Saturday July 21, 2018

Raziya Sultan: First and the only Queen of Delhi

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By Harshmeet Singh

Though Delhi officially became the capital of India in 1911, its stature as ‘India’s heart’ had been established long before. A plethora of foreign rulers and Indian princes aspired to capture the seat of Delhi to proclaim themselves as the righteous rulers of India.

The Delhi Sultanate, as the Delhi ruling Persian speaking dynasties were called, witnessed some legendary rulers, one of whom was Raziya al-Din, or as the history fondly remembers her – Raziya Sultan.

The only woman to be ever crowned the ‘Sultan’ of Delhi, Raziya was truly an exception. After the death of Raziya’s father, Iltutmish, Rukn ud din Firuz, Raziya’s brother, was crowned the Sultan. However, he was killed less than seven months into the power. This brought Raziya to the throne – a move that didn’t go well with the powerful Muslim nobles who weren’t ready to accept a female ruler.

Though her rule lasted less than 4 years, it was enough to command a chapter in the Indian history. Minhaj-i-Siraj, the famous Persian historian commented that Raziya was “sagacious, just, beneficent, the patron of the learned, a dispenser of justice, the cherisher of her subjects, and of warlike talent, and endowed with all the admirable attributes and qualifications necessary for a king.”

Iltutmish was extremely fond of her daughter. He ensured that Raziya got the appropriate education and military training as a child. At the time of her birth, Iltutmish is believed to have said ‘This daughter of mine is better than many sons.’ Raziya took to the throne like it belonged to her all along. He set aside the customary veil and asked everyone to address her as ‘Sultan’ and not ‘Sultana’, since Sultana meant the wife of the Sultan. She adopted masculine costumes and led the army from the front. Though comparatively short, her rule was marked by upright law and order. She even managed to manipulate the strong nobles to oppose each other and not her.

With everything falling into place, Raziya looked set to take Delhi Sultanate to great heights under her reign. However, her fortunes took a sudden turn. Raziya had to leave for Bhatinda to tackle an uprising from the Turkish Governor of Lahore. While Raziya engaged in a battle against Malik Altunia (believed to be her childhood lover), who sided with the rebels out of jealousy arising due to Raziya’s closeness with Jalal-ud-din Yaqut, the nobles crowned her brother, Bahram as the Sultan of Delhi.

Raziya lost the battle and was imprisoned by Malik Altunia, who ensured that she was kept in royalty. Soon after, Raziya married Altunia and the couple rode back to Delhi to regain the lost throne. This turned out to be the last ride for the couple who were defeated and killed by Bahram’s forces.
Raziya’s legacy is as decorated by her love story as it is by her administrative skills. It was probably due to her courage to stand against the mighty nobles and her love for Delhi that she has been given such a special place in India’s history despite her short reign.

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India Can Really Take An Ostrich Approach To The Condition Of Women?

A total of 548 global experts on women’s issues , 43 of them from India

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BJP Leader Asks Parents Of A Rape Victim To Express Gratitude To Them
Can India Really Take An Ostrich Approach To The Condition Of Women?. Flickr

-By Deepa Gahlot

You read with a mixture of alarm and scepticism, the poll report by the London-based Thomson Reuters Foundation that India is the most dangerous country in the world for women, beating Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

According to reports, a total of 548 global experts on women’s issues — 43 of them from India — were asked about risks faced by women in six areas: healthcare, access to economic resources and discrimination, customary practices, sexual violence, nonsexual violence, and human trafficking. And shockingly, India comes out as the worst!

We see women progressing in every field in India, but, there is also the increasing violence against women and young girls reported every day; not long ago, female tourists felt safe in India; but now, women travelling solo are constantly targeted. Everyday there are reports of the rapes and murders of minor girls, often accompanied by unimaginable torture and mutilation.

There has been outrage in India, and also holes punctured in the survey that has such a small number of respondents, but can we really take an ostrich approach to the condition of women? Even as education and healthcare improve for women — at least in metro cities — the contempt for women is socially and culturally ingrained in the Indian psyche. In a city like Mumbai considered progressive and relatively safe for women, the girl child is unwanted even by many educated and wealthy families. In spite of laws being in place, female foeticide and infanticide is rampant, to the extent that there are large territories where there are no girl children and brides for the men have to be ‘imported’ from other states.  As dowry murders and rapes rise, the more unwanted the girl child becomes.  The fact is that India’s gender ratio is deplorable.

And if the male child is valued over the girl child, he grows up believing that he is special and if he is thwarted in any way, he can resort to violence. In spite of education and exposure to progressive ideas, in the case of rape or sexual violence, the tendency to blame and shame the victim persists.

To give just one small example, in the West, accusations of sexual harassment resulted in united shunning of a man as powerful as Harvey Weinstein and many others in the wake of the #MeToo movement, that helped many women speak out about their experiences.

In India, Malayalam actor Dileep, who has been accused in the abduction and rape of an actress, and was boycotted by the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA), was recently reinstated. This caused shock and dismay among women in the film industry.

A statement by a group of over 150 women film practitioners says it like it is, “A body that is meant to represent artistes of the Malayalam movie industry showed complete disregard for its own member who is the victim of this gross crime. Even before the case has reached its conclusion, AMMA has chosen to validate a person accused of a very serious crime against a colleague. We condemn this cavalier attitude by artistes against women artistes who are working alongside them. There is misogyny and gender discrimination embedded in this action.

“We admired and supported the Women in Cinema Collective that was formed by women film artistes in Kerala in the aftermath of the abduction and molestation of a colleague, a top star in the industry. We applaud the WCC members who have walked out of AMMA to protest the chairman’s invitation to reinstate the accused. We pledge our continued support to the Women in Cinema Collective who are blazing a trail to battle sexism in the film industry.

“Cinema is an art form that can challenge deeply entrenched violence and discrimination in society. It is distressing to see an industry that stands amongst the best in the country and has even made a mark in world cinema choose to shy away from using their position and their medium responsibly at this important moment. Today, women form a significant part of the film and media industries, we reject any attempt at silencing us and making us invisible.”

The Gujarat elections have brought the BJP and the Congress in close contest with each other.
Indian women. VOA

The preference for male children has had some unexpected ramifications. In a working paper published by the American non-profit, National Bureau of Economic Research, by Northwestern University’s Seema Jayachandran and Harvard University’s Rohini Pande (quoted in Quartz Media), finds that stunting in Indian children could also be blamed on the cultural preference for sons.

“In India, on average, the first child — if he is a son — doesn’t suffer from stunting. But, if the first — and so the eldest — child of the family is a girl, she suffers from a height deficit. And, then, if the second child is a boy, and hence the eldest son of the family, he will not be stunted. This happens because of an unequal allocation of resources to the first child”.

According to the report, “When Jayachandran and Pande compared India and Africa results through this lens, they found that the Indian first and eldest son tends to be taller than an African firstborn. If the eldest child of the family is a girl, and a son is born next, the son will still be taller in India than Africa. For girls, however, the India-Africa height deficit is large. It is the largest for daughters with no older brothers, probably because repeated attempts to have a son takes a beating on the growth of the girls.”

Also read: Has Legal Framework Turned a Blind Eye towards Under-representation of Women in Indian Politics?

In spite of all the Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao rhetoric, the required shift in the male-centric attitude towards a more egalitarian one is simply not happening; or, it is a case of one step forward, two steps backward. The Thomson Reuters Foundation report may be unfair and skewed, but being known as the rape capital of the world does nothing to improve the image of India in the world or even in its own eyes. (IANS)