Why As A Woman and Mother I won’t Say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’

Surabhi Singh

Writer and advocate of Human Rights, working as Communications Officer at Oxfam India- I strongly believe social justice, equality of opportunities and freedom of expression are the only true marks of a nation.

It is really interesting to see, a political party, that refuses to bring marital rape into ambit of crime, or whose ministers call women prostitutes and advise them to strip naked in the name of freedom- is going berserk over people not shouting “Bharat Mata ki Jai.” Who is this Mata? Is she a woman? Cos, the way things are in this nation right now, she wouldn’t be too pleased with her nationalist children, sparring over a stupid slogan instead of focusing on their behaviour.

Being a professional journalist for more than a decade, I have come across stories of excruciating painful atrocities on women, girls and children in my desk. Some stories have scarred me permanently with their sheer brutal nature. What was shocking was in 80% of the cases, the perpetrators were known to the victims. At a recent program held in my city by an International NGO, my fears were put to words by firebrand Feminist, Kamla Bhasin.

She was in Raipur to address 1500 odd women, who had turned up from various districts of the state, to show solidarity to Women’s Movement across the globe through One Billion Rising. These were all rural women, who had woken up in the dead of morning, finished their chores and carried their children for hundreds of kilometers, through dusty roads, just to show that they knew what their rights were. Their grit and determination was humbling to say the least.

Kamla Bhaseen, who has worked her entire life voicing and fighting the injustices against women, particularly those belonging to the Dalit, Adivasi and minority community said, “80% of violence against women, and girls happen inside their homes and is perpetrated by their immediate family members. And all of this is done in the name of honour, and culture. The women to men ratio has been going down, women’s employment rate in the formal sector has gone down; privatization of essential services has increased the burden of women. I can go on in this vain. According to the UN, one in every three women experiences violence in her life time. This means one billion women are being violated. What is worse is that this war takes place within the home and at the hands of people closest to us. This is domestic terrorism which is global.”

UNDP Human Development report of 1995 reported that the unpaid household work done by women all over the world is worth 11 Trillion Dollars annually. The 20 year old ILO statistics have been reconfirmed in 2012 by the World Development Report, which states that women do 66% of all the work done in the world, produce 50% of the food, but receive 10% of the income distributed and own 1% property.”

In South Asia, and particularly India, the women are fighting a tremendous war in their day to life through their simple existence. Be it, dowry deaths, minor rapes, pedophilia, honor killings, Indian culture as we know it today, is replete with instances where we have failed the women and the girls in our country shamelessly. While most of these cases go unreported, it is a fact that the violence against the women starts very early inside the families. In fact, it starts even before they are born in many cases. Those that are lucky enough to make it to the world, then go through a tenacious inhuman process of being reminded that they are not as good as their male counterparts through every day in their lives. Right from their earliest of education, to their careers and marriage- the male members of the family control every ounce of their lives through a grity patriarchal design that is absolutely misogynist. The fact that marital rape is not rape, does not make it better.

Bharat Mata by M F Hussain
Bharat Mata by M F Hussain

In Chhattisgarh, the state government last year closed down 3000 government schools, and more than 60% of these are girls schools. As a result of this, girls education has suffered a severe set back all over its rural heartland. Despite a major protest by the villagers across all districts, some debates in media, write ups, and editorials, the government has refused to roll back its action. The schools remain closed, and the poor, mostly Adivasi and dalit children stare at an unsure future. This is a state where the government sponsored violence has left hundreds of women raped, murdered and mutilated across the Adivasi heartland, mostly in Bastar. In various villages, where the Tatas and Jindals have opened their factories, the women farmers have been forced out of their land, sold into sexual slavery or forced into bonded labour at other parts of the nation. Chhattisgarh at one point of time had 1000 females for every 946 males, but with more and more Corporate jungles cropping up, the matriarchal families are now history. In fact, like feminist leader Shashi Sayal put it, “In Chhattisgarh, the women are fighting a unique war against dispossession and wage inequality. Millions of women farmers are not considered entitled for their farm rights or government land deeds, despite a lifetime of working in the farms. And those working as domestic helps in the cities, are neither organized nor do they enjoy any basic human rights to wage entitlement.” Those fighting for a equitable society, have been pushed to the throws of armed rebellion and even there, the presence of women is a formidable 60%.

These are all mothers and daughters in my state, we are talking about. Soni Sori, Kawasi Hidme, Meena Khalkho-women, who have been wronged by a government and its agencies, “democratically elected,” but superiorly controlled by a land grabbing mechanism perpetrated by Colonial Corporate juggernauts. They have stripped hundreds of women their right to dignity, human rights and their fundamental right to live. So, to me, the BJP RSS propagated idea of “Bharat Mata”- shining, smiling, and very fair- is something that stands grossly violated.

In fact, I live in a nation that is much less a mother (land) and more of a father (land). A German feminist scholar has correctly said that women are the last colony. Their bodies, sexuality, reproductive capacity, labour capacity are still colonised. So, if I may ask, where do I find my position as a daughter or mother of the nation? In fact, where do I begin to question this colonial master and a national father? Unless I get the answer I refuse to say “Bharat Mata ki Jai.”