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Prejudice pours in gender debate

Raj Thackeray and (right) Mohanrao Bhagwat

Jan. 6: Sangh chief Mohanrao Bhagwat has waded into blunderland again with his comments on gender, this time on marriage, while Raj Thackeray has set off a furore by linking the Delhi bus rape to his favourite whipping boys: Bihari migrants.

At a time most politicians are suddenly feeling the itch to shoot off their mouths on women’s issues, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief said that while everybody was talking about the Delhi gang rape, nobody was asking where the rapists came from.

His answer was that they were from “Bihar”, the comment provoking an outcry, with Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad demanding action against Raj.

Bhagwat, who addressed a citizens’ gathering in Indore last night, defined marriage as a “social contract” that allows either spouse to terminate it according to their convenience.

“In a social contract, a husband and a wife are bound by a pact that says if the woman does the household chores and satisfies the husband, the husband will take care of her needs and protect her,” Bhagwat was quoted by news agencies as saying.

“If she fails to honour the terms, he disowns her. The same holds true for the husband. If he does not honour the contract, she can also dump him and seek a new contract.”

Implicit in the remarks was the notion of a wife toiling over her domestic “duties” by day and “satisfying” her partner sexually at night. Days earlier, the Sangh chief had controversially said that rapes happened in India, not “Bharat”.

After his latest comments sparked protests on the social media and TV chat shows, Sangh spokesman Ram Madhav claimed the comments had been “misrepresented”.

“He specifically talked about the western institution of marriage, described by sociologists as a social contract. He said the western notion of a social contract was not relevant to India. In India, marriage is a sacred institution,” Madhav said.

Raj told a Mumbai rally: “Everybody is talking only about the rape. Nobody is asking who did this. So many cases are slapped against me (for speaking against Bihari migrants in Maharashtra). But nobody is talking about the fact that all these rapists are from Bihar.”

The six accused, however, hail from Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

“The perpetrators of the gang rape in Delhi should be dealt with sternly, while action should also be taken to rein in the likes of Thackeray who are adding fuel to the fire with their mischievous remarks,” Lalu Prasad said.

Bihar’s BJP minister Giriraj Singh said: “Leaders who use hate elements in their campaign must be checked. The Election Commission must disqualify them.”

Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said: “People are dividing the country into India and Bharat, Maharashtra and Bihar. This is harmful to democracy.”