Narendra Modi won the most hyped elections in living history, a symbol of hope for millions disenchanted by ten years of UPA misrule. The Lion of Gujarat roared his way to the Centre with a historic mandate. The supporters were ecstatic, the critics had a heartburn. For a man who was vilified incessantly for 12 years by the mainstream media and opposition alike, this was indeed a historic moment; yet the critics weren’t satiated. Instead of hailing him for overcoming numerous obstacles, they sulked. Instead of granting him respect, at least a grudging one; they waited for pitfalls, real or imaginary.
One such imaginary Modi characteristic is patriarchy and anti-feminism. BJP, RSS and Modi always get painted with a negative hue in this aspect. The primary target of this narrative is obviously Modi who is often referred to as Misogynist Modi. As soon as he won the elections, the media circulated stories of him ditching his wife. Nobody cared to remember that it was an unconsensual child marriage, a consequence of poverty and orthodoxy and a product of the times. Nobody even bothered to report that a country where the average age of losing virginity is 21-23 in the 21st century (A generation brought up on Friends, Emraan Hashmi movies and Sunny Leone videos), expecting a sixteen year old boy growing up in the sexually repressed 60s to be aware of sex, sexuality and family responsibility is blasphemy. Modi leaving his family and wife for a Himalayan sojourn is often highlighted, but never the fact that he was a teenager then. Why let facts come in the way of a cultivated narrative? That’s not how our mainstream media roll anyway!
Earlier this week Modi embarked on a short trip to Bangladesh. Broken bridges were mended, deteriorated relationships recovered and progressive deals signed. How can the leftist news traders be expected to report such positive news regarding a right wing Government? So, they instead decided to focus on a perceived insult towards women. A speech in which Modi highlighted the progressive mindset of the Bangladeshis in trusting women to lead their country, a speech which was meant as a compliment for Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia was misrepresented as a slight towards women. Whoever is aware of the social dynamics of the subcontinent and a predominant Muslim society, knows how difficult it is for women to rise to positions of prominence. Yet the only point of importance that the media found in the 30 minute long speech was the phrase “Despite being a woman” without highlighting the content and context of the speech.
The opposition was quick to jump onto the bandwagon and paint BJP in a negative light. The media added further fuel to the fire. As per the holy media, the following are female friendly gestures:
a) Jayalalitha having all those men/ women/ children fall at her feet is feminism.
b) Mamata Banerjee’s MPs/ MLAs openly threatening opposition of raping their mothers and sisters is women empowerment.
c) Laloo Prasad Yadav installing his wife as a dummy CM is not patriarchy.
d) Mulayam Singh Yadav’s derogatory views about the innocence of rapists is popular folklore by now.
e) A horde of female leaders ditching AAP or them validating the derogatory “Two finger test” for raped women (retracted after public outrage) is female emancipation.
f) Let’s not even talk about Congress. Abhishek Manu Singhvi demanding sexual favours in lieu of promotion is feminism, ND Tiwari and his numerous scandals is respect towards women, Shashi Tharoor openly cavorting with women outside wedlock and being castigated by his own wife on social media for the same is women empowerment. Digvijay Singh’s cavorting with journalists half his age when his own wife and family disapproves is acceptable.
The media never bothers about the aforementioned transgressions, the only note of discord is Modi’s supposed injustice towards his wife or a tiny excerpt from some speech. However, let’s analyse the truth whether Modi and BJP follow an anti-women policy. The NDA Government at the centre has Sushma Swaraj and Smriti Irani in prominent Cabinet portfolios; contrast this with the former UPA regime which was puppet-managed by the most powerful woman in the country, Sonia Gandhi and yet had no women in influential cabinet positions. The incumbent Prime Minister’s home state Gujarat has a female CM, Anandiben Patel as his successor. Vasundhra Raje, the Rajasthan Chief Minister is a lady herself. The BJP CM candidate for the national capital was the most decorated female IPS in the country, Kiran Bedi. When Barack Obama came calling, he was given a guard of honour by Wing Commander Pooja Thakur, the first women to be accorded such an honour. The following Republic Day parade had women contingents representing our armed forces, for the first time. The critics brush aside the last two gestures as mindless symbolism, yet they never care why this so called mindless symbolism wasn’t followed by the previous governments. Numerous women were inspired by these events, yet the media turned a blind eye!
This article doesn’t mean to brush away the demerits of patriarchy and misogyny in the country. It’s an issue which needs to be adequately addressed. Yet to burn a single party and its’ leader, who happens to be the Premier, at the altar of Feminism is short-sightedness. While we agree that the Indian political class has a lot to do when it comes to emancipating women, let’s not castigate the person and his party who does a far better work than their competitors, in this regard. We, the people of India, need to be judicious and far-sighted regarding such matters, instead of being sucked up by baseless propaganda. As far as the mainstream media is concerned, both print and television, who expects them to be judicious and balanced anyway?
P.S. This is the first in a series of articles, highlighting the perception and reality of the Modi Government with respect to various issues. Do watch this space for more!
Image credits: http://www.qz.com/
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