India: violent and caste ridden society

Shared by Dr. Syed Ehtisham

EOM: Worth reading article. How much Indian journalists are objective and critical of their environment.

In the land of Kama Sutra —–Our popular culture celebrates violence, but frowns on any expression of love. Marriage is a house-keeping, bonded-labour arrangement. The powerful cultural hegemony of the rich castes and classes has cast its spell on the rest, even the poor and the deprived, who emulate this cultural charade even more seriously. It is an India that has forgotten how to love.

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Lovesick in the time of anti-Romeos

By Padmaja Shaw | The New Indian Express – 24th April 2017

Freud famously said, “In the last resort we must begin to love in order not to fall ill, and we are bound to fall ill if … we are unable to love”. Love is an essential human instinct that keeps us sane. It transcends all artificial categories of caste, class, religion, race or ethnicity.

It is evident from the increasing attacks on young people in love, whether in the name of caste, anti-Romeo squads or love jihad, that we are surrounded by a muscular but sick society that considers love a bad word—a bad emotion. It is incapable of understanding that to love is to realise one’s humanity in its truest sense.9

A loveless sick society destroys the effervescence of a Romeo’s love for his consenting Juliet. Madhukar Manthani of Telangana and V Shankar of Kumaralingam village in TN were brutally killed for being in love with a higher caste girl. Neither were stalkers. Their love was reciprocated.

Our popular culture celebrates violence, but frowns on any expression of love. This was said in the 1960s by the Khosla committee report on film censorship. Nothing much has changed since.

Love was never much of a factor in traditional marriages, primarily because of endogamy and the mandated age difference between men and women. Sex in marriage is to fulfil the duty of procreation, it should not be confused with love.

Many a time, when young brides complain to their families about the coldness of the relationship with their spouse, mothers advice them to get a baby quickly to establish their position in the family.

Of course, mostly nothing changes. The woman just gets busier, with no time to think about the vast emptiness within her soul.

This equation is also the basis of marriages where caste, community and religion are important. The bride must understand her place in family and society. No new indoctrination should be necessary. She should be “homely, well-brought up” to fit into the family from day one, and is not supposed to recognise love if it stares her in the face.

And the ability of the young bride to make food allowed and relished by the community is ensured. The bride is seamlessly integrated into the family. The age difference between men and women insisted upon in arranged marriages is to ensure that women stay fit enough to serve the men in old age.

Marriage is a house-keeping, bonded-labour arrangement. This, in essence, is the root of anxiety about youngsters finding mates of their choice, the anxiety that such independent women may not play their assigned role.

With wives fully occupied with perpetuation of the bloodline, men are free to find their pleasures elsewhere, without attracting any social opprobrium. The devadasis and joginis are an artful exploitation of unattached women with full religious approval under the noses of presiding deities.

In the orthodox mind, this thing called love is a dangerous emotion. It is associated with joy in another being that thrives outside the accepted social relations they are familiar with. So every time it sees a couple happily in love, the orthodox mind rises up in rage as whatever love they themselves experienced in their taboo world is associated with illegitimacy. The well-brought-up girl you are married to is not supposed to know anything about love. In a woman, it reflects an autonomy of spirit that can pose a threat to the male authority.

Killing our own kind for reasons other than threat to one’s very survival goes against species loyalty. But in India, we see incidents of murder and violence perpetrated daily against people of a different faith or caste to “protect the honour of the family”. Humans have exploited colour, language, gods and demeanour to differentiate between groups. In this process of pseudo-speciation, we have created artificial divisions and differentiations that allow us to disrespect basic loyalty to our own species. The caste system is a despicable example of such pseudo-speciation. Humans across races, ethnicities and colour can cohabit and reproduce. Such pseudo-speciation that is socio-culturally manufactured and imposed ensures that people do not break out of the traps of exploitation and discrimination.

The young people of India are emerging out of the stranglehold of these divisions and becoming more human, by the fact that they are able to love someone transcending the social boundaries. It is also a healthy sign that the very ability to love also makes them saner and more empathetic. It allows them to see through the social and political games played by those who want to preserve old structures and orthodoxies that are designed for accumulation of wealth and ensuring the right to its enjoyment through a rigid system of succession within bloodlines. An elaborate cultural charade of family honour and purity of descent is built around it to justify this basic objective. Everyone and everything—women, children, gods, faith, rituals—are subordinate to this overarching purpose. The powerful cultural hegemony of the rich castes and classes has cast its spell on the rest, even the poor and the deprived, who emulate this cultural charade even more seriously.

This is the 21st century India that stakes its claim to global leadership. It is an India that has forgotten how to love. The “anti-Romeo squads” and the “anti-love-jihadists” are coercing the young back into their caste and community, essentially to preserve the upper class/caste hegemony. Only in such fragmented soil can divisive politics thrive. Are we tacitly approving self-righteous vigilante violence, allowing them to destroy love around us by keeping silent? Or are we silent because the vigilantes are the foot soldiers who are ensuring the perpetuation of our little empires without us getting our hands dirty? Is a dead son here and a dead daughter there a small price to pay for a superpower that has taken ill?

(The author is a retired journalism professor, Osmania University. Email: padmajashaw@gmail.com)