New Delhi: Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Vice-Chancellor Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit said Monday that the Hindu scripture Manusmriti classifies all women as “shudras”.
In her keynote address at the B.R. Ambedkar Lecture Series — organised by the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in New Delhi — Pandit, JNU’s first woman V-C, said that according to Manusmriti, women have no designated caste.
“So, no woman can claim she is a Brahmin or anything else,” the V-C said. She was speaking on the topic ‘Dr B.R. Ambedkar’s Thought on Gender Justice: Decoding the Uniform Civil Code’.
“I believe it is only by marriage that you get the husband’s or the father’s caste onto you. I think this is something extraordinarily regressive,” added the professor.
Men, she further said, have hijacked all religions. “When women ask for their rights, all religions become fragile. All gods become even more fragile. You think if a lady wants maintenance from Rs 60 to Rs 125, religion becomes endangered. How can it be that only when a woman asks for her rights does everyone gang up?”
Ambedkar, Pandit said, was a doyen, thinker, and women’s rights advocate who was ahead of his times. “Simone de Beauvoir said, ‘Women are made, not born’. Ambedkar too was of a similar thought.”
Pandit also attacked the prevalence of the caste system as a way of life in today’s times. Her speech included references to the death of a nine-year-old Dalit boy in Jalore, Rajasthan, earlier this month.
The V-C further said that Hindu gods are not Brahmins, and that “gods anthropologically do not come from the upper caste”.
“Anthropologically, scientifically…please look at the origins of our gods. No god is a Brahmin. The highest is a Kshatriya,” she said, adding: “Lord Shiva must be a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe because he sits in a cemetery with a snake…They have given him very few clothes to wear. I do not think Brahmins can sit in a cemetery.”
“So, why are we still continuing with this discrimination, which is very, very inhuman,” she asked.
‘Uniform Civil Code not a Hindu Bill’
The JNU V-C also spoke at length on how Ambedkar had envisioned the Uniform Civil Code. Ambedkar, she said, saw the UCC as a personal law, devoid of religion and gender bias.
“If we look at the UCC from the perception of Dr. Ambedkar, it is not a Hindu Bill. UCC is a proposal to formulate and implement personal laws for citizens irrespective of sex, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. Currently, personal laws of various communities are governed by their religious scriptures, except maybe the Hindu Code Bill,” she added.
The professor argued that since India had a common criminal code that doesn’t discriminate on religious grounds, it should also have a common civil code of conduct. On that ground, the UCC shouldn’t be contested, she said.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)