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Hypocrisy Of Brahminical And Mainstream Feminist Movements

By Surendra Gopinath Rote

02 April, 2009

An interrogation about the parity between Caste Hindu women and Dalit women

The immense literature has been available on the current socio-economic condition of women in Indian society. It has taken an importance in the study of gender and society. Continuous debates have been carrying out on the issues of women’s status whenever the cases emerged out related to oppression of women. The number of mainstream feminists claimed that there is no sharp line between Dalit women and caste Hindu women however both are the victims of patriarchic society as well as suffering social disabilities at par level.

This paper will be highlight on the distinction between Dalit women and caste Hindu women in terms of social conditions. Further, the paper will be elaborate that how the need and requirement of Dalit women are differ from the caste Hindu women. Particularly, the paper will focus on the hypocritical approach of Brahminical feminist movement in terms of women’s progress and how they preserves the caste system through their says and actions.

At the outset, we should aware about that being Dalit and being poor are two different things. Dalit means downtrodden, the crushed person and oppressed by the caste system which denied the civil rights of living. At another point ‘Poor Person’ means a status which largely assigned to economic condition of the person. Poor person could access the all public amenities who does not carry social stigma by born. Whereas ‘being Dalit’ means cursed on the person. Dalit could not access public amenities as per the Hindu religious text. Dalit means marginalized by every aspects of social life. At more extent in the Indian context, if Dalit do the material progress, the stigma of being Dalit doesn’t leave him and maintain his lower status according to his caste. Although class system emerging in India but within the class Indians are conscious about their caste.

The problem of Indian women would be located in the above context. India has been experiencing the social discrimination since centuries. After the colonial period, India framed the number of development policy and implementing development projects for making country self sufficient. However, it is necessary to see that who are the most beneficiaries of these governments planning and its implementation. It is noticeable that in most of the Indian Universities proportion of the Dalit girls are comparatively less than the Caste Hindu girls. Therefore, it is inevitable for social scientists to focus on the functioning of castes in the everyday life of the people.

In rural areas Castes Hindu women enjoys more social privilege compared to Dalit women. Dalit women live in the worst condition than Caste Hindu women. For instance, because of belong to socially and economically marginalized groups, Dalit women engaged in menial jobs or in unfair activities like prostitution. Consequently in urban areas, Dalit women found in menial jobs like scavenging, toilet cleaning and rag-picking. There would be hardly any Caste Hindu women would find in these activities. When Dalit woman appoints as a nurse in the village dispensary Caste Hindus denies for treatments by her. Further they try to mentally and physically torture her. The same phenomenon happens in the context of schools in villages when teacher finds belong to Dalit community. But if the appointed person finds belong to higher caste then no such atrocity happens.

It is agreeable that Dalit women and Caste Hindu women, both are the victims of patriarchal society. Nevertheless, Dalit women are most vulnerable than upper castes women in terms of their social status.

Caste Hindu women get the cultural capital from her family for education whereas Dalit women are completely lack of cultural capital. Here I would like to reiterate that cultural capital plays an important role in the social upbringing of human beings. In the context of health issues, morbidity and mortality rate is more among Dalit women. The proportion of child death rate is more among SC/ST than upper castes due to lack of institutional deliveries and ignorance of ante natal care.

By the above experience, it reveals that we should have to give more attention on the needs and requirements of Dalit women in terms of education, employment and health. Caste Hindu women are socially mobile, participating in the social and economic activities whereas Dalit women still facing the misfortune as being Dalit.

Further I would highlight the hypocritical nature of Brahminical or mainstream feminists movement. The Brahminical feminists know that the plight of the women has craftily built up in the Hindu religious texts. They aware about how the women is being depicted miserable, unfortunate, dependant and subjugated creature in the epics of Mahabharata, Ramayana, Manusmriti and other religious texts. These texts have shown antipathy towards women by ordering that those women whose menstrual cycle is in term could not enter the kitchen and temple. She should be cover her face in front of elders or outsiders, widows should not remarry and to be shaved off her head or throw herself in the fire of her deceased husband. But it never ever seen that Brahminical and mainstream feminists have shown wrath on this texts and came forward to discard or burn this texts. Interestingly, they found to organized Satyanarayana Puja, Ganesh festival, Krishna Janmashthami and Mahashivaratra. Why they do not want to uproot gender discrimination which crafted in these religious texts? In Contrast, Brahminical or mainstream feminist finds to regulate the customs and style depicted in religious texts. They like to worship Krishna, Ganesha, Shiva and so many other gods who have more than one wife. They like to worship Lord Krishna who used to steal the clothes of bathing women (Gopis) in the river and asks them to come out for their clothes. It is ridiculous that people adore this scene as saying it KrishnaLila or Rasalila. Apart from that mainstream feminist do not want to crush those gods (Pandavas) who lost their wife in the game of cards. In Ramayana, Ram insulted her wife Sita by asking her to prove her chastity after released from Ravana’s confinement.

As I have pointed few incidents as above, it is cleared that Brahminical feminist movement is either they do not want to uproot the gender discrimination by discarding religious texts and revision the society or pretending to being a voice of all the women including Dalit women.

Dalit women are not only victim of gender discrimination but also caste disabilities. There are stray tendencies in the Brahminical feminist movement. If they want to revision the society they should abolish those texts on which gender discrimination stands up.

Brahminical and mainstream feminists reiterate the radical movement that is ecofeminism which asserts the material needs of the women. But they ignore the fact that the reason behind the misery of Indian women is form on the base of religious texts where women depicted helpless, marginalized, dependant and machine of reproduction.

According to Brahminical feminists, ecofeminism focus on caste and gender discrimination, oppression of Dalit women and unjust distribution of natural resources. If we agree on this point then question still stands that what the theory of caste abolition ecofeminists have to bring the Dalit women at par level of mainstream women? Are they geared up to burn those texts which degrade the status of women?

Ramesh Kamble has pointed out in his article that India is the country of contradiction. When film actess Shilpa Shetty was insulted in reality show by his co-artist to passed racial comments on her. The whole India stirred up and felt wounded. They have all sympathy for Ms. Shilpa Shetty. But at the same time in India where thousands of Dalit women who suffering misfortune to born in lower caste, facing caste atrocities, parading naked in the village in the name of her lower caste. But Indians have no feelings for it. They take it as granted. It is an unfortunate of India. This phenomenon has clearly drawn the line to show that the status of Caste Hindu women and Dalit women is unequal.

Finally, I must point out that nowadays Dalit women who have been progressing and achieving good status in society is not because of any feminist movement but certainly the inspiration of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s thoughts.

At some extent, we can say that Brahminical or mainstream feminists movement could be oppose for the women’s right itself. It is proved when mainstream women’s organization opposed the Hindu Code Bill presented by Dr. Ambedkar in parliament. In Indian social context, Ambedkarism is one of the most relevant thought flow which transforms the whole society into egalitarian society. But Brahminical feminist and mainstream feminist shows antipathy towards Ambedkarism because it not only brings up parity but kills the soul of caste.

Mainstream feminist movement could focus on the livelihood issues of women. However, the point is not to feed the stomach only but it is question of self respect, dignity and of equal status which all denied by caste system. My question still stands there those feminist who worships Rama, Krishna, Shiva and Ganesh how could they become the emancipatory force for Dalit women or even for mainstream women?

Surendra Gopinath Rote
Research Officer
Tata Institute of social sciences, Mumbai
[email protected]

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