Prof Chaman Lal
Since 30th April 2014, there is a flood of activities on social media-intimate intimidating photographs of Amrita Rai-Digvijay Singh Congress leader have gone virile on twitter, face book, blogs and other social sites. I saw three tweets and one face book post. Amrita Rai, Rajya Sabha anchor, earlier NDTV reporter posting tweets that her mail account has been hacked and that she has filed divorce suit with her husband and plan to marry Digvijay Singh. Digvijay also tweeted that he plans to formalize relations with Amrita ji after her divorce and he is making it open and not hiding like Narender Modi. By the evening, Anand Pradhan, husband of Amrita posted a small explanatory note on face book in Hindi about their living separately since long and having filed suit for divorce by mutual consent. I tweeted to both Amrita and Digvijay and also wrote on Anand’s post. I personally know Anand Pradhan and Amrita Rai, but not Digvijay Singh. Amrita Rai had interviewed me once in my office in JNU, as NDTV reporter, when I was JNU Teachers Association (JNUTA) President in 2007. She is courteous person. Anand Pradhan is a friend and ideologically we are close. In 2013, after leaving JNU, I stayed in IIMC guest house for one night, getting room booked through Anand Pradhan. I had a desire to go to their house too and say hello to Amrita as well, but as Anand did not invite, so did not express my wish. Now it seems they were not staying together, about which I had no idea.
Incidentally I support what Anand Pradhan said in his face book post that man-woman relations are extremely complex and one should not try to peep into personal relations of two individuals till the time they themselves wish to make it open and to the extent they think it proper. Incidentally there are no angles in private life and most of the couples do fight, quarrel in private domain. But I was surprised to see Anand’s post getting virile, receiving 2500+ likes and nearly one thousand comments and continuing, hardly anyone gets so much attention. But it was not pleasant, it was ugly. Out of 1000, 10-20% may have written rationally and with some degree of concern, 70-80% comments were vile, vicious, abusive and misogynist mostly by Moditvaites towards Anand , Amrita and Digvijay Singh. Releasing personal intimate photographs of two individuals must be a cyber-crime, but it was committed by none else than Nitin Gadkari, BJP big leader, as re[orted is some paper, as a revenge for Digvijay’s questioning of Modi hiding his marriage. In the process, Anand and Amrita became target of their vileness. Comments on Anand Pradhan’s face book also indicates towards it to be BJP-Moditvaites’s concerted campaign to indulge in such scandalous, misogynist attacks against women and leftists in general and to seek revenge from their political rival Digvijay Singh. Even on Anand’s post, lot many Moditavites posted Amrita-Digvijay intimate photos to provoke or insult Anand, many went on the extent of posting male nudes with recommendations for potency medicines, thus touching lowest levels of dirty minds. This whole ugly episode raises many questions:
Elections for 16th Lok Sabha and Narender Modi’s indecent hurry to become Prime Minister of India is the immediate reason for this ugly dehumanized campaign by Modi followers, which has been conducted with typical RSS style of personal mudslinging with targeting women and leftists. One can remember that even during emergency RSS used to throw lot of mud at Indira Gandhi, attacking her relations with Dhirender Brahmchari or saying things like-‘Sanjay Gandhi in inebriated condition slaps her’ etc. Same Sanjay Gandhi later became the darling of Sangh parivar by getting his widow and son to Sangh umbrella. Yet there are other social factors also involved in such tendencies to become so frequent in society:
(A) Twenty first century has brought the internet to social life, whose potential is revealing day by day. Despite its positive aspects, it has immense capacity of misuse as well. Thus Porn sites are one of its biggest product, which has shaken the life everywhere, but more in sexually oppressive societies. Maximum porn sites are watched in Arab and such geographical areas, which are known for sexual exclusiveness, male chauvinism and where women are treated as dungeon, as man’s slave, sought to be bound to certain areas like home only and forced to follow regressive dress code. Most of the religious fundamentalist groups, which oppress women more, are taking recourse to use the scandalous devastating aspects of internet in these matters. Making public personal intimate pictures of some public personalities is their way of revenge and imposing their obscurantist values on society.
(B) Digital explosion in the form of mobile and other easy kind of cameras available all the time at hand, selfies kind of trends etc. have made people lose their balance and they are not able to keep certain level of self-discipline over their lives. Almost imperialist kind of control of social sites like Google or others, where the privacy of your data is at best an illusion, people are always at risk of their private life becoming public at any point of time and causing great destabilization. So many cases of crimes, murders, suicides world over due to such happenings on face book, twitter, or just photos in mobile cameras have created altogether new kind of value less violent society, where blackmailing through new gadgets has been introduced.
(C) Not that social site have just negative devastating features only, there are positive features as well. In socially oppressive societies like India, it has helped remove the facade of hypocrisy prevalent in social life in the name of moral values, religion etc. Thus when people are joining these sites, they are freely expressing their preferences like-women recording for ‘Looking for Men’ and men recording ‘looking for women’ or sometime hiding their identities and doing all those things, which they still not dare to do in their real identity, which provides psychological relief to their suppressed emotions. That so many conservative men and women on these sites have made male or female friends, which they would have never even imagined in their life, if there has been no technological revolution of this kind. It has given women some more freedom in India like feudal mindset societies.
(D) That it has also smashed some myths like purity of marriage, only one man-one woman loyalty, nothing can affect the ‘rock like marriage system and its eternal value’ etc. One can see from face book data, even in Indian context how many men and women have made both sexes as their friends and have freely conversed with each other without bothering about the alien or just virtual/screen and not real status of the ‘other’. This is democratizing aspect of this social media.
(E) That it has brought to the center focus that man –woman relations are not as simple as some religious scriptures want to make us believe. They prove the scientific researches of Freud like psychologists of these relations’ immense complexity, which sometimes is brought out in literature or creative forms of art, which is socially accepted as relief from real social or personal problems. That these researches can definitely help understand these complexities better and deal with them too, but which demands rational and scientific attitude towards life and not just blind faith attitude of some ‘universal human values’ like clichés.
(F) Age is considered as a moral factor in most of such scandals, as is being scandalized by 67 years Digvijay Singh and 43 years old Amrita Rao’s ‘immoral’ relations on age gap ground! And we easily overlook that whether it was Pablo Picasso, Pablo Neruda or Charlie Chaplin-just three iconic illustrations, who according to their own memoirs had relations with women of 20 to 30 years at the age of 80 years or more. From rightist side recent illustration of Italian ex-Prime Minister Berlusconi, who at nearly 80 was found to be buying sex of 15 year old girls. It could be other way round as well, as writer Taslima Nasreen tweeted-it is fine to have 67 yrs. male and 43 yrs. female to have relations, but when 67 yrs female will have relations with 43 yrs male and someone referred to Sophia Loren! That since they are big names, we tend to accept these, even romanticize it, but in real life situation, we get shocked. The two Hindi films in recent years have brought the reality of these facts to center focus. In fact Pablo Neruda, as Ambassador in Sri Lanka at one time had narrated his sexual encounter even with his maid of much younger age, would have made him dubbed as ‘rapist’ and demanded his arrest by post Delhi rape case situation, as the atmosphere has been created. It is rather risky to say, with fear even from leftists friends that the recent campaigns for ‘stringent and strict laws’ against sexual offenders have in fact strengthened the fascist laws more, rather than ensuring women’s security or enhancing their rightful participation in social life. Perhaps they have been made to realize to confine their movements to ‘safe time’ ‘safe areas’ and the ‘need to have a male companion’ for safety at odd hours! In the hands of fascist Modi coming into power, one can imagine how these laws will be misused against maximum number of leftists/Dalits and minorities. The harsh fact is that socio-cultural education and social reformist movement for man-woman equality and changing the mindset through prolonged cultural reorientation is a crying necessity, particularly when such sexual offenders are coming from ‘lumpen proletariat’. The rich classes have all the glamour at their command, including multiple sexual encounters, including one night stands for both males and females and who have never to face strict and stringent laws against women harassment. Incidents of wife-swaps etc. among higher officials of military/bureaucracy etc. can indicate to the ‘sexual’ divide at class level. The recent complaint of one victim wife of an army officer, who resisted this activity and complained to defense minister Antony, shows the contrast of two classes! Those who are denied sex life in normal manner-‘the scum of the earth’, indulge in criminal acts, with porn sites, releasing their inhibitions, for committing these crimes. Hang hundreds of them, still these crimes will not stop. These crimes are result of socio-political-economic system, where healthy life conditions, including healthy male-female relations, are denied to large number of people, resulting in social crimes and unless social conditions do not change for the better, no amount of stringent laws will be able to control such crimes.
(G) One has to accept the fact that there are different cultural modes prevalent world over and in multi-cultural country like India itself has diverse practices of man-woman relations in different sections of Indian people. Among Muslims, cousin marriages are almost rule, whereas in same geographical areas, Hindu families consider cousin relations to be brother-sister relations. I remember one incident of a respectable Doctor family of Punjab, getting killed a doctor couple in eighties, who were cousins at family level and after marriage, had gone far away to Sikkim to escape the wrath of relatives. Among Hindus themselves maternal uncle-niece marriage is almost rule in some parts of South India, whereas in North India, these relations are forbidden as of father-daughter like. Then with porn sites affecting lives of people, the suppression of desires is getting burst up and society has to come to terms with different kind of sexual preferences of people and not just male-female straight relationship. Thus lesbianism, homosexuality, multi sexual encounters are all becoming part of society, even in conservative societies, at least in virtual world, which is affecting real world as well.
(H) In the changing mores, marriage as institution getting badly affected, large numbers of people in many countries prefer not to marry. In USA, New Zealand, Europe, Latin America, marriage institution is losing the moral status as it enjoyed earlier, Indian urban life is also having its impact felt. In such circumstances, society has to learn to be more tolerant of different kinds of man woman relationship. Sex relations must be taken out of ‘moral codification’ of certain kind and accepted as they are. Only moral code in such relations is mutuality and absence of violence and exploitation. One may dislike much such kind of relationships, but despite one dislikes, the other people’s choice has to be recognized as his or her ‘democratic’ right. Justice Leila Seth is good example of showing such tolerance.
(I) If marriage as an institution does not remain ‘sacrosanct’ and is accepted in its early true substance of a ‘social contract’ or even in some radical thinking ‘license for establishing sexual relationship’ (rather property relationship), then any such relationship will not attract attention or get scandalized as its gets today, considering ‘marriage’ to be something like religious rigorous code, which cannot be violated in any condition. Marriage like any other social institution has come up as a social necessity of its time and may stay or go as the time changes, at least it cannot sustain in its rigour. This is also a myth that west is affecting India like societies for sexual deviations. Longevity of marriage in west and east-both, depends upon mutual love, understanding, care& concern of each other. There are couples in Europe and America, who never split in life, whereas in India like societies, the reality of marriage as institution is-as the Punjabi phrase goes-Jodian jagg thodiyan, narad Bathere’-‘true couples are few, tied with ropes are maximum.’ Financial constraints or the dependence of women on men is big reason for keeping marriage going in India like countries, even if the couple has no binding factor of love or mutual respect for each other. If in initial phase of marriage love or sexual urge is more important, in the later stage, understanding is much more important. More marriages break because of incompatibility of ideas, life style and understanding, than just of sexual incompatibility, particularly when both man and woman are working and are conscious of their own personality traits and needs. In a society, where there is financial and social security for women, there even difference in day to day habits of people can cause breakdown of marriage. It is not a joke that many marriages break because of snoring habits of one of the couple! It is dependency of women on men in large cases in India, that invariably whenever a public personality or ordinary man has been accused of sexual offences, his wife has stood by him almost in 99% cases, even if she might have remained victim of domestic violence herself in her married life.
(J) Another fact of the matter is men and women, now even same sex people; get attracted to each other at various levels. When couples are living separately for years or months together and when people work or study at different places, there is likelihood of friendship getting developed, which may or may not develop into physical intimacies. But in case such intimacies do develop but with mutual attraction and consent, these must not be treated as ‘guilt’, crime or even looked down upon, whether the people involved in such relations are ‘married’ or ‘unmarried’. Remember recent film-Lunchbox for such attractions.
(K) Once the hypocrisy goes out of man-woman relationships, then one can look at these relationships in a rational manner and accept that if people can marry, they can split too and no moral high or low ground is involved for ‘married’ ,‘divorced’ , ‘unmarried single’ ‘live in relation’ kinds of people. Yes children born out of any such kind of relationship are the joint responsibility of two people and in case of split; their interests have to be taken care of in best possible manner.
(L) Incidentally those Sanghi/Moditva mentality people, who are enjoying throwing mud at Amrita Rai and Digvijay Singh, and by proxy at Anand Pradhan too, should also remember that their icon Atal Behari Vajpayee lived with his lady love, who was somebody else’s ‘wife’, openly in his Prime Ministerial Bungalow, and her son in law, an unconstitunal authority, was referred to as Vajpayee’s son in law only!
The real issue remains the cybercrime and encroachment of privacy of citizens, some website has posted three years mobile sms exchange between Amrita Rai and Digvijay Singh. Which mobile company has allowed leakage of this private data? The private photographs of Digvijay and Amrita, released through illegal hacking of private mails of one of these persons is also a big crime. Anand Pradhan and Amrita are free to live together or split, it is their personal life, so is with any other two or more people, till the time they are not violating any law or hurting any other person by their act. But releasing personal pictures and messages is definitely a crime that must be condemned and checked through legal procedures. If some stringency is required in law, it is here in such cases, where people’s lives can be blackmailed.
In this face booked world, where more than one billion, almost 1/6th of people of the world have come on single connecting platform, one cannot live in archaic times. Man woman relations are most free in Latin America, where being step sons/daughters, step sisters/brothers, step father/mother has no relevance at all and children from same mother, even from many men are treated at equal level without any social stigma. Women there too, suffer a bit more, as men generally avoid care of children and it is woman who takes care of children, even from many men; but she is not looked down upon and enjoys full respect and dignity in society. Indian society also has to come to terms with different kind of man-woman relations without ascribing so called moral codes to the relations. Only moral code is to be-domestic violence, including sexual violence must be fought with, by law and by education, cultural reorientation.
This is a tall task, not going to be achieved in short time. With education and social reform, it will take less toll of life; otherwise changing world scenario will force the society to come to terms with it, but with paying more price in terms of human life, agony and social energy!
Professor-Coordinator, Centre for Comparative Literature/Centre for Punjabi Language, Literature&Culture/Professor-Incharge, CUP, Library
Central University of Punjab, Bathinda.
Professor(Retired), JNU, New Delhi
Former President JNU Teachers Association(JNUTA)