OPINION
IZZAT GAYEE KIS KI...
She slept with Langah. Don't sympathise with her.
- NEHA JINDAL & HARLEEN KAUR*
She slept with Langah. Don't sympathise with her.



A WOMAN COMPLAINED against a minister, claiming years of exploitation. Alongside her complaint, she submitted a video. Sucha Singh Langah is now in jail, his party cleansed itself by expelling Langah, and a religion protected its purity by excommunicating him.

A leading playwright of Punjab, Pali Bhupinder Singh, wrote on his facebook how our society must not have any sympathy for such women who strip for jobs, something he termed was neither a qualification nor a matter of duress.

The kind of backing such comments received in the social media betrays the rape culture which engulfs our mindset. 
 
Clearly, the argument is that only good women deserve protection. And the playwright and his supporters have the uncanny ability to detect bad woman when they see one. In this case, they have seen her.

They have even watched her in circumstances in which she was being exploited. And it is their understanding that in fact, the pendrive contained proof of how she was the one who was exploiting.

That she was someone who was depriving thousands of women of jobs, thousands of good women who climb atop water tanks, protesting for jobs.

Which playwright with such noble thoughts does not love a binary? A stripper, pitched against good women. Topical as a playwright, he thought it fit to drag two brave women from the contemporary headlines into the debate to back his understanding of a bad woman versus good women polarity.
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A powerful man who could control her fate in a completely exploitative relationship in which the woman was gasping for release. She took her chances, put her life on the line, made a video, mustered up courage, saw her window with the regime changing, went to the police and sought protection from law. She was intelligent enough not to seek help from such playwrights of the worid.
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Women have for long paid the price of these markers of good women versus bad woman, or susheel aurat banaam bazaroo aurat. You always fight for the sushil aurat, you demonise the bazaroo, the badnaam, the chinaal, the slut.

Women have spent generations as the pervasive climate of misogyny makes even so called liberals out to detect signs of immoral behaviour. And it is fairly easy to fall from the grace of these judges of morality. Kabhi ghoogat uttar giya, kabhi kisi naujawan mard se baat kar li, kabhi ghar se bhaag kar shadi kar li, and at times spent a night with someone. 

One gesture, one physical contact, one skirt an inch too short, one peep of a bra strap from underneath the blouse.

For those who jump on to the high pedestal of morality at the flash of the female flesh, a woman not shrieking from the rooftop about a minister forcing her to have sex was clearly a bad woman.
 
A woman for which not only has he no sympathy, not even empathy, but for which he thinks it appropriate to climb on to the rooftop to pontificate that no one should sympathise with her. She is not beeba. (He put beeba in quotes - a special treatment you know men reserve for who.)
 
As Nivedita Menon brings out in her brilliant work, ‘Seeing Like A Feminist', prostitute is the most easily available general term of insult for women. More than that, anytime we are unhappy with the state of affairs, our social leaders, political representatives, academics, poets give vent to their rage by depicting how our parliament, our politicians have become prostitutes. Now, those in journalism can be disparaged by calling them presstitudes, a term that has gotten a special backing from the regime.

Even by their own standards, such men consider a prostitute as a woman who has sex with many men outside the prescribed limits of society and social rules. 

In case of Sucha Singh Langah, we are talking about a woman who was not a prostitute. All she was doing, if we believe her and those telling the people not to sympathise with her, was that she was having sex with a man under conditions strictly controlled by patriarchy.

A powerful man who could control her fate in a completely exploitative relationship in which the woman was gasping for release. She took her chances, put her life on the line, made a video, mustered up courage, saw her window with the regime changing, went to the police and sought protection from law. She was intelligent enough not to seek help from such playwrights of the world.
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Women often find themselves arguing, of course in vain, that just because they mix with men, joke around, travel with men and have friendships does not make them whores. But Menon in her book asks if there is any comparable good/bad imagery for men?
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She did not shriek from the rooftop because she had seen enough drama in her life to know that the playwright was not listening.

The only time the playwright went to the rooftop was to tell people what a bad woman she was, and to beseech them not to have any sympathy with her.

Women often find themselves arguing, of course in vain, that just because they mix with men, joke around, travel with men and have friendships does not make them whores. But Menon in her book asks if there is any comparable good/bad imagery for men?

No wonder the feminist protest is turning it around. No more do they turn back and protest that 'we are not whores'. They turn around and say 'go to hell, I am a whore.' 

You hurl insults at them. They will turn around and convert these into badges of honour. Just as I am a presstitute. Now go, —* yourself. 
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Women have spent generations as the pervasive climate of misogyny sends even so called liberals on a hunt for the immoral  - -  one gesture, one physical contact, one skirt an inch too short, one peep of a bra strap from underneath the blouse. And there she is: The Bad Woman.
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The Pink Chaddhi campaign and Slut Walks are meant exactly for people who want to shame women just like those questioning the moral character of the woman who slept with Langah. Remember, it was not a choice she made. It was the only choice she had.

You want to lecture her that she should have exercised a better choice?

You did not exercise a better choice when you had to admonish her in your public comments. You certainly have no authority to act hoity-toity moral.

All that this woman is doing is to demand a legal right of protection from an exploiter.

In India, for women to reclaim their rights whatever their class, caste or community, amounts to attracting the allegation of being without shame.

The pervasiveness of such a misogynist culture gets a booster shot when it comes from men of letters and arts in high places. This is what directly legitimises incessant sexual harassment, and normalises it at least in case of women that men deem shameless.

Raping the slut becomes an honourable sexual practice. Almost on an equal footing with respecting women with deemed high morals. 

Pali Bhupinder just made respecting women fighting for jobs by climbing atop water tanks incumbent upon hating and shaming the woman in an exploitative relationship.

So all other sadhvis who were exploited by a baba, any baba, and did not speak out are all shameless women. Except for the two who fought back. Our respect for the two who fought back must not be intertwined with our propensity to term as whores and sluts who find themselves prisoners of circumstances forged exactly by this kind of patriarchy.

It is this kind of mindset that, instead of inculcating in the students a deep respect for the Manorama Mothers, would paint them as shameless women who thought nothing of stripping merely to protest against the rapes committed by security forces. One can well imagine the arguments that would have been made, citing examples of women protesting against sexual harassment with their heads duly covered with white dupattas. "Majaal hai je kise da dupatta vee sir to tilkiya hove!"

You can shame those women in Manipur, or you can tell your students that if you ever get a chance, you would bow your head before those women and ask to be blessed that you have a daughter who grows up to be so brave.

Your stand would come from the social position you take on rape. In the facebook chowk, you just betrayed your position.

This is the mindset that says rape is worse than death, being raped repeatedly is almost like being a participant in rape.

This is the mindset that says a woman who has been raped is like a corpse walking.

Just as they say there is no normal life possible for a woman who has been raped once, such facebook comments are basically saying a woman who has been in an exploitative relationship has no right to demand a normal life anymore. She has no right to seek protection from society, or from law. She has no right to be normal. 
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 All she was doing was  having sex with a man under conditions strictly controlled by patriarchy,  a powerful man who could control her fate in a completely exploitative relationship in which the woman was gasping for release. Exactly what the brave sadvis were forced into at one stage. She took her chances, put her life on the line, made a video, mustered up courage, saw her window with a change in the regime, went to the police and sought protection from law. 
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How is this attitude different from those who forever speak of Lakshman Rekha - either on the height of a skirt, or noodle straps, or low waist jeans, or deep cut bikinis? I give a variety of such examples because these guys have a very floating Lakshman Rekha.
 
This is the mindset that comes up with solutions where good men propose that the woman marry her rapist.
 
Bhanwari Devi was no great playwright, but she came up with a great dialogue: Izzat gayee kis ki, Bhateri Bhateri Ki, meaning it was not Bhanwari Devi who lost her honour, but the village that defended the rapists.

With his latest public position, he just joined the crowd slamming Bhanwari Devis. Izzat gayee kis ki...
 
Post-script: 

Cigarette in her bag? Be-Sharam!
 
IN A RECENT case, two judges of the Punjab & Haryana High Court gave bail to three convicted rapists because they came to an "alternative" conclusion, owing to the victim's "promiscuous attitude." 
 
Apart from sundry other details of the rape survivor's personal life, the judges also referred to the fact that a pack of cigarettes was found in her possession. 

"She further admitted that she used to smoke cigarettes of 'Classic' make," a line in the order read.

This is pure and simple slut-shaming of a rape survivor. This is the ploy many men often use to portray that somehow, the victim was herself responsible for her plight. Us ke saath to yeh hona hee chahiye tha!

There's nothing glamorous about smoking. It is injurious to your health. If a judge finds out, it is injurious to your moral character. Much like a playwright who watches a video that a woman makes of herself with a tormentor, and decides all questions of consent, duress, patriarchy and morality, in a facebook post.

Hypocrisy is also injurious to health — the health of any society. Pakistan's leading comedian and actor Sohail Ahmed ‘Azizi’ of Hasb-e-haal, often resorts to a saying in Punjabi, not very literary, but full of colloquial wisdom: Aadmi hai ya drama!

 

 

 

*The authors, Neha Jindal & Harleen Kaur, are pursuing doctorate & M.Phil studies, in Panjab University & Punjabi University, respectively. Both highly recommend Nivedita Menon's work to those eager to detect traces of immorality in women.

 

 

 

 

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Comment by: Atamjit

Wonderful article and an appreciable position that the authors have taken to understand the layers of patriarchy. I congratulate Neha and Harleen for this article. I am particularly impressed by the question that they are quoting from Menon about the good/bad men category.

But I also wish to add that if a particular person happens to be a playwright and you don't agree with his opinion; and in your view he has the same characteristics of misogyny that he seems to be condemning, it still doesn't deserve to be presented as 'Playwrights vs Women' phenomenon unless all the playwrights support his argument and also until all people belonging to the categories other than playwrights are no more sexists.

As a playwright I feel a bit displesed; but I do hope that it was not intentional and was the result of excitement that the argument and counter argument sometimes generate. Please take it only as a suggestion and there is all the reasons that you should keep on writing such wonderful articles.

Thanks

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Comment by: admin

Dear Dr Atamjit jee, it's gratifying to receive this feedback from someone of your stature. Indeed, while our critique was limited to one playwright who we named, we also wanted to underline the patriarchy that lies beneath even perceived notions of liberalism in our society. Were these mere loose comments made by someone in our neighbourhood, we would have credited such smut to the all pervasive patriarchal culture. These came from someone who positions himself on the forefront of liberal thought, performing arts and knowledge production. Further, he trudges pathways of a campus where young minds are being formed. So, his being a playwright was a fact that triggered part of our rage. 

Certainly, we owe much to the tribe of playwrights. One of us was in the auditorium watching Main Tan Ikk Sarangi Han a few years back. (One of the authors taught at what was then the Chandigarh Group of Colleges and remembers the director there, Dr Karminder Singh, strongly praising your play. He had watched it and recommended it to some of us. He is currently with the Thapar University.) We not only know your position on such issues but have also learnt a lot from the work of women and men of letters, such as yourself. Much thanks for your words of encouragement.
- Authors Neha J & Harleen K.

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