Misandrism and presenting the male gender in a bad light or disguising anti male policies as feminine or tools of women empowerment have somehow merged into the so called Feminist movement in the Indian context in the last three decades or so. The Indian Feminism movement has unfortunately become habitual of targeting women instead of empowering women. This can be seen in the light of legislations like the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 whereby the declared intention of the legislature being empowering women, makes provisions such as denying the intestate’s father a share as a Class I heir though the intestate’s mother has been entitled to it. One of the striking features of this so called Feminist movement has been to portray the history of India as anti-women, especially the Hindu past.
Any historical event which showcases strong women characters has been either dismissed as insignificant or has been systematically erased from Indian History. Here is an attempt to take a relook at some of those women characters from the past who were actually representatives of women empowerment instead of being plain male bashers.
Rani Durgavati had blown Mughal ambitions in to pieces, in the valley of Narrai with mighty Narmada on one side; when Asaf Khan first attacked upon orders from Akbar. She developed a defensive strategy to face Mughals in a land with advantage, in Narrai valley surrounded by hills and rivers.
Mughals attacked her army from two ends, anticipating an easy victory over an army lead by a woman. But history is full of examples, where such lowly ambitions have been averted by sheer resolve, courage, planning, humility and sense of service to one’s land, the matribhoomi.
Rani’s army fought heroically pushing the Mughals for retreat and holding the pride of motherland yet again.
While our history books and our eminent historians do not leave a stone unturned in lavishing praises upon the Mughal Emperor Akbar as one of the greatest Indian rulers of all time, a great administrator, a secular ruler in face of Hindu communal bigots, a great diplomat, the greatest warrior of his time and what not, it fails to even make a mention of Chand Bibi. This woman ruler of Deccan did not only overcame all religious and traditional restraints which were imposed on a woman in those days but also managed to defend the Ahmadnagar Fort several times from the Mughal forces of Khan Kanan and Prince Daniyal apart from defeating Abul Fazal, one of Akbar’s ministers in a diplomatic war as she immediately curbed one of his commanders who had been bribed by Abul Fazal.
She was the only female ruler in the Delhi Sultanate. Her brother, Naseerudin Mahmud who had been groomed as a successor by the then Sultan Iltutmish suddenly died in 1229 AD. Thus, Razia was left as the only competent successor in face of Razia’s incompetent male counterparts.
In his heydays, Iltutmish had appointed only Turkish nobles in his Court in order to ensure unity and prevent ethnical conflicts. The nobles though loyal to Iltutmish were not ready to accept the supremacy of his successor and even more so when the successor was Razia, a woman. Razia Sultan showed brilliant diplomatic and administrative skills in gaining the confidence and trust of the masses despite being a female ruler in what was then a largely patriarchal society. Ultimately, the Turkish nobles were able to deceive her, Altunia, the then Governor of Bhatinda revolted against her in connivance with the Nobles. Razia headed towards Bhatinda with her army. Meanwhile, the Nobles captured and killed Yaqut, the Prime Minister of Razia Sultan. Razia showed indomitable courage and married Altunia on the condition that he would help Razia in heading to Delhi and fighting it out with the Turkish Nobles in Delhi though she lost the final war with the Nobles. Razia Sultan’s was thus a saga of how a woman overcame all religious and patriarchal barriers and hatched conspiracies of the extremely powerful nobles apart from showing excellent oratory skills so that a chauvinist society would accept the paramountcy of a female ruler.
Shrangat Kaur’s is yet another saga of a woman who showed overwhelming courage busting all myths of a patriarchal society. Unfortunately, she is no longer a part of our history books merely because the Irfan Habibs and Romilla Thapars somehow fail to find her relevant.
She was neither a successor of a prestigious dynasty nor the daughter or wife of a mainstream emperor but a commoner who happened to have been saved from dacoits by Hari Singh Nalwa, the General of Emperor Maharaja Ranjit Singh. She became a spy in Nalwa’s Army and cut through the Afghan Forces several times during the battle of Jamrud. After Nalwa died during the battle with Afghans, Shrangat Kaur showed excellent warfare skills by immediately travelling towards Lahore and taking the help of Maharaja Ranjit Singh who in turn had such reputation that the Afghans left the battleground as soon as they came to know of his arrival.
Shrangat Kaur is thus an extraordinary historical character in the sense that while all other popular female characters had a regent background, she was a commoner who went on to become an effective war spy and a warfare expert.
Comparison between historical feminism and Modern Feminism
An important similarity in the above instances is that the strong women characters are all about showing the courageous side of women and how they can take part in administration, wars or espionage just like their male counterparts and be as effective. The negative aspect of modern feminism was completely missing then and women empowerment seems to have been nothing about bringing down the male class. Another striking feature is that feminism in those days does not seem to be inspired by any religious or political bias but it is pristine in character.
This sense of women empowerment and positive equality is somehow missing from the modern brand of feminism which has been more about male bashing or showing them in bad light.
Gender Justice has thus become a distant reality and Gender bias has become an unfortunate truth in today’s time. What has been even more unfortunate is the fact that unlike the past instances of gender justice and women empowerment, today’s feminism seems to be mostly driven as a political or religious tool. For example, Trupti Deasi’s brand of feminism seems to be more about maligning a particular religion and restrictions imposed in its sanctum sanctorum, i.e. Shani Shignapur but at the same time she is satisfied on being allowed to go up to the point where women were already allowed to go in Haji Ali Dargah.
The so called feminist movement has thus taken away the narrative from women empowerment and gender equality to misandrism and gender bias and has unfortunately taken hold of the society.