I had spoken of two remarkable women in India – Begum Hazrat Mahal, and the Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi. Going back into history, there are two others who come to mind – Nur Jahan and Razia Sultana. “Sultana”, because she was a woman. However, she refused to answer to the title “Sultana”, and answered to the title of “Sultan”
So, lets go to 1236 AD, when Razia became ruler of the Delhi Sultanate. She was the third ruler of the Delhi Sultanate’s Slave Dynasty. The first two, Qutb ud-din-Aibak and Iltutmish were very good kings. Iltutmish, her father, thought she had better qualities instead of his sons, and she was his preferred choice to take over the kingdom.
Razia ruled from 1236 AD to 1240 AD, and died in after being defeated in battle. I won’t go into the history. She did face opposition from her nobles and ministers, for the fact of being a woman, and for entering into a relationship that they did not approve of.
A writer of the times, Minhaj Siraj had this to say of her:
“Sultan Razia was a great monarch. She was wise, just and generous, a benefactor to her kingdom, a dispenser of justice, the protector of her subjects, and the leader of armies. She was endowed with all the qualities befitting a king. But, she was not of the right sex, and so in the estimation of men, all her virtues were worthless.”
Does this sound familiar? Razia Sultan lived from 1205 AD to 1240 AD. She was 35 years old when she died.
We do like to believe that we have progressed since then.
I intend to visit her grave, which is in Delhi. It is quite forgotten, but I discovered the location quite by accident. When I was talking to a chap on the street, I exclaimed, “Wow! Razia Sultan is buried here! Wow!”
His reply, “Razia Begum, you mean. Not Razia Sultan..”
I am attaching a picture of her tomb, that I downloaded from Wikipedia
What was Razia Sultan’s problem? It appears that her only problem is that she possessed breasts and vulva, and not testicles and a penis. This, in the eyes of the men of the time, did not qualify her to be a ruler. It was not her qualities that mattered, but the nature of her genitalia.
In today’s world, the mantra of the times is ‘diversity’, and this is measured by the number of women in management positions etc. By the way, the word ‘mantra’ as used by the Western world has no relationship to the meaning of the original word. We mean something completely different when we use the word ‘mantra’.
Anyway, back to the point – when you create quotas for women on the board – this may be a good thing, in that the intentions may be good. However, there is a reverse discrimination at work here. Women who go to such positions, while they may be good, may very well be appointed because they are women. It is, however, a numbers game. Real diversity happens when you respect those who are different. Men and women, while they complement each other, are different. This is a fact. Maybe, I shall return to this from a different perspective one day.
In my opinion, you need to create level playing fields, and let the best person win.
In India, attitudes have become fairly primitive. Women who dress well were referred to as “dented, painted women” by the son of our President, Pranab Mukherji. He also had the gall to stand for elections thereafter, and thankfully lost.
Mulayam Singh Yadav, when the tale of the gang-rape in Badaun was mentioned to him, laughed and said, “Boys will be boys.”
We often say that we have come a long way from the days of 1235 AD.