Senior RSS leader Krishna Gopal said on Saturday that ‘jauhar’, an ancient practice of mass self-immolation by Rajput women to avoid being captured by foreign invaders, was a form of resistance and not a “discriminatory” practice against women. At a seminar on ‘Stree-Shakti’, or women empowerment, at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication here, Gopal said the practice was “a part of the tradition of Jauhar-Shakha in which women offered the supreme sacrifice than be conquered by victorious armies to be a part of their large harems”. He said jauhar was a “form of resistance and not a discriminatory practice”.
The remarks came as fringe Rajput groups violently protested the release of controversial film ‘Padmaavat’, based on the saga of the 13th-century battle between Maharaja Ratan Singh of Mewar and Sultan Alauddin Khilji of Delhi. The groups allege that the film shows Rani Padmavati in “poor light”. The queen is said to have committed ‘jauhar’ in 1303, preferring to die than be captured by Sultan Khilji.
Historians, however, are divided whether she actually existed, and the filmmakers have denied the allegations. But Gopal said scholars, who speak about equality between men and women, should consider the fact that the Indian thought was not geared towards dichotomies, but is rather a unifying thought. He said the Indian society must introspect why almost 40 per cent women in the country were bereft of educational opportunities and suffer from debilitating diseases such as anaemia.
The RSS leader also talked on the declining sex-ratio during the seminar, and insisted that women empowerment cannot happen without improving the conditions of women in society. Gopal has previously spoken about untouchability. In September last year, he had claimed that the practice of untouchability didn’t exist in ancient India and it reached the country from outside over the past a thousand years.
“This (practice of) discrimination came in the last thousand years. There was no such thing as untouchability in this country (before that). “Our Vedic rishis never mentioned this. Where did it come from? It came from outside,” Gopal had told Sangh volunteers during an address in Hyderabad on Vijayadashmi Utsav. Jauhar was a Hindu custom of mass self-immolation by women to avoid capture, enslavement and rape by foreign invaders, when facing a certain defeat in a war.
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