Writer-activist Meena Kandasamy thinks that the education system prevalent in the country smacks of entrenched oppression thanks to the hierarchical structures erected by the patriarchy.
Talking to The Hindu on the sidelines of an event to commemorate resistance singer Bob Marley at Fort Kochi on Saturday, Ms. Kandasamy said it was about time the country's education institutions changed. The writer, who came under threats of ‘televised gang rape' for taking part in a beef-festival organised at the Osmania University in Hyderabad last month, says that the incident has only confirmed her stance on caste and gender politics.
“They believe every student is a Hindu until you demand you are not,” she says. “Everything, from the dress code prescribed to the food choices, there is the overarching stamp of patriarchy.” Although she lodged a complaint with the Cyber Police against the person who issued the shameful threat on Twitter, nothing has happened.
“He hasn't deleted this from his account… As I'm low-caste, they think they can do that to me; that my body is easily available and that rape is a weapon to punish women who deviate from the norm.”
Ms. Kandasamy, who shot to prominence with her anthology of poems such as Touch and Ms. Militancy besides her power-packed columns in news journals, says her new book, ‘Caste and the City of Nine gates', on the country's caste system, is due for release now.
In the book, she puts to study how “the system has been regimenting the human body”.
She says old practices such as denial of shaving services on the basis of caste, disallowing lower caste women from covering their chest and prescribing the sacred thread for Brahmins were all self-deprecating and meant to discipline the body.
“Why don't all of us just break free?” she asks.
It is not discrimination, but ‘blatant hatred' that she thinks she faces. As one who walked out of marriage because of ‘domestic violence', Ms. Kandasamy says she used to think that domestic violence was a fallout of alcoholism. “There were a few episodes of conjugal violence in my life and he (her husband) would repent and break down soon after. Still, I have not forgiven myself (for tolerating that for a certain period). Maybe it was a case of violent upbringing for him…. We are a violent country inside our homes and violence becomes abusive. However, there would still be the middle class bourgeois saying: ‘She could not manage her man.'”
Despite her activism, Ms. Kandasamy is restless and unhappy with what she is doing.
“Are there more direct ways to influence society and extend a helping hand to the needy?” she asks herself.