As balloons filled with ejaculated semen come flinging across the roads outside colleges, being thrown unabashedly at female students, it must be treated in good humor — Bura na maano, Holi hai. As water balloons are being flung at girls across busy roads, from the top of terraces, at their breasts and thighs, it is to be treated it in good humor — Bura na maano, Holi hai. As these harmless hooligans somehow take upon themselves the initiative of masking what is an outright form of sexual harassment with some misplaced sense of festivity, they laugh, patting each other on their backs, screaming through their gaping mouths, “Bura na maano, Holi hai!”
What has been passed on as tradition, normalized by making us believe it is okay, is only a symbolic portrayal of a temporary laxation that we enjoy during festivities, one that allows us to perpetrate the normally surface-stringent rules of morality we otherwise uphold with immense pride. But this ‘Bura na mano, Holi hai‘ mindset is about something far more serious than societal ideas of morality. It is about yet another horrific crime that has never been accrued the seriousness and criticism that it deserves. And it is because of this sort of sloppy approach that girls and women today shirk at walking out on the roads days or weeks before Holi, or contemplate even carrying some sort of extra protection to save themselves from such ridiculous harassment.
It was once considered acceptable and even normal for a woman to get married to ‘her rapist’. Today, the act of attacking the dignity of women by passing it off as a joke or a game is hardly any different. It is essentially the normalization of an act that under any general perspective would be an absolutely traumatic and unforgivable manner of behavior. Under the garb of this oft-quoted Hindi adage, men with a disgraceful mentality find a way to vent their impulses, in effect instilling an odd fear among all women.
This form of harassment has been questioned on two levels. Firstly, what is it that is even ethically or humanely incorrect about throwing water balloons at strangers, in the ethos of a festival? It must be remembered that such acts are done by strangers to people from whom they have no form of consent– in any other situation, if a person throws a wooden log at you, or pours a bucket of water, it would be considered assault. Also, additionally consider that this ‘jest’ is experimented with almost entirely on women, specifically with targeted shots on their sexual body parts, or likewise. Such form of action can hardly be passed off as anything but assault given that it is entirely non-consensual, and causes physical and psychological embarrassment to the victim.
Let’s however also tackle a relatively more disgusting trend: throwing semen filled balloons at women. This most definitely qualifies as an attack on the dignity of a woman, if not as an act of public obscenity. Consider the absolute horror a woman undergoes to find the seminal fluid of some random strangers on her clothing. It is something that is very hard to come back from, and besides the absolute hideousness of the act itself, the worst part is the helplessness and mental disturbance that the woman faces when she is the victim of such acts.
This brings us to the second level of questioning the hue and cry around these acts: why can’t they be just treated as jokes? After all, the spirit of Holi demands us to bring down our guards and defences. To which it must be asked, to what extent are we willing to go to feed off the words of some old proverbial saying that is grossly misused to pass of such acts of harassment? Are we willing to compromise the right to conserve our own dignity? Are we willing to forgo our right to be treated with some human decency? Are we willing to forgo the entire conception of consent, something that is the pillar of humane thinking?
As the voice of a truly victimized section, the woman within this city and nation is telling you with utmost determination that this ‘jest’ is no longer funny. It never has been. It has not amused us. It has not made us enjoy in the spirit of revelry; only angered our nerves, shirked us to our very bones. It has pulsated through us. It has surrounded us with the kind of rage that is born of nothing but helplessness. Helplessness, because we have no law protecting us from people like this. They are safe, high above three-storeys, or a hundred meters away, waiting to pry on us, to hear us shriek in disgust, protected by the resounding maxim that has been the cloak over hiding so many crimes and injustices — “Bura na maano, Holi hai.”
– Contributed by Tinka
Picture Credits: time.com / AP