Friday, April 27, 2012

Who is Guilty?...

This is very special post, that's why it might look very emotional, lengthy or even over the top, many incidents mentioned here are directly or indirectly from my real life experience.

Recently I wrote a post about the book Bhagavad Gita As It Is, I discussed few lines and paragraphs from that book which I found highly objectionable and shallow in their content. I thought those lines were conveying wrong message to its readers. I received lot of positive as well as lot of negative feed back about this post, on the blog and also on Facebook where I share my all posts. People wondered how come I can not ignore few minor comments from the book, many books make these type of comments and people should ignore it. This book is not a novel or any magazine for entertainment purpose, its one of the religious books which people study, read and derive their beliefs from. Some said its great book because it attracts lot of devotees from western world towards Hinduism (I think at the most people can become ISKON member after reading this book but not Hindu, as the book is not about Hinduism). Many also advised me that as a Hindu myself I should feel happy that my religion is spreading in world because of this book. Some said it's a just small black spot on big white paper, I should look at white paper, not the black spot. But I disagree with all of them, any religious book be it Bhagvad Gita, Bible, Qu'ran or their translations or any other book if it preaches hatred or discrimination against women or any section of society should be condemned and exposed in timely manure otherwise consequences can bee disastrous. Many of these small black spots have become big and became black pages of our history like, untouchability, casteism, Sati Pratha (burning of women alive along with her husband after her husband's death), child marriage, forced widowhood, slavery, racial discrimination and many more things.

I mainly objected to the lines from the book which according to me spread message of hatred about non believers and treat women as inferior sex compared to men. I have seen enough hatred and women suppression in my life. As a kid I watched life of my Nani (my maternal Grandma, in Uttar Pradesh from where I come we call Nana and Nani to maternal Grandpa and Grandma). She was a great lady, uneducated but with great courage and great devotion towards God. She became widow at very young age (may be 20 or 22), soon after my mother's birth. Society that time treated widows very kindly but not very fairly. Men after wife's death could remarry within months, but women were not allowed to remarry. At the event of their husband's death first of all they used to get blame for that death (bad omen), then widowhood was forced on them. Their heads used to get shaved, they were only allowed to wear white or any pale colored clothes, no ornaments, no makeup (reason: to protect them, so that other men don't get attracted towards them). They have to behave as if they are not alive, they used to be there as shadow of their bodies, devoid of any color, any desires, just a moving body. My Nani at least had daughter to look after, she devoted all her attention towards her but many are even not that lucky. She was very well respected because of her kind behavior and dedication towards God, she always worked hard. I always saw her doing some work for somebody she never sat quite, as if she doesn't know how to rest, as if her life depended on her usefulness in family. She used to be possessed by a ‘Deity’ or ‘Devi [‘Devi Angat Yene’(in Marathi)] sometimes. [During this condition, the individual completely transforms his or her expression and behavior (personality) to resemble some deity. The person is then supposed (or pretends) to be possessed by a deity during that period. He/she behaves in a convincing manner making appropriate actions and sounds to appear as if he is in a trance and pretends to know answers to all questions posed to him or her by devotees surrounding her/him]. This still happens in many villages and mostly women do it. I knew this was not real her, but I think this was her only chance to command, her only chance to dominate the world around her, only chance to dictate terms, feel in control of something. She never complained about her situation, she believed it was her fate, she saw how other widows are treated in society. Her belief in God was unshaken. She was convinced that it was how God wanted them to live, it was how written in scriptures, what she or people around can do? nothing, it was all her fate. I salute her every time I remember her, its not easy to live life like that, she is the person who gave me inspiration to fight against all these malpractices. She and people around her were not bad people (demons) but were hypnotized by centuries of false propaganda about these scriptures, how men are superior than women, how women are to blame for their misfortune, how women or girl child is burden on family.  Their thinking was paralyzed and society was conditioned to think in particular way. Pundits, many scholars quoted lines from scriptures to authenticate these traditions, to support these beliefs.

She died at the age of ~60, I wonder whether she ever lived her life after her husband's death, she only lived for others after that fateful incident. Sati Pratha was banned decades ago, so widows were not burned alive after their husband's death, but were not allowed to live normal life, widowhood was forced on them. I knew something was wrong, how god can be so cruel with some people for no fault of theirs? But I realized later it was not God, it was God's words, words from Vedas, words from Gita and many other scriptures used to justify these acts. People twisted words, extracted whatever meaning they want, gave references from age old books which have no relevance in today's world and justified these practices. They gave divine angle to their desire to rule, desire to use women and other weak sections of society for their benefit. I saw it happening with many other people, with my neighbors, my sisters, they were suppressed just because they were women. 'God made them women and now they should behave and live as God wants women to behave and live, we cant interfere in this, its God's will' this was the justification offered for these things. We worshiped women in our society but never asked them if they want to get worshiped or not? Qualities like tolerance, patience, selflessness, dedication are good but they were forced on women so that they won't be able to even protest where its necessary to protest. Their wings were clipped so they can't fly and after some time they forgot that they can fly also. They started believing its not meant for them. People of my generation who lived in Indian villages and even in some cities must have seen many women like this, and I hope they understand about what I am talking about.

The reason I can't tolerate such attitude towards women or weaker sections of society lies in all these experiences. I can understand Dr. Ambedkar's anger when he said 'I was born as a Hindu but will never die as a Hindu'. I can understand when in spite of being women she doesn't want to give birth to a girl child, even willing to kill her, she is scared to bring her into this world, did we ask why?. Its not only her who is responsible for this, its the society, its ages of discrimination, its justification of male dominance and preference, its the belief that women are inferior to men, and yes, holy books, they have their share in this crime too. If these books get the credit for all the good things which are in our society, these books should share the blame for these bad practices also. This prejudice, fear is rooted deep in heart of society, unless we remove this we can not stop any of the above, laws can only be effective to limited extent, we need to reform thinking of society. 

This article is not against Hinduism or any society or culture or country. I was born in Hindu family and lived my most of life in India, that's why my most experiences are from there. Its my motherland, a beautiful place and lovely country. I am sure people from other religions and countries must have faced or seen similar situations in their life and might have felt similar pain. Lot of things have changed now, situation is now much more improved in urban areas of India but still lot needs to be done, and we can not allow wheels of time to go backwards by neglecting such texts, as you never know which holy book might become authoritative in future and people start following it.

Its not only about my grandma and her life but its about countless women (and other social classes like untouchables) who suffered and are still suffering because of this prejudice. We all can point fingers at each other, each generation will point finger to its previous generation and say they started it, we just followed. I am sure this long trail of blame will end to some person (or a group of people) who twisted the meaning of texts to preach their own philosophy, or even they also might point their finger to some book...whose authors we are not sure about, they are long dead and that book can't defend itself, so who is guilty here?. Are those women guilty, just because there were born as a women? Is society guilty, which watched this happening and even participated in crime actively? Are those males guilty who believe that women are inferior to them? Are we guilty who still can't convince people to correct mistakes if they find them in scriptures or in any holy book? The book becomes important because of its readers, the movement becomes popular because of its followers, so we all are part of this crime, we can not escape the blame.  Now it's our chance to rectify it, so lets not do the same mistake.

If people can't understand after reading this the reason behind my reaction to the certain lines from 'Bhagvad Gita as it is' then they may never understand it. I share my views on blog, so I thought I should also share the reason behind those views. Its a very long post, but the topic is very important and close to my heart. Thanks for reading and your patience, please share your views.

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing) 


  1. I became Big fan of Ashutosh Govarikar's movie 'Swades' just for the scene where Shahrukh says to the villagers that some how he feels that whenever we Indians feel that we are loosing the argument we start to blow trumpet of our culture, traditions, how they are good, better than others. That scene is very well picturized and I recommend that movie just for that scene.

    Yes, our culture is great, our traditions are old and most of tehm have some reason and meaning associated with them. It has taught some great values to us but at the same time we have done some mistakes and as long as we don't acknowledge it, we can't correct them. To correct the mistake we first should accept that mistake happened. If we keep on denying then it will never get corrected.

    1. People says that OLD is GOLD. But it is only possible if that culture get routinely polished or cleaned. According to me, all the mistakes that we see in past are the failure of people of that age to polish the culture (to twist according to the need of humanity and not to the just satisfy themselves). It happened for such a long time that the culture has come to the verge of destruction.

  2. First of all kudos for explaining incidents in so well written matter. Second thing, I never felt the post is big, seriously. Infact I always look forward to read minimum this much of post while reading the blogs. I think the whole purpose of blog is to explain in detail your views, and I feel you are doing it beautifully by writing your views in clearly understandable manner.

    Anyways, now I know why you were not ready to accept the argument of leaving those few black spots. The seriousness was evident when I saw those prints from ISKON website. I clearly agree with you on how it can transform into another such thing. ISKON is taking us backward in the name of so called satyug where woman have responsibility of feeding men and men have responsibility of bringing food etc.

    I wish they can change such texts as I also fear those black spots might take over the white paper sooner or later. Though I wish people like ankur garg gets more authority in ISKON than people who are blind followers, unfortuanately that doesnt happen in reality. As I said before, I pity those kids who have to follow it without having choice...

  3. As I have always maintained....Religion,caste,class has an artificial flavour while creed,Species is natural... or what we all commonly say...God given...God is also the 'name' given by us humans.This to the power of the unknown that controls the nature and it's forces.He/She It one knows..
    One is born into a 'man made' religion or caste not by choice but default.But he/she has a choice how to lead one's life. Society though is too adamant and forces one to do so many things. All 'so called' religious books and teachings were in possession of a few and those few wrote and changed rules to their own whims and wishes....There is no written rule in nature that says xwz... it is all man made.In 'ealier' days even education couldn't be accessed by all.. but Internet allows access to all knowledge (I do not say all experiences)and therefore allows any human become a Priest, Brahman,Maulawi, etc...
    The extremists in 'ALL' religions are the ones that spell trouble and instigate and force the human into various actions and beliefs.
    The human race is guilty for whatever we see and is only digging it's own grave and trying to end each other due to "EGO".

    1. you are right uncle (There is no written rule in nature that says xwz... it is all man made) and we need to fight these people's mentality so that such things never happen again. I know its difficult but we can do it.

      No one even want to do little research to check the authenticity of those statements or its origin, its prevented in the name of sacred knowledge and called blasphemy if you object to it.

    2. very interesting article and very relevant to the topic we are discussing here...,0

      "Women are silenced by a deadly combination of men who hate them while also claiming to have God firmly on their side."

  4. I agree with almost all of your thoughts vinay, as I have also never liked the way women are treated in indian society (my love for my mother is the motive behind this). So I wont spend time praising too much about something that we agree on. Instead I will quickly comment about one point about which I have different point of view.

    In this article you question whom to blame? As I ready it further, I understand (and to some extent convenience with your arguments) why you wont to blame orthodox followers, advance thinkers, women and books as well. I have no objection about any of them, but I believe when you mentioned about books, you meant books like Bhagavad Gita as it is (I am still reading it to get my own perspective) and not ANY and ALL THE religious books, right (I asked this because, while reading I felt that you probably blame ALL the books)? If blame only certain books then I dont have to say anything, but if you held responsible ALL the religious book then I do have objection (although you can certainly post any thought on your blog). I will explain my objection by very well known example of medicine and its side effect.

    We all are agree, If a medicine has more (or only) side effects than its positive effects then it is not worth using it. But when we see such behavior of medicine, what is our next action? One can say just discard the medicine and start over the invention. I would say that it would not be a logical step. Although I have no experience in medicine or medicinal chemistry research, my first question will be that "has patient taken the medicine as prescribed"? If no, or if the patient is not capable or careful enough to follow the instructions, no medicine (doesn't matter how effective it is) will show any positive effect ever.IN SUCH CASES it is not the medicine but only the patient should be held responsible. If the patient is stubbornly (or due to blind faith) not willing to understand then nothing can be done, but if he is not capable to understand then some preaching is needed but someone who can CONNIVENCE them not tell them that they are idiots.

    1. Thanks a lot Nitin for your insightful comments. No, I don't blame or want to blame ALL books or even any book. Books are our eyes or windows to look at our history, our glorious past as well as some shameful episodes of our history. These books are our teachers, they show us mirror but only if we are willing to look into it...

      I am not blaming any single entity here...all have to share the blame, women, for not trying hard, many of them surrendered to the situation (I know its hard to fight against society and I myself understand this but one should never give up), orthodox or liberal followers who failed to convince true meaning of their religion to fundamentalists (and fundamentalists took over most of organized religions we see today), advance thinkers for not reaching to masses (they debated, wrote in news paper, books but most people were unaware of these things, we needed some movement like Gandhi did for freedom struggle).

      I like and appreciate whenever people ask questions about points mentioned on my blog. For last many months I am dedicating lot of time and effort to study these books and related literature. What I find is that contents of these books have been modified so many times at different junctures of history(things were added, subtracted, modified according to rulers of that time, social and political situations, etc.), to my surprise even Ramayan, Mahabharat or even Bhagvad Gita were not immune to this. All these books are great and teach very relevant lessons.

      As I said books can't defend themselves, I put blame on them but its pointless, I blamed them because these books are so powerful (that's why I treated them like person). To my surprise there is lot of research done on these books about which people in India are not even aware of, these books (and most of religious books) have become too sacred to criticize, analyze or even it's wrong to say any word against them. They teach us a lot but only if we want to learn.

      Your example about medicine and its side effect is very good. I know medicine with less side effect is desirable..but our search for new medicines should continue as new diseases will emerge...this is continuous battle between good and evil not a single war..Mahabharat teaches us this. Yes patient should be blamed when he/she is not taking medicine as prescribed but we should also keep an eye on doctor who is prescribing the medicine and medicine itself...

    2. Why do we pre-suppose the intelligence and knowledge of every individual..

      Each human is 'Unique'... ( Jitni Wyakti.... utni prakruti)

      Plz try to understand the limitations of every individual.. We might understand and follow but expecting the same from all is only "unnaturally" possible... IMHO

    3. never happened in history of our planet that everyone agreed and followed a single philosophy (or religion or constitution)...but peaceful coexistence where everyone has equal right and opportunity is the goal we are trying to achieve...

  5. HOPE is the biggest Tool of a thinking animal that takes it further ahead!Goals have to and must be set!
    "Not Failure" my Dad said "but Low Aim is a crime"!

  6. Very well said sir, totally agree. Please keep on sharing such inspirational lines....thanks a lot.