Why Renuka Chowdhury's laughter hurt Modi's ears

Vrinda Gopinath
Vrinda GopinathFeb 10, 2018 | 15:29

Why Renuka Chowdhury's laughter hurt Modi's ears

Why pracharak Narendra Modi would liken Renuka Chowdhury’s booming laughter to a "rakshasin" or she-devil’s demonic shriek? First, as a disciplined RSS pracharak, who is doggedly committed to Hindutva and its doctrine and culture, it should not be surprising that Prime Minister Modi harked back to the epic Ramayana, which flooded his mind about good and evil, right and wrong.

Modi had interrupted a piqued speaker of the House, vice-president Venkaiah Naidu, to tell him not to admonish Chowdhury as he (Modi) "after seeing the Ramayan serial, had for the first time got the opportunity to hear such laughter".



Chowdhury’s sarcastic, emphatic laughter had rung through the Rajya Sabha, when Modi said the Congress party cannot take credit for introducing the Aadhaar when the genesis lay in BJP leader and then home minister LK Advani’s speech way back in July 1998. Advani, had in a debate then, suggested the need for a multi-purpose ID card for all citizens.

It’s another matter that Modi’s version of the Ramayana comes from Ramanand Sagar’s televised soap series based on the epic which iconises Rama as a valiant, masculine, mono-warrior, a Hindutva hologram.

Now, how would pracharak Modi view a woman leader, who dared to laugh out loud while he was speaking? Modi would have shuddered when he remembered former RSS leader MS Golwalker’s book Bunch of Thoughts, where he wrote women are predominantly mothers whose sole role is to bear and rear children. Why, even recently, RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat had reiterated the Sangh credo of a man-woman relationship when he had said that a woman is only meant for household chores.

"A husband and wife are involved in a contract under which the husband has said that you should take care of my house and I will take care of all your needs. I will keep you safe.


"So, the husband follows the contract terms. Till the time, the wife follows the contract, the husband stays with her, if the wife violates the contract, he can disown her," proclaimed Bhagwat.


Imagine, if Modi had read AK Ramanujan’s essays in the retelling of Ramayana in Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam and Jain versions where Sita is not only the daughter of rakshasa or demon king Ravana, but the Sanghi moral universe would quiver with horror to read that the virtuous Sita kills her own father; all unknown in Valmiki’s epic.

Or that in Kerala’s Adiya Ramayanam of Wayanad, Sita was not abducted by Ravana but she fell in love with him and went to Lanka. So, Surpanakha, Ravana’s sister, who was the character Modi was alluding to when he commented on Chowdhury, would have been Sita’s sister-in-law or aunt, depending on the version. And that Sita did not know of Rama’s love for her until Lanka was destroyed by Hanuman. In Chetti Ramayanam, only Lava was born to Sita while Kusa was created by Valmiki, from kusa grass.

How would have all the versions and interpretations of Ramayana helped the Sangh?


It would have broadened its moral universe to include variations, contradictions, questioning; and exploration of culture, politics, gender. But in Sangh political ideology, it is imperative to see good versus evil in a one-dimensional way. Sita is soft, virtuous, obedient; Surpanakha is loud, headstrong, independent.

Not surprisingly, Modi’s women ministers (dare we say colleagues) went all out to attack Chowdhury for her blasphemy. Union minister Smriti Irani scoffed at Chowdhury’s “indecent remarks made at the PM” and said she has no business to take recourse behind the “gender shield” by saying Modi’s jibe at her was anti-women. Another Union minister Harsimran Kaur Badal echoed the same sentiment when she rebuked Chowdhury and said she deserved what she got for her "unruly behaviour".

It seems, to survive in the Hindutva universe, only a mother goddess is permitted.

Last updated: February 10, 2018 | 15:29
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