Ek Chutki Sindoor And The Brouhaha Around It

Posted by Mayank Mishra in #NoPlace4Hate, Society
December 27, 2017
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Amidst the celebrations of the Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma wedding, there was a localized eruption that took on social media regarding Anusksha Sharma’s sindoor (vermilion). Abhiruchi Ranjan, a PhD student of JNU, put forth her opinion on Anushka’s application of sindoor, for which, she was unsurprisingly, trolled. The stated post was:

“Anushka Sharma, you will not become any less married if you do not wear the sindoor along the entire length of the parting line of your hair, for public appearance as a married couple.

As long as the sindoor represents longevity of suhag, a celebration of women as a source of fertility and a possession of their husbands, it is not an innocent cultural choice.

When women with the means to overcome, choose sindoor and hijab, they help to impose it on the women who do not have the means to oppose them.”

Trolls At Three Levels

The status soon became viral on social media, and landed up with more than thousand reactions on it. Comments poured in the form of interrogations to confusion to a relentless passion for abusing her.

By having a closer look at the relentless trolls, the abusive and abrasive comments could be primarily stratified into an attack on an institution (i.e. JNU), a woman (Abhiruchi herself) and the idea itself (questioning a ritual).

This counter-narrative was typecasted and reduced to something that can emanate from a place like JNU (inundated with negativity) which was again, subjected to the rhetoric that it is fed with Anushka Sharma’s tax money, and such ludicrous idea can only come from anti-national varsity like JNU. In the context of her Facebook post, the university was trolled as the hub of drug addicts who have lost their sanity. Without having a healthy debate on it, Abhiruchi’s post was reduced to something that is expected from JNU and thus can be snubbed and abused.

Abhiruchi was imperilled with personal attacks. Attacked with adjectives such as retarded, drug addict, aunty (of course as an abuse), megalomaniac, pseudo-intellectual and the list is endless.

The Issue Of ‘Choice’

Following the sane curiosity of some people, who asked about Anushka’s right to choice and whether asking her not to apply the sindoor violates her space of exercising freedom. For that, one needs to differentiate between ‘right to choice’ and the ‘choice’ itself. She has absolute freedom to ‘make a choice,’ but her ‘choice’ in a sense may not be right, independent of the stated case. So the question here is not the independence of choosing a question of choice in itself.

One of the user unintentionality summed up the larger perception regarding the belief, “Sindoor signifies that the women with it are married, under the protection of her husband, and hence no one should make a mistake to cast an evil eye on her. Red is the colour of fire, blood, and strength. It indicates that tender looking Indian women…”

First, it is not rocket science to comprehend that here a woman is conveniently reduced to someone at the receiving end and is subjugated under man’s protection. Second, she is tender and defenceless, ergo needs to be protected by a man. Third, that symbol of sindoor serves as a red beacon for men not to get seduced at public spaces.

On the other hand, there was another elitist faction that was to opine that it’s Anushka’s choice to flaunt her tradition and engagement, marriage or love for her man as many successful and educated women have been doing so.

The point of contention here is that for Anushka, it is convenient to don vermilion on one day and not the subsequent days. However, for a commoner, it is more than something that just has an ornamental value.

For an ordinary woman, questioning the idea these symbols have a probability of inviting allegations, accusations, and complaints impinging on them. They do not have the luxury to put on and off the sindoor as per their sheer will and conveniences, unlike Anushka. The question for Anushka therefore is, will she don sindoor every day like an ordinary woman? This is what will make all the difference.

The difference lies in the fact whether vermilion is something that is nothing more than ornamental value unlike in the larger Indian context where sindoor signifies longevity of suhag, a celebration of women as a source of fertility and a possession of their husbands as Abhiruchi enumerates.

The Larger Argument

The overarching idea was to question and strike a healthy debate over the relevance and rationality behind such practices. One question that can also be asked that why men are not subject to such symbols, where they can be easily marked out whether they are married or not. However, on the contrary, drawing a parallel between sindoor and burqa can be subjected to further debate and discussion.

Anushka has exercised her choice, and so did Abhiruchi. So when one is revered for doing so, the other cannot be shamed if she questioned it. If the latter one sound illogical and irrational, she cannot be rebutted and proved wrong by the abuses and abrasiveness hurled at her, so to say least.