Prime Minister Narendra Modi's bid that the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A will usher a "new era of development" in Jammu and Kashmir, is likely to be drowned out by misogynistic statements regarding Kashmiri women from his own party colleagues. Most recent in line of misogynistic offenders is Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
Khattar, on Saturday, said that after the abrogation of the two articles, which provided autonomy to the conflict-ridden region, "girls can be brought from Kashmir" for marriage.
"Our minister OP Dhankhar used to say that he will bring a 'bahu' (daughter-in-law) from Bihar. Nowadays, people are saying that the path to Kashmir has been cleared, so now we will bring girls from Kashmir," he said.
National Commission for Women chairperson Rekha Sharma said she would seek explanation from Khattar for his remarks. "Why does their imagination end at women and their complexion and looks? How they open their big mouths and give these stupid remarks for women? Why did people elect them to power? I certainly will ask for his explanation," she said in a tweet, without naming anyone.
The Congress demanded his immediate dismissal and an FIR against him over the remark, with party leader Rahul Gandhi claiming his comments reflect what RSS training does to the mind of a "weak, insecure and pathetic man".
Khattar hit back at Gandhi saying "weak, insecure and pathetic" are adjectives that people use for the Congress president as he accused him of "manufacturing statements". "Dear Rahul Gandhi ji, at least at your level, you shouldn't react on distorted news. I'm attaching the video of what I actually said, and in what context - this will give you clarity of mind," Khattar said on Twitter and also attached his complete speech to explain the context in which he was speaking. "Manufacturing statements and subsequently destroying their own party does not work in the long term," he added.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said Khattar's remark depicts the mindset of the BJP. "I am not against the marriage of Kashmiri girls in other states, but the manner in which Haryana CM has said is not right. Such a thing can be said by someone who does not have a daughter. A leader to say like this means the BJP has a bad mindset about girls, as they are not a commodity that you can take them away," he said.
"If the prime minister works with a good mind, he should dismiss the chief minister immediately. BJP leaders keep giving controversial statements but if a chief minister gives such a statement, he should not be in the chair even for a moment. He should be removed immediately," Azad told reporters.
Mahila Congress chief Sushmita Dev said, "An FIR should be filed against him for making such a remark on a sensitive issue like this and the NCW should initiate action against him. Khattar should step down. The statement depicts that he is mentally sick. It is complete debauchery."
This rather bizarre commodification of women appears senseless at first, only rooted in the jingoistic narrative surrounding Kashmiri women and the Article 35A which restricted their property rights if they married non-locals. However, the comment gains more perspective when considered against Haryana's poor track record in stopping female foeticide and its abysmal sex ratio.
According to NITI Aayog's latest data (available till 2015), Haryana has the lowest sex ratio in the country — at 831 girls per 1,000 boys between 2013-15 — against a national average of 900.
The fact that the Haryana chief minister was making these comments while addressing a state-level function on the "success" the NDA government's flagship projects, Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, is ironic.
But Khattar isn't the lone offender.
On Wednesday, BJP MLA from Uttar Pradesh's Muzaffarnagar, Vikram Saini also said that party workers were "excited" over the scrapping of Article 370, as it allowed them to marry "gori" (fair-skinned) women from Kashmir.
In a video that went viral on social media, Saini said that "both, Hindus and Muslims should welcome" the abrogation, as it allowed them to marry Kashmiri women "without any issue". He said," The workers are very excited and those who are bachelors, they can get married there. There is no issue now. Earlier, there was a lot of atrocities on women.
“If a woman from Kashmir got married to a man from Uttar Pradesh, her citizenship would be revoked. There was different citizenship for India and Kashmir,” Saini said addressing the crowd in Hindi.
“Muslim workers should celebrate. Get married to a fair Kashmiri girl. There should be celebrations. Everyone should celebrate — be it Hindu or Muslims. This is something the entire country should be celebrating."
There has also been a surge in misogynistic social media posts from Indian men across the country, expressing enthusiasm in marrying women from Kashmir. The comments on social media following the passage of the new bill in both the Houses of Parliament, saw a surge in misogynistic posts which reek of objectification.
Reuters reported that for some social media users, the new law offered a bizarre sense of entitlement, probably under the impression that they are at the liberty to "own" anything that is Kashmiri, be it land, or property, or women.
— Sangy007 (@Sangy_Sagnik) August 5, 2019
— Good Guy (@gooljaar) August 5, 2019
"Many internet articles extol Kashmiri women, and men, emphasising the fair colour of their skin. Google Trends data have shown surge in searches for "Kashmiri girl" since 5 August," the report said.
Under the now-scrapped Article 35A of the Constitution, a woman, who is a resident of Jammu and Kashmir, stood to lose her property rights and the citizenship of the state if she married a person from outside the state. The provision also extended to the children of such women.
However, now that the legislation has been scrapped, the BJP leaders' statements are factually wrong in addition to being misogynistic, say women's rights activists, as women from the state were not restricted from marrying citizens outside the state, per se.
The abrogation now only undoes the clause that the woman would lose rights to her share of the family's property.
Reports also said that an "irresponsible and embarrassing" statement like Khattar's is likely to hurt Modi's pitch to position the abrogation of the legislations as an effort to empower women in Kashmir. The BJP-led government, who won a second term with a resounding majority in May this year, is working to appeal to unhappy Kashmiris with the "benefits" of the abrogation of the articles.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Aug 10, 2019 19:22:28 IST