Vantage point

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Walks like Taliban, Quacks like Taliban.....

By now everyone must have read about Shivsena's views on the Marine Drive rape incident. Amit Varma, appropriately, called them Mumbai's Taliban. However, some of his readers have protested this denigration of the Sena by comparing it with the Taliban.

I remember a couple of years back, on the show 'Question Time India', a member of the audience had gotten all worked up because someone compared VHP to Taliban. A few of my friends, who agree with a lot of Sena's policies, have also expressed dissatisfaction when I have made similar comparisons.

To all these people, I just say, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and waddles like a duck, it must be very duck-like, if not a duck itself.

Sena's views are almost identical to Muslim Fundamentalists. The MMA in Pakistan, ideologically close to the Taliban, has imposed a ban on celebrating Valentine's day, much like the Sena. If you have read the rationale given by many Muslim Fundamentalists behind imposition of a burqa or hijaab in some societies, it is remarkably similar to what the Sena is saying. i.e it is a woman's responsibility to ensure that a man is not 'aroused' enough to molest her.

I had just written an entire paragraph about how there is no connection between occurence of rape, and how a woman is dressed, quoting some stats from "covered" societies, but I deleted it. Because the point is even if a woman wearing skimpy clothes is the one and only provocation for rape, even then the fault lies entirely with the rapist for forcing intercourse on someone.

Yes, as Amit found out, our society is still very prudish. We still play "judge" and want to dictate how others live, under the garb of "Indian culture". In our society, blaring songs, maha-aartis and muezzin calls on the loudspeakers do not "offend" or "inconvenience" the public. However a couple displaying the slightest bit of affection towards each other is termed as "offensive" and "indecent". As I have said earlier, these prudish ideas are the real "foreign influence" because it is borne out of centuries of Islamic, followed by British rule. ironically, the parties standing for "swadeshi" are the ones who cling on to it the hardest.

Even our laws, as Satyen pointed out to me, are archaic and Victorian. Section 110 of the Mumbai Police Act says 'any 'indecent' behaviour in public places, including kissing, putting arms around the neck or reclining on your companion's lap, is punishable.' The fine for being let off on bail is Rs 1,250.

So tomorrow, if you and your loved one, sit on the wall, with arms around each other's neck at Marine Drive, Constable More, or his friends, can legally arrest you. of course, they will let you off if you pay them a hundred bucks on the sly.

Such laws exist because we are living with, and are perpetuating a bizarre set of moral values. We need freedom from our own warped ideas of what is right and what is not. Until we get that freedom, we will keep living in such Kafka-esque states.

Ending on a positive note though, more and more people are shedding these shackles of intrusive morality. I for one truly believe that our society is opening up, and the support for ideas like the Sena's is declining. We are moving towards a freer society, and not going backwards like Iran, Iraq and Pakistan.

It would be nice if we moved faster, though.