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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Outlook on Moral Policing

As expected, Outlook has come up with its analysis of the Moral policing in Chennai. By reproducing the cover of the crappy Tamil newspaper, Outlook and Indian Express are probably giving credence to this kind of journalism.

If the self-appointed guardians of 'Tamil culture' had their way, they would have the rest of the world believe that women should not wear jeans and T-shirts, they should not sing and dance in discos, should not have sex before marriage, should not drink, should not choose alternative sexual identities and they should only be bearers of what certain Tamil men define as 'honour'.

The past few months have seen an unprecedented mobilisation of public opinion against women by sections of the Tamil media and polity. Last week, a leading Tamil daily, Dinamalar, splashed pictures of women drinking, dancing and kissing in The Park, a star hotel, with a poser for the Chennai police commissioner. Captioned 'Is this what equality means?' the story asked: "In a society where married couples are reluctant to hold hands in public, how can women be allowed to sing and dance with men?"

Tamizh Murasu also dragged actress Khushboo into a controversy. In an interview to a newsweekly, Khushboo, deified as a heroine in the 1990s, had said "no educated man would expect his wife to be a virgin". Tamizh Murasu, an eveninger relaunched by the Kalanidhi Maran-led Sun TV group known for its pro-DMK views, cashed in on this statement and ran a lead on how Khushboo was implying that Tamil women had no chastity. It solicited the views of the film fraternity and politicians and derided the actress who happens to be the star anchor of a game show on rival Jaya TV. Soon, leaders of the BJP, Paattali Makkal Katchi, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Dalit Panthers of India aired their views about how Khushboo was "denigrating" Tamil women and "encouraging women to be immoral." The DPI and PMK were especially shrill since they had joined hands to launch the Tamil Protection Movement earlier this year. The DPI led the street protests with slippers and brooms, demanding that Khushboo apologise or leave Tamil Nadu and "return to her Bombay".

Although S Anand does a good analysis of the recent developments, his interview with Kanimozhi (Karunanidhi’s daughter) leaves much to be desired. Kanimozhi vents out her feelings against the Tamil media and tries to speak for women. It’s difficult to digest her speech because her family controls most of the Tamil print and TV media (atleast the dominant ones). It would have been good if S Anand had grilled her on those lines. Excerpts from the Kanimozhi interview:

The media-triggered public debate on women and Tamil culture is depressing and distressing. From clothes to sexuality to social norms, why is it that only women are made to bear the burden of morality and what gets defined as 'Tamil culture'? The media abets the process by using women's 'honour' to sell newspapers and magazines. The same Tamil press thrives on splashing pictures of semi-nude women from all parts of the world to boost sales. They sensationalise any reportage concerning women. All this will only lead to increased violence against women. If tomorrow a woman walks out of a star hotel or a cinema, we should not be surprised if she is attacked for being 'amoral'. A jean-clad woman standing at a bus-stop is liable to be sexually assaulted, and such an attack would even be justified given that public opinion is being mobilised against women. Recipients of such violence would be seen as `deserving'.

There are major issues that concern women in Tamil Nadu—in Salem and Dharmapuri districts female infanticide is still high, there's a spurt in HIV positive cases and TN leads the country in AIDS, dowry deaths continue unabated, there's everyday violence against women. Of late, several incidents of child sexual abuse are being reported. Men are at the forefront of all these forms of violence. Somehow, these are not of concern to the media or the political class that claims to uphold 'Tamil culture'. Anyway, what is Tamil culture? In the classical Sangam poetry in Agananooru, every second poem discusses female sexuality. In Kuruntogai, scores of poems discuss pre-marital sex. What should we do with these canons? Should we brand them as alien to Tamil culture?

The withdrawal of Park Hotel’s license is likely to send wrong signals to the business community and to the IT and ITES companies which are making a beeline to the city. Expats Seth and Hanna had to move out of the Park Hotel in the light of these developments. A friend also told me that many more expats live in Park Hotel on a medium to long-term basis and even they might have been affected because of this.

Other reactions in the Blogosphere: NDTV's Alaphia wants to know whether anybody is looking for Dinamalar’s photographer.


  • Hmm. Sounds like we are going back some 30 years...

    By Blogger Govar, at 4:09 AM  

  • Freedom of Expression is fast becoming a dream.

    By Blogger Rags, at 9:40 AM  

  • I know I seemed to joke about this on my blog, but I'm actually pretty furious. Do the Tamil moral police have nothing better to do than watch couples kissing?

    By Blogger Aishwarya, at 12:03 PM  

  • hi kaps,
    maybe the cops really don't have an exact definition for obscenity in their law book. vat if the couple were actually married. then asking all the guests to vacate the hotel is absolutely unacceptable. V r given the right to vote at 18, but not choose vat v do. vat wil the tourists staying in The Park think abt this. if the cops really want to stop this, the best place to do this is the film industry where the producers save a lot of money from the heroine's costume. a lot of them are wearing shorts on the screen which even the guyz wil feel uncomfortable wearing outside their home. if kissing in the party is wrong then how abt the movies.

    By Blogger Nallavan, at 1:03 PM  

  • Very interesting post Kaps. I like the way you have been covering this. Thank you.

    I am happy to read Kanimozhi's interview,inspite of where she comes from.

    I wish someone sues these magazines and I hope our CM who is a women comes out an releases a statement about equality and privacy...Will she?

    By Blogger Narayanan Venkitu, at 1:43 PM  

  • Good post Kaps...the sad truth today is that we seem to have no middle ground where equality of the sexes or westernization of behaviour is concerned.
    Neither the accusers nor the accusees (is there such a word?!). But so long as the Indian society continues to abide by double standards, this will be the state of things. And these double standards are not confined to the previous or older generations, but are sadly rampant amongst the so-called educated, forward-thinking lot as well.

    By Blogger Taz Snow, at 3:25 PM  

  • Kaps
    What happened to my comment from this morning :( Anyway, just wanted to say nicely written.

    By Blogger WA, at 6:10 PM  

  • You are just talking about urban women here. Where as in orissa an atrocity has happened last monday.Read this

    We are not just back 30 years we are in the barbarian age.

    By Blogger Navin, at 6:27 PM  

  • The Northies are giving Chennai a bad name.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:55 AM  

  • @Govar,
    I hope it's not 300 years

    Hope the dreams come true

    Thanks for dropping by. The moral police will do anything to grab the public's attention

    Since they are not able to do anything about the filmi word, they are trying to control the real world

    @Venkitu Sir,
    Thanks. On a standalone basis, Kanimozhi's statements look good. However her political background makes it difficult for us to digest her views.

    @Taz Snow,
    Thanks for dropping by. These double standards do cut across all sections of the society (educated and youth are also part of this)

    Blogger was down for maintenance and your comment might have vanished

    I did read about the Orissa event and it's really disturbing.

    Are u part of the moral police? I don't think we can afford to make a global statement like that. If Chennai wants to move forward, it has to welcome people from all parts of the globe.

    By Blogger Kaps, at 10:15 AM  

  • 8000 men are driven to suicide/murdered by their wives/her parents/her paramour in India compared to 6250 women.

    By Blogger Sumanth, at 10:44 PM  

  • I think what's happening in Chennai is a confused reaction of certain sections of the middle/lower middle classes born out of insecurity in the face the rapid changes in the economic and cultural landscape. I think this will pass and I hope this ridiculous unconstitutional misuse of State power ignites a debate and counter reaction among progressive and thoughtful people especially the youth and actually brings about even faster changes, that will be the just and fitting reply to these medieval prudish fascists.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:08 AM  

  • hi,
    all the comments here smell a tinge of elitist preoccupation.we probably form a very miniscule percentage of the population.to us logic and consistency may be supreme but i guess the common man may look otherwise.obscenity(or rather expressing their love for each other) in cinema has become an acceptable thing to most people.it might take a generation
    before the society in general comes to terms with newer forms of expressing feelings.

    By Blogger Madras to Ambai, at 12:02 PM  

  • Throughout centuries, tamil culture has this terrible dichotamic vision of Tamil women as mother goddesses and/or sexually promiscuous women. This culture unfortunately looks at women as pure mother figures but also as weak and fallible creatures who need the guidance of moral policemen, husbands etc. Economic independence and strong leadership from tamil women writers, women directors, male and female educators may help to mitigate some of the excesses of how tamil society views women. As Chairman Mao says, women hold up half the sky so our voices have to be heard so as to redress these terrible views that Tamil women do not have the heads to think and act for themselves. Shamala Maheswaran

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:28 PM  

  • The people of tamil nadu has to admit the fact that 'tamil culture' which they call it superior and take pride of is no longer on hold. After globalization we seemed to have lost our origins.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:45 PM  

  • Dinamalar is poison. it speaks volumes about tamil culture, dress code and moral policing but a quick look at its paper- and you will see a lot of photographs of semi-clad women. But business is business?

    By Blogger Merlin Franco, F, at 12:46 PM  

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