ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Patriarchal Script

A patronising and sexist attitude towards women writers in Hindi attempts to pass as literary criticism.

The Vice Chancellor of the Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University (MGIHU) in Wardha, Vibhuti Narain Rai, has had to apologise for making outrageous remarks on women Hindi novelists. A former officer of the Indian Police Service (IPS), Rai had, in an interview to the journal Naya Gyanodaya (published by the Bharatiya Jnanpith), said that over the past few years feminist discourse has mainly centred on the body and that there is a competition among many Hindi women writers to prove that each one of them is a bigger chhinaal (an adulterous woman; a whore) than the other. Referring to the autobiography of a well-known Hindi woman writer, Rai had said, quite incredibly, that the over-hyped and over-rated work should have actually been titled Kitne Bistaron Mein Kitni Baar (How Many Times in How Many Beds).

It is a moot point if Rai would have apologised if it were not for the widespread condemnation of his remarks in many quarters, including by the Human Resources Development (HRD) minister, Kapil Sibal. That Rai’s apology was indeed forced, by the re actions to his statements (especially of the HRD minister under whose jurisdiction his university lies), rather than after an introspection and a genuine change of views, was clear from what he had first said in his own defence. The vice-chancellor pointed out that the iconic Hindi writer Munshi Premchand had used the word chhinaal many times, that he (Rai) actually meant that women’s other issues were being neglected and that as a writer he had the freedom to comment on the issue.

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