Vrindavan widows: Society ends archaic tradition, Media keeps it alive!
In April 2013, in a landmark judgement, the Hon Supreme Court of India decided against drug major Novartis and defeated attempts at evergreening its patent on Gleevec; a cancer drug. Evergreening refers to the ways in which pharmaceutical patent owners use the law, regulatory processes and technological strategies to perpetuate their IPRs over highly profitable and generally critical drugs. As we go ahead, we’ll see why the concept of evergreening was invoked.
A couple of days earlier, the same year, India had won a symbolic social battle when widows of Vrindavan, supported by Sulabh International, broke old taboos and added joy and color to their Holi. Some widows reportedly touched color on that Holi after more than two decades. It was a momentous occasion for them and a proud day for the Indian society for it had matured on yet another count.
We do not say that the stigma associated with being a widow is completely eradicated. We do not say there is marked change in the material condition of Vrindavan widows. We acknowledge that that this change was the culmination of a long fought battle by activists against the plight of widows, we also acknowledge that this change has the stamp of wisdom and authority of the Hon Indian judiciary. But let us also acknowledge how the Indian society has shown maturity and faith in its democratic institutions and shown openness for Social change. There may have been reluctance to change, which is likely for any entrenched belief. But there was reluctance, not opposition. There were no violent protests to resist this change, there were no targeted attacks. Most of us think this change was not only justified, but necessary, others took it with a pinch of salt.
We must note that our society has always been open to reform. The cause of widows is not new. It was taken up and fought for, as far back as the early 19th century by the likes of Raja Rammohun Roy and Ishwarchand Vidyasagar. Widow remarriage has found increasing acceptance over the years since the times of Shri Vidyasagar. Leading matrimonial websites today have matrimonial listings for widows with thousands of prospects, there are matrimonial websites focused on ‘second marriage’, which shows how widow remarriage is generally acceptable.
Vrindavan is one of the last surviving vestiges of this deplorable belief system and in March 2013, it set itself in for a change!
Let us now see how Media has played up this welcome change year after year.
The media rejoiced in 2013, how a surviving old tradition has been broken and widows added colors to their lives, and they were right! It was indeed a matter of pride and joy to all of India. It was a change, a breach, a first!
Sulabh International started this practice of celebrating Holi with great celebration and aplomb and they have been doing it every year since.
But then again in 2014, media reported the same celebration supported by the same organization as a breach of the same customs which were already breached in the previous year!!
They went for the overkill in 2015 when they again called it a first, a breach, an moment of liberation. Looking a couple of sentences back, we’ll realize that this breach had already happened in 2013. It appears media quietly resurrected the social traditions so that they could announce a breach the next year again!
But these are no novices, our folks in the media are masters of their trade. They could not announce the same revolution over and over again so they identified ways to “evergreen” it.
- 2013: Shackles were broken. Regressive hindu beliefs obliterated because widows played Holi with flowers. [Source]
- 2014: Shackles were broken. Regressive hindu beliefs obliterated because widows played Holi with gulal and pichkaris (water guns). [Source]
- 2015: Shackles were broken. Regressive hindu beliefs obliterated because widows played Holi with widows of Varanasi!! [Source]
And we are not kidding ONE BIT! To verify, one may read the stories from 2013, 2014 and 2015 and see if there are differences other than these.
Here’s where we revisit the concept of evergreening once again. Our media is so enamored by stories of pathos and possibly by indignity in our culture that they want to keep it alive in public memory. The change which India appreciated by and large was perhaps an issue lost, a professional tragedy for our media and intellectuals therein. Where they could show that after the change ushered in 2013, new strides have been taken each year, they’re wringing their heads to find ways to remind us how the liberation was achieved “only this year” and stretch the life of a social malaise in public memory as long as they can, one year at a time! Just as pharma giants want to retain monopoly over “the ability to cure” by surreptitious technicalities, our media and intellectuals also try to monopolize the ability to cure social evil by first ensuring that the idea of the evil is still alive!