It was in 1927 that an American writer – Katherine Mayo – wrote a book called “Mother India”. The book took the India intelligence already entrenched in a protracted struggle for independence by storm. The book which was less about India and more about defaming India was probably the first attempt by a celebrated US writer at portraying India as an uncivilized and barbaric society.
The book is so popular among left liberal academicians that even today humanities research uses that book as a reference to start their research work. As recently as May 2013, there was a paper published by an associate professor from St. Xaviers College for Women, Kerala basing on the book to study on status of contemporary women in India. The book is more or less a template and a bible for depicting India as a nation of perverts. A simple search on JSTOR results in close to 9700 hits out of which 8795 hits are from Journals that JSTOR has digitized. Many journals are not yet part of the JSTOR ecosystem. Therefore, even by a conservative estimate, the number of papers, books, reviews and pamphlets should easily cross 10,000 may be even hit 15,000. All these numbers are excluding multi-media content, which are based on Mother India.
Unfortunately, as the case has been with Indian intelligentsia, the response to the book was lethargic when it was released. Only man who stood up to the falsehoods that Katherine Mayo wrote in her book was Mahatma Gandhi. He called the book “a gutter inspector’s report”. No one could reach the level of Mahatma Gandhi in commenting on the book.
The legacy continued
The legacy laid down by Katherine Mayo was difficult to be gotten rid of. Katherine Mayo portrayed India and its peoples in a way most palatable to the western mind, which was by then exposed to Swami Vivekananda, Ananda Kumaraswamy and other great contemporary philosophers who showed India and its astounding contributions. Needless to say, western world started seeing value in adopting Hindu customs to their lifestyle by joining Swami Vivekananda and others in the path of Bhakti Vedanta, Yoga, Sanyasa or other Hindu traditional paths, with even scientists openly explaining how Vedanta has positively effected their philosophical perspective. Mother India became an even more important work of its time because of such new developments.
Western media has since not looked back. Portrayal of women has been a burning issue through out the 20th century across the world with several countries going through women’s suffrage movements to get basic rights like voting. On this specific issue itself, west has no right to comment on Eastern countries, especially India. In the western societies, women had to go through great struggle while in India, women got voting rights by constitutional mandate without even so much as a discussion, for it was obvious to most leaders that they should! Yet, it is portrayed by media houses in the west that Indian women suffer because of sociology of India.
The evangelist agenda set by Katherine Mayo was surprisingly simple. It involved repeatedly telling people of India that their only hope for any upheaval are the British missionaries. The agenda continues to this day. The evangelists who come from various parts of the world feast on the souls they harvest in India like vultures feast on corpses. The economic imbalance created by 60 years of Nehruvian socialism made their job much easy.
What happened since?
After independence too, the situation didn’t change much. India continued to be a focus area for western think tanks and NGOs. India to them is a ripe fruit for dominance. Huge population that India continued to sustain for long is seen today by leftist thinkers in the west as laboratory of neo-communism and Human Rights activism, economic conservative right in the west looks at India as a market of billion, religious conservative right in the west looks at India as graveyard of sinners where God’s word needs to be spread.
These myopic views are understandable because west suffers from self-aggrandized view of the world. It is however sickening to see that most Indians, educated lot mostly, don’t see the west for what it is. Rights based progressive liberalism which is advocated by think tanks and NGOs based in the western world as a cover for more State in people’s lives is seen as some sort of elixir by most of the modern Anglophile Indians. In short, they believe in the west’s unequivocal call that “become like us to be prosperous”.
One of the key areas of these western interventions in India is to do with women in Indian society. Thats why India’s Daughter gathers so much importance.
India’s Daughter is less about Dec 2013 rape victim and more about defaming India, much like Katherine Mayo’s book. The crass generalizations that the documentary tries to depict have to no basis in fact. If there is a M L Sharma who thinks the way he thinks in India, there is a Joseph DeBenedetto who said “I am not saying she deserved to be raped, but” on Fox News when a 14 year old girl was intoxicated and raped in October 2013 in Maryville in USA. There are perverts in every society. Perverts are not local to India, neither are they local to USA. What is therefore important is how these societies deal with the problem.
India’s Daughter was an attempt to show that somehow rape is an Indian culture centric problem and as something that happens only in India. Thats the point where India’s Daughter need to condemned. Indian society respects women not as a matter of law but as a matter of principle.
In several Indian states, there are still public transportation services where some % of seats are left reserved for women. Men give up their seats in public transportation in these states if there find women standing. If they don’t, the conductor feels dutiful to tell them to vacate and accommodate women. If you go by equality sermons from the west, equality should mean no special treatment on the basis of gender, which is a constitutional mandate even in India! But Indian society went beyond that constitutional mandate. Indian society accepted laws that gave more space for women in public life through reservations for women in State jobs, legislative bodies and education.
Katherine Mayo’s poisonous book put forth a chain of events that have resulted in India’s image getting vilified across the world for a long time. India’s Daughter is just another leaf of that poisonous tree. When a country like US or UK, where 28 rapes occur for every 100,000 adults preaches India, where 1.7 rapes occur for every 100,000 adults, that India should be ashamed of its “traditional culture of rape”, one only ponders whether to laugh or cry!
Post Script: The statistics on rape have been provided to contrast the situations in India and US/UK. These statistics have not been provided to show that rape in India is alright since the number is less. Even one incident of rape should shake us to the core. Gruesome rapes like Stuebenville rape case or Maryville rape case didn’t provoke American public to take to streets. In India, 16 Dec 2013 rape case resulted in widespread protests across India. For two weeks, the whole country came to a standstill demanding stricter laws to handle violence against women. In USA, Stuebenville rape case or Maryville rape case ended up being statistics. This fundamental difference should be understood by whosoever thinks that India’s Daughter reflects the reality in India.