Sunday, February 2, 2014

Mr. Modi's marriage and the issue of women empowerment.

Recently, there was an interview of Jashodaben published in popular The Indian Express, now who is this lady and why I am even talking about her interview? This is the lady who claims to be a wife of Mr. Narendra Modi, I don't think I need to give any introduction for this name, and I am sure anyone following Indian parliament election knows who is Mr. Modi. So this lady still claims to be his wife, wife of a potential future PM (prime minister) of India, she got married at the age of 17 (still a minor age according to the law as 18 is the consent age for marriage for females in India), Mr. Modi was 18 (again a minor as 21 is consent age for boys), so technically it can be considered as a child marriage. But in those days most marriages were like this and it was socially accepted phenomena to marry a child before attaining legal marriage age, I am glad that this not the case in most of the parts of India today, but this is not an issue here, even though child marriage is a very serious issue I won't be discussing that in this post.

So, I shared link of her interview on my Facebook, Google+ wall and with some of my friends during political discussion (as Mr. Modi is a politician and one of the top contenders for the PM post), I thought abandoning a wife for no fault of hers is an injustice to her (sort of mental abuse) and serious matter. As a public figure, Mr. Modi must offer some explanation for this, or if he thinks he did something wrong he should accept his mistake, apologize to that woman who suffered because of him, applaud her courage and move on. According to me, no one becomes small or weak for apologizing for their mistakes, rather they display strongness of their character. I also know that this is his personal issue, but when you are a public figure and an icon, then very few things remain personal. Mr. Modi's actions inspire many people and his followers can misinterpret them, that's why any public figure, especially a political figure needs to be careful about their behavior.

In some discussions I was tutored, taunted and even accused for trying to defame Modi, to drag his name into some unnecessary controversy, for being unfair to him, for raising irrelevant issues, but this is all trivial, personal insults on such forums don't really matter to me. Some even called that women as happiest women on earth just because she is a wife of their great leader! Actually I am used to these things, actually I get these types of comments from most people who support traditional conservative systems. Whenever I raise some uncomfortable questions related to religion, God, politics, racism, casteism or issues related to women. Most who try to justify these things by calling them traditions, culture, or something else, accuse me of insulting traditions or blowing trivial issue out of proportion. In this case Jashodaben is not even blaming her husband for any injustice or wrongdoing, so what is my problem? That lady survived, no one abused her physically, her parents and brothers helped her, they are still taking care of her, so what's the problem? She blames her destiny for whatever happened, she even feels bad that her husband sometimes have to lie about her and wish all good for him, so is this is the case heading for a happy ending? Shall Jashodaben be happy that her husband has a chance of becoming next PM of India?

So what is the real problem here? Why this case is bothering me? Why the rest of the India or other political parties are not raising this issue? I have seen a couple of cases like this around me, where a husband abandoned his wife for various strange reasons: like to pursue larger goals in their life (like social service, religious studies), for studying abroad, or some other trivial reasons. They didn't even bother to tell their partners why are they leaving. Normally, all these cases are of arranged marriages where there was no consent taken from a boy or a girl before the marriage, parents arrange everything in these cases and marriage is performed. There is a basic flaw in this system as a consent of a boy and a girl doesn't matter much (especially in those days), but we can talk about this system some other time. Even though I knew about this case, I never discussed it as I wanted to hear her own account before making any conclusions.  In her interview, she says, "When he told me he would be moving around the country as he wished, I told him I would like to join him. However, on many occasions when I went to my in-laws’ place, he would not be present and he stopped coming there. He used to spend a lot of time in RSS shakhas. So I too stopped going there after a point and I went back to my father’s house". She also says, "We have never been in touch and we parted on good terms as there were never any fights between us. I will not make up things that are not true. In three years, we may have been together for all of three months. There has been no communication from his end to this day.".

I have also seen that in most of these cases women blame their own destiny, misfortune or situation for whatever happened, rarely they blame their husband or parents for the problems in their relationship. In most cases, they also wait for their husbands until the end of their lives, they live like married women (in India, widows, especially in rural parts don't wear makeup or colored clothes). Normally, there is not fight or argument between two of them before separation, husband in most cases just leaves the home without any explanation, that's why they think they parted in good ways and their husband will return one day and accept them. They live in this false hope, normally this never happens and there is no easy way out for these women to come out of this situation. In some cases even she or her family knows the whereabouts of the husband, their efforts to convince that man to come back are futile in many cases. In most of the cases these women also don't remarry, because legally they are not divorced and their husband is still alive (not a widow yet), so socially they are not considered as marriageable. Literally, they exist like an abandoned property, and society is OK with this situation of a human being? People sympathize, feel sorry, but nothing else happens; the problem remains as it is. Many of these women live secluded lives (without any partner) and emotionally traumatized life, the situation is little better if their family supports them at least they don't get abused or sexually exploited, but I feel they deserve better and as a society, we need to be sensitive to their situation. A similar thing rarely happens in case of a male in Indian society, this is a discrimination and we need to put an end to this misery and people like Mr. Modi can definitely help to initiate this change, if they show some courage. I also know that this cannot be an election issue in India, this is not a big deal according to many. Anyone who raises this issue will be called anti-BJP, anti-Modi or pro-Congress. But for me, this is not a political issue, but a social issue and a very important one. I hope this case highlights the plight of these women, and people realize sufferings they go through because of some unfair traditions and customs. I hope people are interested in minimizing these types of incidents in the future. Women need to become independent, society need to empower them so that they don't depend on anyone for their survival, and Mr. Modi can use his own case to highlight this issue. I hope he shows this courage and doesn't miss this unique opportunity.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

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