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Why ‘Sickulars’, Feminists And Other Progressives Must Unite Against ‘Cultural Nationalism’

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By Deep C:

The section 497 of the Indian Penal Code is patronizing towards women, and like the hypothetical theory of love jihad, relegates them to that of passive recipients of male action. Sex being something that is done to them, rather than performed of their volition. For the reader’s benefit, I would like to quote it verbatim-

“497- Adultery: Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse if not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or both. In such case the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor.”

cultural nationalism india

Even though it seems to safeguard women, it actually asserts that women are incapable of sexual choices. In the past week, the Kiss of Love protests took place, the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women demanded rights for sex workers (The Hindu, November 10) and Rang Rasiya, stuck in the good offices of our censors for a long time, released. But then a chauvinist VC of a top college supported restriction of women undergraduates to the university library and a Congress MP filed an election nomination with his daughter listed as a liability. Also, a film called In Dino Muzaffarnagar, which according to its makers shows Hindu-Muslim harmony in Muzaffarnagar, was not cleared by the censor board apparently because it showed certain politicians in bad light while day after day they clear films with ‘item songs’ which objectify women’s sexuality.

Now that socialism and secularism have been made to bite the dust, there is no business for the ‘so called progressive liberals’, punned Swapan Dasgupta (a right wing journalist who recently replaced ‘sickular’ Ramachandra Guha in a government committee) in a recent newspaper article. We all know that Labor Laws and the Land Acquisition Act will be diluted. With Giriraj Singh installed in the cabinet, Sanjeev Baliyan already there and Amit Shah helming the BJP, the project to silence ‘sickulars’ and teach a lesson to ‘anti-nationalists’ and ‘naxalites’ too will intensify. They will also look to impose their ideas of morality and culture.

This is where human dignity, freedom of choice, and gender equality come in. As things are, libertarianism and feminism seem to be the only potent weapons against the hypocrisy of ‘Cultural Nationalism’. Cultural Nationalism is a proxy war against the diversity and ingrained pluralism of our country. If public display of affection homogenizes Indian Culture with the Western, the ruling dispensation of the conception of Indian culture prioritizes an essentially North Indian conception, for Hindi is not ‘the Indian language’, neither is Namaste the sole Indian greeting. They are one of many. The idea of India that we need is the one which doesn’t invent a comical commonness, rather celebrates, even though clichéd, our ‘unity in diversity’. So, to oppose these constricted ideas of India, ‘progressives’ of India, we must unite.

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  1. Templetwins

    Even though it seems to safeguard women, it actually asserts that women are incapable of sexual choices.

    This is the only thing you saw in section 497 ? How solipsistic of you. It punishes a man for being seduced by a married woman, for up to five years. This should go, or we should include a clause to punish the wife as well who is the biggest culprit in adultery.

    1. Deep C

      Please refer to my reply to Gaurav. I invite your views regarding the same.

    2. Templetwins

      However, I wasn’t trying to champion adultery, except that men and women are equal partners in a consensual sexual relationship(in the spirit of gender equality)

      If you check my comment, I said the section 497 punishes a man for being seduced by married woman, is there not a possibility that the hypothetical married woman could be seduced by the man? Yes, but I still hold the married woman accountable in the spirit of gender equality(how?). Here’s why, lack of consent in a sexual activity can be deemed as rape on women alone(that’s what our law says) and it is always the rapist fault(man), hence any deviant sexual relationship with consent, the woman should be held responsible (equality triumphs) for with more powers comes more responsibility.

      I would be interested to know what you think about the larger picture, i.e. a singular national cultural identity.

      When I was an idealist, I used to embrace the notion of universal brotherhood, that we are all children of father earth, however I see in name of patriotism many foreigners(white people) had ruled others for eons, their attitude to excel in everything including warfare makes me weary of the notion of universal brotherhood.

      I remember how brits came to do trade and used the cultural, religious difference on their benefit in order to rule us for 200 years. I was born in a catholic family, a south Indian who takes pride in speaking Tamil, I also realize my ancestors could’ve converted their religion during the colonial period for govt benefits and what not. So If I have to embrace Hinduism just so we all can be united under one umbrella, I would do so. If I have to learn Hindi, I would do that as well, because I feel if there is more in-fighting it makes us more vulnerable to our enemies, who wants to dominate us. I would pull out the weed in my own garden at my own time, for now I just want to fix the fence, so as to save my crops from animals.

  2. Gaurav

    ramesh:: what is adultery?
    suresh:: when a man or woman has sex with someone other than their spouse
    ramesh:: should we punish adultery
    suresh:: let me ask you a simple question, is it ok if I have hot steamy sex with your wife where I kiss her all over her nubile body till she explodes in ecstasy
    ramesh:: what?? just shut up
    suresh:: that is exactly how those men and women feel when someone cheats on them
    ramesh:: oh I see. so why is the writer upset
    suresh:: actually writer is confused.
    ramesh:: what do you mean?
    suresh:: writer says that sec 497 punishes a man for having sex with someone else’s wife, writer says that women can also decide to have sex with someone else.
    ramesh:: lol, so basically writer wants to punish women who cheat on their husbands, that is so nice of the writer, we should punish who ever cheats
    suresh:: not exactly, writer wants to scrap the act altogether
    ramesh:: oh my god!!
    suresh:: I know, can you imagine what would happen in society
    ramesh:: lot of people will end up sleeping around and the institution of marriage will surely crash
    suresh:: yes, but more importantly the value of relationships will decline and people will feel unhindered when thinking about sleeping with someone
    ramesh:: is that what the writer wants
    suresh:: actually writer wants that we should allow people to have sex as much as they want with whoever they want, whenever they want
    ramesh:: that sounds fun to me
    suresh:: should I repeat my first question
    ramesh:: oh please, so what is the way out
    suresh:: well for one sec 497 cannot be scrapped. it should be made gender neutral so that the women do not feel as if they are being taken for a ride.

    1. Deep C

      I thoroughly enjoyed reading the dialogues. However, I wasn’t trying to champion adultery, except that men and women are equal partners in a consensual sexual relationship(in the spirit of gender equality) and in that our views seem to converge. Barring it, I would be interested to know what you think about the larger picture, i.e. a singular national cultural identity.

    2. Gaurav

      before I can comment on single cultural entity, please help me understand what according to you is multi cultural entity

    3. Deep C

      Multicultural identity basically means recognizing the differences between all communities and respecting them. It can be better explained by what it is not: it’s not the assertion of the majority community’s culture like that has been done in Sri Lanka by the Sinhalese Buddhist majority or like the Punjabi narrative overrides the pashtuns’ in Pakistan; it’s not name-calling and mocking South Indians and North-Easterners because they look different or have practices one doesn’t understand; it’s not provoking a minority community by desecrating it’s place of worship, or coercing it in any way. In such a society some people of a community may not like to celebrate another’s culture, but it should definitely respect it. And especially so in India since it has many nationalisms-in the spirit of what Gandhi or Tagore or Nehru envisioned and in contrast to what Savarkar or Golwalkar or Hedgewar wanted and the RSS or the numerous separatist movements in India imagine.

    4. Aditya Malpani

      I read about your description of multicultural identity but I would like to say some pints of my own:

      The name calling of South-Indians and North-Easterners is bad but equally bad is name calling a North Indian. It is equally bad to harass a South Indian or a North Indian, then why it is always harassing a South Indian. I writing my facebook name in hindi get names like Mr Chauvinist or Mr Gibberish and they putting posts on fb in their language is asserting their difference. Isnt it bad?….Why do you choose to ignore it?

      Not provoking a minority by desecrating its place of worship, or coercing them in any way…but is it right to do that to majority?…by the minority or by the leftists or anyone…Shouting against Vishwaroopam or The Da Vinci Code or The Satanoc Verses on religious grounds and violent protests are good but a court case using the law against Wendy Dongier’s book on Hindus which does a psycho-analyses of Hinduism and shows Hindu God’s in bad light is a war on free expression. Ist it hypocrisy.

      Saying about RSS wants to divide the country but saying that Indian Union Muslim League, AIMIM are secular even though the brother of the head of AIMIM repeatedly gives hate speeches and threatens to kill all Hindus if no police is present. No one bats an eyelid.

      Saying that Diwali is a festival that harms animals and rakhshabandhan is a manifestation of rape culture is OK but a person promoting vegan-ism on Bakrid is given rape and death threats is allowed.

      Is this what multi-culturalism wants?….

  3. Hirsute Hippo

    I’m afraid this article is inaccessible in its brevity. The author touches upon many ideas but fails to expand upon any of them. While laudable, the writeup could have gone into much more detail, and reached a better-substantiated conclusion. Things like the way secularism became a dirty political game, the extent to which personal liberties are under constant attack from the moral brigade, the normalisation of gender,- class-, and caste-violence, and the invisibility of alternate narratives in public discourse are things that could have been expanded upon.

    1. Deep C

      Thanks for your criticism. It was pleasing to know you found it laudable. I have taken note of your concerns and would definitely address them in a future post.

  4. Babar

    The law discriminates against men, because it does not punish women who have sex with husbands of other women. Feminism is fighting for women to have sex with who ever they want, and is it not surprising that a very high percentage of children are being born outside of wedlock, in a huge number of cases women don’t know who the father of their baby is, abortions are rising steadily, promiscuity is spreading, and all of this is being done in the name of liberation and equality.

    1. Deep C

      I wasn’t speaking in favor of adultery as such. My point was they are equal partners irrespective of its morality or legality.
      I am interested to know what your thoughts regarding the singular idea of Indian culture espoused by the current dispensation at the center are. I look forward to what you have to say.

  5. Akhilesh

    I went through your article and seems very confusing.

    You’ve to answer the basic question and that is about marriage. The basis of marriage is trust, not only in “backward” societies like “Middle East” or “India” as you would like to bash upon being a “Open Minded” person. It is same in the most “progressive” societies of west as well.

    Sex can be a choice, but doing it apart from your partner, in all the societies, it is a basis of relationship breakage, be it marriage or just love or live in.

    We have forgot the spirit of the law, made in certain context at that point of time. Now we just use the text of these laws to use in our favor.

    If the person want to indulge in such activity, they can break up with their partner and go ahead with their life.. Be it man or woman…… I mean indulging in such activities with multiple partners at the same time period, does not qualify one to be in civilized society, it is simple animal instinct and laws cannot be made to satisfy those needs… Think of your spouse indulging in same activity and your reaction to it before writing such bold articles just for the shake of writing “Open Minded” junk.

  6. ItsJustMe

    Whoever wrote this law is clearly sexist and knows nothing about gender equality. But then none of the laws involving rape, divorce, dowry are gender neutral. Losing faith in this godforsaken country and its law makers

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