Gender Bias!

Not long ago, when my son was still at school, and caught up in gender discrimination issues asked me a question, which on the face of it appeared an innocuous inquiry to ascertain facts. So while we were at a restaurant near NANDINI on St. Mark’s Road, Bangalore, he asked me, ” Dad,, did you notice that there is a tobacconist at the entrance of NANDINI HOTEL?”

I said, “Of course, and I have many friends who had stopped by at that tobacconist to buy cigarettes. So what is strange about it?” I asked wanting where he was driving at.

So he said, “Did you notice that that tobacconist’s shop is abutting the compound wall of  BISHOP COTTON’S GIRLS’ SCHOOL on St. Mark’s Road?”

I said with an air of accepting an uncared for piece of fact, “I know..”

“So,  having a cigarette shop within 200 metres of any school was an offence, and near my school there are no cigarette shops and some of my smoker friends have to walk quite a bit to have a smoke and it is an unfair advantage for the girls!” he said.

Yes, it is a law which is in force, but may be this tobacconist had had his shop even before the law came into force, or worse still the school “CAME INTO NUISANCE”!

CAME INTO NUISANCE- what the hell does that mean?  he asked.

“In England, once an elderly couple bought a house in a lane abutting a cricket ground. So during the weekends the house was left with a few broken window panes to the annoyance of the couple. So the couple filed a suit in the civil court claiming compensation from the Cricket Club for  damages. Lord Denning, who decided the case on appeal, succinctly raised a point and settled the issue in favour of the Cricket Club by stating that, the couple knew before they purchased the house that there was a cricket club in the vicinity  and that there was a locational hazard which they willingly assumed, so effectively by purchasing a house thus located was COMING INTO A PRE-EXISTING NUISANCE! So no damages!”, i said.

Dad don’t bull shit me, this Cotton’s for Girls have been in existence for close to a century, if not more and there is no way a tobacconist was there prior to the establishment of t6he school. So please think up another one.

So I shifted track, seeing the sense in his point. I said, “There are laws which cannot be uniformly enforced, as there are not enough people in the government to check everything and take corrective steps. So certain illegalities pass off for want of governmental notice!”

He said, ” Dad, that is not the point. Girls are generally thought of not to be smokers, whereas boys are thought of to  take to such addictions. That is why this cigarette shop is allowed to be next to a girl’s school. This is nothing but GENDER DISCRIMINATION. And let me tell you dad, there are more girls smoking around than boys, at least in Bangalore!”

I thought of my school days when we also, as boys thought that, girls had it easy- ALWAYS! The gender discrimination issue is nothing new and in the metamorphosis of human evolution, one has to face it sometime and fight for one’s space- ALWAYS!



PEACE? But not at the cost of generation next.

When the Legislature skirts its responsibility and cleverly gets the Courts to decide on issues of OPINIONS, we receive Judgments which are neither decided on LEGAL PRINCIPLES nor sound logically. The RAM JANM BHOOMI issue decided by the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court is primarily an issue that should be decided on DEMOCRATIC OPINION. But the problem is that if the  party with majority were to push through a Legislation, there would be every likelihood of the ACT being struck down on the grounds of violating the FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS (discrimination and non-secularism). Further the party which pushes through such a legislation would lose a chunk of the constituency, blighting its own prospects at the hustings.

So caught between the devil and the deep sea, the best option is to push the issue to the Courts. According to me, the Courts could have an “opinion” on the proof of a “fact”, but SHOULD it have an OPINION on a “belief”? And what would be the tools at its disposal to determine the validity of one opinion against another? The same old Indian Evidence Act 1872; Transfer of Property Act 1882 and the Civil Procedure Code 1908. All these Acts of parliament were enacted much after the so called Babri Masjid had been built, either on the ruins of a temple (as one of the Justices of the bench which decided the case on the 30th Sept., 2010) or by demolishing a temple thereon.

Further what i could not understand was that, it was the SUNNI WAKF Board which had filed a suit for declaration that the site belonged to them. But the judgment apportions the land between the three litigants, after dismissing the suit as time barred. If the suit was indeed time barred, then the determination of the TITLE, POSSESSION and ENJOYMENT had to be determined based on the established principles of justice and declared precedents. By dismissing the suit as time barred, the POSSESSION comes into play. So we have to go to 1992 when the Muslims were in POSSESSION  of the property. Their plea of ADVERSE POSSESSION has also been struck down. So, cyclically we have reached the starting point of our quest for a solution to the Ram Janm Bhoomi issue.

I believe that the JUDICIAL TOOLS like LEGAL PRINCIPLES, PRECEDENTS, LOGIC  and ACCEPTABLE REASONING should be deployed in the delivery of any judgment, more so in a vital one like this. One of the Justices is so sanguine that Lord Rama was born in the very place where the idols were installed in the late 1940’s. To opine on such issues without sufficient facts on hand is likely to reopen these issues on a later date, casting a heavy burden on the future generations.

We badly need a Lord Denning to sort out these issues.

I presume the simple point on which this issue could be decided is that a MOSQUE is a place of worship when it is devoid of any compelling historicity. So is a temple. But when HISTORICITY comes into play, the issue is which of the competing historicity is of greater VALUE to each religion. When we look at that, Babur was an INVADER and the person who, by hindsight, established the Mughal Dynasty in India. A place of worship which was established under the orders of  an INVADER  is to be pitted against a place of worship, which is BELIEVED to be the BIRTH PLACE of LORD RAMA. Which of these claims is of EDURING importance?

Lord Rama occupies a central place in the pantheon of the Hindu gods and goddesses. Whereas, Babur’s Mosque had a more FUNCTIONAL use as a place of worship for the Muslims, than as a significant part of the Historicity of ISLAM. So pitted against each other the place is MORE SACRED to the Hindus than to the Muslims. Further, the Babri Masjid was not a centre for pilgrimage and could never have been, whereas, as the declared birth place of RAMA, it could transform into  a place of PILGRIMAGE.

Taking all the above into consideration, the Hindus would have a greater claim on the SPACE, and the FUNCTIONS of the Mosque could be relocated to continue with the FUNCTIONS. To put it succinctly, the claim of Hindus is SPACE CENTRIC but the claim of the Muslims is FUNCTION CENTRIC. On this very ground, the place should have been declared the BIRTH PLACE of Lord Rama through the belief of Hindus.This is in no way an absolution of the vandalism perpetrated in 1992.

Further according to the Hindu laws there are properties called as DEBUTTER PROPERTY, which is a property dedicated to the deity/idol. To establish a debutter property the courts have relied on a “sanad” granting such status. In this case to find a sanad for a fact that is supposed to have taken place more than 3000 years ago, would be IMPOSSIBLE, as the courts have questioned even the veracity and the possibility of such sanads even in debutter properties over a 100 years. So in all FAIRNESS, justice should have been done based on the very old principles of JUST, FAIR and GOOD CONSCIENCE.

In any case with some judicial determination, things are posed for a positive turn, i hope. Peace is important, but that PEACE should be LASTING is even more important. Let us decide to at least relieve the future generations from this unenviable burden of determining the issues of TITLE, POSSESSION and the like!!