BBC blames Indian widow problem on “Dominant Hindus”

By Dr. Madhukar Ambekar

Dear Friends

Please read the News item of BBC broadcast on Ceefax below. I have sent my complaint to PCC  ( Press Complaints Commission) London to protest the News blaming Indian Widows problems entirely on "Dominant Hindu" Community.

If  you feel as an Head of Hindu Organisation or as an Individual Hindu please record your protest with BBC and PCC. Hindu Community has been taken for granted by British Media in general and BBC in particular.If we do not defend our Dharma no one else is going to do it for us.

Aid plan for India’s 33m widows

By Sanjay Dasgupta

India’s Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury has outlined ambitious plans to help the country’s young widows.Ms Chowdhury wants them to overcome poverty, lead meaningful lives and, if they want, get remarried.

India’s dominant Hinduism frowns on widows remarrying and they often see their social and economic power eroded.Government figures show there are 33 million widows in India – many of them poor and some very young.

Previous initiatives aimed at improving their lives have achieved little and their continuing plight makes a government initiative sorely needed.

Social customs

In India’s raucous democracy, where every group with a sense of collective identity vocally claims its democratic rights, the widows are a silent, invisible community.

A woman can quickly lose her dignity, even her basic rights, when she loses her husband.Many widows are dumped by their relatives in religious towns like Vrindavan in northern India.

A study carried out by the municipal corporation in Vrindavan found more than 3,000 helpless widows living there. Hundreds more live in nearby towns like Brajbhumi, Goverdhan and Mathura – all of them holy towns for Hindus.

Most of the widows are left to survive on charity, many are reduced to begging on the streets.Many offers of help have been made but so far they have achieved little.

Ms Chowdhury said: "We always talk about helping widows, but in actual fact, very little gets done. Why else would so many widows find themselves utterly helpless and destitute in religious towns like Mathura and Vrindavan."

She said it was essential to rehabilitate the widows with training to allow them to work for a living.

"And then we will see how we can organise forums where eligible young men will come forward to meet these ladies.We’ve often had a good response whenever we tried to organise matches for young women who’d been brought up in orphanages."

Many observers say this may not be easy as Hinduism frowns on widows remarrying.

Some surveys show that steeped in their religious beliefs and fearful of violating social customs they were brought up to believe in, many widows themselves do not want to remarry.

However, for others who silently suffer the daily humiliations abandoned widows have to face, any government help would be a deliverance.

BBC News

Letter to Press Complaints Commission (PCC)

Dr. M.N. Ambekar & Dr. (Mrs.) V.M. Ambekar, London

January 14, 2008

Press Complaints Commission, Halton House,
20/23 Holborn, London, EC1N 2JD

Dear Sir.

I am an Indian Hindu, Resident in UK for the past nearly 30 years. I have worked for NHS during this period.

It has been my observation during last 30 years that British Media in general and BBC in particular has been maligning my Community on one or other pretext. I have several documents to prove this if you want to see. 

As recent as 22rd December 2007 the News Item I watched on Ceefax pages which I am sending the copy of original article by a BBC Journalist Mr. Sanjay Dasgupta for your information along with this letter of complaint against BBC’s attitude of Targeting my community.  

We were dismayed to read the News report "Aid plan for India’s 33m widows by Sanjay Dasgupta, BBC News Saturday 22nd December 2007, 22:28 GMT"; we found it full of subjective statements that are clearly misleading. 

That there is a problem concerning the plight of a number of widows, mainly concentrated in the three towns mentioned in the report, is correct, and the aim of Minister Mrs Chaudhury, to try and help these unfortunate women, would seem to be well-intentioned. We wish her well, but suggest that resolving their plight is a lot more complex than finding them ‘suitable young men to marry’*.

We wish to comment on a few statements 

1. The widows are a silent, invisible community….

The Rights of Women’s are guaranteed by the Indian Constitution; in law there is no discrimination on account of widowhood. The widow inherits the property of her husband in the event of his death. 

The unfortunate circumstances in which a few thousand widows are living must be, and has been, denounced strongly. Those responsible for their plight should be brought to book, and the government should undertake action to rescue and rehabilitate them. *Finding them ‘suitable young men to remarry’ may apply to some but, quite likely, an infinitesimally small number. What is needed is concerted on-going package of rescue and rehabilitation. This has so far not been forthcoming as India is not a welfare state. 

2. Figure of 33 million widows…

On what basis is it claimed that there are 33 million widows? And what are the figures when the total is broken down in terms of age, faith, economic status and social class? These figures are pertinent to properly identifying the causes and finding solutions for the problem. 

Your reporter implies that those widows who are socially abandoned are all Hindu. Can this be clarified? What evidence is there for that presumption? There are Muslims and Christians and some Non-Hindus as well in India, Has the Researcher conveniently forgot this important factor? 

3. Remarriage of widows

How many of the widows want to remarry; how many have been prevented from re-marrying? (Does the Researcher have any figures or is he building castles in the air) Most Hindus do not oppose the remarriage of a widow, should that be her wish. Over the years, there have been numerous Hindu Social Reformers, who have worked to facilitate remarriage of widows. 

4. India’s dominant Hinduism frowns upon

i) This would suggest that widows in India who face difficulties following the death of their husbands are disproportionately Hindu. What is the evidence? – a few thousand widows in these places of refuge mentioned in the report? Not at all. Indian widows who encounter social problems are not the exclusive domain of the Hindu society. A comprehensive demographic study would substantiate this. Indeed Hindu culture/faith accords the highest status to woman, whether single, married or widowed. 

ii) Social ills prevalent in India should not be automatically linked to the Hindu faith. As a rule, widows remain within the traditional joint family system, and are treated with due respect, certainly neither mistreated nor abused. There are exceptions, of course, as one would find in any society and culture. It is these, small numbers in relation to the total population of one billion, about whom there is public concern. 

iii) Throughout history, Hindu society has revered outstanding women, who also happened to be widows. These include AHILYA BAI HOLKAR, QUEEN OF JHANSI LAXMIBAI, JIJABAI (Mother of MAHARAJA SHIVAJI), QUEEN OF GWALIOR MRS. VIJAYA RAJE SINDHIYA, Ex- PM, INDIRA GANDHI. None of them were frowned upon, nor their social position harmed, because of them being widows.

iv) The word ‘dominant’ is repugnant, having political undertones. In what way are Hindus dominant, apart from being the majority population? On the basis of being the majority-population, would you describe the majority-Christian populations in Western countries as "dominant"? 

We believe reports/articles like this have an agenda to malign the Hindu Society for one reason or another.

Mr. Alex Salmond MP (SNP) said on John Sopal’s Politics Show, on Sunday, June 26, 2006, that BBC stands for British Brainwashing Corporation.
We are afraid we must conclude likewise. 

We hope the Commission takes notice of such malicious propaganda against my Community and directs BBC to publicly apologies for such an anti-Hindu tirade.

Yours truly
Dr. M.N. Ambekar & Dr. (Mrs.) V.M. Ambekar

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