'Attacks on women : A Violation of Dharma' by Dr. Vijaya Rajiva
who his father is. Disrespect and abuse of women is a rejection and denial of Dharma.Never mind the law and the police, Indian society has to radically change."
(Comment in Bharata Bharati, Dec. 25,2012 on the article by Lakshmi Narayan ' Rape : Caning is the better deterrent', December 25, 2012, in The Asian Age, and reprinted in Bharata Bharati).
The interpretation advanced above is in line with Vedic precepts. As is well known women were highly respected in Vedic times and even the much maligned Manusmriti has to be re read with care since scholars have acknowledged that there have been unfavourable interpolations inserted in later times which make Manu seem prejudiced against women (See the excellent article 'The Position of Women in the Manusmriti' Dr. Surendra Kumar, Viveka Jyoti, Feb. 21, 2012). It may be mentioned in passing that Manu advocated capital punishment for rape.
The patriarchal society that has become the norm in modern times, whether in India or abroad, is historically an aberration. Matriarchal societies were the norm in ancient times and in India today, those states like Kerala which still have a matrilineal tradition, the abuse and attacks prevalent in other parts of India are rare there, although the recent growth in terrorist inspired violence has had a spill over effect. Young women are often kidnapped and attacked and also killed. In missionary institutions pedophilia is not unknown. Neverthless, the general sense of freedom that Kerala women experience is certainly to be welcomed in the rest of India and can be attributed to the matrilineal tradition.
In the general discussions in the Indian media (so far) there have been some commendable reflections on the need for changes in social values, but these are often couched in a bland, vague language, as if enlightenment would come suddenly and spontaneously with modernity or the modernisation process. Sons must be told, so the narrative goes, to respect women, starting with their own sisters and women in the family.
Certainly they should, but that is not enough.
The present writer believes that a rigorous questioning of the negative aspects of modernisation must go hand in hand with a balanced return to Hindu values. It cannot take the idiotic approach taken by people like the Rajasthan MP who called for banning skirts worn by school girls. There is nothing wrong with young men looking at young women's legs. The Victorian English habit of dressing women from head to toe or the Islamic one of having women covered from head to toe are foreign to the Hindu ethos, which has never been puritanic in its outlook. What is wrong is taking this a step further in the attack on the person of the woman and that would include verbal attacks, now euphemistically called 'eve teasing'.
It might help to introduce a modified version of varnashrama dharma whereby young people are encouraged to experience the freedom of childhood and subsequently the brahmacharya years of study,yoga and meditation until they reach the grahastha years of marriage and economic prosperity. This can be flexibly interpreted for our times. For this to happen the current egregious worship of material welfare that has become the daily reality of most, if not many households, must be abandoned. At present this worship has become a diabolical dance of endless acquisitve tendencies. There is at present a marked tendency to think that hedonism and material values are the only source of enjoyment.
Gujarat is also a model state to follow in respect of the safety of women. This is definitely an achievement of the Modi administration.
It is also proof that an enlightened citizenry can and must provide for the safety of women and that material development is no hindrance to this project. There is nothing un Hindu about material prosperity provided it is kept within limits.
In conclusion Indian society must now introspect on the sage advice of the ancients:
" Fortitude,forgiveness, self control, honesty, purity of body and mind, sense-control, study of scriptures, meditation on the Supreme, truthfullness, freedom from anger - this is the ten fold path of virtue" (Manusmriti).
This ten fold path when adapted to our times will go a long way to effect the practice of Dharma and the attendant respect and care for the welfare of women.
(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university)
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