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Terrorism of a different flavour

28 January 2009
Posted in: Social issues | 8 Comments

The Mangalore incident gives us all the perfect excuse to put on our most outraged faces, condemn the Sri Rama Sene, and pontificate at length on what really is wrong with our society. Yet this is not the first of these sort of incidents and one hardly thinks it will be the last. Righteous fundamentalist ire is a frighteningly potent fuel, and the justification of the likes of the Sri Rama Sene for the incident truly makes the hairs of on the back of one’s neck stand up.

Self-confessed custodians of morality — albeit a skewed one — are a dime a dozen in this day and age, and each one of them equally distanced from a broad understanding of its basic concepts in the first place. What sort of moral, ethical, social, cultural, religious code makes it all right to barge in and beat up people?

What is equally condemnable is the increasingly soft stand of the state on incidents that threaten the safety of women in public. Knee-jerk measures such as banning women from working night shifts and serving as bar tenders or dancers does not address the deeper issues. The ridiculous arguments that women in certain situations “ask for it” conveniently forget that they justify a completely unacceptable behaviour from men. Getting back to the Mangalore incident and slumbering authorities, how is it that the media arrived on the spot before the police did?

Sadly, the sort of publicity generated by incidents such as these also stirs up other malcontents who believe such moral policing is the order of the day. And it’s not just “malcontents” who are threatened by the idea that women have an equal right to space in all senses of the word and are increasingly demanding their share of it. There is a surprisingly large proportion of people otherwise who subscribe in some degree or other to codes of “morality” that suit the current patriarchal set-up we live in, unable (or not wanting to) question or analyse anything that puts given power relations out of kilter.

“Stand up and fight for yourself” was the advice given by a number of panellists in a discussion on a news channel dissecting the Mangalore attack. For one thing, even the most able among us will find it a little hard to keep standing amidst an unruly mob of 40. For another, it’s a tragic commentary on the times that I need to fight for my right to be — as a person, in a public space, committing no crime of any sort.

~PD

8 Responses

  1. Kat says:

    That’s truly a sobering thing to read about.

    “Standing up” for yourself sounds like a throwaway statement. You’re right. Not many people are able to do that to a mob of 40 people, and it doesn’t seem wise for a woman’s safety to do it either. I can imagine that it could be more dangerous for the women if they got physical in any way with these people. The mob definitely didn’t an excuse to get physical in the first place. It seems like the mob’s entitled rage might have excused them from recriminations if they did continue the violence anyway, considering the fact that the police were already unhelpful.

    I hope that officials become more willing to listen and actually protect these women in the future instead of failing to do their jobs. 🙁 Everyone has the right to be.

  2. Proteeti says:

    The media were there before the police because the Rama Sene guys actually tipped off the media before going on the rampage – guess they wanted their glorious acts to be recorded and broadcast to the country at large. And you’re absolutely right – incidents like this have happened before, and will continue to happen. For that matter, what about principals of colleges who ban women who wear jeans, or kurtas without dupattas from entering their classrooms? Or for the millions of us, condemned to being groped in public transport, leered and whistled merely because we exist? This, too, is against the law – but who cares, anyway?

    The papers are all about the ‘Talibanisation’ of the country – for many Indian women, the Taliban lives in their homes, in the guise of family members, and in the community, which is so quick to impose a retrogressive vision of morality given the slightest opportunity.

  3. Payal says:

    I don’t think the media is entirely innocent in this. Even if they were tipped off, why didn’t they in turn tip off the police? Of course, if they did that they wouldn’t get their glorious footage, would they?

    To make matters worse, a representative of the Karnataka Mahila Rakshana Vedike has gone on record saying that the women in the pub were asking for it. According to her, “It [pubs, et al.] is against Indian culture and women are to blame. The government has given licence and permitted men to visit pubs.” And let’s not leave out our esteemed CM who conveniently avoided taking a stand on the issue by asserting that “pub culture is bad” and that Bangalore will not succumb to it.

    It looks like the only thing we have established so far as being “for” Indian culture is beating up innocent people unprovoked.

  4. Prasheila says:

    The role of the media in this was completely disgusting. So much for being ‘watch dogs’, seems all they do is see and bark. This could’ve been completely avoided had some people felt a sense of responsibility.

    It’s outrageous the way politicians think that women always “ask for it”. Wouldn’t be surprised if they add an additional right in the constitution saying that treat women as you wish, and if something goes wrong, oh don’t worry, it’s the woman’s fault.

    It amounts to terrorism if I feel unsafe stepping out of the house, walk with a guy friend, go for a drink with pals, or try to go to work at night.

    So much for living in a culture-oriented country. 😡

  5. Swapna says:

    Well, I think the worst manifestation of the growing malaise came in today’s papers:
    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Time_for_blasts_Malegaons_just_a_trailer_Muthalik/articleshow/4050361.cms

    Where one of the perpetrators of the incident not only justifies the event, but also praises an earlier event of fundamentalism and asks us to prepare for more.

  6. Payal says:

    That story has successfully put me off reading the papers today. :-/

  7. SS says:

    Payal, good to hear your voice on this topic. Can’t agree more. I linked to your post.

    Have you heard the latest Valentine’s Day and “noodle strap-tight jeans” threat?

    Where is this coming from?

  8. Payal says:

    Hi SS, thanks for the comment. First things first: your links were blank, so I removed the tags. If you let me have the correct URLs, I’d really like to add them back!

    And *sigh* of course I’ve heard of it. Sometimes I think these people should be treated like spoilt children — ignored. All they want is attention like any tantrum-throwing, ill-mannered brat, and we all know how to deal with those, right?

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