International Media on Vrindavan Widows: Keeping the Society Guilty
In an earlier post on Holi celebration by Vrindavan widows we had tried to bring out how Indian media is “evergreening” a social pathology in public conscience. In this article we try to cover how this story possibly picked up from Indian media by foreign media is fueling negative perceptions of the Indian society abroad.
The change had already come about in 2013 owing to efforts of Mr Bindeshwari Pathak and his Sulabh International, traditions had been shattered, color added to lives of Vrindavan widows on the day of Holi. There were no protests to stop widows from celebrating. There was no vocal articulation of any objection to Holi by the society at large. The celebrations have been held every year ever since, and news coming out is only of the joy of the widows on Holi. This should imply that the hindu society has whole-heartedly accepted this change. But let’s look at how it is portrayed abroad.
Dawn informed Pakistan that the first ever Holi celebrated in India in 2013, was celebrated again for the first time in 2015!
In the article, Dawn says and we quote:
In orthodox India, widows dress in white most of the time; forever grieving the loss of their husbands. They are not allowed to play with colours and partake in any function after their husbands’ death.
Irony would have got a ticket to hell only so it can fry itself in hellfire for an excruciating end, when a Pakistani newspaper described India as “Orthodox”. This should concern us not merely because it is a misrepresentation of India but also on humanitarian grounds. We should bear in mind that they’re talking about a Hindu tradition here. At the time of partition, Hindus comprised nearly 22% of the population of Pakistan. As of now the population of Hindus has dwindled to around 1%-2% of while the population of Pakistan itself has grown fourfold! The persecution and proselytization of Hindus in Pakistan is a visible, inconvenient truth few human rights champions like to talk about. Such reports painting Hindu society in poor light will only strengthen grounds for their persecution by the radicals there.
Indian media being the source, every year some foreign media or the other is reporting a new breach in oppressive Hindu tradition, the breach that had already happened in 2013.
The broken traditions were reportedly broken again in foreign media in 2015 and done already in 2016!
One such particularly interesting piece was published yesterday in The Seattle Press. It is interesting because it is written by someone with Indian roots!
Source: Seattle Times
There are many more such foreign newspapers reporting on how the widows broke traditions. The pointers to Hindu tradition, hindu orthodoxy, are but obvious in most such articles.
We hold that the reporting of this beautiful change by our media and the world media in itself is very desirable. And desirable change should be positively reinforced and wide reporting will be of immense help. But is the message coming out of the reporting providing a positive reinforcement?
All reports invariably say that the widows break tradition and Sulabh Hope International helped and nothing should take credit away from them. But nobody highlights how the society has absorbed the change. Hardly any report brings out that Sulabh was assigned to the responsibility by the Hon Supreme Court of India. This bears testimony to how Indians (and Hindus in this particular case) have institutionalized social change through their democratic institutions. The adaptability and open mindedness of the Hindu society should be evident if we contrast this with the vehement opposition to Uniform Civil Code despite repeated prescription for the same by the SC of India.
Biswajeet Banerjee in his post in Seattle Times describes:
Hindu priests chanted religious verses as hundreds of widows splashed colored powders and played with water pistols filled with colored water. Showers of flower petals filled the air.
By their own admission, the priests (who in left-liberal literature are harbingers of all orthodoxy and backwardness in the Hindu society) themselves have accepted and are contributing to the change. It should have been brought out that even the class deemed most orthodox among Hindus has internalized the change. It is a win, not just for the widows but also the society. But all articles invariably celebrate the new joy of the widows at the cost of the society.
Either with deliberate subtlety or inadvertently, one cannot be certain, but the media at home and abroad are painting the entire hindu society in the light of the tragedy that the lives of these widows is. However we must keep in mind that the homes for widows at places like Vrindavan and Varanasi are islands of poignancy stuck in a time. India has been changing all along. In our earlier piece on Vrindavan widows, we had brought out how major matrimonial sites offer thousands of prospects for widow remarriage. There are even websites dedicated to widow and second marriages. That the market is finding merit in the prospect, is indicative of the increasing acceptability of widow remarriages.
It must also be borne in mind that the progressive impulse of Indians is not new. The Widow Remarriage Act was enacted as far back as 1856. Last year itself, in 2015 the Hon SC made a progressive decision in favor of remarried widows, giving remarriages an impetus.
As we put this piece together, Indian media is spinning articles and prime time debates on the issue. While we should take the message and hasten desirable changes, improve respect and acceptability of widows, end all ostracism and taboo, we should also stand our ground and speak out where we are being misrepresented. Let us stand up as examples of positive change rather than surrender to the incongruous disrepute.