It’s the theatre of the absurd again, a frequent byproduct of news cycles driving discourse. Photographs emerge of a “God woman” wearing a mini skirt. This gets us interested in what else she’s been doing. Allegations of criminality come to the fore as do the fact that some famous faces count among her followers.
Radhe Maa Debate Beyond The Mini-Skirt And Rishi Kapoor :
“God women” allegedly duping people and encouraging dowry are valid concerns, but not as many people had really taken notice of Radhe Maa till her pictures went viral on social and then news media. This has divided the Hindu Right.
Even if some of this breed – who stand stoutly by Asaram Bapu even as the umpteenth witness in his case is attacked or murdered – have come to Radhe Maa’s rescue, many more have denounced her for donning something that, according to them, strikes at the very heart of Hindu culture.
Let no one convince you the objections to the mini skirt are objections to modernity. Many proud new flag-bearers of the Hindu Right, for instance, have had no problem with Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan’s psychedelic outfits, or his night-long concerts that are a bizarre blend of rock, pop, rap and what-have-you.
But messing with the male gaze is another matter. Try and decipher the subliminal messaging behind the Hindu objections to Radhe Maa and you will find in sub-text male chauvinistic chest-thumping: “We’re male. We’re Hindu. We worship women wearing Saris. We can’t stand God women in a mini skirt.”
So now key Hindu organizations and authorities are demanding that Kaur be barred from taking part in the Shahi Snan, a Nashik Kumbh Mela ritual reserved for distinguished Hindu religious personages.
Radhe Maa herself appears to be working hard to get this constituency to come around. After the controversy erupted, she visited, in far more traditional attire, the Takht Sri Hazur Sahib, a Nanded gurdwara in Maharashtra reportedly ghost-run by the RSS.
The second thing that’s being spoken about is not ‘what’ but ‘who’. As is the case often – when the discourse revolves around socio-cultural rather than political issues – the debate has been taken to the altar of Bollywood and TV celebritydom.
Other names flashed recurrently in connection with the god woman include actors Dolly Bindra, Rakhi Sawant and Ravi Kishen, the controversial new FTII chairman Gajendra Chauhan, and Rahul Mahajan, the son of BJP leader Pramod Mahajan. Some of them support Radhe Maa.
The third thing that’s been weighing in on the brouhaha, though not out loud as much as implied, is the Posh Liberal Lens. Yes, admit it. The hullabaloo that began with a skirt has sustained this long because of a voyeuristic, bitchy interest in Maa Radhe’s satsangs. The same satsangs where she whirls endlessly, the ones with much wild dancing, and, oh yes, the ones where Maa Radhe is often carried and passed on fondly from one devotee to another as if she were actually a blessed teddy bear.
Cults, world over, often have insane rituals which often also serve as spectacle to hide the crime. For quick perspective look at our home-grown ‘love charger’ baba, accused of murder and rape.
Still, while religion may be the opium of the masses, its harmful effects cannot be as easily defined. This is one reason it cannot easily be outlawed. What such cults do, therefore, in India and abroad, is provide fertile ground for criminality.
This brings us to what’s been relatively overlooked with regard to Radhe Maa of late. The dowry case. This has been reported on almost cursorily by the mainstream media. But perhaps some dots need to be joined.