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My Take on Padmavati Controversy


Hand prints stamped by Brave Rajput Women who committed Jouhar, ending their lives to avoid falling in the hands of debauch marauders

It doesn't take long for the mob to appropriate the ownership of the anger of common men and women. Before one could even take note, a rightful fury fades in the surging, unruly waves of voices calling for violence. What begins as a worthy protest, quickly descends into dark, disgusting and dirty depths of fanatic fury. 

In no time, we becomes them and once the faces are wrapped into the color of the blood, it is impossible to identify the one from the other. We have seen this earlier and at times dropped our heads in disgust, turned our noses upwards in annoyance when voices rose and "Satanic Verses" - a novel by one excellent writer, Salman Rushdie was withdrawn. When there were rioting men out on the streets for a Facebook post, we laughed at the those highly-inflammable sensitivity of men with allegiance to intolerant middle-eastern minds of the people, stilling stuck in the middle-ages. Whenever debates happened on the growing intolerance among the Hindus vis-a-vis Islamic fundamentalism, Charlie Hebdo was the last word in the argument. 

Then came Padmavati. Rumors were out that the Sanjay Leela Bhansali movie had some dream sequence of the revered brave Hindu Queen Padmavati with the Muslim marauder, Alauddin Khilji.  This was however denied by Bhansali. So the dream sequence which was never their was the cause of the first wave of protests. One must think why?
The second wave of protests come right before the release of the film. The film has not yet been shown to the censor board and certification agency. Interestingly, after few days went into the protests as the noises got shriller and the debates got uglier, it emerges now that those who are angry have never seen the movie and are outraged on hearsay, and those who have seen the movie (rumor has it that a set of secular journalists have and on which, the chief of Censor Board, who technically should be first outside the unit to watch, have already registered protest), have done nothing to calm the tumultuous world around us. 

Two of the most outrageous and if I may say, non-Hinduistic voices came from political end. Those very people who should be calming down the outraged nerves of Rajput Hindus, were the one leading the ugliness which seeped into this dissenting tornado. There was an Islamist-sounding threat came from Samajwadi Party leader, Thakur Abhishek Som, who runs an outfit named Kshatriya Sena, while all this while had his Rajput pride bowing to the Yadav Chieftain Mulayam Singh Yadav, who was affectionately called Mullah Mulayam for his blatant Muslim appeasement policies which included shooting down unarmed protesters who wanted to have a Ram Mandir at Lord Ram's birthplace in Ayodhya. The man was however promptly arrested by the UP Government of Yogi Adityanath, much maligned by the media for being blatantly Hindu, without any trace of Dhimmi apology in his being (Contrast this with the Mamata Government's response to the threat of killing of Hindus by a Maulana in West Bengal in a protest rally in support of Rohingyas). Another came from Karni Sena Chief Mahipal Singh Makrana (said to be AAP leader), who said Deepika Padukone will have her nose chopped off, later he claimed he meant it metaphorically, snubbing the nose or something of the sort. The protests are primarily on the grounds of a dance in which Deepika as Rajput Queen takes part, and the costume which does not match the time period. If these two are the only points of Rajputs feeling insulted, than I can only say, that it is pretty sad to oppose any poorly researched movie with the threat of violence. 

There are various valid points of objection, which one cannot deny. The descendants of those portrayed can surely object to a derogatory depiction. The manner of Ghoomer can be objected if not in line with the tradition. Still there is a fine balance which needs to be struck between the objection for the purpose of creating nuisance based on deification and objection to oppose objectively definable denigration and venerable figure from History. Devdutt Patnaik, writer who writes on Hindu mythology, jumping into the fray, leading the leftist-liberal brigade has muddled the water further. Although I must thank him for his tweets. In a Social media environment, where Hinduism has begun, sadly at times, looking like absolutist religion of the Book, accepting no difference of opinion, no divergence of thought, many handles almost screaming the question- Who is the Hinduest of them all?, it is difficult to take a position or write. Mr. Patnaik's totally absurd position made me eventually write this piece and I knew after days of confusion, where I stood on the matter. 

A matter like Padmavati cuts too close for someone like me who is both a proud Hindu and proud Indian at once, without hating any competing religion. It is hard to take a position, when I feel, the silence on the gaps in academic history which runs into the lives of upcoming generations, every single day of their lives as they get educated on falsehood, makes it very difficult for me to consider this noise on Padmavati anything but disproportionate. Even if  we consider the deification of Padmavati on account her extra-ordinary courage under a situation of absolute desperation for her honor to explain an outrage which still think is disproportionate for a dance not meeting the factual details; the fact remains that Padmavati, though brave and exceptional, was a human person, real or fictional. Much unlike Goddess Durga who is venerated by all Hindus as way beyond an ordinary human. The outrage on Her representation as a sex-worker was totally muted even when it was passed as alternate reading from news anchors on Public platform. The deity in question was much bigger for Hindus and the insult was much worse than a 3 minute dance sequence. The difference in responses then and now makes it more believable that the current outrage is not only disproportionate, rather it is political and I would even hazard a guess, doctored. One cannot be going to the streets threatening violence because a film-maker has based his movie on poor research. Did we have an Akbar wearing Lungi- vest in Jodha Akbar? No Rajput pride ever sought removal of the inscription of Amer fort by "Mirza" Man Singh, the Rajput King of Jaipur, thanking Emperor Akbar. 

Liberal outrage, supposedly as a response to the right-wing response is also weird and baffling. Patnaik decided to determine for the 16000 Women how they ought to have responded to a life as sex-slaves to the debauch and cruel invader staring them in their eyes. For Hindu kings of India, even wars had a defined morality. The invaders from the West, who had seen the cruel killing of even the Prophet's family had no such compunctions or moral scruples. Another liberal condemned Jauhar comparing it with Sati. He used this opportunity to attack Hinduism considering Sati as a Hindu practice (That Sati isn't a vedic Hindu practice, I have earlier explained in my other post which you can read Here- Women in Vedas).

The story of Padmavati is not the story of Hindu evil of Sati. It is the story of courage of a Queen in the face of defeat; it is the story of morality and goodness when it loses the battle against evil. Padmavati is a story of immense and infinite sadness, which is too holy to be even commented upon. It is one such sad moment in the life of our nation, a life one of the most ancient in human history, which requires us to sit down in sadness contemplating the horrors which prompts not one woman, but thousands other into ending their life. One does not comment on what she did. Mr. Patnaik or anyone from our times cannot comment on what Padmavati ought to have done. To some extent only Yezidi women who have faced the cruelty of ISIS can understand the plight of Padmavati to some extent. No man is equipped enough to understand the plight of a cornered woman when a future as an animal without a choice of her own stares at her, even if that man be a writer of best-sellers. The print of hands which Rajput women committing Jouhar is a reminder of the horrors which plague the humanity when we fail, it is a reminder of the epoch when some men became animals. Let us not use it to teach women, how they should react to impeding future as a sex-slave when attacked by an animal army? Let us use it Mr. Patnaik to teach men how not to be an animal (I would stretch the argument and ask Mr. Patnaik to send the print of these immortal prints of hands of brave Rajput women to the communists who tried killing the story implicating leftist men in #MeToo backdrop). Jouhar is a sacrifice too deep for a commercial, communist vanity to comprehend. Another left-liberal response is the claim that Padmavati never existed. Her existence itself is fictional story written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi. I would only say, that the print of hands on the Rajput forts is real, even if Padmavati was not. That the women were driven to kill themselves to escape the horrors men without morals brought to them, is real. As for Historicity of Padmavati is concerned, I would say, she puts face to those nameless and faceless hand-imprints of women escaping a hopeless life in death, and quote Julian Barnes (The Sense of An Ending)- 

"History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation."

Padmavati is the story of an evil king who brought into India something as deplorable as Bachhabazi (Middle-eastern practice where young good-looking boys are made to dance and even sexually exploited). Malik Kafoor was one such lover of Alauddin Khilji. Akbar created a mountain of slain heads in Chittor after a massacre which went half day long. No murmur of voice rose objecting glorification of Akbar in the movie- Jodha-Akbar. He still remains Akbar, the Great in our school books. Deliberate attempts to take liberty with the history of our great nation must be fought. But that fight to preserve Indian heritage must be fought while ensuring that even our fights does not lose our very Indian character and does not become Talibanisque. The movie will come and go and touch the life of only those who chose to watch it for three hours. A school curriculum however, intrudes in the life of every impressionable young man and woman, every day of their lives, insisting memorization of what is written in it, whether true or lie, year after year, until you believe in it. Every generation grows up with lesser faith in our roots and past than the preceding one. That is an important fight to be taken up and we are doing precious little about it. The past which we teach our children every day defines our future, not some silly movie which possibly creates controversy as a tool of marketing.  

Let us chose our battles wisely!

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