Rajputs are very upset over film Padmavati which they feel has wrongly depicted her story. I am not fascinated by Hindi Cinema’s treatment with history as without romance Hindi Cinema does not exists. The Bombay films have rarely given any justice to historic characters or should I say they are incapable of making period films. They can only create false grandeur like that of Bahubalis which reflect the prevailing mindset and machismo in our society.
So whenever a period film is made or a film with historic character comes the castes and communities jump up suggesting their feelings are hurt. Actually, history project in India has become a project of patriotism which must have a golden image of the past. Each communities are fetched with stories of bravery and larger than life images of the characters carefully planted through the built up narratives of ‘caste pride’ of each communities. History, therefore, is not a professional work in India but has turned out to be community folklores. Most of us knew about Rani Laxmi Bai and Maharana Pratap not through history books but two poems of Subhadra Kumari Chauhan and Shyam Narain Pandey. Now these two poets wrote the poetry of Veer rasa to instill a sense of courage and pride among people. History, frankly, is not a project to instill that pride but now increasingly becoming so. We dont see history as events happened during a particular period but essentially a glorification of our particular heroes of particular communities in the past. That suits well to all of us who have converted Indian democracy into ‘casteocracy’ where you can get votes of castes and organised them in the name of history and past to ultimately strengthen your political power.
This mobilisation of people in the name of castes have dangerous implications. Now, a violence against Dalits or Muslims dont get open and unconditional condemnation because of the fear of a backlash. We have seen how political parties have kept conspicuously silence on the issue of Chandra Shekhar Azad and the violence unleashed by the Thakurs in Saharanpur. It is easier for the political parties to speak about the crisis where they dont have their stakes. So social media of political parties will show the video of violence against Dalits by the BJP leader in Telangana but the same political party’s social media cell refuse to speak about the deteriorating health of Chandra Shekhar ?
The Rajput leaders of BJP in Rajasthan have got a great opportunity for political mobilisation. The elections are expected to be there next year and Vasundhara Raje does not have much work to show in terms of governance. Violence against Muslims by the Cow Goons has been there and so is the anti labour, anti farmers policies which has made farmers unhappy with her. So, how do you fight against these policies. The main opposition party Congress remain in dilemma like Gujarat as they cant raise the issue of isolation of Muslims or violence against Dalits for the fear of a counter reaction resulting in heavy political losses.
In the nationalist project of the RSS Nagpur, the biggest political beneficiaries have been the Rajput leaders though one can say at the cost of keeping their communities perpetually enslaved to the brahmanical mindset, feudalism and without speaking about the internal changes that the community need today. Rajputs have lost everything except their feudal lords in Rajasthan may own some big hotels elsewhere they are a pale shadow of their past. They have lost their land. There are no role model they can look forward. As the community is engaged in false pride of the past which essentially meant to look down upon the other communities, Rajputs do not exists any where in government jobs, in academia, in business. They are much lesser than the other Sawarna castes like the Brahmins, Banias and Kayasthas, all have taken up the challenges of the modern day world. Rajputs were landed farmers victims of the anti farmer policies yet we do not find hear much on these issues.
Despite all the faults, the political leadership of Rajputs remained in the hands of some of the broad minded people. Whether it was Chandrashekhar, V P Singh, Arjun Singh or even Digvijay Singh, they all have played the politics of inclusion and social justice. In BJP there were two Rajput leaders who were definitely different than the Nagpur blessed bhakts. They were Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and Jaswant Singh who were not party to noisy Sangh Brigade even during the demolition of the Babari Masjid. But in the current Project BJP realised that it need to lumpunise the community through regressive leaders which can raise a sense of betrayal among them and use the nationalism bogey. Rajasthan’s Rajput leader Kalyan Singh Kalavi was the first to support Sati but it is not that he alone supported. One of the ‘great’ ‘champions’ of brahmanical secularism in India, Prabhash Joshi, former editor of Jansatta, openly supported Sati as the best tribute to the Indian women for their love for their husbands. Vasundhara’s mother and BJP’s vice President that time, Vijaya Raje Scindia came out openly in support of the Rajputs. It is the same philosophy of keeping the community under control that the likes of Yogi Adityanath continue to misguide them with a false pride in those rigid traditions which actually damaged the community. There is no pride in varna system and feeling that you were a special community created by God to lord over others. These false narratives created by the brahmins to create an iniquitous social order with their sole hegemony has now been exposed and the brahmin themselves have left them. What prohibit these communities to stick to them is their patriarchal values and woman as a trophy to be owned. So she become the main question of your honor or dishonor given the nature of location you are in. And it is not merely Rajputs, it is the problems with most of our communities in India who have been injected with rigidities on their falsely glorified past. Muslims too have same problems as none of the Muslims or Mughal kings were worried about them. As a subject they only bothered about keeping their empire safe. Whether it is Rajputs or Muslims, no empire worked against existing social order and hence caste system and patriarchy flourished under these regimes. So why should we feel too proud of them just because they might have belonged to our religion and castes ?
There is another serious crisis with Indian society. It is a feeling that our great leaders or icons cant romance or have sex. As if they lived their lives without sex and romance. So once we see our leaders in romantic flavor, we get agitated. We either want that to be termed as lie or if it is true then all of sudden, we demolish the image of the person. We dont want to give people right to enjoy their life including having sex and romance. Perhaps that has made Indians some of the most frustrated people world over sexually. Film makers from Hindi cinema used this ‘frustration’ very much which comes in the form of presenting woman as object. This objectification has grown in the post 1980s when women were present in a symbolic way to quench the thirst of male cinema goers. That is why despite all efforts to make a period films the Bombay film makers can never get away from the converting every event into a typical Hindi cinema romantic one as they know well that a majority of people are not keen on knowing history but wanting to see the bedroom romance of their icons. Irony is that we feel lost if the female character belong to our community and male belong to other. And it is not to Rajputs are feeling offended not because of misinterpretation of history but because they can never think that their ‘brave’ women can ever fall in love with a non Rajput and here the love affair with a Mughal King actually makes a direct affront to their ‘dignity’. It is the same cases which happen in our honor killings. A girl has to convert according to choice of her husband and the women’s families feel their honor has been compromised while men claim it was love. So in love only women have to convert and follow the patriarchy according to the spirit of those system.
A lot of all this is happening because of the understanding and encouragement of political leadership of the day. Once the political leadership send a clear message that we would not tolerate this, nothing would happen. These Senas are nothing but political manipulations used to promote their political interest. We defend the rights of a creative person to make film as the right of the Karni Sena to organize peaceful protest. Nothing wrong in that but to threaten and intimidate the artists and film maker as well as vandalising Cinema Halls need to be condemned. The Rajputs need to understand that their stupidities has already helped Sanjay Leela Bhansali gaining lots of publicity for the films. People will already go to see the romance. Once Indian people are matured enough to understand they will not bother about these titillating stories. and would require period films to do justice with the subject and not convert them into the frame of Bombay romance. People in India need to get matured. Dont need to get offended by such portrayal. Dont watch such cinema. We know once a message is clear the Cinema people will not make such films and they will flop. We know the TV channels. We know they shout and are misleading people. Those who have understood this game well have left it watching so it does not matter for me whether Arnab Goswami continue to shout hours and hours. But as long as people legitimise them by going and watching such stuff you cant do anything. The more you try to stop them, the bigger the curiosity would be to watch it.
An democratic civilised state goes on rule of law. While we advise both the cinema maker and communities feeling offended to behave properly and not to feel offended, it is the duty of the government to protect the artists from being harassed. If there is anything wrong, use the court of law but you have no right to threaten or intimidate people who want to watch it. Rajputs should better focus on their collapsing order and open up their society so that their children also go and they have a fair representation in our professional lives, in administrative wings of the government and elsewhere. They should also focus on those political leaders who help community to open up and look forward working with other communities fighting against iniquitous social order. It is time they leave this self glorification of past and learn that rigidities have never paid anywhere. The communities which remained flexible to modern ideas actually progressed and those remained rigid could not go beyond the confine of their narrow and tainted worldview.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at www.manukhsi.blogspot.com twitter @freetohumanity Email: email@example.com