India Insight

Love is in the air for Indians as V-Day police keep away

Conservative right-wing activists in India have their own version of how Valentine’s Day should be celebrated, if at all.

For them, couples found kissing, dancing and snuggling need to be humiliated publicly or beaten, especially if this behaviour is exhibited on the “day of lust and shame”.

For more than a decade, images of couples being chased by radicals or flogged by police had become as routine on Valentine’s Day as pink hearts and roses. This was a way of protecting Indian culture from being corrupted by Western influence.

Fortunately, not many paid heed. Indians have embraced this day of love with much gusto, and their resilience has paid off. This year, many of the self-appointed custodians of Indian culture have decided to go easy on romancing couples.

“What is the use or point. We cannot stop them from celebrating, and we are getting a bad reputation,” Om Dutt Sharma, a member of prominent right-wing group Shiv Sena told local media.

More than Lokpal, does Anna need a speech writer?

By Diksha Madhok

The self-styled crusader against corruption, the “modern Gandhi”  — Anna Hazare — has managed to pick on one of the most marginalized sections of Indian society. While pitching for a strong Lokpal Bill on Tuesday, Hazare resorted to an unfortunate idiom about childless women, when he said, “Banjh kya jaane prasuti vedana (what would an infertile woman know about labour pain)?”

However the word in Hindi, “banjh”, does not have the same clean and scientific connotation as “infertile” or “sterile”. It means “barren” and is used as a derogatory term for women who fail to bear children. A woman who does not produce a child loses her social status inside and outside the house. While the ostracism in urban India may not be as obvious, contempt for childless women is reinforced through colloquialism and Bollywood.

Popular culture still depicts women who don’t reproduce, even if it is out of choice, as incomplete and good-for-nothing. It is not uncommon for infertile women to be barred from baby shower or child-naming ceremonies as they are considered the harbingers of ill-omen. Even if the husband is infertile, the wife ends up shouldering the blame for a childless marriage and is often subjected to treatments ranging from exorcism to numerology. Subordination, violence and estrangement are all likely consequences of infertility for a woman.

‘Big brother’ college a ‘jail’ for gadget-loving girls

A Delhi University college has banned the use of cellphones or laptops in its hostels — a bewildering step in a university regarded as a role model for other educational institutions in India. Even more alarmingly, it is only the women students who are the receiving end of this diktat.

Daulat Ram College, a girls’ only college in New Delhi, has barred students from having cellphones or computers in their rooms. While most of the residents are above 18, they say their rooms do not even have a latch and that supervisors can storm into their rooms at 2 a.m. if they suspect them of having sneaked in a mobile phone.

Resentment over these rules led to a student protest over the weekend, but no concrete step has been taken to revoke these rules so far.

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