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Gender eruption

BJP MPs protest against Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury's ‘Rashtrapatni’ remark against President Droupadi Murmu, in the Lok Sabha during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, in New Delhi on Thursday. ANI PhotoPremium
BJP MPs protest against Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury's ‘Rashtrapatni’ remark against President Droupadi Murmu, in the Lok Sabha during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, in New Delhi on Thursday. ANI Photo

  • In a multilingual country, we’re used to storms in teacups over language misuse, but the din raised by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party over a Congress leader’s ill-judged use of the term “rashtrapatni” instead of Rashtrapati for President Droupadi Murmu was extraordinary

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In a multilingual country, we’re used to storms in teacups over language misuse, but the din raised by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party over a Congress leader’s ill-judged use of the term “rashtrapatni" instead of Rashtrapati for President Droupadi Murmu was extraordinary. As a suffix, “pati" means “master" in Hindi, and the word conveys the same command of a state that a “senapati", for example, has of an army. “Pati" alone means “husband" and its gender flip for “wife" was taken as an attempt to demean India’s top office and even humiliate all Indian women and Tribals. Did a widely assumed gap in marital power feed Thursday’s high-decibel show of outrage?

The episode evokes Montagu Norman, a British central banker of the colonial era who apparently found nothing awkward in saying India’s central bank had to be like a wife in a joint family who advises but does exactly as she is told by her marital boss. This absurdity was said before we won our freedom. Yet, arguably, neither gender equality nor central bank liberation has made as much progress as it should have in 75 years. Instead of noise, a hearty Lok Sabha debate on both would be welcome.

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