The district election office has set up help desks and complaint redressal centers at various places to make the task of finding names in the voter list easier and to address complaints related to draft roll.
Indian patriarchy is definitely indian but it has been sustained in part because of how economically destitute the country was for 200 years. As a result of colonialism.
There are several assumptions in your argument that need to be unpacked.
You first claim that the Indian patriarchy (well, patriarchies — there are many of them) is a direct result of economic deprivation. You then claim that India’s deprivation was caused by colonialism.
Neither assumption is entirely correct.
First of all, is it true that economic deprivation has, for the last 200 years, been a sustaining cause of the Indian patriarchy?
If it is a sustaining cause, then why do domestic violence rates soar not only for the poor and the low castes, but for the rich and upper castes in India? Why have the most misogynist religious traditions (widow burning, widow ostracization, purdah, refusing to let women work/travel outside the home, banning women from the kitchen during their period, child marriage, infanticide, unequal division of land) been reserved for those of higher social standing rather than lower?
Low caste, working class women have to deal with their own unique burdens, of course. Unlike middle class/upper caste women, they are not seen as protected creatures — they are seen as sexually available temptresses, and (I’m assuming) have to deal with a higher volume of sexual harassment/assault. But the patriarchy is not less of a force in upper caste/middle class women’s lives, as it would be if there were a direct relationship between economic deprivation and sexism, as you are suggesting. The patriarchy does not exist less, just because a woman is from a wealthy/high status community; it does not control her life any less. In some cases, middle class women are more subject to the patriarchy than their low caste/working class counterparts. Because they have economic resources, there is no imperative that they work outside the home. Because they are therefore not seen as economic assets, men are free to consider them accessories to their own expressions of masculinity — men consider the condition of their women to be a reflection of their own moral status in society. The more cloistered women are, the “purer” they are, the less tainted by the influence of masculine areas of knowledge — the more positive credit is given to the man.
My point is this — patriarchy is an insidious force that affects every corner of Indian society — well off and not so well off — and it has much more to do with religious traditions and caste than it does with economic deprivation.
Now, if you really wanted to come back at me with a better argument, you might claim that the patriarchy is exacerbated by societal change — not just economic deprivation. The changes introduced by colonialism certainly had the effect of altering the Indian patriarchy to make it more conservative. Matriarchal norms in Kerela were wiped out by the dual forces of Brahminism and British Victorian morality, to give an example. To give another; Indian nationalists adopted strict gender segmentation as a tool to fight back against British colonial hegemony. Women’s bodies were redefined to be a site where the processes of culture-making were played out — women were to perform authentic “Indian” culture with their choice in occupation and sphere, with their choice in clothing, religious observances, and in habits.
So yes, colonialism indirectly contributed to the worsening of the patriarchy, in some instances. But can we really place the fault with the British entirely? Surely some blame lies with the Brahmins who used the excuse of British colonialism to wage a moral war against matrilinial caste practices that they long disagreed with, no? Surely the blame lies with the male nationalists whose reaction to British colonialism was, in a word, reactionary? Those male nationalists who chose, of their own free will, to take out their frustration at being chained by the British by further oppressing their own women?
And how do you take into account the changes that globalization and liberalization has wrought upon India, by the way? Because these changes have certainly made Indian patriarchies more conservative. I have spoken to autowallahs that swear that if their women ever came home wearing blue jeans and tank tops, the way some of their middle class female charges do, they’d beat them to a pulp. The Delhi rape case comes to mind — the class implications are hard to get away from. The perpetrators were frustrated about their inability to move up socially and economically, and took it out on a young woman they perceived to be above their station (even though she was actually of the same class as they were.)
By some twisted, round-a-bout logic, you could probably try to convince me that the cultural upheaval due to globalization that is taking place in India right now is a result of colonialism. But when do we Indians start taking responsibility for our own sins? When do we start to acknowledge the fact that the middle classes in India were not tricked into embracing capitalism, but instead ran towards it with open arms? When do we start to talk about how the Indian middle classes are complicit and are the main benefactors of capital’s current ravaging of India?
India is not a post-colonial African nation. Postcolonial colonialism might be a significant coercive force there, but it doesn’t play out the same way here. The World Bank, the IMF never forced themselves onto India. India welcomed international economic institutions with open arms.
The second claim you make is a little more tricky. You claim that India’s deprivation was caused by the British rulers.
Yes, what the British did to India was absolutely criminal. Yes, they looted India for its resources, and significantly reduced India’s total wealth during the period of their rule. However, this theft did not affect all Indians the same way. Those who suffered the most were the ones who were already poor; the peasants, the low castes. The fledgling middle classes, with their clerking jobs and positions in the British bureaucracy, were largely immune from the economic pain generated by colonialism. In fact, the middle class, along with the zamindars (land-owners) who worked hand in glove with the British, actually benefited economically from colonialism.
It isn’t fair to say that the British impoverished India — it is more accurate to say that the British impoverished parts of India.
According to the logic of your argument, the patriarchy would be more of a force with the poor and the low caste, since they were disproportionately affected by colonialism. However, as shown earlier in this post, this was not the case. The patriarchy is actually more of a force within the middle and upper classes/castes.
So your argument falls apart.
There’s something else I want to hammer home: India was never a poverty-free paradise. India was not a land “free from beggars”, turned into a pauper nation by the British, whatever you might have heard. India has been an impoverished nation from time immemorial. Not only has it always been impoverished — it has always been deeply, deeply unequal. There is only one explanation for this state of affairs: caste. Caste tells us that certain people deserve their fate by virtue of being impure. This philosophy has been used to justify an incredible amount of economic and social injustice.
The economic deprivation of the poor and the low caste has not always been due to outside forces like globalization and colonialism. It’s sources are primarily domestic in origin. Caste prejudice is the main force that has impoverished India throughout the years. Colonialism took inequality to a previously-unheard of degree, but the inequality was created by Indians themselves.
I hope this clears up a few things.
PM’s surrender to Sonia: Baru proves what we already knew
In the Kurukshetra battle, the blind King Dhritarashtra is given details of the fratricidal war between his sons and the sons of Pandu by Sanjaya - his advisor and charioteer. Sanjaya’s key strength is that he can see events from a distance, and can tell it like it is. He minces no words, spares no feelings for the blind King as his sons are killed one by one by the Pandava brothers. Many stanzas in the Bhagavad Gita begin with the phrase, Sanjaya Uvacha (Sanjaya says)…
So when Sanjaya Baru says something, one needs to listen carefully. His book on Manmohan Singh and the UPA-1 years, when Baru was media advisor to Manmohan Singh, is a telling of the behind-the-scenes power play in the blind king’s durbar - only Singh chose to be willfully blind rather than being born that way like Dhritarashtra. Blessed with the same insight and long vision of his Mahabharata namesake, Sanjaya’s story, told in The Accidental Prime Minister: The making and unmaking of Manmohan Singh, is something we all thought we knew: that Manmohan Singh was a cipher, especially in UPA-2. The halo that he built around himself with his tough stand on the Indo-US nuclear deal in 2008 disappeared in UPA-2 - when the Congress party’s victory with 206 seats shifted the Dynasty’s priorities from government to projection of dynastic succession.
So what is Baru telling us that is different from what we already knew? Actually, there are quite a few reasons why the story needed telling by an insider.
First, what was apparent could never be formally confirmed because both the PMO and Sonia Gandhi’s courtiers have denied always dual power centres - but nobody believed them. Even now, the PMO’s office has rubbished Baru’s claims, dismissing it as “coloured” and a piece of “fiction.” But the fact is Baru’s book carries more credibility than the PMO’s denial. In fact, the PMO’s denial is effectively Sonia’s denial, since the ring around Manmohan Singh comprises not his own people, but Sonia’s - including his principal secretary Pulok Chatterjee and his media advisor Pankaj Pachauri. Neither of them owed their jobs to the PM.
Second, Baru’s book takes the story forward and effectively paints Sonia Gandhi as almost directly controlling the PMO. The point it makes is the opposite of what was till recently received wisdom: the duality of power centres in UPA, one around the PM and his government, and another around Sonia Gandhi. Baru disabuses us of this notion by claiming that actually there was one power centre - and that power was not the PM. Files were being routinely shared by Sonia Gandhi through the Pulok Chatterjee route - making a mockery of the cabinet system and the oath of secrecy administered to the PM. How can someone not in government be privy to highly confidential files? Was the country’s interest compromised in any way by this illegitimate information sharing?
This is what Baru’s book says: “Pulok, who was inducted into the Manmohan Singh PMO at the behest of Sonia Gandhi, had regular, almost daily, meetings with Sonia at which he was said to brief her on the key policy issues of the day and seek her instructions on important files to be cleared by the PM.”
A caveat is in order here: Baru exited the PMO in 2008 - and so this claim must be the product of Baru’s research or anonymous sources. (Baru was called back from an academic assignment in Singapore around the time of UPA’s 2009 victory to assist Singh in his second term, but the offer was yanked by the last minute, leaving Baru “traumatised”.) The PMO has denied Baru’s claim and said: “It is categorically denied that any PMO file has ever been shown to Smt Sonia Gandhi.” But coming from the PMO, we must now presume the denial is really Sonia’s.
What cannot be denied, though, is that Sonia certainly kept a close watch on the PMO - through Chatterjee. Whether files were actually shared with her or not is a side issue. Clearly, Sonia was the real power centre. There was no dual power centre - Manmohan Singh was a mere branch office of 10, Janpath, at least during UPA-2.
Third, the book also explains why Manmohan Singh, who seemed more relevant in UPA-1, was cut down to size in UPA-2. It seems the media’s pronouncement that Manmohan Singh was the author of the Congress’ victory in 2009 (Headlines screamed, “Singh is King”) unnerved the Dynasty. Sample this passage from the Hindustan Times on 16 May 2009, when the results were out: “Kingmakers are out. There is only one king in this election. And that’s Manmohan Singh, the prime ministerial candidate of the Congress-led UPA (United Progressive Alliance) that won with a decisive margin, belying predictions of a hung parliament.” (Italics mine)
The media’s attribution of the 2009 victory to Singh can probably be seen as the beginning of the end of the Manmohan-Sonia equation of complete trust. The Economic Times, which quoted extensively from Baru’s book, had this to say today (12 April): “After the UPA’s victory in 2009, Singh had assumed the victory would bolster his power, but ‘bit by bit, in a space of a few weeks, he was defanged’. While Singh thought he could induct the ministers he wanted into the cabinet, Baru said Sonia Gandhi ‘nipped that hope in the bud by offering (the) finance portfolio to Pranab (Mukherjee).’ Singh had wanted to appoint his principal economic adviser C Rangarajan to that post. The PM also ‘tried to put his foot down on the induction of A Raja” but after 24 hours ‘he caved in to pressure from his own party and the DMK’.” (Parts in italics in the above paragraph are direct quotes from the book).
A few things have gotten mixed up here. The induction of Mukherjee happened before the 2009 victory after the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai. The PM used this opportunity to shift the ineffectual Shivraj Patil out of home and induct the more energetic P Chidambaram in his place. But Baru is right to say he could not induct Rangarajan, who was reduced to being Chairman of the PM’s Economic Advisory Council. It is clear that Sonia brought Mukherjee in to check Manmohan’s intentions in the finance ministry. And given Mukherjee’s poor equations with Singh, this is exactly what happened. Mukherjee got the portfolio in order to put Singh in his place, not because he was somehow Sonia’s favourite. Even Mukherjee’s elevation to the presidency was accidental - it happened because Mamata Banerjee and Mulayam Singh looked like ganging up to propose APJ Abdul Kalam, when Sonia wanted a pliant Hamid Ansari for the job. Moving swiftly, Sonia sent Mukherjee to Rashtrapati Bhavan and Ansari stayed Veep.
Baru’s most important amd damaging disclosure, however, relates to the debunking of the widely belief in dual power centres. Baru says this was because Manmohan Singh simply surrendered to Sonia’s will. Quoting from the book, The Indian Express attributes this statement to Singh: “I have to come to terms with this. There cannot be two centres of power. That creates confusion. I have to accept that the party president is the centre of power.”
Manmohan Singh, of course, is not going to confirm this, but the statement has a ring of truth around it. It is the most damaging part of Baru’s book - one from which Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi cannot recover.
If the country is going downhill economically, we have to blame Sonia for it, and Manmohan for not standing up to her. There may have been only one power centre, but there is enough blame for distribution among two people.
A fistful of ashes of legendary Indian journalist and author Khushwant Singh have been brought to his birthplace in Pakistan’s Punjab province to fulfil his desire to be -reunited with his roots-.
Such a great news. :)