Tuesday, April 17, 2012

In Defence of Meena Kandaswamy

(Meena Kandaswamy)

Meena Kandaswamy is not new to abuse; physical, verbal or psychological. She has lived out and outlived several stories of severely tortured women not only in India but all over the world. A crusader against gender discrimination and social ostracism of castes, Meena is a towering model amongst the young women who these days are more concerned with a puffed up, well contoured and fair vagina. Meena Kandaswamy must be laughing when she reads the arguments for and against a fair vagina as she is reminded of the puffed up cheeks, swollen eyes, broken teeth and dignity shattered like a crystal glass.

But there is always something that people cannot take away from you; your own self/mind. That’s why Meena Kandaswamy walked out of her abusive marriage. In a country like India that puts one leg in a ruthless tradition that endorses female foeticide and honour killing, and the other leg in cyber revolution and dreams of super power status living a woman's life is seriously a dangerous thing. The more we move ahead in our cyber revolution the more we become intolerant to independent women. That’s why Meena Kandaswamy is verbally abused publicly in the internet space for her opinion on beef eating.

Meena Kandaswamy welcomed the beef eating festival celebrated by the Dalit Students at the Osmania University and condemned the attacks on those students by the Sangh Parivar (Right Wing fundamentalists in India) outfits. This opinion of her triggered the anger of a few young men who started hurling verbal abuses at her in social networking sites like facebook. When these young men say that Meena should be raped and the act should be televised live, they actually bare the fangs of fascism that has been slowly but steadily growing in our country.

Look at the equation; those who support beef eating are liable to face rape and public telecast of the same. Beef has gained such importance in the Hindutva ideology that the followers do not even mind to rape or kill a human being for protecting a cow. The irony is in Vrindavan in Mathura, where these people believe Lord Krisha was born both cows and widows are treated alike. Perhaps, cows get a better treatment than the abandoned widows.

(Vrindavan Widows)

Beef eating is one’s right and nobody can deny it. Nobody barges into a place where bhel puri festival is conducted or a fish festival is conducted. Nobody even questions when innumerable chickens are murdered in each passing moment either to celebrate the Hindu upper caste religious and secular festivals and events or do some secret religious rituals. Nobody questions. However, beef eating is prohibited and protested because it is generally eaten by Muslims and Dalits. Denying the rightful food to them is the fundamentalists’ ploy to keep them inferior to a so called superior and misinterpreted world view called ‘Hindutva’.

Hindus started thinking about protecting cows when the Aryan nomadic tribes were depending cows not only for milk but also for meat. As the nomads settled in places and started cultivating the land, along with the increase in cultivable land and in population, the number of cattle had to be increased. Thanks to over consumption and increasing demand for cow meat, they wanted to put a break somewhere to protect the species altogether from extinction. The taboo on beef eating was carefully placed in order to save the economic interest of the growing societies, which later got connected to religious dictums so that the taboo is perpetuated systematically and systemically.

In today’s world, people have diversified eating habits. All the people are not beef eaters or chicken eaters whereas most of us are herbivorous. Considering the number of human beings in the world who eat plants and forest products along with agricultural products, there should be a blanket ban on vegetarianism by now. That does not happen because food products are often from agricultural lands, which are re-usable so that further production of vegetable products is sustained. Similarly today beef also is a sustainable product. We have found out scientific ways of breeding cattle for beef. Beef eating in India has never thwarted the survival of this cattle race in this country.

Seen against this context, those people who raise voice against beef eating are doing this because the very argument has become a part of the Hindutva ideology than having a scientific basis for itself. As beef is eaten by Muslims and Dalits, denying their food becomes a part of the socio-political power game also. There are Hindu families who eat chicken and fish regularly in their meals. There are Hindu families who eat beef regularly or occasionally. I could tell you for sure that in Kerala, most of the Hindutva boys eat beef and porotta with or without the consent of the Shakha Pramukh because it is a staple diet for many, especially those boys who do a lot of physical work or who want to develop a good physique. At the same time, one could see several Muslim and Dalit families subsisting purely on vegetables.

In short, age or caste or religion, in today’s world does not determine one’s food habits. Coco Cola does not have caste written on it. No food item has caste inscriptions. Denying one’s opportunity to eat the food one wants is a fundamental violation of his/her constitutional rights. If the Hindutva people do not want to eat beef they can prefer to abstain from it. They don’t have any right to say no to beef to anyone else. Often these people give an analogy: Will you eat your mother? But who said cow is my mother? Cow is not my mother. Cow is calf’s mother. Through clever symbolic and ideological juxtaposition, the Hindutva was successful to fuse the notion of motherhood with the image of a cow. It was again a religious ploy to keep people from killing a species that was facing extinction.

Let me come back to Meena Kandaswamy. When someone says that she should be violated and televised, I see the farcical deconstruction of cow and mother. Meena is a woman and in the Hindutva parlance she should be treated as a sister or mother, if she is not your wife or daughter. The Hindutva ideologues when they bray for Meena’s blood, forget they split the unified imagery of cow and mother. For cow’s sake, they are now not only able to rape a woman but also televise it nationally, live. What a tragedy! And the violence inscribed on the very words reflects the catastrophe of a religion many times severer than the act of decapitating a cow.


Very Deadly Kali said...

I think eating beef is not the issue. If the same issue was promoted by a man probably this issue would have never grabbed any headlines.

A 'frustrated' society always finds easy way to vent their anger towards helpless women. There are many cases where mother has been stripped naked in public becasue her son was a thief.

Violence against women has been promoted through tradition/myths. Sita and Draupadi is case in point and Today's Taliban is another examples that shows that prejudice against woman is across the religion, class and status.
there are many Meena Kandaswamis living this hell just becasue they were born woman

johnyml said...

I agree with you Deadly Kali....


Panchali said...

"I think eating beef is not the issue. If the same issue was promoted by a man probably this issue would have never grabbed any headlines."

What is the point of bragging we are so more advanced in technology when we as a country cannot even comprehend equality among both sexes?So, India is still in the primitive ages in that quarter.

Panchali said...

A very nice piece of writing there, Johny...keep going..

joicy said...

The rape and brutalization of women to teach women a lesson or to protect the honour of any given community is extremely pervavsive in every society to a lesser or greater degree. It is only shocking when it is so crudely and violently expressed in public through print or the social media. What is even more chilling is that there are many more who might deeply believe in it but may not want to express themselves so publicly. In a country like India,this cannot be pushed aside as an excuse of the inflammed passions of the portectors of the cows. If these men, young or not so young men can have the audacity to say that MS should be raped and the act should be posted, I would say this cannot be the voices of men who have not brutaized and raped women in the past. It is their experience for which they have not been punished, condemned and brought before the law, that gives them the courage to speak publicly about wanting to rape and brutalize a woman. We cannot claim to live in a civil society, if such fundamental rights of expression and dissent is met with the actual threat of rape and murder.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this.
Please check the spelling of Kandaswamy.

It says Kandasamy on her Web site.
Wanted this write to be perfect, hence the suggestion.

Phani vijay said...

Liked the well rounded analysis of the social aspect.Keep writing and ignite the thoughts of the readers.Even the comments are well thought of.

Satya Vardhan Pinnoju said...

A great article to read and think. Well, these issues are always thought provoking and sensitive. There are two sides here.As, someone rightly questioned, will eat your own mother?, can we ask the same question back to them, will they rape or murder their own mother? After all, your mother is a woman too!!! Well, in situations like this, I think what is needed is a constructive understanding of the whole in issue all directions. Tell them why the cow has gained so much importance in Hindutva, and again its upto them to follow it or not!!! You are no one to interfere into someone's food habits. At the same time, it is not right to sit calm when your belief system is being hurt!!!! This is something to be understood by raising one's own consciousness, but can not be preached, objected, or warned!!!

But definitely a thought provoking article. Keep writing!!!

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