Of Manushi Chhillar and Deepika Padukone
"While one "beti" has received claps from the government, the other is fighting for freedom of expression"
November 20, 2017
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted for her, BJP President Amit Shah described her as the “daughter of India” almost as somehow her Miss World crown had something to do with the government and its ‘beti padhao, beti bachao’ scheme. So when Manushi Chhillar got the title after a 17 year gap, it became a major victory for New Delhi looking for international eyeballs, be it from Chhillar, or Moody, or Pew for that matter.
Besides beauty pageants so fit into the patriarchal scheme that keeps women within the limits of looks, clothes and cosmetics and ensures that while men are part of the industry supporting them, and indeed judging them, the women know their place. And since Chhillar is from Haryana, controlled by the BJP, her win becomes even more important for the ruling dispensation that is gearing up to showcase the ‘daughter’ over the next weeks.
So much so that Congress leader Shashi Tharoor has attracted the trolls protecting their own, for a feeble joke on Chhillar and chillar (petty cash).”What a mistake to demonetise our currency! BJP should have realised that Indian cash dominates the globe: look, even our Chhillar has become Miss World!” he tweeted and has been pulled up by two Ministers from Haryana, as well as the National Commission for Women.
So one is the ‘daughter of India’ and the other is Deepika Padukone, the actor in the move made controversial by communities unhappy with history. Death threats, including announcements of multi-crore bounties for her ‘head’, have elicited no response from either the PM, nor the BJP president nor the NCW. Not a word of condemnation, not a sentence against the Karni Sena whose leaders are hurling threats and abuse with the confidence of impunity.
And why? Not just because she acted in a movie that the Sena and its supporters have a problem with, but because she has refused to be the woman and succumb to the pressure being exerted on her through filthy abuse and threats. Instead Padukone has criticised the regressive forces, wondered at the attack, and taken a position against censorship and for freedom. In short, she has not behaved like the woman and demonstrated independent thinking that belongs only to the patriarchal world.
The result is a vicious attack on her with the law and order machinery of the state watching silently, feigning helplessness instead of complicity. Haryana BJP leader Surajpal Amu said that he would double the bounty on Padukone and filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s head to Rs 10 crores. And threatened to “break the legs” of Ranveer Singh, who plays the role of Alauddin Khilji in the movie. The audience cheered as he said that if someone “raises an eye at our sisters and daughters” they will be “punished”.
It would seem that there is a ‘beti’ and a ‘beti’, the one walking the beauty ramp and the other fighting for freedom of expression, and the rights that are being so openly and viciously challenged today. The second has been pushed into the abyss of threat, and abuse as she is too independent and equal to be tolerated by those who make it very clear that daughters have to live within the parameters of a highly khap panchayat patriarchal world.
First published in The Citizen.
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