Regular readers of my work will be aware that I regard the Hazare crusade as being at best well intentioned and at worst fundamentally misconceived (see my remarks on my Blog titled "Eliminating black money").
So there might be some surprise at my coming to Hazare's defense in relation to his supposedly "anti-women" remark.
But what did he actually say? Apparently: “banjh kya jaane prasuti vedana (what does an infertile woman know about labor pains).”
Clearly, this would have been "insensitive and coarse" (as is being alleged by women's rights activists, if he had said this about a particular woman.
But he was making a general statement, in our national language, and this was probably the easiest way of making his point, which was about the difficulties he is facing in his fight for a strong anti-corruption bill.
What are such womens' rights activists trying to argue? That words like "banjh" should be banned? If so, will that remedy the actual physical condition of such women? Or take away the stigma that quite wrongly attaches to them in our culture?
Or are they arguing that we need to invent a similar word for impotent men and create a social stigma for them as well?
Alternatively, are the activists arguing that Hazare should invent a new word for the condition which will somehow have less of a stigma? Or that the comparison is inappropriate?
The whole attitude and argument of these so-called activists is ludicrous.
More or less as ludicrous as the activities of "defendants" of Hindu traditions who are ready to see insults in paintings and films and the actions of governments. I can do without such defendants thank you, and I suggest that women can do without such poorly educated activists (the word was used by no less a novelist than Premchand, and is in common use in our media).
Let us by all means defend those of our traditions that are worth defending, and I don't think I am second to anyone in defending women's rights, but we need a bit more of objectivity and balance and indeed effectiveness in our way of viewing and doing things in relation to such matters.
The best defence of women's rights is not by launching protests against everyone who uses a word like "banjh" but by working and paying for the education of women and girls, and then struggling for equal pay in return for equal work.
Of course we need to keep in mind that if too many women work outside the home, that leads to weak homes and therefore to weak cultures and weak nations - though what the right proportion is and how one can keep to that proportion while allowing for freedom of choice (as we must) I must admit I haven't worked out yet).
Neither the remark nor the confession in the para above is going to make me popular with womens' rights activists, I'm afraid, but facts are facts, and no one gains anything in the long run by running from facts.