• Is Questioning our Society a Sin?

    Sreelakshmi K M

    June 27, 2017


    Last week, the annual college magazine in Government NSS College Manjeri carried a five line poem ‘Chodyam’ (Question) on the freedom of women. The poem ends by questioning the ‘chastity’ of Kunti in the Mahabharata. Predictably, right wing outfits, including the RSS and Hindu Aikya Vedi, were angered.

    Loosely translated, the poem reads:

    They said in channel discussions
    that it was the woman's fault,
    that she was torn apart.
    Then why don't they call…
    Kunti a prostitute?

    The poem was written a year ago by a young poet, who we call K to protect her identity, in response to attacks on women’s freedom of expression, and mainstream media’s rampant slut-shaming of women, including rape survivors.

    The poem has to be read in this context. A year back, a pro-BJP group accused TV anchor Sindhu Sooryakumar of calling Durga a ‘sex-worker’. Her mobile number was circulated, and her inbox filled with abuses and threats. Meanwhile, the thought police in Kerala demanded for dress code for women in public spaces. The famous Malayalam singer K. J. Yesudas said that women should not be allowed to wear jeans pants, so they could be protected from violence by ensuring they are not sexually attractive. Actor and BJP MP Suresh Gopi expressed his support for Yesudas’ pronouncement. Social media was flooded with pictures of the singer’s daughter-in-law, circulated by trolls. The progressive section of female actors and writers in Kerala condemned both these trolls and the singer’s statement.

    Now, this young poet has written a poem to express her anguished questions about an India that increasingly has no space for its women citizens. We need more voices like hers, and more debate through words, language, poetry, unlike the violent forms of intervention in public space preferred by the thought police.



    Sreelakshmi K M is a Research Scholar at the Centre for Linguistics, Jawaharlal Nehru University. She works with the editorial collective at Indian Writers' Forum.

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