विभाजन, हिंसा और साहित्य

  • सुकृति गुप्ता
  • एम.ए. हिस्ट्री

साहित्य ऐसे झूठ होते है जिनमें सच्चाई होती है और जब ये झूठ ऐतिहासिक पात्र बोलते है तो इन्हें पढना और भी ज़रूरी हो जाता है क्यूंकि कोई भी साहित्य शून्य में जन्म नहीं लेता. वह अपने इतिहास से प्रभावित होता है और अपने वर्तमान से भी, जो हमारा इतिहास बन चुका  है.

इतिहास अब राजाओ, शासनकालो और युद्धों का इतिहास नहीं रह गया है बल्कि ये मानवीय भावनाओ, उनके द्वारा झेली गयी त्रासदियों और अनुभवों का भी इतिहास है. इस सन्दर्भ में जब हम विभाजन और विभाजन के दौरान हुई त्रासदी की बात करते है तो इसके कई जवाब है- भारतीय जवाब, पाकिस्तानी जवाब, ब्रिटिश जवाब आदि. हर जवाब अपनी ही अलग विचारधारा से दिया गया है पर यदि हम उस दौर की त्रासदी को समझना चाहते है तो हमें उस दौर के साहित्य को देखना होगा क्यूंकि इतिहास जब अमानवीयता, द्वेष और हिंसा की बात करता है तो पीडितो की आवाज़ को सुनना ज़रूरी हो जाता है. हालाँकि यदि स्मृति के रूप में देखा जाए तो शायद वह आदर्श प्रतीत न हो पर हिंसा का अध्ययन किया जाता है तो सटीक स्मृति के बजाय कराहटें अधिक महत्त्वपूर्ण हो जाती है, जिनकी अभिव्यक्ति हमें साहित्य में  मिलती है.

इस सन्दर्भ में जब हम लोकप्रिय साहित्य पर गौर करते है उनमे उपमहाद्वीप के नेताओ के प्रति आक्रोश नज़र आता है तथा वे उनपर आरोप लगते है कि वे शक्ति के संतुलन संबंधी विवाद को सुलझा नहीं सके. वरिष्ठ पत्रकार अजीत भट्टाचार्यजी भी इसका उल्लेख करते है कि किस प्रकार विभाजन कठोरता से और जल्दबाजी से किया गया था कि ठीक से सीमा रेखा भी तय नहीं की जा सकी थी और न ही इसके लिए ठीक तरह से व्यवस्था की जा सकी थी. वे इस बात का उल्लेख करते है कि किस प्रकार तत्कालीन प्रधानमंत्री “वास्तविकता की गहराईयों” को छु नहीं सके थे और उनके इस भ्रम (self delusion) के सन्दर्भ में उन उक्तियों का उल्लेख करते है जो उन्होंने लियोनार्ड मोस्ले से १९६० में कही थी- “हम थके हुए आदमी है और हम में से बहुत कम ही है जो जेल जाना चाहते है और अगर हम  भारत की एकता के लिए खड़े होते है- तो हमें जेल जाना ही होगा. हमने पंजाब में लगी आग को देखा है, लोगों को मरते देखा है. विभाजन इससे बाहर निकलने का रास्ता था इसलिए हमने उसे अपनाया. हम उम्मीद करते है कि विभाजन अस्थायी होगा तथा पाकिस्तान को हमारे पास आने को बाध्य होना पड़ेगा.

विभाजन का इतिहास लोगों की जिंदगियों तथा उनके अनुभवों का इतिहास है. १९४० की घटनाओ को किस प्रकार उनकी पहचान से जोड़ दिया गया, उसका इतिहास है और अनिश्चितताओ जिन्होंने विभाजन को जन्म दिया या उसे थोपा, का इतिहास है. इस सन्दर्भ में मंटो प्रासंगिक प्रतीत होते है. वे अपने लेखन में विभाजन के दौरान हुए महाध्वंस की कहानियां कहते है. आलोक भल्ला विभाजन पर लिखी कहानियों को “सांप्रदायिक कहनियों” की संज्ञा देते है जिसके सन्दर्भ में वे कहते है कि इनमे पक्षपात है तथा ये दोनों और कि कहानियों को ठीक तरह से बयाँ नहीं करती.

वीना दास तथा आशीष नंदी का कहना है कि “विभाजन पर लिखा गया ज़्यादातर साहित्य अप्रमाणिक है क्यूंकि एक तरफ की हिंसा को दूसरी ओर से संतुलित करने का प्रयास किया गया है. और इसीलिए हिंसात्मक और अमानवीय  व्यवहारों के वर्णन में हमें समानता नज़र आती है, और फिर चाहे कोई ट्रेन लाहौर से आ रही हो या अमृतसर से, यदि एक वेश्या दो औरतो को पनाह देती है तो उनमे से एक हिन्दू और दूसरी मुस्लिम होगी.

पर मंटो इस सन्दर्भ में भिन्न प्रतीत होते है. उन्होंने खुद विभाजन का दर्द अनुभव किया था. वे कोई राजनीतिज्ञ नहीं थे तथा उन पर कोई विचारधारा हावी नहीं थी. उनकी मानवीयता किसी भी तरीके से धार्मिक लेबल को स्वीकार नही करती तथा क्रूरता तथा हिंसा को बर्दाश्त करने का विरोध करती है, जो उन्हें उनके समकालीनो से भिन्न बनाती है. जहाँ बाकि मर्द मार पीट कर रहे थे, औरतो की बेइज्ज़ती कर रहे थे, लोगों का खून कर रहे थे वहीँ मंटो अपने तंगी के दिनों में सस्ती वाली दारू पी रहे थे तथा इतनी दारु पीने के बाद भी  होश संभाले हुए थे.

वे एक स्वतंत्र विचारक थे जो उनके कथन से ज्ञात होता है- “ज़िन्दगी को वैसे ही दिखाना चाहिये जैसी वह है, न कि वो कैसी थी, कैसी होगी या कैसा होना चाहिए.” (Life ought to be presented as it is, not as it was or as it will be or should be) बम्बई शहर, जो उन्हें बेहद प्रिय था तथा जिससे वे बेहद प्यार करते थे, उन्हें छोड़ना पड़ा. वे मरते दम तक उसके लिए तरसते रहे. उन्हें विभाजन के बीज सिनेमा जैसे अधार्मिक क्षेत्र में भी नज़र आने लागे थे. उन्हें जब पता चलता है कि अशोक कुमार, जिनके साथ वो बॉम्बे टॉकीज में काम करते थे, को धमकी भरे पत्र (हेट मेल) मिल रहे है तथा उन पर आरोप लगाया जा रहा है कि वे कंपनी में मुस्लिमो को शामिल करने के लिए ज़िम्मेदार है, तो वे बहुत द्रवित होते है. उनका दिल टूट जाता है कि जो लोग उन्हें सआदत हसन मंटो की नज़र से देखते थे, उन्हें अब मुस्लिम की नज़र से देख रहे है. और इन सबसे तंग आकर वो पाकिस्तान चले जाते है जिसे वे जानते भी नहीं थे. उनकी इस टीस की अभिव्यक्ति हमें “टोबा  टेक सिंह” में मिलती है जिसमे अस्पतालों के अलावा बाकि बाहर की दुनिया पागल हुए जा रही है. उपमहाद्वीप के नेता इतने पागल हुए  जा रहे है कि वो पागलो की भी अदला बदली कर रहे है. ये पागल वो मुस्लिम है जिन्हें पाकिस्तान वापस लाया जा रहा है और जो गैर मुस्लिम है उन्हें भारत भेजा जा रहा है. इनमे अकेला बिशन सिंह जाने से इनकार कर देता है क्यूंकि वो पंजाब के एक छोटे से शहर टोबा  टेक सिंह में, जहां उसका जन्म हुआ था और उसके परिवार ने अपनी ज़िन्दगी जी थी, रहना चाहता था. वह न तो पाकिस्तान में और न ही भारत में बल्कि टोबा  टेक सिंह में रहना चाहता था. उनकी कहानी “मोज़ील ” धर्म के प्रभाव को उजागर करती है, साथ ही उसपर व्यंग्य भी करती है. मोज़ील का निर्वस्त्र बिना वजह मर जाना धार्मिकता को बिना वजह धारण करना है जो कि त्रिलोचन की पगंडी में निहित है. मोज़ील के इस कथन से इस बात की पुष्टि होती है जब वो कहती है “अपने इस धर्म को ले जाओ”.

टिटवाल का कुत्ता (The dog of Titwal) में भी लोगों को पागलपन तथा शक्ति और अधिकारीयों पर व्यंग्य करते है. ये बता पाना कठिन है कि कुत्ता एक देशभक्त की तरह मारा गया या उन्होंने अपने देश के कठोर, धार्मिक बेवकूफी को मारा है. ऐसा प्रतीत होता है कि वे हिंसा में मनोरंजन का आभास करने लगे है.

उनकी कहानी “खोल दो” हिंसा की सारी सीमाएं तोड़ देती है. वे बुरे या  दुष्टता के सन्दर्भ में धार्मिक समुदाय की विचारधारा का विरोध करते है तथा ये दिखाते है कि दुष्ट लोग किस प्रकार अपनी लालसाओ को पूरा करने के लिए ऐसी स्थितियों का फायदा उठाते है तथा आपके मज़हब के लोग ही आपको धोखा दे सकते है. वे दिखाते है कि हिंसा का कोई धर्म नहीं होता तथा ये अमानवीयता का परिणाम है. “आखिरी सलाम” (the last salute) बिना वजह लड़ने की कहानी है. सैनिक खुद नहीं जानते कि वे क्यूँ ऐसे देश के लिए लड़ रहे है जो उनके लिए अनजान है. वो खुद नहीं जानते ई उन्हें सच में कश्मीर चाहिए या नहीं.

मंटो को कश्मीर बेहद प्रिय था जिसका उल्लेख वो पंडित नेहरु को लिखे अपने पत्र में करते है. उनकी बहुत सी कहानियां जैसे “आखिरी सलाम” और “टिटवाल का कुत्ता” का कश्मीर पर केन्द्रित है. वे छोटी छोटी खुशियों के लिए तरसते जान पड़ते  है. उदाहरण के लिए वे पत्र में शिकायत करते है कि शायद यह बब्बुगोशा का मौसम है. मैंने यहाँ बहुत से गोश खाएं  है पर बब्बुगोशा खाए मुझे बहुत अरसा हो गया”. वे पत्र में  स्पष्ट तौर पर नेहरु जी से नाराजगी जताते है, कश्मीर और विभाजन के मुद्दे को लेकर पर साथ ही ये भी ज़ाहिर करते है कि वे कितने असहाय है. उदाहरण के लिए वे खुद को “डेढ़ सेर का पत्थर” (किसी ने उन्हें बताया था कि मंटो का अर्थ डेढ़ सेर का पत्थर होता है) तथा उन्हें “नदी” (नेहरु अर्थात नहर/नदी) कहकर संबोधित करते है. पर साथ ही वे यह भी कहते है कि यदि मैं डेढ़ सेर के पत्थर की जगह एक बड़ा पत्थर होता तो उस नदी में खुद को गिरा देता जिसे अपने बहने से रोक रहे है ताकि आप अपने इंजीनियरो की टीम के साथ इस पत्थर को हटाने के लिए बातचीत करने पर मजबूर हो जाए. वे उनके  कश्मीरी होने की दुहाई देते है. वे शिकायत करते है कि आप बड़े आदमी है, भारत जो कभी मेरा देश था, के शासक है आप पर आप ने कभी इस आदमी की फ़िक्र नहीं की. वे शिकायत करते है कि किस प्रकार भारत में प्रकाशक उनकी कहानियां बगैर उनकी मंज़ूरी के छाप रहे है वो भी अजीबो-गरीब नामो के साथ. किस प्रकार उनका मज़ाक उड़ाया रहा है. वे कहते है कि वे उन्हें अपने किताब की एक प्रति भेजेंगे जिससे कि नेहरु उनकी कहानियाँ पढ़े (जिन्होंने कभी उनकी कहानियाँ नहीं पढ़ी थी) तथा कहते है कि मुझे पूरा  विश्वास है कि आपको मेरी कहानियाँ पसंद नहीं आएँगी.

मंटो की प्रिय मित्र इस्मत चुगताई  कहती है कि ‘सियाह हाशिये’ की व्याख्या करते हुए मुहम्मद हसन अस्करी ने कहा है कि मंटो अन्यायी को अन्यायी की तरह नहीं देखते तथा उनकी कहानियों से प्रतीत होता है कि हिंसा करने  वाले पात्र ईश्वर द्वारा बनाये गए है. इस्मत चुगताई ये स्पष्ट करती है कि वे ऐसा नहीं सोचते. वो अन्याय को अन्याय कहने से डरेंगे क्यूँ? वे अन्याय करने वालों का विरोध करते है. वे कहती है कि मैं जानती हूँ कि मंटो ‘सियाह हाशिये’ लिखते वक़्त हँस नहीं रहे होंगे और न ही उन्होंने ये कहानियाँ हमें हँसाने के लिए लिखी है.

मंटो स्वयं अपने लेखन के सन्दर्भ में कहते है- “लम्बे अरसे से मैं देश के बंटवारे से उपजी उथल पुथल के नतीजो को स्वीकार करने से इनकार करता रहा. महसूस तो मैं अब भी वही करता हूँ पर मुझे लगता है कि आख़िरकार मैंने अपने आप पर तरस खाए या हताश हुए बगैर उस खौफनाक सच्चाई को मंज़ूर कर लिया. इस प्रक्रिया में मैंने इंसान के बनाये हुए लहू के इस समंदर से अनोखी आब वाले मोतियों को निकलने की  कोशिश की. मैंने इंसानों को मारने वाले इंसानों की एकचित धुन के बारे में लिखा, उनमे से कुछ के पछतावे के बारे में लिखा जो समझ नहीं पा रहे थे कि उनमे अब तक कुछ इंसानी जज्बे बाकि कैसे रह गए. इन तमाम और इनके अलावा और भी बहुत सी बाते मैंने अपनी किताब सियाह हाशिये में लिखी है’.

आलोक भल्ला मंटो के काल के बारे में बताते हुए मंटो की कहानियों के सन्दर्भ में कहते है- “ये कहानियां उस आदमी के द्वारा लिखी गयी है जो ये जानता था कि इस प्रकार की तबाही के बाद किसी भी तरह से माफ़ी तथा उसे भुलाया जाना जाना सम्भव नहीं है. जिन्होंने इस हत्याकांड को देखा था वे महज़ खड़े रहकर अपने मरने का इंतज़ार कर सकते थे. विभाजन ने नैतिकता को इस प्रकार मिटा दिया था कि कुछ भी वापस पाना तथा किसी भी प्रकार की उम्मीद करना संभव नहीं था. भाषा ने बहकाने का काम किया, और आम लोग क्रूर तथा खूनी बन गए, दहशत को दृढ़तापूर्वक देखा गया जिससे कि हम ये समझ सके कि किस प्रकार हम सभी इस बर्बर विश्व के निर्माण में भागीदार थे और अब हमें कुछ भी नहीं बचा सकता.

१९१५ में जन्मे भीष्म साहनी भी विभाजन की इस त्रासदी के गवाह थे. उन्होंने अपना बचपन ‘रावलपिंडी’ में बिताया था तथा इंटरमीडिएट तक की पढाई भी वहीँ से की थी. यह वो क्षेत्र था जो १८५७ के विद्रोह का गवाह भी रह चुका था, जहाँ अंग्रेजो का दबदबा था तथा पाश्चात्य संस्कृति की अच्छी झलक मिलती थी. उन्हें इन सबका अनुभव था जिसका प्रमाण उनके उपन्यास ‘तमस’ में भी स्पष्ट तौर पर देखने को मिलता है. कांग्रेस के स्थानीय अफसर यहाँ आते रहते थे तथा समाज सुधारक भी जिसका उल्लेख वो अपनी आत्मकथा में भी कारते है- “यहाँ पर कांग्रेस की जुलूस भी निकलते, गुरुद्वारे और आर्य समाज के के भी, मुहर्रम के ताजिये भी निकलते. गाहे बगाहे सांप्रदायिक तनाव भी होता, मगर लोग आम तौर पर बड़े स्नेह भाव से एक दूसरे के धर्म की मर्यादाओ की कद्र करते हुए रहते थे.

वे कांग्रेस की रिलीफ समिति में भी काम कर चुके थे, जैसा कि वे खुद इसका उल्लेख करते है- “देश के बंटवारे के समय जब सांप्रदायिक दंगे हुए तो मैं कांग्रेस की रिलीफ समिति में काम किया करता था और आंकड़े इकठ्ठा करता था कि वहाँ कितने मरे कितने घायल हुए, कितने घर जले आदि. तभी गाँव-गाँव घूमने और सांप्रदायिक दंगो के वीभत्स दृश्य देखने का अवसर मिला. “तमस” इस अनुभव पर आधारित है.

“तमस” साम्प्रदायिकता पर की जाने वाली राजनीति की कहानी है. यह दिखाती है कि किस प्रकार राजनितिज्ञ खुद ही इसके बीज बोते है और फिर खुद ही इसकी निंदा करने का स्वांग रचते है.

तमस की कहानी बस इतनी सी है कि एक म्युनिसिपल कमिटी का कारिन्दा और अंग्रेज़ सरकार का चमचा मुराद अली अंग्रेज़ सरकार के इशारे पर एक सीधे सादे चमार नाथू को ५ रूपए देकर उससे एक सूअर मरवाती है और उसे मस्जिद की सीढ़ियों पर फेंकवा देता है. इसकी प्रतिक्रिया में दूसरा वर्ग एक गाय की हत्या करवा देता है. इन दोनों घटनाओ की खबर ज्यों ज्यों फैलती है, विद्वेष की आग भड़कने लगती है और पूरे शहर में तनाव फ़ैल जाता है. नागरिको का शिष्टमंडल शांति स्थापित करने के उद्देश्य से अंग्रेज़ जिला कलेक्टर रिचर्ड से मिलता है और बिना किसी ठोस आश्वासन के लौट जाता है. जिला कांग्रेस समिति के सेक्रेटरी श्री बक्षी जी तथा कम्युनिस्ट नेता कामरेड शांति स्थापित करने में नाकामयाब रहते है तथा आसपास के गांवो में भी दंगे फ़ैल जाते है. इलाहिबक्ष, खानपुर, सैयदपुर आदि गांवों में लूट पाट और हत्याएं होती है. सिख और मुस्लिम दोनों मोर्चाबंदी करते है तथा इस मोर्चाबंदी में २०० वर्ष  पूमध्यकालीन जहनियत काम कर रही थी. तुर्कों के ज़ेहन में यहीं था कि अपने पुराने दुश्मन सिखो पर हमला बोल रहे है और सिखों के ज़ेहन में यही था कि वे भी अपने पुराने दुश्मन तुर्कों पर हमला बोल रहे है. पांचवे दिन अंग्रेज़ शांति कायम करने का प्रयास करते है. नगर में कर्फ्युं लगाया जाता है और एक ही दिन में पूरा माहौल बदल जाता है. जिसके इशारे पर ये तूफ़ान आया था, उसी इशारे पर सब तबाह करके गायब हो जाता है. इस तूफ़ान के बाद दृश्य बड़ा ही कारुणिक है तथा लोग जो शिकार हुए थे उनसे शरणार्थी कैंप भरे पड़े है. शांति कायम करने के लिए अंग्रेज़ कलेक्टर रिचर्ड की प्रेरणा से पंद्रह सदस्यों की अमन समिति बनायीं जाती है जिसमे ७ मुस्लमान, ५ हिन्दू और ३ सिख है. इस प्रकार जिसकी प्रेरणा से और जिसके द्वारा दंगे की शुरुआत हुई उसी की प्रेरणा से और उसके द्वारा ही दंगे का अंत भी हुआ. उनके उपन्यास को यदि ऐतिहासिक और सामाजिक सन्दर्भ में देखा जाए तो निम्न निष्कर्ष निकाले जा सकते है-

1- देश का विभाजन जिस सांप्रदायिक विद्वेष का परिणाम था उसके बीज ब्रिटिश कूटनीति ने बोये थे.

2- विभाजन के दौरान कांग्रेस के भीतर राष्ट्रीय एकता के प्रति गहरी निष्ठा का आभाव था. कांग्रेस स्वयं अनेक स्वार्थो की मिलन भूमि थी.

3- सांप्रदायिक दंगो में भाग लेने वालो की ज़हनियत मध्यकाल से जुडी हुई थी.

4- सदियों से साथ रहते गुए नगर और गाँव दोनों ही स्वरों पर हिन्दू और मुसलमानों की जीवन रेखा कुछ इस प्रकार घुल मिल गयी थी कि उनका चाहे कैसे भी विभाजन किया जाता वह कृत्रिम ही होता.

5- दंगो में हमेशा गरीब ही मारे जाते है. अमीर और प्रभावशाली लोग गरीबो के मूल्य पर अपना राजनीतिक खेल खेलते है और परस्पर एक दूसरे के हितो की रक्षा करते है.

6- शक्ति और पैसा बड़ी चीज़े है, वो मूल्यों को दबा सकते है, संस्कारो को तोड़ सकते है किन्तु मनुष्य की  जिजीविषा और भी बड़ी है. वो बड़ी से बड़ी विपत्ति झेलकर भी जीवित रहना चाहता है.

इस उपन्यास की एक महत्त्वपूर्ण बात ये है कि इस पूरे उपन्यास में वे प्रादेशिक कांग्रेस के सदस्यों पर व्यंग्य कसते रहते है तथा देशभक्ति और राष्ट्रीयता के संकीर्ण मापदंडो पर भी व्यंग्य करते है. उदाहरण के लिए कांग्रेस के शंकर जब दूसरे कांग्रेस सदस्य कोहली को अपना आजारबंद दिखाने को कहता है तथा उसके बारे में कहता है- “देख लीजिये साहिबान, नाडा रेशमी है. हाथ के कटे सूत का नहीं है. कांग्रेस रेशमी नाडा पहने? और आप उसे  प्रादेशिक सदस्य का उम्मीदवार बनाकर भेजेंगे? कांग्रेस का कोई उसूल है या नहीं?

जहां विभाजन पर ज़्यादातर साहित्य त्रासदी को बयाँ करता है वहीँ भीष्म साहनी द्वारा रचित “अमृतसर आ गया है” ये दर्शाता है कि कुछ क्षेत्रो में दंगे के बावजूद भी ज़िन्दगी में कोई अधिक परिवर्तन नहीं आया तथा लोग पहले की तरह हंसी मज़ाक करते है. उन्होंने ये दुनिया लाहौर से आने वाली ट्रेन में दिखाई है. पर ये भी रूढ़ छवियों से मुक्त नहीं है- (1) बाबू से पठान कहता है कि तुम दुबले पतले हो क्यूंकि तुम हमारी तरह मीट नहीं खाते. तुम हमारी तरह मीट खाकर तंदरुस्त हो जाओ या फिर महिलाओ के डब्बे में सफ़र करो, (2) सरदार पठान को समझाता है कि बाबू पठानों का भोजन नहीं लेता क्यूंकि वो अपने हाथ नहीं धोते अर्थात वे गंदे लोग है, (३) जब ट्रेन में ज़बरदस्ती लोग अन्दर घुसने की कोशिश करते है तो ट्रेन में बैठे लोग उन पर चिल्लाते है और पठान बदहवासी में एक महिला के पेट में लात मार देता है, (4) जब ट्रेन आग में झुलसते शहरो से होते हुए गुज़रती है तो लोग भयभीत हो जाते है, पर जैसे ही उन्हें ज्ञात होता है कि ये ‘वजीराबाद’ नामक मुस्लिम बहुल क्षेत्र था तो पठान का भय मर जाता है वहीँ सिखो और हिन्दुओ की चुप्पी गहरी हो जाती है, (5) वहीँ जब ट्रेन हरबंसपुरा और अमृतसर (हिन्दू-सिख बहुल क्षेत्र) पहुँचती है तो बाबू जो अब तक पठान की हर बेइज़्ज़ती झेल रहा था, चौड़ा हो जाता है तथा पठान पर धावा बोलता है- “ओ पठान के बच्चे! हिन्दू औरत को लात मारता है. हरामजादे

कमलेश्वर जो मंटो के प्रशंसक भी रहे है, उनकी कहानी “और कितने पाकिस्तान” पाकिस्तान बनने के असर को बयाँ करती है. वे पाकिस्तान को एक मुल्क नहीं बल्कि एक दुखद सच्चाई मानते है तथा इसलिए लेखक जहाँ कहीं जाता है उसे दृश्य दिखाई देते है, जिन्हें वह पाकिस्तान कहता है क्यूंकि वह उसे विध्वंस का कारण मानता है क्यूंकि ये “एहसास की रुकी हुई हवा है”. विध्वंस के चित्र इतने भयानक है कि वो अनुभव करता है कि वो मुस्लमान पर टूट पड़ना चाहता है और अपनी प्रेमिका को छीन लेना चाहता है जैसे कि वो कहता है- “उसी दिन से एक पाकिस्तान मेरे सीने में  शमशीर की तरह उतर गया था”

पाकिस्तान बनने का दर्द वह अपनी प्रेमिका सलीमा (जिसे वो प्यार से बन्नो कहता है क्यूंकि उसे सलीमा कहते डर लगता है) में भी महसूस करता है. उसके अन्दर का पाकिस्तान तब नज़र आता है जब वह अपने पति मुनीर को कोसती है “मुझे मालूम नहीं है क्या? जितनी बार बम्बई जाता है, खून बेचकर आता है. फिर रात भर पड़ा काँपता रहता है.

जब लेखक को ज्ञात होता है कि उसकी प्रेमिका वेश्या बन गयी है तो उसे समझ नहीं आता कि उसके साथ ऐसा क्यूँ होता है. बन्नो उसे टेढ़ी मुस्कराहट के साथ देखती है ख़ामोशी से व्यंग्य करती है तो उसके मुख से निकलता है- “पता नहीं ये बदला तुम मुझसे ले रही थी, मुनीर से या पाकिस्तान से?”

वह पाकिस्तान को और उसकी सच्चाई को हकीक़त मान चूका है- “अब तो फटा फटा आदमी ही सच लगता है. पूरे शरीर का आदमी देखकर दहशत होते है. विध्वंस के चिन्ह हर जगह दिखाई देते है जो आहत करते है- “अब कौन सा शहर है जिसे मैं छोड़कर भाग जाऊ. कहाँ कहाँ भागता फिरूँ जहां पकिस्तान न हो.

पाकिस्तान की यदि सच्चाई की बात की जाए तो वह अब भी नज़र आती है. नेहरु जिन्होंने विभाजन को अस्थायी बताया था वो स्थायी हो चूका है. इस सन्दर्भ में असगर वजाहत ने नाटक “जिस लाहौर जई देख्या ओ जम्याई नइ” का पाकिस्तान में मंचन न होने देना ये कहकर कि उसमे मौलवी की हत्या इस्लाम के विरुद्ध है तथा नाटककार भारतीय है, इसी का सूचक है. पर आख़िरकार जब नाटक होता है तो हाउसफुल रहता है वो भी कराची में वो भी इस तरह से  कि लोग पेड़ पर चढ़कर नाटक देख रहे थे. यह इस बात को इंगित करता है कि मानवीयता बड़ी बड़ी विपत्ति को झेलकर भी जीवित रहती है.

लगभग सभी विभाजन की कहानियों में महिलाओ को एक निश्चित रूप दे दिया गया है. दोनों ओर महिलाओ की स्थिति एक समान रूप से स्थिर कर दी गयी है. उसकी अपनी महत्वपूर्णता उस आदमी पर निर्भर करती है जिसकी वो औरत है या जिसने उसका उल्लंघन किया है या उन्हें प्रताड़ित किया है. और इस प्रकार इस सांप्रदायिक अस्पष्टता में वे प्रभावहीन सी जान पड़ती है. महिलाओ को शोषित करना, पुरुषो के लिए अपने विरोधी समुदाय को नीचा दिखने का माध्यम था, वहीँ कई पुरुषो के लिए ये स्थिति अपनी लालसाओ को पूरा करने का अच्छा अवसर था. इस सन्दर्भ में मंटो की कहानी “खोल दो” जिसमे ‘सकीना’ का दोनों ही समुदायों के पुरुषो द्वारा शोषण किया जाता है., इस बात को इंगित करता है कि हिंसा यहाँ महज़ सांप्रदायिक मुद्दा नहीं था बल्कि हिंसक पुरुषो के लिए एक अच्छा अवसर था तथा सम्प्रदायिकता ओढा आवरण मात्र था. महिलाएं उनके लिए इस लड़ाई में सुकून पाने का माध्यम थी. कहीं ये सुकून ‘अच्छा’ था तो कहीं ‘बुरा’ था. इस सन्दर्भ में तमस में भीष्म साहनी कहते है- “दुःख से छुटकारा पाने के लिए आदमी सबसे पहले औरत की तरफ मुड़ता है”. नाथू को जब अपनी गलती का एहसास होता है तो उसे अपनी पत्नी के पास जाने की इच्छा होती है. इस प्रकार की कहानियों में महिलाओ को निष्क्रिय दिखाया गया है तथा पुरुष ही उनकी नियति तय  करते है. पर “मोज़ील ” तथा “ठंडा गोश्त” में “कलवंत कौर” इस सन्दर्भ में कुछ अपवाद है.

मंटो अपनी कहानियों में प्रत्यक्ष तौर पर बोलते है और इसीलिए उनमे नाटकीयता नहीं है तथा उनकी नायिकाएं बिना अश्रु बहे सिसकियाँ लेती है. वो घृणा और द्वेष को झेलते-झेलते अपने दर्द के शून्य पद गयी है तथा अपनी हीन स्थिति का प्रदर्शन करते हुए समाज के पुरुषो पर व्यंग्य करती प्रतीत होती है. कमलेश्वर की कहानी “और कितने पाकिस्तान” की बन्नो भी ऐसी ही है. उसका अपने प्रेमी की ओर टेढ़ी मुस्कराहट के साथ देखना और पूछना “और कोई है” इसी का सूचक है. नायक अपनी ज़िन्दगी के तीन पडावो की बात करता है- “पहला, जब मुझे बन्नो मेहँदी की हवा लग गयी थी, दूसरा, जब मैंने तुम्हे पहली बार नंगा देखा था और तीसरा, जब तुमने कहा था “और कोई है”. चाहे मंटो की कहानियां हो या कमलेश्वर की कहनियाँ दोनों की कहानियों के पुरुष महज़ खूनी और बलात्कारी नहीं है. उनमे अब भी मानवीयता बाकी है. पर ये मानवीयता असहाय और कमज़ोर सी जान पड़ती है, जो स्त्रियों के शोषण और पतन का कारण जान पड़ती है. यह कमलेश्वर के “और कितने पाकिस्तान” और मंटो की कई कहानियों जैसे कि  The Woman in the Red Raincoat में स्पष्ट जाहिर होता है- “तुम दो औरतो के खूनी हो. एक मशहूर कलाकार थी और दूसरी वो जिसका जन्म तुम्हारे लिविंग रूम में मौजूद पहली औरत के शरीर से हुआ था जिसे तुमने उस रात अकेला छोड़ दिया था. (You are the murderer of two women. One who is known as a great artist & the other who was born from the body of the first woman in your living room that night & whom you alone know).

ज्ञानेंद्र पाण्डेय कहते है आलोचकों ने कि तीन प्रकार की हिंसा की बात की है-  (1) जो राज्य द्वारा की जाती है जैसे कि रूस, जर्मनी, साइबेरिया में हुआ, (2) एक दूसरे तरीके की हिंसा जहाँ राज्य पहले से भक्षक नहीं होता पर वो उसे रोक सकता था पर ऐसा नहीं करता. जैसे कि १९९२-९३ में विश्व हिन्दू परिषद् द्वारा बाबरी मस्जिद के विवाद पर की गयी हिंसा, (3)एक तीसरे तरह की हिंसा वह है जहाँ लोग खुद हिंसा से पीड़ित होते है और अपना मानसिक स्वास्थ्य खो देने के कारण एक दूसरे का खून करने लगते है. विभाजन को इसी प्रकार की हिंसा माना जाता है.

वे कहते है कि जावीद आलम का कहना है कि “इस तरह की हिंसा को हमें याद नहीं करना चाहिए जिससे कि लोग सामाजिक, राजनैतिक और व्यक्तिगत तौर पर सामान्य जिंदगी जी सके, शांतिपूर्ण तरीके से.

पण्डे इस तरह की धारणा को इतिहास के लिए हानिकारक बताते है तथा कहते है कि ऐसा प्रतीत होता है कि राष्ट्रवादी धारणा है जो ये तय करने की कोशिश करती है कि भारतीय इतिहास के लिए क्या उचित है और क्या अनुचित. पर वे हमें ये भी बताते है कि हाल ही मैं कई महत्त्वपूर्ण कार्य हुए है हिंसा पर जिनमे मुख्यतः ये समझने का प्रयास किया गया है कि हिंसा का दायरा कितना बड़ा है. वो समझने का प्रयास करते है-

१. क्रोधित पुरुषो की पीड़ा को,  २. १९४७ तथा उसके बाद महिलाओ तथा बच्चो की स्थिति को, ३. महिलाओ और बच्चो की सामुदायिक और राष्ट्रीय बानगियों को, ४. धर्म से अलगाव को किस प्रकार एक मात्र नागरिक पहचान के रूप में देखा जा सकता है, ५. राज्य के बेहया पितृसत्तावाद को. वे कहते है कि सभी रोज मर्रा की ज़िन्दगी का इतिहास पेश करती है- एक ऐसा इतिहास जिसमे राज्य और समाज दोनों फंसे है. इस सन्दर्भ में जब हम विभाजन पर लिखे साहित्य की बात करते है तो निष्कर्ष के तौर पर कहा जा सकता है कि “काल्पनिक लेखन की सबसे अच्छी बात यह है कि ये महज़ हिंसा की कहानियाँ ही बयान नहीं करती पर इस बात की भी जांच करती है कि क्या दहशत के बीच भी हममें कुछ नैतिकता बची थी”. (The best of the fiction writers about the partition are not concerned with merely telling stories of violence, but with making profoundly troubled inquiry about the survival of our moral being in the midst of horror). इसका उल्लेख आलोक भल्ला भी करते है और कई दफा उनकी अभिव्यक्तियाँ निजी प्रतीत होती है. उदाहरण के लिए “सहाय” (A tale of 1947) में  मुमताज़ का चरित्र तथा उसके द्वारा बॉम्बे छोड़कर पाकिस्तान का चरित्र तथा उसके द्वारा बॉम्बे छोड़कर पाकिस्तान जाना तथा उसके द्वारा अपने मित्र जुगल से प्रश्न करना कि क्या वो उसे मार सकता है? ये सब उनकी निजी जिंदगियों की पेश करते है. मंटो ने खुद ये सवाल अपने मित्र तथा अभिनेता  श्याम से किया था. इन कहानियों की एक महत्त्वपूर्ण बात ये है कि विभाजन के बाद भी लोग क्षेत्रीय सीमओं की फ़िक्र नहीं करते क्यूंकि वे सामजिक और सांस्कृतिक रूप से जुड़ चुके थे तथा क्षेत्रीय सीमओं के आधार पर यहाँ राष्ट्र-राज्य की कल्पना को विफल दिखाया गया है. उदाहरण के लिए “अमृतसर आ गया है” में ट्रेन के मुसाफिर क्षेत्रीय-सीमओं के बजाय सबसे पहले नेताओ की बात करते है. ये प्रश्न किया जाता है कि ‘पाकिस्तान’ बनने के बाद जिन्ना बॉम्बे में ही रहते रहेंगे या पाकिस्तान में रहेंगे? इस प्रकार मंटो की कहानियाँ तथा भीष्म साहनी का तमस दोनों ही इस बात को इंगित करते है कि हिन्दू और मुस्लिम, दोनों ही सांस्कृतिक रूप से इस प्रकार घुलमिल गए थे कि सीमओं के बल पर किसी के बल पर किसी भी प्रकार का कृत्रिम था तथा “माउंटबेटन प्लेन” के द्वारा जब इस प्रकार का असंवेदनशील निर्णय लिया जाता है तो वहां किसी भी प्रकार का  राष्ट्रवाद नज़र आता है. भारत के सन्दर्भ में तो बिलकुल नहीं! वे भारतीय स्थिति को समझे नहीं क्यूंकि उनके विश्व में सीमा रेखा के आधार पर राष्ट्रवाद की कल्पना की जा सकती है.

सन्दर्भ सूची

Manto, Saadat hasan, mottled Dawn: Fifty Sketches & Stories of Partition, Delhi, 2000, Introduction pp. 1-95 & 157-164

Monto, Saadat Hasan, Pandit Manto’s First letter to Pandit Nehru.

Joshi, Shashi, the world of saadat Hasan manto, The Annual of Urdu Studies

Chughtai, Ismat, Communal Violence & literature

Hasan, Mushirul, Memories of Fragmented Nation: Rewriting the Histories of India’s Partion.

Panday, Gyanendra Remambering partition: Violence, Nationalism & History in India, By way of Introduction & ch-3, Cambridge University Press, 2001

Kumar, Sukrita Paul, Surfacing from Within Fallen Women in manto’s Fiction, The Annual of Urdu Studies

साहनी, भीष्म, राजकमल प्रकाशन

साहनी, भीष्म, अमृतसर  आ गया है

कमलेश्वर, और कितने पाकिस्तान, मुंबई, 1969

rekhta. Org

shodhganga. Inflibnet.ac.in

Who was saadat Hasan Monto: A biography

वजाहत, असगर, जिस लाहौर नइ देख्या ओ जम्याई नइ, वाणी  प्रकाशन] 2006

http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00urdu/tobateksingh/

Thinking Beyond Their Age: An Introspective Analysis

bihar

-Kshitiz Roy

When I was a kid, I found myself in Bihar. And all I was told since class six was aise padho, waise padho. Words like career, inter ka exam, IIT, medical filled the air. You go to Patna and you will feel as if education is always on the top of its mind. So many falana sir, dhimkana sir coaching institutes dot the place; almost on the lines of age old dawa khana which promise masculinity and all, the tall hoardings of coaching institutes promising to turn Patna into Kota tower around the city.

You mount any passenger train in the morning and you are bound to bump into students chanting square roots and the genealogy of Samrat Ashok. And I am not even bringing the Banking SSC scene into the picture. Now in a state, which has always been so much into the awe of sarkari naukri and hence education, in a state, which has produced some of the finest technocrats and bureaucrats coming through the same examination procedure of Bihar education council or as we fondly say Bihar board- what went wrong. I took a stroll down the news feed and found various shades of people, mostly from Bihar indulged in self admonishing, some of them expectedly brought a political angle to it and were eager to guillotine Nitish Kumar and co.

All of that is farce. All of that is bullshit. Biharis don’t need to prove the nation about their educational prowess; because in a state which has historically been devoid of industrial and enterprising ecosystem, education has been our only way out into the mainstream, and this goes beyond those caste borderlines which we are quick to associate with Bihar. Scores of friends and seniors have found themselves in the corridors of the old Patna science college or a nondescript begusarai college to pass out in flying colors in engineering entrance examinations. You see, senior secondary has never been an issue in Bihar. They are taught to think beyond their age- socially and mentally. And therein lies the problem.

About the senior secondary examinations,we fondly call it inter ka exam and don’t give a rat’s ass about it. There were kids who would hate to prepare for 12th physics paper because yaar, IIT-JEE ka paper ki taiyari mein likhne ki aadat choot gayi thi and english toh boss likhe jamana ho gaya. The entire public consensus is heavily skewed in favor of attending those coaching institutes and solving high power books like Resnik Haliday and Irodov. In Bihar, for a large number of inter ke students, read 11th and 12th class wale, there is just no idea of schooling. They find themselves in dingy classrooms situated near a passing sewer, and are thrown into an abyss of formulas. Why? Because cracking a competition ensures a job, and a job ensures the upward mobility- in a state reeling between the twin malaise of class and caste discrimination, a job is the only thing which ensures you freedom. And therefore the coaching, therefore the complete denial of a senior secondary structure which has brought the rot. The teachers in the state sponsored colleges make merry, the kids in the coaching strut around on their bicycle on the streets of Patna without questioning and the parents keep dreaming about that job and the mukti. And for that, the whole senior secondary structure has been re shaped in an industry where questions are sneaked out-churning prodigal science toppers. This is because it simply doesn’t matter.

You see in Bihar, we are taught to think mechanically and practically. And while we think we are always so rational in all our deeds, biharis often forget that times around them changes. And this happens softly. But soft is a word which they don’t understand in Bihar. And till that happens, results like that are only a tip of the iceberg, which should never amaze a true bihari for our state is like that classic brewery where the educational system has been left rotting in order to create fine single malt human resource. To all those comparing the failed students with lalloo k laal, I urge you all to try a ninth class BTC maths test once. Boss fat k 74 ho jaega, kassam se.

Duvidha: the dilemma inside and out

-Santosh kumar

The juxtaposition of narrative and visual give new dimensions to the narrative and open up new vistas of interpretations and possibilities. Reading and watching Duvidha, a story by Vijaydan Detha immortalized on the celluloid by Mani Kaul in 1973 familiarizes us with these feelings. There are various others precedents as well as successors to the story. Reading A.K.Ramanujan’s translation of the Kannada story “the serpent lover” makes you realize the broad similarities between the two. There was a film made on the Kannada folk tale called Nagamandalam and Detha’s story was made into paheli in 2005.

If we try to analyze the narrative, it offers you very contrasting possibilities. Firstly if seen from the perspective of gender and society the story seems to be placed in a feudal patriarchal setup where women’s voice appears in hushes and silences because the norms of propriety are to be decided by her husband and more importantly by her father in law. Property and material prosperity is counterpoised with sentiments and feelings and at this conjecture we feel the need to go beyond the confines of patriarchy to view it in structural and psychoanalytical terms. And I will try here to juxtapose Ramanujan and Freud together. This story is a good representation of what he calls women’s tale, but we must be cautioned against the use of term “counter tales” because nowhere in the text is there any attempt to counter the patriarchal domain but it merely opens up avenues for women’s desires and her voice to creep in a subtle manner. Even psychoanalytically this text can be interpreted in contrasting ways. In a more conservative interpretation the text may point out the pitfalls of transgressing the norms of propriety. The act of unveiling by the women makes her vulnerable to the gaze of the ghost, which sets off the chain of events. Thus this interpretation makes the story similar to the “little red riding hood” where the girl makes herself vulnerable to the gaze of the jackal and using tropes of material pleasure (here the flower in Duvidha the fruit) and was able to encroach her space as well as her sexuality. But if the same story is seen from the perspective of the woman, then the story is very much similar to the serpent’s lover wherein the woman finds avenue for the satiation of her desires through the impostor which is exactly the case with Duvidha. In both the cases the impostor is met with a tragic end but curiously the women is not ridiculed or shunned off but rather accepted in the patriarchal domain easily.thus the text challenges, as according to Ramanujan, the norms of chastity and propriety by inverting symbols and their signification as well as the punitive measures of these transgressions. For example an impostor or a man other than her legitimate husband is seen as a potential threat to the sexuality of women and thus to the patriarchal household. But the woman accepted the ghost as her partner despite being conscious of his identity thus challenging the regulations set up by the patriarchal household

There are couple of other ways to situate and analyse the narrative. For example two hypothetical possibilities can be discerned through a careful reading of the text and the film. One, seen through the lenses of pragmatic Freudian terms, the whole story can be mere pigment of imagination of the woman. The husband never went outside his house, but his indifference was equal to his absence. The woman was easily accepted in the family because the child belonged to the same man and the not the ghost. The ghost represents the unconscious desire of the women of seeing a more loving empathetic and caring husband. Secondly seen from the perspective of the husband the story can actually deal with the existential crisis of the husband who is in dilemma regarding his two conflicting duties- that of a money minded person meant to please his overtly money minded father, and playing a more loving and empathetic companion for her wife. In that sense we can interpret that perhaps the ghost was an alter ego of the husband. Either he went for trade but came back realizing his misgivings to his wife and by giving coins to his father he earned the concessions to live his conjugal life thus balancing his material and sentimental existence. The problem arise when the wife become pregnant and that bring the sentimental facet of husband more clearly and which seems to disrupt and overshadow his material existence. This action created anxiety in the materialist patriarchal domain and the man fell into an existential crisis where one of the identities needs to be purged to maintain the hegemony of the material world. Of course these interpretation are way too abstract and we can’t cite evidence for the interpretation except for the subtle subjective clues that could be interpreted in different ways.

Coming to the film, we also need to consider the way a movie is made and the representations of the film. The very abstract film making style and monotonous dialogue delivery of the actors makes us realize that the film doesn’t make you root for actors or characters but the rich visual spectacle through its spellbinding cinematography makes the film focus on the cultural context and tries to use these visuals as a text in itself. The still photographs are meant to be gazed and interpreted, the excessive use of contrasting lights and shades may be symbolical of different shades of human existence. The movie apart from a narrative is also a visual archive, the most visible example of which is the scene where the whole cycle of time when ghost and woman were together, was represented through a panorama of visual imagery without uttering a single word in those 5-10 minutes. But even then the film is more honest to the original story as compared to Paheli. Now we can see a change in attitude in those 30-40 years between the two. Paheli’s climax gives a subtle hint that the woman is met with the ghost again and not her husband which actually points out women’s choice winning over the patriarchal confines but in Duvidha the victory of the women lie in her ability to re assimilate in the patriarchal family even after her relation to the impostor. Duvidha raise question but as most of the parallel cinema of this time leaves the answer for viewer’s discretion. Paheli in answering the question creates an anachronism by juxtaposing traditionalism and modernity. Also Paheli gives in some detail the mention of the family of the man, which is completely absent from Duvidha, so while the only subtext offered in Duvidha is that of the character of father whose intentions, nature and morality can be gauged through the patriarchal and materialist gaze. Paheli on the other hand gives a narrative to the family and reconciliation of the family become a subplot of the film thus giving a post facto rationalization to the presence of the ghost while the moral compass of Duvidha is very ambiguous and none of the figures appear to be the epitome of morality

Hence what we see here is that Duvidha though rooted in a particular cultural context offers wide range of themes to ponder about. Duvidha is an important text not only of his literary brilliance or its adaptions to film but because it offers templates for discourses on wide social cultural gender issues and questions the moral axis that so dominates our narratives.

Battle of Histories: The Academic and the Public

-Kriti Tripathi

The discipline of history leads a dual life: an academic and a public one. History lives its academic life through “journals, reviews, specialized conferences, university departments, professional associations and so on.”[1] In India, where mostly the views of historians are not seen as representative of the past because universities do not carry much social authority, the interaction of these domains create tension. The basic categories of the discipline such as “research, facts, truth, evidence, archives- can be moulded by the interaction between history’s cloistered and public life.”[2] History writing in India cannot remain unaffected by identity politics associated with regions, religions, castes or sects. Popular “sentiments” create a barrier not only for historians but also for writers, movie-directors, artists etc. Under the garb of public sentiment some political parties use history as a weapon and play out their politics of divide and rule for the purpose of filling their vote banks. From the 1990s onwards popular commemoration of certain episodes have taken centre stage in Indian politics with violent and bloody consequences. History is assumed to be an embodiment of popular beliefs and memories and in situations when the truth breaks this web of imagination, violence seems inevitable with the urge to rewrite history. In the present paper I shall put forward three case studies to elucidate the practice of public contestation of academic history which is prevalent in India.

 

The Mosque-Temple Controversy in Ayodhya

Today, Indian Hindus and Muslims see themselves as distinct religious communities, essentially two separate nations occupying the same ground.[3] In post-independence era, a nationalist view emerged that Hindu beliefs were continually suppressed and its institutions repeatedly violated from 1206 C.E. onwards, with the establishment of Muslim rule. The dilapidated Hindu temples are shown as the visual proof of invaders’ atrocities on Hindus. The Babri Masjid was constructed in Ayodhya by one of Babur’s soldiers in 1528 C.E. Two major unanswered questions have sparked the controversy: Is Ayodhya a birthplace of Ram and was the mosque constructed on the ruins of a temple. Hindus answer both the questions in an affirmative tone. According to them the mosque was built on top of an 11th century temple marking the birthplace of Ram. The first clear evidence of dispute occurred in 1822. In September 1990, BJP leader L.K. Advani launched a nationwide campaign in support of the movement for the construction of Ram temple at that particular spot where the mosque stood. A 10,000 km. Ratha Yatra was organised with the slogan: mandir wohin banayenge (we will build the temple there and only there).

On 6 December, 1992, an infuriated Hindu mob demolished the mosque. The government’s decision to rebuild the mosque, announced in the first flush of post demolition guilt, was supported by only 35.7% of Indians, and Hindus disapproved of the decision by a margin of 59:30.[4] On 9th May,2011, the Supreme Court of India put a stay on Allahabad High Court verdict that directed division of 2.77 acres of the disputed land in three parts: among Hindus, Muslims and the Nirmohi Akhara. According to the verdict there was a temple of 12th century C.E. which was destroyed to build the mosque. The excavations of A.S.I. and its readings have been fully accepted even though these have been strongly disputed by other archaeologists and historians and since it is a matter of professional expertise on which there was a sharp difference of opinion, the categorical acceptance of one point of view, and that to in a simplistic manner, does little to build confidence in the verdict.[5]  According to Hindu fundamentalist groups: religion is a matter of belief and faith and their belief that Ram’s temple was located at that exact spot gives a sanction to their violent program.

 

The Laine Controversy

Various development plans, airports, railway stations, public parks, squares, schools and universities in Maharashtra are named after the historical figure of Shivaji Bhonsle. In 1674 C.E. Shivaji crowned himself as Chhatrapati with the aim to establish Hindavi Swarajya in order to fight against the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb. By the final decades of the 19th century Shivaji came to be celebrated in poetry, drama and historical fiction. Bal Gangadhar Tilak started Shivaji festival, a public commemoration of his birth. Maratha historical memory has been crucial not only to the creation of a modern regional Marathi identity in Western India but also to the successful articulation of that identity within wider Hindu and Indian national imaginations.[6]

On January 5, 2004 a group called the Sambhaji Brigade attacked the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune. It was triggered by the publication of James W. Laine’s book “ Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India.” Some prominent historians and politicians charged that the study defamed the memory of Shivaji’s mother Jijabai and his father Shahji. Laine wrote that Shivaji’s parents lived apart for a long time, adding that, “Maharashtrians tell jokes naughtily suggesting that his guardian Konddeo was his biological father.” This was interpreted as if Laine wanted to give an expression of Shivaji’s illegitimacy. His book sparked a major controversy in India leading Oxford University Press to withdraw it from the local markets.  Laine had done some research at Pune’s Institute and he had thanked the institute and some scholars affiliated with it in his acknowledgement section and thus it came under a violent attack. Even the unique objects of historical and literary importance were not spared. More seriously still, they severely damaged a first-century manuscript of the great Hindu epic the Mahabharata, as well as a set of palm leaf inscriptions, some important relics from the prehistoric site of Mohenjo-Daro, and a very early copy of the Rig Veda—the world’s oldest sacred text.[7]

 

The Padmavati Controversy

The story that has been in circulation since centuries describes Padmini, the wife of Chittor’s king Ratansen, as a woman of unparalleled beauty. In the year 1303 Chittor was attacked by Delhi’s sultan Allauddin Khalji, apparently to acquire Padmini. He wanted to have a glimpse of her and in lieu of which he promised to lift the siege. However, he could only see the reflected image of her as the Rajput woman did not allow a stranger to even look at her. Captivated by her charm, he decided to win her and captured Ratansen by deceit. Eventually the Rajput army was defeated by the sultan. Padmini and other Rajput women committed jauhar in order to protect themselves from Muslims.

In the month of January this year, activists of the Rajput Karni Sena attacked the sets of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film Padmavati. The whole episode was based on the assumption by Rajputs that Bhansali was going to shoot a dream sequence in which physical love between Padmavati and Khalji was going to be manifested. The director negated all such charges. Karni Sena is keen to protect the lineage of their ancestors from any misrepresentation. The Rajputs portray themselves as the ones who resisted the Turkish and the Mughal rule at the cost of their lives. The spirit is claimed to have also resided in Rajput women who are said to have committed Sati and jauhar when faced with the prospect of loss of honour at the hands of Muslims.[8] The memory of marriages between Rajput princesses and Mughal rulers is not often easily accepted by the community today as it represented Hindu capitulation to a Muslim empire.

Ramya Sreenivasan in her book, The Many Lives of a Rajput Queen: Heroic Pasts in India c. 1500-1900, makes it clear that Padmini was a fictional figure created in the poem ‘Padmavat’ written by Malik Mohammad Jayasi in the 16th century. It describes Padmini as the beautiful princess of Simhala-dwipa. She had a talking parrot Hiramani who, on being berated by the king of Simhala- dwipa, flew away to Chittor and informed king Ratansen of the beauty of Padmini. Being completely mesmerized by Hiramani’s account of Padmini, the king wished to marry her and managed to do so after a long series of dramatic battles and adventurous trials. Between 16th and 19th century at least 12 Persian and Urdu translations or adaptations of Jayasi’s Padmavat were produced. The idea that Padmini was a fictitious figure, or a Sufic ideal, is unimportant to Rajput imagination as to them she is as real as the famed Rajput valour .[9]

 

Conclusion

Few days back the education minister of Rajasthan Vasudev Devnani claimed that it was Maharana Pratap who won the battle of Haldi ghati in 1576 and not Akbar. “Some books on history say that Akbar was great but various research show that it was Maharana Pratap who was great. But it is obvious only one of them could be great,” he said.  A few years ago Ashutosh Gowarikar’s historical movie Jodhaa Akbar was banned for some days in various states on the charge of hurting the sentiments of the Rajput community and twisting history. According to them Jodha was not Akbar’s wife. Presently and as well as in the past the NDA government has tried to “saffronise” the content of NCERT books, that is to mould the history according to Hindu nationalist views and in accordance with party’s political views.

The popular view depicts Muslims as outsiders and invaders who do not have right on Hindustan and various programs such as “Ghar-Vapasi” are organised to bring back people to Hindu faith. The Muslims of India should not be held accountable for the actions of Mahmud of Ghazni (971-1030), Allauddin Khalji (1296-1316) or Aurangzeb (1658-1707). Even judging their actions as atrocities according to the norms of the contemporary society, would be an injustice as L.P. Hartley puts it rightly in his novel “The Go- Between”: “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.” History is what had happened in the past and not what would have happened. Indians of all faiths must accept the reality of their history, cherish it and take care to preserve it instead of engaging in efforts to rewrite it because trying to undo the past and remedy wrongs that go back several centuries in time will only wreck the present for all concerned.[10] To conclude the essay I would like to quote Romila Thapar’s words: “What happened in history, happened. It cannot be changed.  We cannot change the past to justify the politics of the present.”

 

Sources

  1. Chakrabarty, Dipesh, The Calling of History: Sir Jadunath Sarkar and His Empire of Truth, The University of Chicago Press, 2015.
  2. Deshpande, Prachi, Historical Memory and Identity in Western India 1700-1960, Permanent Black, 2007.
  3. Thakur, Ramesh, Ayodhya and the Politics of India’s Secularism: A Double Standards Discourse, Asia Survey, Vol. 33, No. 7, The Regents of University of California, 1993.
  4. Thapar, Romila, The Verdict on Ayodhya: A historian’s Perspective, The Hindu, Oct 2, 2010.
  5. Mukhia ,Harbans, Myth, History and Nationalism: The Temple- Mosque Controversy in India.
  6. Lee Novetzke, Christian, The Laine Controversy and the Study of Hinduism, International Journal of Hindu Studies 8, World Heritage Press India, 2005.
  7. Dalrymple, William, India: The War Over History, The New York Review of Books, April 7, 2005.
  8. Talbot, Cynthia, Inscribing the Other, Inscribing the Self: Hindu- Muslim Identities in Pre-Colonial India, Cambridge University Press,
  9. Kothiyal, Tanuja, 29 Jan, 2017, http://www.scroll.in
  10. Sreenivasan, Ramya, The Many Lives of a Rajput Queen: heroic Pasts in India c. 1500-1900, University of Washington Press, 2007.
  11. Jasper, Daniel, Commemorating the “Golden Age” of Shivaji in Maharashtra, India and the Development of Maharashtra Public Politics, Journal of Political and Military Sociology, Vol. 31, No. 2, 2003.

Notes

[1] Dipesh Chakrabarty, The Calling of History: Sir Jadunath Sarkar and His Empire of Truth, The University of Chicago Press, 2015, p.7.

[2]  Ibid, p.8.

[3]  Cynthia Talbot, Inscribing the Other, Inscribing the Self: Hindu- Muslim Identities in Pre-Colonial India, Cambridge University Press, 1995, p. 693.

[4]  India Today, 15 Jan. 1993, p. 20.

[5]  Romila Thapar, The Verdict on Ayodhya: A Historian’s Perspective, The Hindu, Oct. 2,2010.

[6]  Prachi Deshpande, Creative Pasts; Historical Memory and Identity in Western India 1700-1960, Permanent Black, 2007, p.2.

[7]  William Dalrymple, India: The War Over History, The New York Review of Books, April 7, 2005 Issue.

[8]  Tanuja Kothiyal, 29 June, 2017, http://www.scroll.in

[9] Ibid.

[10]  Ramesh Thakur, Ayodhya and the politics of India’s Secularism : A Double Standards Discourse, Asian Survey, Vol. 33 , No. 7, University of California Press,1993

Cultivation of Nationalism in modern India: a critical appraisal

A common question often asked is- how to cultivate patriotism, nationalism, and sense of belonging among its inhabitants. How to make people root for their nation, feel proud to be associated with the nation, and feel a sense of duty in maintaining the dignity of the nation. How to break the walls of caste, creed, religion, language etc? That we carry with us throughout our life and whose baggage pulls us down from being true to our nation. How to diffuse the “you” and “I” into a collective “us”? How to cultivate a collective identity of being an Indian that surpasses all other differences? Mind you, there are no easy answers for all these questions. Even though personally i am highly skeptical to the sacro-sanctity of a nation we have to give cognizance to the fact that nationalism has evolved as a formidable structure which can’t be ignored. even when we are contesting the theoretical basis of nation and nationalism, we have to somehow maintain the myth of nation for the purpose of solidarity and peaceful co-existence. thus the trope of nationalism needs to be channelized in the right direction.

The first thing that comes to my mind is an oxymoron, “to construct a nation first we need to deconstruct a nation”. That is, we need to be conscious of the fact that what is a nation? Who makes a nation? Why do we need a nation? How are we identified as a nation and conversely how nation is identified by us? Once we are conscious of the process of nation building, once we are aware of the fact that nation is as much a social construct as other social institutions, it becomes easier to mold the nation, to effect changes in the nation because we will no longer involve in the “jingoism” and “fetishism” that we often confuse with “patriotism”

Having a historical consciousness of the nation, now the next step is to know what changes we need to see in our country and countrymen, what are the features that we wish our state, society and people inherit and imbibe in their subconscious mind? There are several such features that we can point out in this regard- firstly, India is a nation of immense cultural diversity in terms of culture, ethnicity, language, customs and traditions etc. the strength of the nation lie in the truism of “unity in diversity”, to recognize and to appreciate the diversity of the nation. This appreciation of diversity also inculcates the feeling of preserving this diversity; it prevents cultural hegemony and places us an inch closer from realizing the ideal of “vasudhaiv kutumbakam”.

Religion and caste are irrefutable and integral part of our society. The nature, extent, influence, necessity of both though is highly debatable matter. But a bitter truth of the society is the divisive role that religion and caste plays in the society. It is essential for the state to have a non-partisan view regarding religion. Religion is personal and social belief system and even though most of us identify ourselves with some or other religion, it is essential that in before the eyes of law, state, and nation- we all are equal. No matter our religion, “nation comes first”. We need to adopt an attitude of “contextual secularism” that is, respecting all religions equally and additionally; your national identity is supreme amongst your multiple identities. In term of caste, a much stricter attitude is required. We need to recognize the divisive and antagonist force of caste and it should not interfere in our pursuit of national unity.  We can call ourselves part of a common thread only if social discrimination like caste and religion are eliminated.

We call our nation “Bharat Mata” but this is a sorry truth that women are often seen as symbolic embodiment or passive recipient in the process of nation building rather than playing the role of an active agent. We cannot talk of national consciousness by putting half population on the margins. But gender encompasses not just women, it encompasses all categories of sexual divisions and the social constructs associated with it. For everyone to feel for the nation it is necessary that the nation feels for them, for everyone to place nation above everything else, nation needs to place them on an equal plane if not more.

Illiteracy, superstitions and irrationality are biggest hindrance to the idea of nation because biases and superstitions and ill knowledge make people behave contrary to the spirit of the nation. You don’t need to be university educated to have a rational outlook, just a broader viewpoint and a mind open to ideas, only then we can embrace the message of nationalism above all.

Finally, to act like an adhesive to the structure of nationalism is the “sense of belonging”, not just in the context of nation but on a broader plane, humanism. We root for our family our group our institution because we feel we belong to it. Then we share the joys, sorrows, concerns, achievements all as our own. This feeling is to be felt by everyone, to be imbibed through our culture, our institution into our subconscious mind.

Now we come across an even difficult question, that is- “how”? And again there are no easy answers. The first thing that will cross our minds will be that this feeling should be inculcated since our formative age. Schooling, particularly primary schooling plays a very vital role in shaping the character of a person. Using effective means of pedagogy, we can inflame a spirit of patriotism, nationalism and sense of belonging for the future generation. Similarly we can imbibe a sense of duty for the nation and the need to work for the welfare and betterment of the nation. but here we also need to be cautious, feeling for the nation is not same as subservient for the nation. nationalism should not be placed in the rhetoric of xenophobic tendencies and alienation and exclusion of groups should not define our orbit of nationalism. nor should our pedagogy of nationalism be dominated by rhetoric as rhetoric emanates from a false sense of glorification. nationalism can be acceptable on the premise of it being a catalyst for “unity in diversity” and a microcosm for universal brotherhood. thus nationalism should be defined in thoroughly inclusive terms.

Secondly, attempts should be made to forge cultural unity and create an eye for appreciation for different cultures within our nation (and also outside it). This could be done through assimilation, close interaction and display of different cultures. Through creating a cultural panorama, creating nodal points for the interaction of cultures and inculcating a sense of aesthetics will be immensely helpful for growth of “cultural nationalism”which should be again defined in inclusive terms, without enforcing a particular culture or shunning or marginalization of some other cultures.

Many art forms, many cultures, many endeavors of nation building fail because of cost- profit mechanics which restricts the potential of such endeavors. By deliberately patronizing and often commissioning events, art works, books, museums and above all public commemoration state plays the role of a catalyst in the process of nation building. It not only give a pan Indian character and reach to these activities it also encourages individuals to attempt and display and project the “national panorama” without the concern of financial and institutional support.

But for people to utilize the means of pedagogy, to appreciate different cultures, feel proud of being a part of the nation and play an active role in nationalist endeavors, it is essential to provide him or her means to do so. The structure of nation cannot be laid on the base of poverty and oppression. Thus it is essential to provide a “minimum respectable living standard” to all in spheres of life- economic, social and cultural. Social justice and equitable distribution need to be the two foundation stones for the structure of nationalism to stand still.

As pointed out earlier, caste prejudices and discrimination are the biggest divisive forces that need to be curtailed for the unity of the nation. Reformers like Ambedkar gave a lot of emphasis on the role of intermarriage and to some extent inter-dining to dilute the basis of caste prejudices. It is important not only for the assimilation of different social groups but also for the dilution of “identity politics” which tend to create a huge rift between different communities.

Language is not only a medium of communication. Words also carry with them cultural symbols, images, idioms etc. how we express an idea is equally essential as what we express. Rhetoric, propagandist, communal, discriminatory and derogatory form of speeches, texts, audio-visual mediums is many a times used deliberately to provoke sentiments. This kind of misuse of language is used to generate hatred by the hate mongers. Through the use of language a distorted view of history is presented, feelings are aroused. Thus, at least in the public arena some restraint and regulation over propagandist rhetoric derogatory (for the unity of the nation) should be practiced and conversely, language should be channelized for the service of nationalism.

Media can play a very vital role in propagating everything from “grass root nationalism” to influencing people’s opinion in favor of the nation. Media has the potential to make people root for an issue, come in solidarity and work for the welfare of the nation. Media through the powerful medium of cinema can influence and instigate patriotism, nationalism etc. media makes us aware of our duty and media makes us conscious about the happening of the nation. Thus media binds us and help in creating a sense of belonging among different people in different part of the country.

Apart from the concern for its culture, people, society; nationalism should also include an additional and serious concern for its environment. Environment is the part of human existence, it makes a nation a living place, and our existence is severely dependent upon it. So an additional tool of nation building is judicious allocation of environmental resources, conservation of non-renewable resources, concern and reverence for nature and a bid towards sustainable development is as vital part of nationalism as the above mentioned points. We should replace our greed with our need, as the popular truism goes- “to everyone according to their needs”

Thus, to generate a feeling of nationalism and feeling of oneness, prioritizing nation above all, may seem at the first sight a chimera but this is not a revolutionary instant process. This is more of a journey, a penance where the goal is multiplicity of identities converges into a national identity, like different rivers converge into the great ocean, different cultures, societies, identities into the ocean of the nation and become one!! but mind you again this project of nationalism should be facilitated side by side by the discourse on nationalism, and different epistemology of nationalism should be contested and debated upon. nationalism as a theoretical preposition should always be challenged in academic domain so that it doesn’t acquire a pretension of being an inevitable and natural domain. nation should always be treated as a social construct, meant for the society, by the society of the society and is one of the important though not the only identity essential for human existence as a social and communal being.

Aligarh: Claustrophobia in and out

-Santosh Kumar

Cinema is rarely acknowledged as an exclusive domain of academic exercise but it offers very rich dimension to not just our understanding of the issue, it has a power to move us and shake our believe in a manner not possible through other mediums, apart from the directly influence it wields, cinema can be read as a source as a performative act, that is, how can we understand the relation between the medium and the audience, the signifier and the signified here takes a much more diverse form because signifier here is not just a spoken or written word, it is a performance unfolding before us, so is the signified, which is an image but also a sound, a word spoken. Thus the commentary that establishes the plane of interaction between the signifier and the signified is not just an unspoken word but also an incomplete or even absent gesture, emotions, and expressions. It is in these silences that I wish to locate the film. Thus the analysis of the film is not just the critical description of the nuances of the film but also the conscious state that I undergo while watching this film as a part of an academic exercise and as a history student, which would have been an entirely different exercise had I been watching this movie as a lay viewer. Also, we can use Derrida’s conception of re-reading the text. As he points out, a preface of a text is basically a re-reading of the text by the author as it is based on a perceived meaning of the text, but no text is read twice in the same way, so every time someone re-reads a text he acquires meanings that are very different from its intended meanings. Thus, as Michel Foucault points out, in treating the signifier as an enigma and trying to resolve it through commentary, a word acquires signified, and layers of meanings that were not originally intended.

Coming to the movie, Aligarh opens with a visual description of a dystopian setting. Through the use of pan camera angle and night vision shots the movie tries to establish the mundane and gloomy existence of the protagonist, which also serves as the pretext for the scene yet to be unfold. The scene that follows establish one night as a perceived metaphor for the working of “illegitimate” domain of sexuality, perceived because this autonomy of “personal domain of sexuality” is to be disrupted by the “social ethics of sexuality”. Again we go to Foucault, who points out educational institutions, hospitals and church as the site where the “discursive discourse” of sexuality is defined as well as regulated and in that sense exercised. Curiously enough, the one who are scrutinized for their “unethical” sexual behavior is not the student but the professor. Thus, Aligarh can be seen as a site of defining of the institutional modalities of sexuality and a homophobic structure through which the sexual code of hetero-normativity is exuberated. Aligarh is also a story of alienation- an individual as a metaphor for the different spheres of alienation that interacts and overlap with each other. So professor Siras is not just culturally alienated figure due to the linguistic differences but also alienated as an odd one out in the community of patriarchal family units, and in such hetero-normative units, a single/unmarried/divorced person is seen as sexually dangerous- a digression from the normal sexual code defined by our society, which needs to be regulated and if necessary, purged. In a sense it represents a power structure held by the social bodies, expressed both linguistically (through suggestive signification) as well as through social and violent reaction. The interaction between professor Siras and Deepu is a sphere of overlapping of spheres of both the individuals- Deepu’s journalistic ethics vs. his empathetic behavior towards Siras and thus the camera men who recorded Siras’ relation with the rickshaw puller as well as Deepu’s first interaction with Siras (with his over-exuberant cameraman friend clicking pictures) are encroaching the space of Siras, and only when Siras allows him into his space does Deepu is able to carry forward his work.   The dilemma of Siras to interact with outsiders and trying to find escapism from his existential crisis is also reflected in the narrative. The songs he plays on the recorder are also momentary escapism from his miserable existence. In another scene, the playing of old  song carries with itself an air of nostalgia which helps him escape the misery, existential crisis, cultural alienation and sexual jeopardy as well as social ostracizing in the present. The inner domain of both the characters are claustrophobic to various degrees, thus the narrative is also an interaction of claustrophobia between an indifferent metropolitan vs. the morally scrutinizing Aligarh

We find that the deployments of sexuality via cultural norms are more severe than the linguistic reluctance associated with the taxonomy of sexuality.  Sexual divergences are either criminalized or pathologized wherein the individual becomes a mirror of its sexual choices, he or she becomes an object of severe authoritarian gaze which objectify an individual to an extent that they become a mere face to a sexual category. It also offers perspective on the concept of space defined generally through the binary of public and private. What we witness in the narrative can be termed as the “encroachment of space” of an individual which raises questions as to whether morality and norms and propriety can be universally attributed and reinforced, and can those norms be forcefully imposed in the private sphere, in the very existence and identity of an individual, and can a person be punished for violating norms of propriety that doesn’t create any external problems, in his private sphere. In fact, through the court scenes the punishment meted out to the individual for his perceived divergences are justified through a teleological rhetoric of greater good of the society. Thus the violation of right of privacy and human dignity are garbed under the rhetoric of social morality. Also, as a debate acquires a greater stage the sphere of representative of that collective morality. It raises questions as to whether morality has a cultural bearing. How come sexuality acquires overarching discourses that dominates the sphere of politics, society and culture? And how come the digression from hetero-normative sexuality acquires a much more grave disdain when associated with class question. What on the first place it reflects is a bourgeoisie idea of morality and secondly it assumes a layer of exploitation when two different classes are engaged in such a relation.

In the end the movie comes full circle to the idea of claustrophobic existence. Even though Siras wins the case, the hopelessness of justice and the social prejudices associated with the identification and the reluctant affirmation of that existence makes the claustrophobia greater than even temporary escapism of cinema. And he succumbs to the claustrophobia in and out. Now there is no clarity how Siras actually died and speculations of his alleged murder are very ripe. This again points out the social stigma and its violent repercussions when society doesn’t let go of its prejudices, and as we see in this case how it becomes a bigger entity than the life of an individual (or perhaps it reflects the reluctance on the part of the moral community to accept its defeat). Anyways, Siras was choked to death by the claustrophobia that defines both his private and public sphere.

The film helps us chart out different layers of power structures, sexualities and most of all it questions our existence and how much of it actually belongs to us, and how much of it is surrounded by the notions that not only guides, but sometimes dictates and forcefully determines our existence. The bigger question is our right to live with an identity that is truly ours. Or whether there is something that we can call “our existence” or even that in totality, a social construct.

Women through the prism of Religion part-2

-Priyanka Kaushik

Gender is undeniably one of the most important factors of any society. Not only gender molds socio-cultural relations, dictates terms of interaction of the sexes and exposes the underlying structures of patriarchy, it also provides an epistemology to understand different processes in different temporal-spatial zones and understand and help understand aspects of colonialism, nationalism, caste, religion etc with a new lens. Over the time, different scholars have worked on different aspects of gender and have tried to understand various phenomenon and challenge the existing notions through its gender analysis.

The question of gender is one of the most debatable concepts of our times. With the coming of gender consciousness gender constructs are no longer seen as inevitable ones and those are studies like one by “Kate millet” to suggest the relation between sex relations and power, as she says-“personal is political”. So we need to see these processes and layers of the gendered structures intertwined in such a way that a superficial imposed structure after a time looks inevitable and natural to us.

Gender is a field of huge contestation as this is a field where there is a lack of consensus among scholars over the meaning, nature and extent of gender distinctions. Thus the historiography of gender analysis is a complex and subjective discourse and need to be analyzed within a set of socio-economic context.

John W. Scott in her work “Gender: a useful category of historical analysis” analyzes the concepts of gender and proposing how a new understanding of gender influences our understanding of history.

but Scott’s understanding of gender also cast its effect on the discipline of history altogether. her theory revolves around knowledge, meanings and truths as constructive discourse, a structure, a way of “ordering the world” which is not strictly predecessor  to social organization. that’s why according to John Scott, the discipline of history produces knowledge generally about the past. feminist history, in that context, is not restricted to just an attempt to correct or supplement an incomplete record of the past but rather a critical understanding of history as a “site of production of knowledge of gender in general and knowledge in general”.

she also points out that as soon as historians will acknowledge the multivalent and constructed nature of society and knowledge, they will be forced to abandon single cause explanations for historical change. Power is central to Scott’s analysis, for she is interested in the notion of equality, and she argues that by studying gender relations, one can gain an understanding of (in)equality in general.

for this, she calls for us to alter our understanding of power: “we need to replace the notion that social power is unified, coherent and centralized with something like Michel Foucault’s concept of unequal relationships, discursively constituted in social “field of force”. so, power is not something that exists outside the social organization and is then wielded by persons. “The point of new historical investigation”,  Scott writes, is to disrupt the notion of fixity, to discover the nature of the debate or repression that leads to the appearance of timeless permanence. in this view, attention should not be given solely to people’s actions, but instead to the meaning that people (and their actions) acquire through social interaction. lastly Scott believes that the process of constructing gender relations can also be used to discuss class, race, ethnicity or any social process. so, it is indeed a “useful category of historical analysis”.

the question of gender is one of the most debatable concept of our times. with the coming of gender consciousness “gender constructs are no longer seen as inevitable ones” and there are studies, like by Kate Millet  to suggest the relation between sex relations and power, as she says- “personal is political”. in the context of India, religion is one of that dominant aspect through which gender relations are defined as well as justified. Most of the times, the nature of these religious texts are prescriptive and normative, but still as religion and religious texts enter into popular consciousness, they try to form crystallized categories. religious  symbols, iconography etc support the texts in building these difference. we are concerned here not just with religion per say but the gendered relations over the years and how religion plays a dominant role in the proceedings.

though the sati-pratha was abolished in the 19th century through legislation in 1829, there was a resurgence of the sati movement in 1980’s in Rajasthan. the basis of this movement was harking back to the glorious tradition of the “sati-mata” which was an antithesis to the wave of feminist movement in India at the same time.

Nevertheless, religious symbols are put to use in a very different way to justify a movement. another irony  lies in the fact that the most staunch supporters of the movement were women themselves. thus, it actually reveals the process of legitimizing and “sacralizing” the institution and the rhetoric to create an illusion of a glorious tradition. thus, religious tradition could themselves then be used as a text to study the dynamics of gender and the process of legitimization through religion.

As Michel Foucault points out- church, educational institutions and hospitals were three spheres of “discursive discourse” of sexuality through which the domain of sexuality which was repressed in the sphere and locus of “legitimate sexuality” was able to manifest itself without harking to the “illegitimate” sphere of sexuality. power structure has an indelible presence in the realm of gender relations but whether the relations are always hierarchical or sometimes the relation is rhizomatic as well,, whether the power structure is has an overarching presence or it emanated from different nodes of interaction. in that sense, religion may prove very useful in not only studying these interactions of power structures of  gender, but how the process of signification in the rhetoric of gender, becomes an enigma that creates an illusion of a hidden meaning that have to be prized out through a commentary (as in different interpretations of religious texts) and which sometimes create meanings which doesn’t exist in the first place. through deconstructing the structure we have to analyze the women’s sphere through the prism of religion, and similarly through the prism of history.

.  WOMEN THROUGH THE PRISM OF RELIGION