In the social media chatter and news reporting following the sermon by Jain Digambar monk Tarun Sagar at the Haryana Assembly, our own biases perhaps come to the fore. I wonder, if he wasn’t sermonising to our legislators in the nude, would his speech have gained such traction?
The media went to town with the fact that he was inside the assembly nude. As a web-journalist, I see the necessity in doing so – it does help to get more people to read about the idiocy. But we seem to have stopped at just laughing at his nudity and misogyny, not paying enough attention to how his ‘progressive’ solutions are really exemplary of the Indian conservative’s hypocritical new love and affection for women.
His not-so-veiled misogyny in calling for the eradication of female foeticide and saving the family unit shares much with the crimes he wants to control.
Here is an inferential paraphrasing of his logic for why the male to female ratio must be increased – because there are just 990 women for every 1000 men, 10 men will remain unmarried. So what will the frustrated men do? They will commit ‘paap’ – sins against women such as rape. To stop these sins, we have to change mindsets. And so we should bring in a rule that only politicians with female progeny are allowed to become leaders.
His intention, that female foeticide be stopped, does not excuse the patriarchal prejudice from which this intention arises. To say that women should be saved only so men can get married to them and stop committing rapes is to see women as objects that only exist to be used by men for their pleasure. And this reiterates age-old, conservative beliefs for why gender-based violence towards women occurs in the first place.
In the eyes of the maharaj, the girl child must be saved only because men who are forced to go without sex commit rapes, not because our society devalues human life based only on the criteria of the gender.
Take this view of the woman’s place into account, and it’s no wonder that he produces such a ‘beautiful’ comparison of the Dharma-Politics relationship to the Husband-Wife relationship. According to the maharaj, Dharma (pure) is like the husband, and politics (dirty) like the wife. Hence, just as the wife must follow the discipline of the husband, so politics must follow that of dharma, he says.
Of course, he adds that the husband should ‘protect’ the wife, and hence dharma must protect politics. In the process, women have no agency for themselves, no choice but to submit to the discipline of ‘moral’ men who will take care of them. But little else is expected when the line between the morally clean and the dirty is already defined by gender.
His ‘purification’ drive in the assembly is not an attempt at ‘saffronisation’, he says. One isn’t sure how he defines those words or what value he is putting to them. But saffron hues aside, his drive is nothing more than another rehash of the age-old, ‘traditional’ idea of showing women their place. And that’s no joke, whether told by naked men or not.
Note: The views expressed here are the personal opinions of the author.