Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gandhi, the patron saint of misogynists

This article, written curiously in a cynical street language, comes up every now and then in forums.

I suppose the claim that Gandhi's legacy is responsible for misogynism in India is preposterous. First of all, his attitude towards women aren't wellknown and second, none of his legacies meant anything in post-independence India. However, his own misogynistic attitude isn't surprising considering the society he was born and brought up. Even then I thought the following claim sounds bit out of character.

Gandhi believed Indian women who were raped lost their value as human beings. He argued that fathers could be justified in killing daughters who had been sexually assaulted for the sake of family and community honour. He moderated his views towards the end of his life. But the damage was done, and the legacy lingers in every present-day Indian press report of a rape victim who commits suicide out of "shame". Gandhi also waged a war against contraceptives, labelling Indian women who used them as whores.
The Gandhi I knew would have said that sexually assaulted females should commit suicide by some grotesque means (true to his Jain philosophy of inwardly directed violence).

Unfortunately, the writer didn't mention what were his moderated views. I suppose just to confirm this point I have to buy and read Rita Banerji's book "Sex and Power". But when I read the introduction, it was a dampener.

As squeamish as India is today about sex, this is also the land where queens once copulated with dead horses at religious ceremonies, where the art of love-making was declared the revelation of the gods and recorded in elaborate detail in the kama sutras and prostitution was a form of sacred offering at temples adorned with erotic sculptures.
Ritualized sexual antics don't represent open society. The past society was also barbarically misogynistic by present day standards. And past is irrelevant anyway to define our present character. I just want to check whether the book contains proper references for that claim against Gandhi. If yes, I guess the quality of his moderated views only can save him from the barbaric deviation of his philosophy.


anilkurup said...

The allegation on Gandhi , is vile and absolute nonsense. None of the writings on him, even the most vituperative has spelled such an allegation.
His philosophy of man- woman relationship and the sanctity he assigned to wedlock is well known.
It is better to ignore such comments as the poem on Gandhi by the young poet, Ms Meena Knadasamy. She alleged in the poem that Gandhi was anti Dalit and a scoundrel. Well her opinion, but such intemperate opinion took the sheen away from her work. Surprising how a learned woman like her understood Gandhi such.
As for misogyny, well it has been there since the advent of Man and India is no aberration.
The Biblical story of creation itself assigns secondary status to woman and she is an offshoot from the man’s ribs.

Manjax Wafer said...

From an anti-caste point of view, Gandhi is indeed a villain. He opposed the caste discrimination but nevertheless maintained its legitimacy with some nonsensical arguments. Even though the ideas were diluted he never abandoned them (which could have made him acceptable ).

If anti-casteists accept him, how would they reconcile with his support for the Varnashrama? At the same time, he can't be ignored too as his memory and ideas are still mainstream and they have to face it.

I suppose an anti-casteist would view Gandhi's support of caste identity but opposition to the discrimination in a similar way an atheist would view a theist's support of spiritualism but opposition to the organized religion. Both caste identity and spiritualism were the basis of evils that were built around them.

It is in this context, Gandhi should be completely opposed as otherwise his ideas still partly resonant with that of the casteists (even though he was hated and killed by them for other reasons).

From a Dalit anti-casteist's point of view Gandhi was also guilty of hindering Ambedkar's single minded pursuit of Dalits' emancipation. I suppose many non-Dalits also agree with that sentiment. Ms. Meena Kandasamy is perfectly justified in writing that poem(I suppose this one). She's not talking from an academician point of view.

anilkurup said...

Could you be more specific and elucidate on the point you mentioned that Gandhi was the villain of the piece vis a vis Ambaedkars agenda for emancipation?

Manjax Wafer said...

Please google for "Poona pact". You can find many articles and You Tube videos related to that.