Why Asaram Bapu, Mohan Bhagwat need to shut their mouths

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Why are political and religious leaders spewing venom against women in the aftermath of brutal Delhi gangrape? Is it because they want to make their presence felt at a time when the entire nation is witnessing mass-movement for women's rights. Or, is it their habit of courting controversy over issues on which they lack knowledge as well as sensitivity.

It seems every "Tom, Dick and Harry" of our political and religious classes are coming up with one or other outrageous comments against women. When the nation is trying its best to give due respect and space for women, once again, our rulers have failed us. We have one set of "rulers" like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi who have maintained suffocating silence when they need to address and assure a nation which has erupted into protests to reclaim public space for women.

Asaram Bapu Mohan Bhagwat

And, then we have another set of leaders like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) supremo Mohan Bhagwat and self-proclaimed godman Asaram Bapu whose illogical comments on women have astonished everyone. Their comments on women and violence against women smacked of male chauvinism. Why are they stooping so low? May be, they thought that politicising "rape" will help them gain some brownie points. These so called leaders who sit on a high moral pedestal and make regular "pravachan" (sermons) are people who don't think twice before making any statements.

These verbal attacks on women and their rights are calculated attempts of self proclaimed godman and RSS supremo to garner quick publicity. They know a class of Indians still exist who believes that "women are second-rated" citizens and need to be controlled. Otherwise, how could Bhagwat scream his lungs out asking women to restrict themselves in doing household chores.

Perhaps, RSS supremo is not aware that women have come a long way. Women have not only come out openly to assert their rightful place but are giving tough competition to their male counterparts in every spheres of life. Maybe, Bhagwat is scared of the competition and suggesting such medieval ideas. Before asking women to confine themselves within the four walls of a house, Bhagwat sparked a controversy by saying that rapes happen in India not Bharat.

All the right wing leader did was divide women's problems into "rural" and "urban" and deviated from the real matter on hand. He clearly suggested that urban women who freely move around are more prone to crime against them than their rural counterparts who are still mostly confined in homes. But, Bhagwat's theory has fallen flat as figure suggested that 75 per cent of rape cases are reported from rural India. Then Mr Bhagwat, why did you speak without any knowledge?

Or, Bhagwat was merely propagating and promoting RSS's pet project---the concept of "Bharat" where Lord Rama ruled, as it makes sense to their votebank politics. Otherwise, dividing the country into "India" and "Bharat" is irrelevant.

Then came other shocker from the godman in white attire. According to Asaram Bapu, victim of the Delhi gangrape could have saved herself by addressing her violators as bhaiyya and beseeching for mercy.

The godman further claimed that an "anti-men" campaign had started following the Delhi gangrape incident and that a new anti-rape law enacted in such a climate will be prone to be similarly misused as anti-dowry laws and SC and ST Act. From his public speech at a religious satsang on Dec 28, Asaram Bapu clearly defended the rapists and blamed the victim for her rape, which led to her death in a Singapore hospital on Dec 29.

Unfortunately, his followers defended their guru. His supporters said Asaram Bapu said nothing wrong and refused to apologise on his behalf. Such a situation is scary. If such mindset prevails, then all rapists will go scot-free and instead the victims will have to take the blame for the crime committed against them.

However, a national outrage followed godman's remarks. Activist lawyer Vrinda Grover was also outraged, contending that Asaram Bapu was far removed from the reality and represented those who were scared of women empowerment. "What he is saying is that women must beg for her life and not fight back. Reports said that the victim expressed a will to live. That is a huge paradigm shift from those victims of sexual assault who would like to kill themselves out of shame. People like him are scared that women are now asserting themselves," she said.

But, why the government is quiet on the issue? If Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi is under the scanner of police for making hate speech against a particular religion, then why Asaram Bapu and Bhagwat are not yet arrested for making hate speech against women?

Such "sexist" and "misogynist" remarks should not be encouraged and need to be curbed. These leaders are trying to indoctrinate their followers to treat women as second rated citizens. In fact, they are encouraging their large-scale "followers" to commit crime against women without any fear.

As if absurd observations from Asaram Bapu and Bhagwat were not enough, Chhattisgarh Home Minister Nanki Ram Kanwar has blamed "stars" for crime against women. The minister said that crime against women were happening as their stars were in adverse positions. "We have no answer to this rising spate of crimes against women. Stars are not in position," Kanwar told reporters in Raipur.

"Harm can come on a person if the stars are in adverse positions...We have no answer to this, only an astrologer can predict," the state Home Minister said.

Now, if these kinds of outrageous, mindless and stupid comments from political and religious leaders don't stop, can we hope for a better future for women? Let out leaders keep their mouth shut because whenever they speak, they only speak ill of women. And, this is highly unacceptable.

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