Of men, women and khap panchayats

Rohan JoshiLet’s get right to it; ladies, we’re sorry. By we, I mean men. And by “sorry” I mean “for 65 billion years of putting the man (and men) in mean”. We have been evil (or as they say in Dyslexic, vile) to you, ever since evolution split the first ever asexual cell into male and female cells, and the male turned to the female and said “Woman, get in that nucleus and make me a zygote”. Today that male cell is named Om Prakash Chautala. And that female cell is a Satyameva Jayate episode.

I’ve never understood why men have spent all of known history searching for creative ways to be mean to women. Cavemen hit cave-women over the head with clubs, nomadic tribesmen sold women into slavery, and Madhur Bhandarkar keeps putting them in his movies. We are unflinchingly horrible to them, and we’re just getting worse.

A khap panchayat has roughly the same amount of constitutional authority as Ajmal Qasab. File pic for representation

Two recent incidents stand out. One, in which a khap panchayat (Indian for “Real men don’t need school”) suggested that the best way to protect women from rape would be if they got married younger. This would lead to a decline in rape cases, as they would then have husbands to protect them. Ladies, if you’re reading this, right now, stop, and take a good long look at any man around you that is not your blood-relative. Does he inspire any sense of confidence in you? Does the idea of his protection make you feel even remotely safe? In fact, in a survey conducted by eminent researchers (my friend Vinod), women said that the following three things scored higher than Indian men in the “Things that make me feel comfortable” category:
1) Piranhas
2) A week in Darfur

Indian men have an inflated sense of self-worth, perpetuated (oddly enough) by their mothers, who tell them that nothing they can do or say is wrong, They are brought up with the sort of self-righteous certainty of decision that only the ignorant can ever possess. They believe that only their decisions in any situation matter, and they do it with a sense of almost religious righteousness, because they’re taught that women are too stupid to make any decision more complicated than “gobi or aaloo?” They then take a wife who had no choice in the marriage, and has been brought up to believe her decisions are irrelevant, because Rajesh doesn’t even like gobi. The system perpetuates itself.

Of course, the statement on rape was made by a khap panchayat, a body that has roughly the same amount of constitutional authority as Ajmal Qasab. Aside from being morally reprehensible, the statement also goes against the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, the Prevention of Child Marriage Act of 1999, and the Can You Guys Hear the Ocean In Your Head Since Your Brains Fell Out Act of 2012. But, there’s the blood of too many girl-children on our hands for us to believe that the Constitution is relevant to the Indian family behind closed doors. All that matters is social decree, no matter how reprehensible that might be.

A sadder case comes to us from Pakistan, where the Taliban shot a 14-year-old girl in the head for promoting the idea of education of women. While it’s tempting to dismiss it as an act of extremist Islam, the principle isn’t that different from the one in Haryana; the idea that women must be controlled because the only thing more dangerous than a woman with free thought is a woman with free thought and a book.

Every time women try to assert their freedom, the men offer retribution. We don’t have the luxury of living in a world where the battle of the sexes is a punchline to a joke on a guys’ night out. This is a very real war, and the casualties are severe. And so I repeat. I’m sorry for our war-crimes. I’m sorry we’re all George W Bush.

Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo. You can also contact him on 

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