Izzat is a strange thing

Izzat is a strange thing

I usually do not watch news on the television. I’m quite happy to wait for my morning newspaper or whatever I find online. News channels are so heavily polarised they leave me confused and utterly frustrated. I already have the twins who do a fine job of that, so no TV for me thank you.

But my parents were here and the evening news is their daily fix. So we sat around the telly and we watched. We watched a mob on a vandalising spree. It burnt down vehicles (about 200 odd), looted mobile phone shops and smashed glass facades of multiplexes protesting against a film. I sat there wondering why people would destroy multiplexes which had already agreed to not screen said film.

Do you hear me now when I say news is puzzling?

Meanwhile elsewhere in the country, protestors ran amuck brandishing swords, burning tyres, stopping trains, setting fires to buses and blocking roads.

One man tried to immolate himself in Varanasi.

Someone announced a reward of 1 crore to the person who could chop off the lead actress’ ears and nose.

Some others decided to pelt stones on a school bus full of children, the youngest of whom was merely four.

All for izzat, honour.

I flipped channels to land on another visual of Rajput women, heads covered, izzat fully in place, saying nothing mattered more to them, not food nor drink, but their honour.

And all of that honour was centred on the non-release of this one film. A film about a woman dead for countless decades. A film none of them had even watched. A film that the Censor Board as well as the Supreme Court, had watched, had gone over with a tooth comb over and over and over again and found alright.

So you see, this izzat is a strange thing. It gets tarnished rather easily – by a book, a story, a dialogue, a film, by a piece of art or fiction. And then it forces people to take to the streets to restore it.

At other times however, it proves to be unbelievably tenacious remaining clean and intact even when these same people make, watch and share suggestive videos or gyrate to provocative songs. It remains untouched when they line the streets and pass lewd comments. It isn’t sullied when they pull out women from cars and rape them or when they throw out their infants to die on the streets.

Strange thing, this izzat.

What’s even stranger and utterly disappointing is the reaction of the people in power, the administration.

Rather than resolving to make sure peace prevails, they choose to turn a blind eye. They looked the other way as a 2000 people strong crowd gathered and charged the multiplexes. They made sure police arrived just as the mob had done its bit and had dispersed. Bollywood style.

Four states went on to ban the film.

The Deputy CM of a state advised people to not watch the film in order ‘to maintain law and order’. Nope, it isn’t his job to ensure that. It is ours. And so we stayed away from the film, away from malls and multiplexes. And even though I’m not a mall person that irked, because this isn’t the country I was proud of, the country I taught my children to be proud of.

I’ve always chosen to be upbeat and optimistic. But this Republic Day I feel only lost and disheartened. Even as I dress up my daughter in the traditional sari for celebrations at school, I cannot find it in my heart to celebrate. How can I, when I see my freedom erode, bit by bit right before my eyes. And I wonder how many more liberties I will have to give up for ‘maintaining law and order’, for protecting the izzat of God knows who.

How far will you go for your 15 minutes of fame?

12 Replies to “Izzat is a strange thing”

  1. A very powerful and though provoking piece Tulika- you are bang on about the apathy from the adminstration over the entire ruckus. Why are they such bheegi billi is just mind boggling – happened in case of Ram rahim conviction and now over a film. Imagine a school bus full of kids was tormented and not a single Politico has come out with an action over it. Ours is indeed a strange country where IZZAT is paraded to suit the motive of a few while millions suffer the consequence without any fault or any way of complaining against it.
    Loved your writing in this one T!!

  2. Hmm…I don’t know what to say, Tulika. It makes me angry, really angry. A few years back I would have perhaps vented it out through an angry blog post but I’m just tired now. Because I feel some things in India can never improve and it is the people who are to be blamed for the same. Honestly, it fills me with hate and that’s why I just don’t talk about it at all nowadays. I hate the word izzat and have no respect for people who behave the way you just described for maintaining it.

  3. I couldn’t help nodding along to everything you’ve written Tulika. I have tried to hold my tongue and not comment on this, because every time I try to articulate my feelings, I feel all the more disappointed and really, really angry. I don’t know what happened to the unity in diversity slogans we grew up with? Or were they just that? Slogans that felt like a good thing to say, but did not mean much.

  4. Well said, Tulika!

    Izzat is really a bad word. The “live and let live” concept is a myth now. The things people do for it–are disgusting. And this whole nonsense about the movie, ridiculous. And of course, there’s the media to extrapolate every incident. So very disturbing. I’ve noticed that news channels on TV frequently show off how they’re the best. And keep on replaying the same images. Boring.

  5. Everyone’s sentiments, Tulika!
    Each time the public takes over the reins in the name of ‘izzat’, I wonder if it’s the same country which boasts of “Freedom of speech and expression”! And, who is this Karni Sena, by the way! My blood boils when I read/hear about their ‘karni’! Do they even move a muscle when women in their “izzatdaar” society get raped/assaulted/harassed? Why doesn’t someone ask them this question? Our powers that lack the guts to do that, isn’t it? If they do, they stand to lose votes!
    It’s really annoying..this whole issue , and all the wrong people are getting unnecessary importance!

  6. Izzat! Such a thing it is.
    Did you get a chance to read Swara Bhaskar’s article on the movie? That piece made me think about the movie and it’s going gung-ho over Rajputs and their izzat. You must find that. Also, in the name of izzat look at how the society reacts and what all happens. During all the drama I felt that our country has so many issues and people are reacting on a movie?

    1. I did read that piece and I read the rejoinder too. I’m a bit confused now. The thing is what seemed like a brave thing to do in the 13th century might seem stupid now but that’s the way it was. Actions and decisions have to be seen in the perspective of the times.

  7. I have never understood the concept of izzat and who asked them to place it on the women? I remember watching a Satyamev Jayate episode where a social activist said why was izzat placed in a woman’s vagina? So true, isn’t it? Patriarchy has dictated that women are somehow vanguards of a family’s honour thus wars were waged and fights broke out if someone so much as looked at a woman. The Padmaavat controversy was bizarre to say the least. In my eyes, just jail the goons and slap non-bailable sections on them for the intent to riot, for damaging property and issuing threats. How difficult is that? But political parties all into vote bank politics turn a blind eye to appease communities. Also a lot of time, this troublemaking is orchestrated by paying money to goonda elements. Who suffers? A common person.

  8. Izzat. It’s a strange thing, indeed.
    Wonderful piece, Tulika, and much needed for all of us to introspect about the kind of world (I’d say India but then I’m sure someone will give an order to cut my head off) our kids are growing up. I’m mused about it plenty, and I probably will continue to say it. People, in general, are becoming more and more intolerant of things. And in a country like ours, where we are used to saying that we celebrate our diversity, we seem more divided than ever.
    As for the Padmaavat scenario, less said the better.

    1. You know what’s the fun bit? You can get your head chopped off for saying we’re getting more intolerant, pretty much proving what you’re saying, but nobody’s listening.

  9. This incident has really made me ponder yet again if this is the place I want my child to grow up in? I was hdvinh similar thoughts yesterday as I took Angel to see the flag hoisting ceremony in our appartment. On one side we see India shine on the global map as our PM builds an image at Davos and it made me feel proud but then I read about this devastating mob attack’s on school children and I am left with a helpless feeling. You have articulated your thoughts very well here Tulika

    1. Thanks Akshata. The thing with me is I have nowhere to go. So the only thing to do is to stick it out here and try in whatever capacity I can to make it better. Though on some days, like the day I wrote this post, it seems well nigh impossible.

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