FIR Filed Against Goa Professor Who Critiqued Mangalsutra as Symbol of Oppression
An FIR was lodged against Shilpa Singh, an assistant professor of political sciences at the VM Salgaocar College of Law, in Goa, for comments she made critiquing the mangalsutra — a chain worn by Hindu women to symbolize their marital status. Singh is currently booked under Section 295-A of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes “deliberate and malicious intention” to outrage religious feelings.
In a six-month-old Facebook post, Singh had compared mangalsutra-wearing women to “chained dogs” according to the FIR. The post has received renewed attention due to the FIR as well as a recent complaint to the college Singh teaches in, filed by members of a right-wing student organization, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). ABVP alleges Singh’s lectures promoted “socially hateful thoughts about a particular religion.” In particular, the ABVP took issue with Singh’s lectures critiquing the Manusmirti, Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide, and the murders of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and M.M. Kalburgi.
In a recent Facebook post, reports The Wire, Singh wrote that she is the target of a witch hunt. She states that she doesn’t believe in rote learning and tries to impart “critical tools necessary for students of political science to understand and analyze the complexities, contradictions and emergent power relations animating the realm of politics in the world.” Singh has also filed a counter-complaint against the original complainee, citing criminal intimidation.
Related on The Swaddle:
Feminists have previously critiqued the mangalsutra for its patriarchal symbolism — they say that it marks women as male property. In a similar incident that took place in 2015, a Tamil television channel was attacked for airing a debate around the mangalsutra’s value. One of the women in the show promo made the same observation Singh made in her Facebook post. A translation from an op-ed in The Hindu reads that wearing a mangalsutra is like “tying a leash around a dog’s neck — the woman has no choice but to go in the direction in which the man pulls her.”
However, others have rejected this particular critique by citing the universality of using ceremonial ornaments in marriages. Singh later stated in a Facebook post that she regrets any hurt caused to women. According to Times Now News, she wrote, “I am aware that one of my Facebook posts was in the eye of the storm due to my personal views on mangalsutra and burqa and it was taken totally out of context. It was never my intention to ridicule religion or women. Since my childhood, I have been curious on questions why we have exclusive marital status symbols for women and not for the men in various cultures practices. [sic] It is depressing to see that a false opinion has been created about myself by my detractors – that I am an ‘anti-religion’ or a run-of-the-mill ‘god-hating atheist’. This is far from the truth.”