Keep them obedient: Indian varsity launches course for ‘ideal’ daughters-in-law

S. N. M. Abdi

Published: Updated:

A state-run university in India has launched a new course to produce adarsh bahus, or ideal daughters-in-law, igniting derision and revulsion in equal measure in the world’s largest democracy of over 1.3 billion people.

The sudden move by Hindu nationalists to churn out obedient and subservient wives is pathetic considering that today’s India is the most dangerous country in the world for young women. If anyone needs schooling or disciplining, it is the men and not women – not by a long shot.

D.C. Gupta, Vice Chancellor of Barkatullah University in Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh state, says that the objective of the new course is to inculcate what he describes as “family values” in would-be brides.

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Most VCs are pompous and Gupta perfectly exemplifies the trait. Launching the adarsh bahu course, he announced: “Universities have responsibilities towards society. So how can we restrict ourselves to academics? It’s our duty to ensure that marriages last…”

“And marriages last if the new bride adjusts with her husband’s family. We will teach would-be brides that the family is sacrosanct and provide tips to reduce conflict. Marriages will last only if families last. If families break up, so will marriages.”

Gupta says that the course will ultimately “empower” women and inputs from sociology and psychology will equip them to safely steer their marriage avoiding flashpoints which can lead to divorce.

Indian brides pose for photograph before a mass wedding in Surat on Dec. 24, 2017. (File photo: AP)
Indian brides pose for photograph before a mass wedding in Surat on Dec. 24, 2017. (File photo: AP)

BJP’s brainchild

Even as Gupta passionately advocates the new course, which is due to start soon with 30 students in the first batch, he is believed to be implementing what’s essentially the brain-child of Madhya Pradesh’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

The CM takes a special interest in Barkatullah University as it is his alma mater. According to the grapevine, Chouhan and Madhya Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel – who is the university’s Chancellor – jointly conceived the new course.

The two are BJP stalwarts. While Chouhan has been CM for three successive terms but is now staring at defeat in the coming assembly elections, Patel succeeded Narendra Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat when he became the Prime Minister. Subsequently she was removed and made Madhya Pradesh Governor.

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Asks Divya Spandan, the outspoken Congress Party spokesperson: “How about a course for grooming men to become adarsh husbands beginning with Narendra Modi? Why is the government trying to train only women?”

“The Sangh Parivaar, of which the BJP is an integral part, has a particular mold into which it needs women to fit so that it can include them, in some capacity, in its hyper-masculine narrative of nationalism. And the adarsh bahu course is simply an extension of that ideology”, Sinjini Mukherjee, a PhD in socio-cultural anthropology from Hiedelberg University, who works on questions of gender and health in India, told Al Arabiya English.

“Women pursuing University-level education often start to question the ways in which societal structures oppress and prevent them from achieving their full potential. This is a direct threat to the Sangh’s ideology that wants women to be docile and accepting of their unequal status, as compared to men, in society,” Mukherjee said.