The Big Story: They do it with bangles
In all the chest beating and muscle flexing over Pakistan and its transgressions at the Line of Control, one object has made its way back into Indian politics: the bangle. On Tuesday, veteran Congress leader Kapil Sibal invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi “to remove your bangles and show what you can do”. He also referred to a speech made by Smriti Irani, now textile minister, at a rally in Indore in 2013, after another incident where an Indian soldier at the Line of Control had been killed and mutilated. Irani had offered to send Manmohan Singh, who was prime minister then, a gift bangles for failing to take appropriate action. The tables had turned now, was Sibal’s triumphant point.
The gift of bangles suggests the old Hindi phrase “chudiyan pehen lo”, which means that those not cut out for a job should stay at home. Like women do, naturally. Bangles have long been a favoured ornament in Indian politics. In 2014, after Aam Aadmi Party leader Somnath Bharti conducted an impromptu raid on Ugandan women living in Delhi’s Khirki Extension, BJP legislator RP Singh saw fit to hurl bangles and lipstick at him. The BJP had then defended the act by saying it was not meant to be “derogatory”. It wouldn’t be, of course, in a political culture where leadership is measured by the size of one’s chest (56 inches is ideal) and voters are told to choose the “vikas purush” over the “videshi bahu”, the Man of Progress over the Foreign Daughter-in-Law.
Femininity, the wearing of bangles, the exercise of restraint and moderation, is associated with weakness or incompetence. The BJP has frequently, but not exclusively, been guilty of peddling a gendered politics that boils down to this: masculinity good, femininity bad, unless sterilised into certain acceptable forms. And when it comes to Pakistan, all the toxic masculinity stored up in our politics roars to life. Even female politicians have learnt to speak its language. Around the time Irani was offering bangles to Manmohan Singh, Sushma Swaraj, who was then the leader of the Opposition, was demanding 10 Pakistani heads for the head of one Indian soldier. Peace at the LoC looked like a remote prospect then, as it does now.
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- In the Indian Express, Christophe Jaffrelot argues that the Marathas’ sense of relative deprivation in Maharashtra cannot be answered by reservation.
- In the Hindu, MK Narayanan urges consultations and an appeal for peace in order to “win back” Kashmir.
- In the Economic Times, Geetha Kannan welcomes the maternity benefit bill.
Ajit Kantikar reports on the dilemma of Telengana’s pulse farmers:
“Imagine a women farmer who has harvested Rs 70,000 worth of tur at the end of November and waiting for the procurement to begin for another one month. Compounding her woes, she had to wait for payment for another three weeks. To complicate matters, the banks decided to transfer the money to farmer members only to electronic transfers. To cite data obtained from Husnabad Farmer Producer Company, the women who sold their produce on January 4 got payment in the Husnabad Farmer Producer Company account on January 25 and had to wait another full week for the bank to execute the transfer in their individual savings account. Remember, this is for the harvest made in end November and early December. Needless to say, this adversely impacted the cash flow for most smallholder farmers.
The moot question is: why did the farmers not go to a private trader or the wholesale market in Tandur and preferred to wait for the government to buy their produce? It was simply because the prices were much lower they had no other option but to wait for the government to come to their rescue, which it did tardily. Thanks to the untiring efforts of some NGOs, at least in some areas, the procurement started, while in states like Maharashtra, it became almost a chaotic scene.”