When a 69-year-old bachelor gives you marriage advice, take it with a spoonful of salt. The allegedly celibate Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, believes that education and affluence are reasons for divorce. Education and affluence, according to him, make people arrogant, which destroys marriages. Chanakya – the real one – must be squirming in the heavens right now since he was of the opinion that:
“Learning… is like a cow of desire,
It, like her, yields in all seasons;
Like a mother, it feeds you on your journey
Therefore learning is a hidden treasure.”
Unfortunately, even Chanakya’s comparison of the holy cow with learning does not move the head of the Sangh chief, who is more often than not seen giving regressive advices to RSS karyakartas. His main advice is that marriage works only as long as the couple follows the rules of this ‘social contract’: man earns a living while the woman takes care of the household.
But the question that remains unanswered is: how does an unmarried man know what makes a marriage successful?
Saraswati to Jashodaben
The RSS boasts of giving India Narendra Modi and the ‘success’ of Modi must mean that Mohan Bhagwat regularly dishes out pearls of wisdom to him and others. But did Bhagwat ever lecture Modi on marriage? It’s hard to take men who value cows more than humans seriously when they lecture on marriage.
If education caused marriages to break, how does the Goddess of Learning – Vedamata Saraswati – give us couple goals with Lord Brahma? If affluence was a reason for divorce, how does princess Sati, daughter of King Daksha, stay in an egalitarian marriage with Lord Shiva? Adishakti was reborn in a king’s family (King Himavat) and Lord Shiva and Parvati’s marriage is still celebrated.
The Modi example
We don’t even need to look at the gods to show the inanity in Bhagwat’s statement. The best example is much closer to home. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who claims to have had humble beginnings as a chaiwala (tea-seller), deserted his wife Jashodaben, three years after their marriage, which he kept secret for five decades and was finally forced to admit in his affidavit before the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Apparently, household duties – or earning a living, as Bhagwat would say – was not his cup of tea.
PM Modi also claims to be a graduate but hasn’t produced a certificate that would silence people who call his ‘1978 B.A. degree from Delhi University’ fake. So, basically, no education and no affluence. And yet there was a separation. This isn’t an attempt to get personal but when the RSS chief decides to give pointers on personal issues, then things will get personal.
Divorce is evil
Bhagwat’s statement is problematic for another reason – it projects divorce as something evil and shameful. Women continue to be shamed and blamed for the relationship not working out. This evidently forces many to stay in toxic and abusive marriages.
Bhagwat’s thought process is no different from the one that holds women responsible for rape and believes that rape happens because of the skimpy clothes that women wear. His statement tries to impose the same societal pressure that forces little girls and boys into silence, to not speak of sexual assault.
Bhagwat had revealed similarly atavistic thoughts when he had said in 2013, less than a month after the Delhi bus gang rape, that rapes happen in urban India, “not in Bharat” (rural areas). But as journalist Rukmini S. had reported then, court data showed that Bhagwat’s views were “plain wrong”. “75% of rape cases that led to convictions over the last 25 years were from rural India.”
All that Manusmriti says
Former BJP MLA Savitri Phule said last year after leaving the party that the BJP and the RSS wanted to replace the Constitution of India with Manusmriti. And Bhagwat’s statements on women, marriage and society at large only goes to show that the ancient Hindu text is the fountainhead of the RSS’ ideology because even M.S. Golwalkar, the second RSS chief, had approvingly called its writer a “great soul”.
Consider this ‘teaching’ that Manusmriti imparts:
“Balye pitorvashay tishteth panee grhasay yownay
putranam bhartre pretay na bjait stri swatantr tam”
This stanza [5/151] translates to: “A girl should be controlled by her father, be under the custody of her husband after marriage and in her son’s care when widowed. In no circumstance should she be allowed to assert herself independently.”
In all fairness, Mohan Bhagwat’s statement would be ignored as ramblings of an old man who is devoid of constructive thoughts and ideas. But he doesn’t just influence the government of India, which runs a campaign called ‘Beti Bacaho, Beti Padhao’, but all those minds that swear by the RSS’ ideology.
By the way, what would happen to Modi government’s ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ if it were to listen to its ideological masters who insist that education – and the affluence that it could supposedly bring – are evil concepts that destroy Indian families?
The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal.