Category Archives: Social Issues

వోల్టేర్ ఇస్లాం, క్రైస్తవం గురించి చెప్పినది కంచ ఐలయ్య ఒప్పుకుంటాడా ?

ఇటీవల ఒక టీవి (టీవి 9) కార్యక్రమంలో మాట్లాడుతూ కంచ ఐలయ్య తనను తాను ఆధునిక వోల్టేర్ గా అబివర్ణించుకున్నాడు. సదరు కార్యక్రమ నిర్వాహకుడు (మురళీకృష్ణ)గాని, చానల్ కానీ ఈ విషయంలో ఎలాంటి ప్రశ్నలు వేయకపోయినా ఐలయ్య నిజంగా వోల్టేర్ చెప్పినవన్నీ అంగీకరిస్తాడా ? ముఖ్యంగా ఇస్లాం, క్రైస్తవం గురించి వోల్టేర్ చెప్పిన విషయాలను తాను కూడా ప్రచారం చేస్తాడా? చేయగలడా? ఇంతకీ వోల్టేర్ ఇస్లాం, క్రైస్తవం, హిందూత్వం గురించి ఏం చెప్పాడు ?….

క్రైస్తవం గురించి …

ప్రూషియా రాజు ఫ్రెడ్రిక్ II కు 5 జనవరి, 1767న రాసిన ఉత్తరంలో వోల్టేర్ క్రైస్తవం గురించి తన అభిప్రాయాలు వ్యక్తంచేశాడు. “మనది ప్రపంచంలోనే అత్యంత హాస్యాస్పదమైన, అర్ధంలేని మతం. అంతేకాదు ఇది అత్యంత రక్తసిక్తమైన మతం కూడా. ఓ మహారాజా! ఈ అత్యంత మూఢవిశ్వాసాన్ని సమూలంగా పెకిలించివేయడం ద్వారా మీరు  ప్రపంచానికి శాశ్వతమైన మేలు చేసినవారు అవుతారు. ఎందుకు పనికిరాని, జ్ఞానగంధం ఏమాత్రం అంటనివారికి ఆ మేలు ఏమిటో తెలియకపోవచ్చును కానీ ఆలోచనాపరులు, నిజాయితీపరులు దానిని గుర్తిస్తారు..అయితే నా విచారమంతా ఈ పవిత్ర , మానవ మేధస్సుకు తట్టిన అత్యంత శ్రేష్టమైన కార్యంలో మీకు సహాయ పడలేకపోతున్నాను.’’

ఇస్లాం గురించి ….

ఇస్లాం గురించి వోల్టేర్ కు సదభిప్రాయం ఎప్పుడూ లేదు. ఖురాన్  భౌతిక శాస్త్ర సూత్రాలకు పూర్తి  విరుద్దమని ఆయన భావించాడు. ప్రూషియా రాజు ఫ్రెడ్రిక్ II కు రాసిన ఉత్తరంలో మహమ్మద్ క్రూరత్వాన్ని గురించి ప్రస్తావిస్తూ `దానిని ఎవరూ, ఏ మాత్రం అంగీకరించలేరని నేను కచ్చితంగా చెపుతాను’ అని రాశాడు. మహమ్మద్ కు ఉన్న అనుచరగణమంతా మూఢవిశ్వాసం, అజ్ఞానం వల్లనే అలా మారారని అభిప్రాయపడ్డాడు. ఆ ఉత్తరంలోనే ఇంకా ఇలా రాశాడు -“ఒక ఒంటెల వ్యాపారి తన గ్రామంలో అద్భుతం చేయడమేమిటి? తాను దేవత గాబ్రియల్ తో నేరుగా మాట్లాడతానని అమాయకులైన తన అనుచరులను నమ్మించడమేమిటి? తాను స్వర్గానికి వెళ్ళివచ్చానని నమ్మించడమేమిటి ? అక్కడ `అర్ధంపర్ధంలేని’ ఒక గ్రంధాన్ని పొందానని చెప్పడమేమిటి? ఆ పుస్తకాన్ని విశ్వసించాలని చెప్పడమేమిటి? ఆ పుస్తకం పట్టుకుని తన దేశంలో అల్లకల్లోలం సృష్టించడమేమిటి ? తండ్రుల కుత్తుకలు కోసి, ఆడపిల్లలను ఎత్తుకుపోవడమేమిటి ? తన మతమా లేక మరణమా అంటూ మెడమీద కత్తి పెట్టడమేమిటి ?.. ఇదంతా టర్క్ గా పుట్టినవాడో, అంధవిశ్వాసంతో సహజమైన బుద్ధి పూర్తిగా మందగించినవాడో ఒప్పుకోవాలితప్ప  కనీసమైన జ్ఞానం ఉన్న ఎవరు అంగీకరించలేరు. ‘’

హిందూత్వం గురించి…

హిందువుల పవిత్ర గ్రంధాలైన వేదాల గురించి వోల్టేర్ ఇలా వ్యాఖ్యానించాడు -“వేదం వంటి అత్యంత అపురూపమైన బహుమతి ఇచ్చినందుకు పాశ్చాత్య ప్రపంచం ప్రాచ్య ప్రపంచానికి ఎప్పుడూ ఋణపడి ఉంటుంది. ‘’

వోల్టేర్ ఇస్లాం, క్రైస్తవాన్ని గురించి ఇలా మాట్లాడితే , ఆధునిక వోల్టేర్ నని చెప్పుకుంటున్న కంచ ఐలయ్య మాత్రం అందుకు పూర్తి విరుద్ధంగా వేదాలను తిట్టిపోసి, ఇస్లాం, క్రైస్తవాలను నెత్తిన పెట్టుకోవడం విచిత్రం.  దీనినిబట్టి కంచ ఐలయ్య అబద్దాలకోరని, వోల్టేర్ వంటివారి పేరు చెప్పుకుని మేధావిగా చెలామణి అవాలనుకుంటున్న అజ్ఞాని అని తెలుస్తోంది.

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Voltaire on Islam and Christianity – Does Kancha Ilaiah Agree with him ?

VoltaireKancha Ilaiah presents himself as a modern day Voltaire in a TV9 interview “Murali Krishna Encounter with Kancha Ilaiah – TV 9 “!
…and media doesn’t question whether he agrees with Voltaire on his views
Voltaire on Christianity
His comments on Christianity ” In a letter to Frederick II, King of Prussia, dated 5 January 1767, he wrote about Christianity:
La nôtre [religion] est sans contredit la plus ridicule, la plus absurde, et la plus sanguinaire qui ait jamais infecté le monde.
“Our [religion] is assuredly the most ridiculous, the most absurd and the most bloody religion which has ever infected this world. Your Majesty will do the human race an eternal service by extirpating this infamous superstition, I do not say among the rabble, who are not worthy of being enlightened and who are apt for every yoke; I say among honest people, among men who think, among those who wish to think. … My one regret in dying is that I cannot aid you in this noble enterprise, the finest and most respectable which the human mind can point out..
Voltaire on Islam
Voltaire’s views about Islam remained negative; he considered the Qur’an to be ignorant of the laws of physics. In a 1740 letter to Frederick II of Prussia, Voltaire ascribes to Muhammad a brutality that “is assuredly nothing any man can excuse” and suggests that his following stemmed from superstition and lack of enlightenment. Voltaire continued in his letter, “But that a camel-merchant should stir up insurrection in his village; that in league with some miserable followers he persuades them that he talks with the angel Gabriel; that he boasts of having been carried to heaven, where he received in part this unintelligible book, each page of which makes common sense shudder; that, to pay homage to this book, he delivers his country to iron and flame; that he cuts the throats of fathers and kidnaps daughters; that he gives to the defeated the choice of his religion or death: this is assuredly nothing any man can excuse, at least if he was not born a Turk, or if superstition has not extinguished all natural light in him.”
Voltaire on Hinduism 
Voltaire comments on the sacred texts of the Hindus, the Vedas,
“The Veda was the most precious gift for which the West had ever been indebted to the East.”
Contrary to Voltaire, Kancha Ilaiah has great respect for Christianity and Islam and Vedic texts as oppressive texts.
Kancha Ilaiah is a liar who hides behind great people like Voltaire to present himself as a free thinker.  

Dr.Ambedkar – An academician, economist, politician and a Patriot

A Talk by Sri Milind Oak at a program organised by Bharatiya Vichar Manch & Dr.Ambedkar Trust at Gujarath ; Covers a great deal of ground on his contributions in academics, social life, politics and social movements. The talk throws a lot of light on the legacy that Dr.Ambedkar inherited in the “Dalit” movement and how within a span of 2 decades, he was able to wean the depressed classes away from the separatists due to his extensive work.

 

Social Equality is a Matter of Conviction for Us – Dr. Mohanji Bhagwat

RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat with his call for ‘One Temple, One Cremation Ground and One Water-body’ for all in a non-discriminatory way has provided a new action programme for social equality and harmony. Many outside the RSS circles are also appreciating the initiative. The third Sarsanghachalak of RSS, Shri Balasaheb Deoras provided momentum to the social thrust to this reformist thinking, which now Shri Mohan Bhagwat is carrying forward. On the sidelines of the RSS Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha held at Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, Organiser Editor Prafulla Ketkar and Panchjanya Editor Hitesh Shankar spoke to him on Balasaheb Deoras, his contribution to Samrasata and the way ahead. Excerpts:

 Since 1925 itself, Samrasata has been in the basic nature of RSS. Later, Balasaheb Deoras was a great inspiration in this endeavour. How do you look at his contribution?

The organisation of Hindu society is impossible without Samrasata (social harmony). Therefore, non-discriminatory approach is mandatory for unifying the Hindu society and this has been there in the RSS since its inception. However, the strength of RSS has increased over a period of time. In the RSS, Samrasata has been in practice since its formation. But when Balasaheb took over as the Sarsanghachalak, the atmosphere in the society started becoming conducive for listening to what RSS says, to think over it and to experiment over it, at least to some extent.  Today, the influence of RSS is much higher, then it was not that great, but it was just a beginning. This egalitarian approach of RSS was necessary for the society as well. Therefore, after assuming the responsibility of Sarsanghachalak, Balasaheb unequivocally declared about the ‘social thrust’ as the main objective of the organisation. To make the meaning of this clear to the Swayamsevaks and also to the society at large, Balasaheb deliberately prepared for months together and delivered his famous address in the Vasant Vyakhyanmala (a lecture series organised at Pune  on May 8,1974). The practice was prevalent within the Sangh but the thought process behind this was made clear to the Swayamsevaks through that address and a message was delivered to the larger society as well.

What was the impact of this insistence on Samrasata by Sangh on the society?

Sangh’s belief in Hindutva is a well-known fact. What would be the Sangh’s approach towards the caste system that is predictably associated with the term ‘Hindu’? There were well-intended people in the society who believed that this organisation must be in support of the caste system or caste-based discrimination. Then, this issue was publicly discussed about the Sangh. This perception was there and there were many people who used this to unfairly target the RSS. But when Balasaheb categorically said that the ‘untouchability should be thrown lock, stock and barrel’, these discussions immediately came to an end. With this, Swayamesevaks also garnered courage to present their position in the society. The Samrasata was there in practice but common Swayamsevaks were not aware about the ideological edifice of those actions. Balasaheb’s speech unfolded all this, the thinking and the corresponding steps, clear for the Swayamsevaks. They also became more confident about their position in the society. The suspicion of the genuine people in the society was removed with this clear position. This facilitated many things. There are many instances where RSS Swayamsevaks stood by the victims of discrimination when many in the society were not ready to take a clear position.

After the historical speech of Balasaheb Deoras at Vasant Vyakhyanmala which new dimensions were added to the Sangh work?

Naturally, many new dimensions were added with the beginning of work with the society. The churning started about what are the problems of these groups who are victims of social discrimination, what do they think and what are the remedies to bridge the huge gap that has emerged in the society. In the same process initiative of Samajik Samrasata Manch was started. Special efforts were made to establish contact with different social groups and bring them to RSS Shakha activity; especially the social groups that were psychologically uncomfortable in calling themselves as Hindus due to discriminatory practices were focussed on. Resultantly, the strength of Hindu organisation was added to the larger struggle for self-respect by various groups.

What measures would you suggest to eradicate the social discrimination?

The first and foremost remedy is a continuous process in which we should learn to completely reject all kinds of discriminations in our personal, family, professional and social behaviour. We will have to change our habits for that. For instance, there are many proverbs that are still in usage. Many a times we use it not to demean certain communities but it hurts the people who are the victims of discrimination. We will have to consciously get rid of such usages and habits. Sometimes, though we are mentally and morally convinced about principle of equality, some of our habits do not allow us to act accordingly. We will have to change such habits. Whether we have really discarded the discriminatory practices and inculcated the egalitarian values will be tested again and again, particularly, by our own people with whom we want to connect with for building a non-discriminatory and harmonious society. Even in our normal behaviour such values will have to be nurtured. For instance, I went to somebody’s place. I am not thirsty, still water was offered and I did not have water, this action of mine can also  create doubt about my intent of not having water, even though I did not mean anything. Shri Guruji once set an excellent example through his action. A Swayamsevak invited Shri Guruji for a cup of tea. He used to stay in a small hut, in a condition of absolute poverty. When Guruji went there, couple of karyakartas accompanied him. The place was so small that one could see his mother preparing tea while sitting on a chair near door. The utensils were not clean; there was no tea strainer; the tea was strained with a cloth that was also not very clean. When the tea was offered, someone said I don’t have tea, the other said I had a lot of tea since morning. Guruji happily had tea. While returning, the accompanying karyakartas asked, how could you have that tea? Shri Guruji replied, you were observing the tea, I was drinking his love and affection. Such conscious but obvious efforts are needed. The society needs love and respect. So our behaviour should be to protect the self-respect of all. We have to get habitual to this.

Secondly, many issues arise in public life, like inter-caste marriages. Those issues also face opposition. We insist that Swayamsevaks should stand in favour of such reformative measures. Generally, it happens and it should happen. If you take a survey, you will find more Swayamsevaks with inter-caste marriages than anybody else. We observe that in our personal interactions. Two messages were sent to the couple involved in the first public inter-caste marriage in Maharashtra, one was that of Dr Ambedkar and the other was by Shri Guruji. In his congratulatory message, Shri Guruji wrote that not because of physical attraction but to register a protest against the caste system, you are tying this knot through an inter-caste marriage, I support this marriage and convey my best wishes. This message was conveyed to the Swayamsevaks also.

Sangh Swayamsevaks should take such public position, without getting carried away by momentary public sentiments or self-arrogance. It is necessary that Swayamsevaks take a lead role while keeping the social unity, integrity and harmony in mind to sincerely and fearlessly carry out that role.

What are the major obstacles in the path of Samrasata?

As I said earlier, the biggest hurdle is our habits and mindset. We have been practising certain things for more than two thousand years, in which Adharma is followed in the name of Dharma. If we can’t desist our fascination for old things then by breaking it, we have to stand by truth and justice, as Balasaheb clearly said – ‘it should be thrown lock, stock and barrel’.

The issue of discrimination crops up in the form of injustice incurred by ancient Brahminical system. When our ancestors are discussed as selfish and arrogant, the first obvious reaction is to defend our forefathers. The person is actually referring to the inhuman treatment of discrimination, which he has been facing for thousands of years. Take it as his genuine anger and support his stand on equality. If your ancestors and ancient traditions are great, then they are not going to belittle by anyone’s accusations. If there is an injustice, we have to oppose it. Once a Sangh Karyakarta was asked in a programme that you revere Prabhu Shri Ram as an icon of Hindus, do you also support his slaying of Shambuka? This is a tricky question for a Hindu. It creates the dilemma of denouncing Prabhu Ram or supporting the killing of Shambuka. The RSS Karyakarta replied in a very brave and intelligent manner. He said, first of all I should congratulate you as somebody who has sent you to ask this question and you have come well prepared. Through this question you have accepted that someone with name of Ram existed in our history. This is a great thing. Now whether Ram really killed Shambuka, this is a debatable issue as many believe that this whole chapter is added in Uttar-Ramayana (later part). The Ram we worship only killed the unjust and devil king. Slaying of Shambuka is not a matter of respect for us with reference to Prabhu Ram and if it is ever proved that Ram was responsible for the killing of Shambuka, we will denounce that. This kind of clear position we should be able to take. This does not amount to the insult of our forefathers. Savarkarji used to say, do not blame the ancestors for wrong things but denounce the wrong doings of forefathers respectfully. This is very easy to say but very difficult to practise as it gives a feeling of diffidence. In such practical issues, even if our self-interest is hampered we should stand for the just and righteous cause. In this process, we many a times have to face the social reaction. We have to learn how to manage that and how to respect that. We should strive to garner enough courage to deal with such situations.

Another aspect is, we have to accept that due to the discrimination of thousands of years, there would be anger, sometimes even hatred and still we should continue to strive for building bridges. We should remain confident that after exhaling the anger, the hatred will subside. Simultaneously, there are forces who are interested in vitiating the atmosphere. This conspiracy is going on. We have to deal with them as well. Therefore, with love and care, we have to raise people in each and every community who stand for unity, integrity and harmony. This is the need of the hour and also a continuous process.

As you said, nurturing Samrasata is a continuous process. What would be the role of different sections of the society in this process?

An interesting corollary was given by Pt Deendayalji. He said, if you have to pull out someone from a pit, then it is not sufficient that he is ready to come out of it by raising his hands and lifting his foot, the person who is outside the pit also has to bend down. This process has started. The hesitance of bending down from above should go away.  We should strive hard to extend our hand to the best possible extent for helping others. Secondly, we need to be calm in thinking, communication and action. Balasaheb in his speech said that untouchability and injustice is clearly visible. Ultimately, we are one society, so it is our responsibility to maintain harmony in it. We cannot persist with the conflict of perpetrators of untouchability and victims of untouchability. If we do not want to widen the rift, if we want peace and harmony, then both the sides should get rid of abusive language. One section has to realise that the anger of thousands of years is being expressed and therefore not to react with similar anger is needed. The other side should learn to tone down the language while expressing their anger for reducing the social strife and gap. We can articulate injustice in a respectful way. The leaders also use discretion for ending all kinds of injustice.  A system should be developed in such a way that no one with intent of injustice can rise again. This all should be done with the objective of unifying the society. The system should have inbuilt provisions to maintain the egalitarian system, new suggestions should be accepted. By assimilating everyone in this process, if we start exhibiting this in our action, without waiting for others, then this objective would be attained earlier and faster.

What are the future plans of RSS in this process of social transformation?

The fundamental plan of Sangh is to assimilate all through sincere actions. Whatever may be the external situation, people of all sections of the society should be friendly to each other. As people from same social groups become friends,  their families  get connected, natural interactions begin and family level affection develops,  this has to happen across the sections. Wherever such actions are taken, genuine efforts for equality should be  made, we should support and strengthen  them, and try making them  successful and victorious. This is our work. The victims of injustice should get  justice at the earliest. The practice of equality is imitated all over and there should be cordial dialogue in this direction. Therefore, undertaking surveys, talking to people on these issues, and convincing people on the same, are the new initiatives taken. Many new measures can come up in this process.

Recently you gave  a call for One Temple, One Crematorium and One Water-body. What kind of response you are getting from the leaders of various sects and religions?

Almost, all responses  are positive. The principle behind this call got cent per cent  acceptance. But those who do not understand Sangh or oppose it for the sake of it would  comment  why now or would say it is  too late. So the call for One Temple, One Crematorium and One Water-body was not opposed per se but a question mark was certainly put on the intention behind this. Or else they said it is merely a sloganeering. The issue was not directly opposed by anyone. On the other hand, a large section of society rejoiced at the call . The victims of discrimination certainly saw a ray of hope.

There is an incident behind this call. Before my Vijayadashmi speech in which I gave this all, I went to Palamuru in Telangana, where many Swayamsevaks are there from the so-called backward sections of the society. I was the Sarkaryavah then. A so-called Dalit leader with Left leanings was sharing the  stage  with me. I spoke first and then he addressed the gathering. I was supposed to speak on Samajik Samarasta (Social Harmony), which I did. After that he publicly accepted that I thought RSS to be a caste-ridden organisation but what I am seeing here is Sangh is full of our own people and some of them are full-timers. I just listened to the RSS General Secretary, and could not believe that the Sangh could publicly take such a stand. He asked whether this is a genuine position of RSS. After his speech, in an informal discussion, I assured him that this is what Sangh believes in. It is a matter of conviction for us. He was surprised with that. After that we remained in touch. He interacted regularly with the local level office bearers, sometimes even communicated with them. In one of such discussion, I said the issue of temple, crematorium and waterbody should go first in the society as these are the issues of day-to-day experience. He said, you will not say this publicly. I said, I am going to say this, you attend the Vijayadashmi function to listen to this. He actually visited Nagpur to see whether I actually took  this position or not. Now he himself speaks among his community leaders about this position of Sangh. He advises them not to keep RSS people away. Such kind of leadership, not embroiled in political interests and still really represent the so-called Dalits, would certainly be happy about such initiatives. They would be positive about  Sangh. The message will be conveyed to the whole nation.

How far politically favourable atmosphere helps in furthering this cause of Samrasta?

Politically favourable atmosphere can be helpful only in one sense, if people in politics decide to do so. Wherever people in favour of social equality are in power, there they ensure the strict implementation of the Constitutional and other legal provisions pertaining to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Even if the government ensures the timely allocation of funds and appointing the right person for the right job, that itself would be a big job.   Fifty percent of systemic issues would be resolved by this. These provisions are already there, we just have to implement them in right spirit. We believe that wherever Swayamesevaks are in government positions, they should focus on this aspect. We can only insist on this and we are doing this sincerely.

What can be the role models for creating Samaras (harmonious) and integral society? What can be the inspiration for the same?

The real inspiration is in our culture itself – truth, compassion, purity and austerity are four pillars of Dharma. What is the Truth? The truth is our biggest conviction that the same eternal principle exists in everyone and everyone is the manifestation of that. Nobody is big or small, ours or aliens. All are ours. The obvious corollary of this is to be compassionate to all. Dharma, means the principles that hold the society, it starts with the two principles, all are mine and I am there in others. Therefore there should not be any degeneration in the system. This compassion comes from the feeling of affinity. If such person is pure, without any self-interest, then he would surely dedicate his life to the public good. Such a life would take him to the path of Dharma.

Therefore, Dharma, the four principles that hold our society is the crux of our culture. All our religious texts, whether, Bhagwadgeeta, Shri Bhagwat Puran, Shiv Puran or the message of Tathagat Bhagwan Buddha, convey us the same thing. All our Bharatiya traditions, may be having different paths, may be having differences on primacy of matter or spirit but their instructions for our actual behaviour are the same. It is not there only in a written form. Thousands of Saintly people actually led that life. This is not only true with the ancient Saints but with modern monks. Swamy Vivekananda celebrated the festival of feeding labourers working in the Varahanagar Muth. Service to man is service to God was the message he conveyed to all. To experience the pain of being an untouchable, Gadage Baba, a modern Saint in Maharashtra used to go to roadside water well and ask for drinking water. He used to fetch water himself on the instruction of the farmer. When suddenly he use to ask about his caste and he would not tell his caste and experience the literal lashes. Dr Ambedkar himself did that many a times. So we have such lives to follow even in modern times that made great sacrifices for the cause of social harmony. This is a great inspiration in itself. This is my society and my nation is the biggest inspiration one can have. If my own people are living in a despicable condition then what is the use of my name and fame. If I travel around the world, then the issue of caste-based discrimination would be a matter of shame and not pride. Devotion towards society, nation and culture is a significant force which we should create amongst all.

Inherent Unity in diversity is the biggest strength of the Hindu society. Why there is a competition to create divisions in it?

The main reason of such divisions is forgetting the nature of one’s true self. Once I consider a section of my society as enemy, then to protect my own interest I would oppose you at any cost. There are examples of inviting even enemies of the nation for protecting selfish interests. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar during the deliberations in the Constituent Assembly, warned against the same. He categorically said that no foreigner could win over Bharat on his own strength. We lost because of our divisions and some people betrayed our own nation. This has been part of our history, which should not be repeated.

Therefore, we have to revive the basic principles of unity. There are many forces which are working to widen this gulf of divisions for self-interests. Instead of fighting against such forces time and again, it is better we strengthen our unifying tendencies and act accordingly.

You travel throughout the nation; you have been reiterating this subject of Samrasata time and again. How do you see the end-result of this?

See, insisting on Samrasta and inspiring the actions based on this in all aspects is necessary and we are trying to do the same. I am sure, one day this would bear the fruits and whole society will accept this. The divisive tendencies are counting their days. There are few people who are making necessary corrections and trying to follow the path of Samrasta. The larger section of society generally follow the trend. We have to strengthen the voice of righteousness, the society will follow it. Babasaheb used to say that numerous efforts are being made to create a discrimination-free, egalitarian and exploitation-free society. Many people have sacrificed their lives. I sincerely feel that we will get the cumulative result of all those efforts and soon we will have a  discrimination-free society.

Courtesy: Organiser

How drinking alcohol harms women. Its Increase Is Alarming

A brief from a Sunday Times Article states ” Alcohol companies are targeting Indian women as they begin to abandon traditional taboos about drinking alcohol in public and for the first time join men at the bar.

Women who drink have traditionally been frowned upon and portrayed negatively in Bollywood movies. But as they become increasingly economically independent, women now represent one of the biggest growth sectors of India’s £6.6bn drinks sector.

The women’s market, although still relatively small, is expected to grow by 25% over the next five years, according to the Indian Centre for Alcohol Studies, a research body. “

On the other hand there is overwhelming evidence of the high impact of alcohol on both men and women but especially on women. Alcohol companies see a blue ocean in the women segment since this was by far largely untapped in Bharat. Hence a huge investment to make it appear cool !

Rather than shaming Indian women (and men) who don’t want to drink, through peer pressure and barbs, let’s consider respecting their, perhaps more sensible, choices instead, says Sankrant Sanu.

women-no-to-alcohol

Shruti, a student I know of at an engineering college in India, spoke to me of the pressure to adopt the ‘bar culture’ — being associated with ‘progressive modernity’.

A mixed group of her friends had gone to a nightclub in Delhi. Most of the students in the group were drinking, but Shruti preferred not to. She was told she was being a ‘Sati-Savitri’ for refusing to consume alcohol. Not ‘blending-in’ would result in shaming.

‘They make you feel aloof from the group,’ she reported in a Whatsapp chat, ‘And no matter how hard you try you can’t gel with them.’

I call this ‘Savitri shaming,’ a social ostracism as potent as the much-talked-of ‘slut shaming’.

There is nothing particularly ‘progressive’ or ‘liberated’ about drinking alcohol, either for men or women. In rural areas in India, the campaign against alcohol consumption by men is often led by women (external link). These women experience first-hand the consequences of alcoholism — blowing up of precious savings, domestic violence and breakdown of families.

In urban India, alcohol consumption is being pushed as the new ‘cool’, where often in the past it was looked down upon — people from ‘good families’ didn’t drink.

The media and urban messaging is especially targeting women as part of the drinking culture. Is this really ‘feminist’? Studies have shown that alcohol is even worse for women than men. The US National Institute of Health concludes (external link) that ‘drinking is much more risky for women than it is for men. A study by the Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia showed (external link) that ‘women get drunk, high and addicted faster than men.’

According to Susan Foster, director of the centre:

‘A woman’s body contains less water and more fatty tissue — which increases alcohol absorption — compared to a male body. And women have a lower activity level of an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, which breaks down alcohol.”

Alcohol in even moderate amounts has been shown to increase risk of breast cancer in women, whereas the slight benefits of lower heart disease in some cases doesn’t apply to women below 55. Heavy drinking is even worse, leading to higher risks of liver damage, cancer, brain impairment and heart disease. The NIH estimates that 5.3 million women in the US ‘ drink in a way that threatens their health, safety, and general wellbeing. A strong case can be made that heavy drinking is more risky for women than men.’

Another NIH study (external link) shows alcohol use, by men and women, is also a major factor in sexual assaults.

‘Conservative estimates of sexual assault prevalence suggest that 25 per cent of American women have experienced sexual assault, including rape. Approximately one-half of those cases involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, victim, or both.’

Given an American society grappling with the ill-effects of alcoholism and showing a horrendous rate of sexual assaults, why would we emulate this drinking culture and call it ‘progressive’?

I heard other accounts from women in corporate settings who’re told they must drink to socialise with their (male) clients. Is this progressive or regressive?

Shruti recounted the increasing peer pressure to drink in college:

“It’s a ‘status symbol’. I was being forced to take a sip at least. And they would have had made me drink it if one of my friend hadn’t stood up for me. They were like it’s an awesome feeling … try it and get high and enjoy the world. Girls (were trying to make me drink) even harder.”

It used to be the stereotype that women from ‘good families’ didn’t drink. Now the mindless aping of a harmful practice, one that Western society is struggling to overcome, has been made ‘cool,’ while those who resist are derided as ‘Sati-Savitris.’

Who is Savitri? The story of Savitri and Satyavan is a love story of a courageous woman who challenged death itself to save her husband and love, Satyavan. Savitri represents commitment, loyalty, fidelity, courage and true love. Savitri-shaming denigrates all these values as ‘patriarchal’! What then is the alternative society?

Apparently the society we are asked to take as our model is one which has a sexual assault rape of 25 per cent, over 10 times that of India’s. A society in which the divorce rate is 20-40 times as high as in India (external link). Who benefits from the lack of commitment to the relationship?

In the US, women bear the brunt of divorce (external link). According to law professor Lenore Weitzman’s book Divorce Revolution, ‘A typical woman endures a 73 per cent reduction in her standard of living after a divorce. Her typical ex-husband enjoys a 42 per cent increased standard of living.’

As per a Brookings report (external link), ‘Single parents have much lower incomes and much higher poverty rates than their married counterparts.’ It also adds that ‘there is near-consensus that the retreat from marriage has not been good for children.’

Biologically promiscuity also has disproportionate consequence for women. In case of resulting pregnancy (and we know there is no foolproof contraception), women are often left holding the bag (and the baby). They need to either subject their bodies to drugs or surgery to terminate the pregnancy or deal with the consequence of an unwanted pregnancy and the potential of ending up as single mothers.

The men can shoot and scoot. I’m not advocating that men should be irresponsible; but that the reality is they have less consequences for being so.

In effect, marriage is an institution that serves women. Many men would be quite happy sleeping around given available women. As ‘players’, men who make conquering and dumping women into a game, know this is easier to do when a woman is drinking since it lowers inhibitions. Men are happy with a culture of drinking and no-strings-attached sex where women bear the disproportionate responsibilities.

‘Progressive’ feminists may inadvertently push the cause of patriarchy in decrying ‘slut-shaming’ while pushing for ‘Savitri-shaming’ in an attempt to replicate a troubled Western society. Women do not need to be slut-shamed for ‘dressing provocatively’ or victim-blamed for assault. Nor should they be shamed as ‘behenjis’ or ‘Savitri-shamed’ for dressing traditionally or refusing to drink alcohol.

Rather than shaming Indian women (and men) who don’t want to drink with peer pressure and barbs, let’s consider respecting their, perhaps more sensible, choices instead.

Sources 

Sunday Times Article – Taboo Broken as Indian Women Get Taste for Drinking

Rediff Article #SavitriShaming and how drinking harms women