nasty little comfort zone, and Modi is offering to sing it the soothing lullaby titled 'Indian values' that it needs.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Mitali Saran

If you're female, therefore, or a child, or queer, or non-Hindu, or disabled, or single, or atheist, or have a tendency to ask questions, or are irreverent, you can expect very little space from a Modi government.

The gender conversation started in December 2012 was just starting to make some headway. Under a Modi sarkar, you can bet your bottom... well, your bottom, that we'll be back to the same anachronistic assumptions about women and their role in society: a thin veneer of modernity -- education, employment, travel, decision-making -- over an ancient, predatory patriarchy in the workplace, at home, and in the bedroom.

The question women must ask themselves, then, is this: Do I want my daughters and myself to live in a society that plays out male rivalries through female lives and deaths?

Do I want to control my own life and choices?

Do I want to teach my kids to fear others, or to embrace diversity?

Do I want to fulfil my potential?

Do I want my fundamental human rights, and my constitutional rights, to be respected?

It's not easy for women anywhere to achieve those things under the most benign, female-friendly governments. But for Indian women, under a Modi sarkar?

How appealing does a strong man look when he's twisting your arm?


Photographs: Reuters
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