Feminism is an important, powerful and utterly basic concept. Unfortunately we find that too many talk about it without any real commitment to feminism. Many Indian public women have adorned the garb of feminism but, in our sad experience, it is only a garb to collect attention, money and power. The Indian doyen in this area is probably Barkha Dutt, a well known “journalist” & “activist”. Barkha is smart, articulate with a rare abilility to get ahead personally.
But we have never seen any real genuine commitment in Barkha Dutt towards any causes she takes up. Now we have a real window into her “fake” commitment to women’s rights. And that window comes from her own article in Washington Post about the new blockbuster Bollywood film “Padmaavat”.
We begin with her sentence “I watched the last 30 minutes of the movie in absolute horror“. But what about the first 30 minutes, we wondered. Because the first 30 minutes or longer of this film is a total celebration of sexual predation & abuse of women & wives by a powerful man.
Alauddin, the victor over the Mongols, first demands the hand of the Sultan’s daughter in marriage. Then, during the wedding celebration, Alauddin has forceful dominating sex with a woman companion of his wife while his wife waits for him in the wedding feast.
Shortly thereafter, Alauddin lures the reigning Sultan, now his father-in-law, to his home and murders him. After his coronation as the new Sultan, Alauddin strides into his wife’s bedchamber and tells her he has made her the new queen of India. Then he commands his wife to sexually gratify him the way he wants. In a later scene, Alauddin is shown demanding sexual gratification from another of his wives, a daughter of a southern Indian king given to Alauddin as a gift by her defeated father.
The film makes it clear that his many wives were nothing to Alauddin expect objects to be used for his pleasure, by force if necessary. They were his possessions and nothing more. The film also depicts Alauddin’s sexual relationship with his younger man (eunuch) slave, a relationship that was deeper & more important than Alauddin’s relationship with any of his wives.
And Barkha Dutt didn’t recoil in horror from this true portrayal of Alauddin? She didn’t even write a single solitary sentence in her article about Alauddin’s treatment of his wives & other women? Isn’t this the same Barkha Dutt who rails against “marital rape” in India and the “patriarchical” treatment of women in India?
Why didn’t Barkha Dutt protest vehemently about showing sexual abuse & predation of women in such celebratory glorious royal fashion? Why didn’t Barkha Dutt worry about young Indian men copying the actions of the strong, virile, unconquerable warrior hero of this “Padmaavat” film?
Perhaps a clue is in another of her lines – “The film is a comic-book depiction of Muslims“. First, the sentence is factually wrong. The Padmaavat film does NOT depict Muslims, certainly not Indian Muslims. It ONLY DEPICTS Afghan Pashtuns and, in particular, the Ghilzai/Khilji tribe. Secondly, in our opinion, Barkha Dutt’s “comic book” adjective was a lie, either out of ignorance or with deliberation.
Barkha Dutt knows that the depiction of sexual practices of 14th century Afghan Pashtuns in Padmaavat is valid even today. Even in today’s Afghanistan, Pashtun husbands have absolute rights over their wives. And even in today’s Afghanistan, Afghan Pashtuns take young boys with them in the old Baccha Baaji custom.
The “Padmaavat” film depicts this behavior as a right of Alauddin and as a validation of Alauddin’s virility. And Barkha Dutt didn’t recoil in horror about that depiction and worry whether today’s young Indian men would copy Alauddin’s sexual practices?
There is nothing “comic book” about the film’s accurate portrayal of Alauddin’s sexual desires, demands & practices. They have been documented & discussed for centuries.
So why did Barkha Dutt ignore the horrific sexual predation of women depicted in Padmaavat? Why did she dismiss these historical facts and today’s practices (detailed recently in a US Army report on Afghanistan) as “comic book depictions”?
Because, in our observance & opinion, Barkha Dutt has been a a tolerant dismisser of Islamic terrorism against Indians. As we see in her article about Padmaavat, Barkha tends to ignore & dismiss any & all horrific acts of Islamic violence against Indians even if that means ignoring sexual predation and violence against women.
Barkha Dutt knows fully well that from about 998 CE until about 1770 CE, Afghan & Uzbek Muslim invaders raped & captured Indian women and later sold them in middle eastern markets. Death was often deemed preferable to that sort of a life. By the way, that is not just 14th century stuff. As Barkha Dutt knows, Yazidi women in Iraq-Syria fell victim to the same practices at the hands of ISIS fighters a couple of years ago. Many of those Yazidi women were rescued by the US Military.
Unfortunately for the heroine of the Padmaavat film, there wasn’t an American army unit that could fly to her fortress and rescue her with her female entourage. Other Indian kings were so afraid of Alauddin that they allowed Alauddin to kill her husband and massacre her entire army. The only choice left to Queen Padmaavati & her entourage was to be captured, kept as female slaves & then possibly get sold in middle eastern markets Or commit suicide.
Queen Padmaavati & her entourage chose death over that life as female sex objects & slaves. That was her & their decision. To call that decision & its depiction as “misogyny” is itself the height of misogyny on the part of Barkha Dutt.
Sorry, we are wrong. The real absolute height of misogyny is to stay silent about the utterly horrific sexual predation of wives & women by Alauddin because he was a Muslim. And that height of misogyny is what comes across loud & clear in Barkha Dutt’s article in the Washington Post about Padmaavat.
This has been the real tale of women & wives for the past 1,000 years. Sadly, even publicly verbose defenders of their rights always dump them for another cause just as Barkha Dutt dumped sexual predation of Indian women for her more important cause – whitewashing of horrific Islamic practices as “comic book depictions“.
In the tradition of this Blog, we ask Barkha Dutt to tell us if we are wrong or unfair in our opinions about her article about Padmaavat in the Washington Post. We will print her response verbatim unless marked private.
We also ask Karen Attiah, her editor at Washington Post, to explain how & why she allowed Barkha’s article to be published in her paper without any condemnation of the sexual violence & predation shown in the first part of the film. Actually, we wonder whether Ms. Attiyah has even seen this important film! If so, wouldn’t that be an act of editorial negligence?
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