Scared of Surpanakha? Congress MP Renuka Chowdhury dared to cackle so male MPs jeered her down

When Congress MP Renuka Chowdhury’s loud laughter was heard during the PM’s speech in Parliament, Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu snapped, “What’s wrong with you? Do you require seeing a doctor?”
But PM Modi himself asked the Vice-President not to censure Chowdhury because he said he had not heard such laughter since the days of Ramayana on TV. Row upon row of male BJP members thumped the table and roared with laughter at the demoness-ising of a female parliamentarian, collectively recalling mythological pictures of a ‘rakshasi’ or demoness, and a cackling Surpanakha, a video of which minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju shared on social media. Zero Hour became the witching hour and Parliament became a Ramleela. Indian democracy in any case may soon become mythology and instead of burning effigies of Ravana we will have to burn effigies of the Indian voter.
Why are male BJP members so scared of Surpanakha? She who dared to fall in love with Rama and then Lakshman and had her nose and ears cut off surely has more reason to be aggrieved? Yet Surpanakha is cast as a ‘rakshasi’ and Lakshman who trusted he needed to show women their place by drawing lakshman-rekhas and slicing off women’s noses with his sword, sometimes reminds us of Rampur ka Lakshman.
Clearly men’s egos and particularly the egos of male politicians are no laughing matter. Laughter clubs are proliferating across India, and during yoga sessions full throated laughter is even regarded as therapeutic. But universal jeers and sneers at Renuka Chowdhury’s laugh remind us that a woman who laughs can make men cry. Women parliamentarians who dare to openly challenge powerful patriarchs forget that they must always remain only the sorcerer’s apprentice. Men can be dons, but women are cast as dayan.
When male MPs throw chairs and hurl mikes in Parliament have Speakers ever thundered what’s wrong with you and do you need to see a doctor? A badly behaved male parliamentarian does not remind us of asuras or rakshasas because men politicians are not demonised. But notice the way many behave and you’ll spot many Kumbhakarnas. Many male politicians think they have ten heads when in fact they have lost most of them. For women parliamentarians though, laughter is not the best medicine. The bold Surpanakha is seen as evil incarnate by some which is why so many women still face a witch-hunt.

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