Respect right to choice and develop constitutional morality

  • Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Social media saw backlash to the incident when Zaira Wasim, the young actress who got famed from film Dangal informed public through her twitter handle that she was leaving the tinsel world and returning to her religious roots. There were several arguments. The first one, were the ‘progressive’ Sanghis, who attacked her and wrote as if she has turned ‘radical Islamist’. The others were ‘secular’ ‘liberals’ like Barkha Dutt and others who felt that Zaira’s action would hurt the prospectus of the Muslim girls aspiring to do ‘something’. Then, there were Muslim friends who felt that she has done the right thing and the fourth were again the ‘secular’ ‘liberal’ Muslims who felt that Ziara’s act has hurt the community which is under tremendous pressure from the right wing Hindus.

Now, at one go, for us, it is a very personal choice and does not matter. Why should we care too much if an individual find salvation in his religion or not in it. What does it affect ? Why should Ziara’s becoming ‘religious’ hurt the prospectus of other Muslim girls. It is the same story as if the prospectus of the Muslim women grew multifold after the entry of Waheeda Rehman, Mumtaz or Zeenat Aman, in the film Industry. The hypocrisy of the Barkha Dutt kind of people is that none of them have ever written about why the young Hindu girls are now becoming Sadhvis or for that matter and then delivering hatefull speeches. And will the people who go to listen to these young Sadhvis like Radhe Ma, aspire to become like her or just go to out of pure superstitions or other business interests. How many of them write when a 12 year old Jain girl Khushi, who got 97% marks in her sixth class,decided to become a monk, in Surat, earlier in May this year. Why there were no hue and cries over this absolute violation of child right. And among Jains, there are many such stories but we never called Jains one of the most conservative communities and such traditions as absolutely uncalled for in the modern world. If we go by the narrative in the media, Khushi Shah was being termed as a wonder girl who has left all the ‘good things’ of life. Her father felt proud of her. How many TV channels ran the show and took on to the leaders of Jain community for such practice. Khushi was clearly a child of 12 and National Child Rights Commission should have investigated the matter.

Zaira is still a major unlike Khushi but our media which is purely a Bania media in todays time, has only one agenda which is to construct stories about Muslims. If there is none, then they want to construct it and then debate on it to put continuous pressure on the community and portray it a purely medieval community without any sense of modernity.

The problem is not merely the right wing Sanghi trolls but also the self proclaimed guardians of Indian culture. Recently, a West Bengal TMC leader and now a member of parliament, Ms Nusrat Jahan was trolled. Nusrat married to a Jain business man and was seen in traditional bridal attire with her partner. There are two kinds of reactions particularly related to their dress. Some Hindus said that there was a Fatwa against her for wearing sindoor and mangalsutra after the marriage. The ‘seculars’ were defending her that she was ‘progressive’ as she crossed ‘religious boundary’ and is an example that Muslims too can ‘respect’ and ‘celebrate’ Hindu culture.

The problem lies not in Zaira’s or Nusrat’s personal choices but in our attempt to ‘define’ them according to our convenience. Nusrat and Zaira have their choices. Just by going back to Islam Zaira does not become regressive in the very similar way just by wearing Sindoor and mangal sutra does not make Nusrat a champion of secularism or Indian culture. Fact of the matter is Sindoor and Mangalsutra are not at all symbol of women’s empowerment but symbol of regressive anti woman brahmanical culture.

It is time for all of us to get out of this ‘defining’ others. Let the people enjoy their choices whether they are religious or non religious. India, ultimately, will have to work on constitutional morality as only that would ensure rights for all as well as unity and integrity of our nation.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat