REVERENCE: The new India consist of the Hindu majority who consider the cow to be holy and their mother and cannot understand why people should eat beef
The new hero of India is not the English-speaking elite like the Nehru or Gandhi family or even Vajpayee or Advani. The new heroes of India are the Bahubalis, like the baap of Bahubalis Narendra Modi, or young RSS pracharaks who love the cow and hate anyone who disagrees with them. We have to understand this ground reality if we have to fight the growing intolerance and violence against independent thinkers like Gauri Lankesh
By Rajan Narayan
THE new hero of India is not Superman or Spiderman. The new hero of India is not Robocop and not even James Bond. The new hero of India is Bahubali. The word Bahubali in the context of rural India means the don, the strong man. A Robin Hood who may be a criminal. The new heroes of India are not the western, anglicised super heroes which English speaking children look up to as role models. They are not even the Shah Rukh Khan and the Amir Khans. Their heros are the Khiladis. Their heros are the Bahubalis who are very often seen as criminals with golden hearts. The country is now ruled by these Bahubalis and the leader of the Bahubalis and their patron saint is Narendra Modi who is also the baap of Bahubalis.
For 65 or more years, since India became independent, it was ruled by the English speaking westernised elite — generations of leaders who were part of the well-educated, aware, liberal generation. Starting with Jawaharlal Nehru, who was a product of English liberal education and thinking. Followed by the Indira Gandhi dynasty which included her son Rajiv Gandhi, and daughter-in-law Sonia Gandhi. When Sonia Gandhi chose not to accept the Prime Minister-ship in the wake of controversy over her Italian origin, she appointed Manmohan Singh who was again part of the westernised elite.
Even the first NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani were part of the same elite. Both Vajpayee, who was the prime minister, and LK Advani, who was the king maker, belonged to the upper class. Vajpayee was a writer and a poet, and liked the good things in life, like his peg of scotch in the evening. Advani was ironically a student of Catholic schools. When the post-Godhra riots took place, Vajpayee wanted Modi to be sacked because he was not following the raj dharma. According to Vajpayee the duty of the ruler was to protect all citizens irrespective of which community they belong. Moreover the BJP has never enjoyed as total a majority as it does now and was dependent on coalition partners for survival. At one stage even the left was part of the NDA. So much so, that even if the BJP wanted to implement pro-Hindutva policies it could not, because it did not have the numbers in Parliament.
The coming to power of Narendra Modi marks a shift from the English-speaking westernised elite to the vernacular rural Indian. Or perhaps you should see as it a shift from westernised India to traditional India. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi belongs to traditional India. So does new President Ram Nath Kovind. Overnight following the dramatic victory of the BJP in the 2014 election the levers of control shifted from the westernised elite to traditional India, which is in most cases is also the India which studied in regional language schools. This covers the entire rural India which still accounts for 80 per cent of the population. Even the migrants in the big cities and Goa are from the villages and have a traditional mind set.
UNLIKE in westernised India, in traditional India it is a sin to live together without getting married. In traditional India irrespective of whether you are a Catholic or a Muslim or a Hindu, if you get married your wife has an obligation to have sex with you. Indeed a lot of young people get married so that they can have sex on a regular basis besides getting a free cook and housekeeper. The very idea that a woman can refuse to have sex with a husband is unthinkable in traditional India. Indeed denial of conjugal rights is one of the conditions for getting a divorce under all personal laws including the Muslim, Catholic and Hindu personal laws.
So when feminists talk about marital rape, the people of traditional India cannot understand or accept the
idea. Because traditional India believes that it is the job of the husband to work and support the family and that it is the job of the wife to give the husband sex and look after the husband and the family. In traditional India husbands believe they have right to have sex with their wife whether the wife is in the mood or is willing or not. The wife has no choice. It is unthinkable for traditional India that the wife should refuse to have sex with her husband.
Which is why people who belong to traditional India which is Modi’s India are shocked when woman activists talk about freedom of choice. Not freedom of choice of medium of instruction or what is cooked at home, but the freedom of choice of a wife to refuse sex to her husband.
In a large number of Indian marriages it is a fact that men rape women; that most of the time sex is forced on women whether she wants it or not. It is accepted by society because traditional India believe that marriage is a license to rape your wife whenever you want whether she is willing or not. The wife has no say even when it comes to family planning. In most cases the husband will not do a nasbandhi (vasectomy) and very often will not permit the wife also to undergo an operation which will ensure that she will have no children. This despite the government policy the couple should not have more than two children. This has the effect of making the women even more physically and financially dependent on their husbands.
In contrast in western society marriage as an institution is collapsing. People prefer to live with their partners without getting married so that they will have the freedom to walk out whenever they want to. In a live-in relationship there is no question of the husband having sex with the girlfriend without her permission. Women activists not only consider sex with a married women without her permission or consent an act of rape but also go one step further.
They compare women who tolerate rape because they are economically dependent on their husbands as prostitutes. Not ‘prestitute’ — which is the favourite abuse of Hindutva fanatics against independent journalists — but prostitute as they sell their body under the excuse of marriage. This kind of abuse is unfortunately still happening in the rural area where young girls are married to much older people for money. In Muslim dominated areas like Hyderabad and rural UP young Muslim girls are sold and given in marriage to old Arabs by parents who are poor.
It is the reference by women activists to sex between a husband and wife, even when the wife is unwilling, as rape that makes traditional India angry. It is the reference by liberated women to their sisters who stay married to husbands who abuse them physically or mentally, as prostitutes, which makes traditional India angry. They cannot imagine that a wife has a choice in having sex with her husband. They cannot imagine the idea that a woman may reluctantly offer sex even in marriage in exchange for economic security and comfort with as a prostitute might. Which is why there have been angry posts on Facebook titled “She is calling our mother and our wives prostitutes so she deserves to die”.
This is not the only point of conflict between traditional India and westernised India. In traditional India you are taught to respect authority. Sons are expected to respect their fathers. Employees are expected to respect their employers. Lowers castes are expected to respect higher castes. It follows that you cannot abuse even the chief minister let alone the prime minister. The right to dissent is basically a western concept. In traditional Indian society you are expected to respect every kind of superior. Which is why traditional India gets angry when Modi is attacked. This is why traditional India is wild when abuses are heaped on Modi. This is not an isolated case. There have been several times when I have been attacked for covers of the Goan Observer showing the chief minister or other politicians as donkey’s etc.
APART from issues of marital rape and the right to dissent there are a whole range of other issues on which there is a culture gap between Modi’s India and traditional India. In Modi’s India the cow is still a holy cow. In a lot of villages in India at least for the Hindu community the cow is like a mother. The farmer may abandoned the cow when it stops giving milk. but traditional India still has very traditional values.
Traditional India believes that women should dress modestly. That women should not expose any part of their body. Women are not expected to expose their legs. Women are not expected to wear tank tops or other clothes which will exposed or highlight their breasts. Women are not expected to wear swimming suits even on the beaches. Which is why when women from traditional India come on a holiday to Goa they not only enter the sea with their sarees, but even try to swim in hotel pools with all their clothes. For traditional India a girl who wear jeans is besharam or shameless. For decades now young men from traditional India have been coming to Goa to stare at foreign women sun bathing on our beaches. Ironically the fair western women desperately want a brown tan. And Indian women who have a lowly brown tan eagerly want to become fairer. The value of a young women in the marriage market depends on how fair she is. A girl is never brown or dark in marriage advertisements. She is always wheat complexioned. For modern westernised Indians the colour of the skin or the clothes that a lady wears do not matter. What matters to them is the good nature and the intelligence and whether the girl can be an equal lifetime partner.
What the liberals, which includes me and many of us, do not realise, is that political control has shifted from the so called western modern India to the traditional Modi India. They not only disapprove of us who have no respect for leaders and do not believe in marriage and have no respect for the cow and do not care if women exposed their flesh but they cannot understand our point of view. This is because they cannot understand the kind of freedom that many of us who are westernised and rich and powerful and bold and beautiful take for granted. Because traditional India does not have freedom and does not understand freedom. Traditional India does not understand the responsibility which comes with freedom.
Similarly we, the part of westernised India which includes the majority of English media, do not understand the feelings of traditional India. We are not even willing to enter into a dialogue with them. We looked down upon him. For us they are ghantis just as Goans considered all outsiders ghantis. The gap is huge. They have not read same books as you have. They have not spoken in English from their childhood and do not understand the language. Particularly when similar sounding words can mean totally different things. ]
We may take pride in the fact that more and more people are becoming literate. But becoming literate does not mean being westernised. It does not even mean literacy in English. It does not mean that those who are literate and even those who are educated can eat with a folk and a spoon or used chop sticks in a Chinese restaurant. There are two different worlds. There is a saying that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. The ground reality is that traditional India, which accounts for the majority of Indians, are living in a planet different from that occupied by the westernised English specking elite.
We have to bridge this gap. Not by teaching or expecting traditional India to give up their values. Not by expecting them to embrace western culture and by giving up their own culture. There are many countries which are proud of their culture. The biggest country in terms of population of China are very protective about their culture. In fact leaders of most countries like Japan insist in speaking in their own language even at international conferences even if they know English. It is not his fault that Amit Shah the BJP president is more comfortable speaking an Hindi. If you live in Goa and you don’t understand Konkani it is not the fault of the local people. It is your fault for not learning the local language.
Even the British travel advisory advises citizens from England coming from an holiday to India to respect local customs and manners. Forget about foreigners even Indians girls who comes to Goa think that they have discovered freedom by changing into shorts or skirts. On my repeated trips to the Miramar beach to monitor the progress of Lucky Seven I can see young women in hot pants and with slits on their shoulder and arms and guys wearing torn jeans.
We need not accept the policies of the Modi government. We must protest against the growing intolerance. We must stop the attacks on those who eat beef by gau rakshaks. We must stop attacks and murders of rationalist and those who disagree of the Sangh Parivar. We have a right to criticized Modi just as the BJP has a right to criticized Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. But we have to bridge the commination gap between traditional conservative India and Modern westernized India. We are not in power they are. So we have to learn how to talk to them in their own language.
Social media, particularly Facebook has given even the vernaculars a voice. It has given the non-English speaking a platform. A platform which is not available to them in English newspapers. Or even regional language newspapers. Most of the information that the common man gets is from television and Facebook. Thanks to cheap data packs and the availability of smart phones on instalments everyone, however poor, has access to Facebook. So we now have a different democracy. A democracy in which anyone, including those who love Modi and cows and hate Gauri Lankesh and Rajan Narayan, can not only express their views but even abuse and threaten them. We have to accept that the elite who are polite and are restrained and do not use abuse normally now have to face the challenge of those for whom maa behen ka gali is normal. This is the new Bharat.