21.2.13

i don't agree

I spent a large part of my day yesterday watching a series of interviews on News Laundry called 'I Agree.' It is a series of interviews in which a journalist (Abhinandan Sekhri) engages with people who have slightly controversial opinions on a lot of things: ranging from Amy Chua to Mohammed Ahmed (the Secretary of the Jamaat e Islami Hind) and Jai Bhagwan Goel (leader, Rashtravadi Sena and one of the main accused in the Babri Masjid case). While the journalist himself is often quite smug and sarcastic and doesn't seem to be agreeing at all, even trying hard not to laugh out loud, the show is fantastic.

What I am trying to figure out for myself while watching these interviews is this: what sort of thought process does a person who believes in very, very patriarchal or communist things go through?

Between Mohammed Ahmed, Ram Madhav and Jai Bhagwan Goel, the interviews span a range of extreme right views on topics such as from the roles of men and women in society, religion, marriage, homosexuality, schools, clothing, love and valentine's day, cricket, films and so on. The views expressed are nothing new to anyone living in India. That they exist and are being taken up as causes by some of the biggest political and religious groups in the country is not what shocks me. It is that they morally sanctioned by hundreds of thousands of people who see them as the unquestionable correct way.

Some things are just plain ludicrous. Jai Bhagwan Goel, for example, talks about how he doesn't believe in the concept of elections. Anyone who does something that goes against the grain of Indian morality (as prescribed by him) is anti-patriotic and either Pakistani or a Pakistani agent. (By his count even Bal Thakeray doesn't measure up to his great standards and is indeed an agent of Pakistan). Obviously, it goes without saying or problematizing that 'Pakistani' is the bottom of the hierarchy, and the absolute worst thing that an enemy of the state could possibly be.

Sekhri points out in nearly every interview that there is only one issue over which all these right religious groups come together: homosexuality.

Mohammed Ahmed puts their ideology about it quite well. He says that men and women are complementary in nature, and anything that goes against this is unnatural. Be it a man doing chores at home, or a man doing a man. He goes on to talk about many related things based on the beauty of this complementary relationship between men and women. He says that marital rape is impossible because men and women have carnal needs and that there can be no such thing as marital rape because there is now an "understanding" between them. Men and women living in together must be treated as rapists because their sex isn't sanctioned by marriage. He also goes on about modesty of women's clothing, chastity and why there should be no co-educational institutions.

These views are stated in a casual sort of way, in a way that assumes righteousness and morality. All of them are backed by political power, threats and bullying (although all of them in their interviews also say that they are non-violent and have never instructed their cadre to raise a hand on anyone). In my opinion, these views are only extreme manifestations of everyday views that regular middle class people have.

I know people in my own family who think that all muslims should be treated with hostility, for example. Or that girls and boys should have minimal interaction. Or that women should not wear short clothes. Or that this love-shove is a huge farce and all women should be married by the time they are 25. These aren't unintelligent people in the least - quite the opposite. Some of them are even high powered executives working in top echelons of multi-national corporations. So really, how do people arrive at these opinions and can anything be done to change them?

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