Mera Gora Rang Le Le, Mohe Shyam Rang De
(Oh Lord, Take away my fair colour,
Give me your dark complexion!)
These are words from a popular song written by poet Gulzar, but the sentiment expressed in the song is quite ancient. Radha has been singing it for quite a long time. The dark complexion of Lord Krishna has lured the Indian minds for ages. When socialist MP Sharad Yadav praised the South Indian dark complexion, he ignited a storm of protests. Union Minister Smruti Irani got so much enraged that she ridiculed him for his views
The anger of Smruti Irani is quite understandable, but why Kanimozhi and Mayawati should should feel enraged about reference to dark complexion as compared to fair complexion. The pride of dark complexion was a major part of the Dravidian movement. Leaders like Namdev Dhasal, inspired by thoughts of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, had taken motivation from Black Panther movement in America and established Dalit Panther on similar lines to inculcate self-respect among Dalit youths. In the eighties, Ambedkarites academicians like Arun Kamble were paying tributes to dark complexion and challenging western concepts of beauty.
The South Indian politics even today is sustaining on the pride of Dravidian movement. It is really unfortunate that Kanimozhi, daughter of doyen of Dravidian politics Karunanidhi has developed some kind of inferiority complex due to dark complexion. After the sad demise of Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) founder Kanshiram, there is none to guide Mayawati in dialectics of Indian politics based on Ambedkar's revolutionary thoughts.
The aggressive Hindutva is based on the superiority of fair complexion of Aryans who arrived in Indian hinterland from North and forms the basic understanding of socio-political conditions by RSS and Savarkar. Vast population of Indian who do to geo-climatic conditions of Indian peninsula are dark complexioned. There are numerous odes to dark complexion in history, culture languages, sculptures paintings and music of Indian subcontinent. So when Shard Yadav appreciates dark complexion in his speech delivered in Parliament what wrong has he committed. One will never know what the issue is and why so many stalwarts are upset by Sharad Yadav's observation by watching shrill and uninformed debate on TV channels. Except few, most of the participants have very scanty knowledge of Indian culture and its ideological basis.
Smruti Irani is a minister for human resource development and obviously someone from the government who speaks with authority on cultural issues. The question she posed to Sharad Yadav and enrage she exhibited is part of the ideology she represents shows racial bias. Thanks to the continued British rule in India, the inferiority complex based on our skin colour and culture is deep rooted in Indian psyche, especially among educated urban majority who always looks to West for every aspect of life. So we have to peep within to know why we are so obsessed with fair colour and no point in just holding Smruti Irani responsible for that kind of bias.
Sharad Yadav is an erudite politician espousing socialist teachings of Dr Lohiya and known for giving an ideological touch to whatever he says in the house or in a public meeting. He is accustomed to controversies but is not known to backs track whatever he has said. He is an accomplished orator, knows his responsibility and never takes back his words. When there was too much of pressure to apologize he said, “Chahe Dharti Phat Jay, Hum Mafi Nahi Mangenge.”
Sharad Yadav is not an anti-feminist leader. He is known for his participation and support to various agitations launched for rights and dignity of women.
He sought to know what wrong he did say. “Humne Galat Kya Kaha?” Were Ram and Krishna not having dark complexion? Why is the song “Mera Gora Rang Le Le, Mohe Shyam Rang De De,” is sung? Most of the population of the country – men and women are having dark complexion. Actually, South Indian women are more beautiful, more beautiful than their North Indian counterparts. Not just because of their dark complexion, but also because of their sculpted figures and features. The fair complexion has logged in our head, and that is why you read in matrimonial advertisements the expectation of fair complexion. Men having dark complexion also want fair wives. What is so objectionable in this statement of Mr. Sharad Yadav?
What Ram Manohar Lohiya used to say? It is not that dark complexion has always been ignored, at least in India it has not happened. In Sanskrit literature women having dark complexion have been regarded as beautiful. It was not necessary that she must be dark, but she was regarded as Shyama even if she was young and beautiful. i.e. youth and beauty was treated as one and the same.
Sharad Yadav is a hard core Lohiya follower. You will always find quotes from Lohiya in his statements. After Madhu Limaye, Sharad Yadav is the only speaker in the Indian Parliament of the democratic socialist thought. The supporters of male-dominated society are trying to label Yadav an offender. The roots of country’s social degradation lie in the male-dominated mentality and the caste system. Sharad Yadav is a true follower of Lohiya who propagated gender equality. Sharad Yadav is included in the category of those whose thoughts are amply clear as against discrimination on the basis of caste, complexion, race and gender.
What shall be the criteria for treating a woman beautiful? Sharad Yadav finds the South Indian dark complexion more appealing than the fair one. Actually, Sharad Yadav should have been congratulated for daring to raise the issue of politics based on pride of fair complexion. In his essay titled, “Complexion and Beauty,” Lohiya has analyzed this politics of fair complexion:
“This perverse perception about beauty must have originated from political impressions. Europeans, having fair complexion are ruling the world for about three centuries, they have become rulers and they always ruled over power and prosperity. Others, however, lacked power and prosperity as well. Had the Africans ruled the world, just like Europeans did, the perception of woman’s beauty across the globe would have been different. Poets and authors have mentioned that the skin of Africans is silky like satin. They would have felt the touch and look of their skin not just silky, but also a matter of pride. They would have found the thick lips of Africans beautiful and their broad noses pleasing. Politics also rules over beauty concepts. Power, especially, the unfettered power always appears to be alluring.”
In classical Indian literature one finds fair complexion having praised by way of an exception. The Indian concept of Shyam rang is the best complexion, was wiped out with the advent of British rulers and during the past 250 years, the Indian mind got dominated by the fair complexion. Empowered by the Maxmuller’s Aria Theory, the Aryan racial political Hinduism has further brightened the fair complexion. The superiority of Aryan got a new support through complexion. The Black Prime movement was started in America in the sixties raising slogan of “Black is Beautiful.” However, at that time, the Indian newspapers were filled in with advertisements seeking fair-looking wives. When America and Africa was witnessing revolt of Blacks after centuries of inhuman exploitation, racial discrimination and barbarous insult, Indian woman, who was insulted because of her dark complexion was being pushed in further denigration.
Now, two hundred years have passed after Raja Ram Mohan Roy stood against the Indian tradition of Sati after hearing his sister-in-laws cries. One hundred fifty years have passed after Mahatma Phule opened school for liberating women. Half a century has also passed after Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar brought in the Constitution prohibiting discrimination on the ground of caste, creed, religion, race or sex of a person. Even today, people are being taunted, rejected for having dark complexion. The discrimination based on complexion has just become more “dark”.
Those who hold Gandhiji’s broom for their own political convenience don’t want the thought of Gandhiji or the path shown by him. What Gandhiji had said about the women’s complexion? Gandhiji was initially in South Africa. He has written a full-fledged book on the history of South African Satyagraha. Valji Govindji Desai has translated the book in English.
“In 1914, in this vast region, the population of Habshas was about 50 lakh and that of Europeans about 13 lakh. In Habshas, Zulu are regarded as hefty and beautiful. I have deliberately used the word ‘beautiful’ for Zulus. Our notion of beauty i.e. white complexion, and fine and straight nose. If you keep this notion aside for a while, you will find the God has created Zulus without any deficiencies. Both, men and women are heighted and having equally broad chests. Their legs and arms are rounded, filled-in with muscles. You will hardly find any Zulu bent-down. Their lips are broad and thick, but at least I will not term those disproportionately broader than their overall physic. They eyes are round and bright. Nose, is broad, but perfectly befitting a broad face. Their curly hair perfectly match with their black, Negroid and shining skin. If you ask a Zulu, as to which of the tribes in African Habshas are more beautiful and he will stake claim of his own tribe. And, I do not find any lack of knowledge in it. Zulus have naturally got muscular figures without making any specific attempts to sculpt their arms and legs, as the ones being tried by Europeans in attempting to make their hands and legs muscular. The skin of the people residing on the Ecuadorian line is bound to be dark. That is natural, and if we believe that whatever the nature creates is beautiful, we will be saved from the wrong notions about beauty. And, will also be freed of the feeling of shame and the dislike if in India our complexion turns dark.
There is no possibility of Mrs. Irani having read this freedom song sung by the Father of the Nation. Gandhi liberated India from the British rule. But, Indians are yet to be freed from the discriminatory notions and slavish mentality.
Kapil Harishchandra Patil,
Member, Maharashtra Legislative Council,
President, Lok Bharati