All This Parliamentary Culture!

‘Surpanakha’ : Myth turned into Reality

Radhakanta Barik

Indian parliament is structured in the lines of the British parliament. The Prime Minister of a country is the leader of the treasury bench. The Leader of Opposition is waiting to take over the similar position in future. As a leader of the treasury bench he or she should answer to questions asked by the Opposition. In the Indian parliament on 7 Februrary 2018 (Wednesday) the Opposition Leaders raised some pertinent questions related to agrarian crisis, health budget and Rafael deal related to defence scam. But Modi the Prime Minister as the leader of the treasury bench did not answer to all the questions raised by the Opposition. This writer was working over a paper on Biju Patnaik as a parliamentarian which got published in their journal. He was the minister of Steel and Mines in Morarji Desai government, had to do homework in answering to the questions raised by the opposition leaders. It is interesting to note here that Modi did not answer to the questions raised by the Opposition. Prime Minister Nehru to Man Mohan Singh used to speak on the floor of the house to answer the questions raised by the Opposition. It was then PM Modi, in a matter of pointed rebuke, said the chairman mustn't say anything to Chowdhury, because it was after a long time since Ramanand Sagar's Ramayan serial was aired, did they get to hear such laughter. MoS home Kiren Rijiju tweeted out the clip, describing Chowdhury's laugh as "vexatious". Some headlines called it "cackling", others reported how BJP national president and Rajya Sabha MP Amit Shah burst out laughing after Modi's rebuke, along with the men and a few women in the upper House, laughing along, because they dare not laugh at. PM openly calling Renuka Chowdhury "Surpanakha" in the Parliament amidst wild cheering by other senior BJP leaders like Ravi Shankar Prasad and Amit Shah is a new low in ruling party.

Women in Sanskrit Ramayan and Mahabharat are bold and rebellious including Sita. Sita has questioned Ram as a husband and as a king and as a human being. Draupadi questioned all patriarchal authority in Mahabharat. Yes under colonial rule a concept of Victorian woman got developed who was a docile and servile. This continued for a long time in the post independent India. Today woman has acquired public space in the rural India. Gungat has vanished from rural India. In colleges and schools students start discussing the issues affecting them. As a teacher this author raised a question regarding love marriage among students who were students in M Planning of School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. It is interesting to note that 60 women students unanimously told that they would go for love marriage. They laugh and question male authority everywhere. In a traditional society laughter has been adopted as a means of every day form of protest against the male authority.

Hindutva wants to reinvent a gungat wearing woman or a docile woman and servile woman. They say today that women have a place in home not public place. These backward ideas of a ruling political party created problems of accepting laughter of women legislatures in parliament.

They all take an oath under Indian constitution based on equality and justice where no discrimination on the basis of caste, community, race and gender is allowed. They intend to subvert through their actions of the Indian constitution. This action of the Hindutva forces exposes their narrow view of Indian society and constitutional morality.

This reminds one the drafting of Indian Constitution in Constituent Assembly where the Hindu Code Bill was getting piloted by Dr Ambedkar and Nehru to provide Hindu women the right to marriage, divorce and inheritance. The communal and conservative forces in Constituent Assembly strongly opposed the bill which lost in the end on the plea that it would break Hindu society. The RSS organised the protest movement against the Hindu code bill. It could not be passed in the end as conservatives organised protest movements inside and outside the parliament. Ambedkar resigned as the Law Minister. Nehru waited till 1955 to enact the bill on the floor of parliament where twelve women MPs played a decisive role to enact the Hindu Code Bill.

The history is getting repeated that the male members of the treasury benches enjoyed the abuses thrown on Renuka Chowdhury as Surpanakha. There are two important characters in Ramayan : Sita and Surpanakha both are two sides of the same coin. Sita suffered in the hands of Ram and Surpanakha got a wound in her nose by Ram. Both have wounds in their hearts and minds. Surpanakha, a rebel in the whole scene when she laughed loudly by seeing Ram as persona. Ram waiting to be the king representing the patriarchal authority of the Rajput community got laughed by Surpanakha, a woman belonging to Brahmin community. That was the time when conflicts between the Rajputs and Brahmins came to the surface. As a sister of another King Ravan, a Brahmin did not respect Sita though he brought her deceitfully but never touched her while she was staying in her palace in Lanka.

Sita according to the Sanskrit Ramayan shouted at Ram through Lakshman as she was taken to the jungle accompanied by him. That Ram was a coward by not announcing the judgment on her as a king and surreptitiously pushed her to the jungle with Lakshman as a form of punishment. Surpanakha demanded love from Ram instead of refusing to her cut her nose in the jungle. The jungle vs city brings conflict at the level of social space. That those who live in the jungle as asuras and women share the same space. This got reflected in Manushastra that Dalits and women having the same space in architecture of Hindu society.

In the parliament Hindutva forces stand for the Manushastra's social structure where women and sudras stand together to fight them. Laughter from Renuka Chaudhiry stands in opposition to Hindutva view of women, shudra and dalits and tribals.

In the parliament Hindutva forces stand for the Manusmruti standing on social structure where women and sudras stand together to fight them.

Vol. 50, No.47, May 27 - June 2, 2018