The latest victim of Shiv Sena’s high handedness is former BJP member and scholar Sudheendra Kulkarni. Kulkarni was attacked and his face was blackened with oil paint in Mumbai. Despite the almost instantaneous condemnation that has followed, Shiv Sena isn’t remorseful and said this act is a ‘very mild form of democratic protest”. We look at the origins of this practice.
The tradition of blackening the face
Now according to the book – Public Violence in Islamic Societies, the Quran calls the human face as the seat of honour and the human face undergoes disfigurement as he burns in the fires of hell. So punishment in arab societies has always included blackening of the face as a form of public punishment to indicate disgrace, shame and a loss of social rank.
From this nugget of information one can deduce that this tradition of blackening the face came to India with the Mughal rulers from Afghanistan.
In the last century this practice was mostly used against women to denote shame and loss of grace.
This practice has made a comeback and seems to be the choice of protest against public figures in India.
- One of the earliest incidences happened in 2010 when the Mayor of Pune, Mohansingh Rajpal was attacked with black paint for his comments to dismantle the statue of Babaji Kondeo from Pune’s iconic Lal Mahal monument.
- Black ink was hurled at Yoga guru Baba Ramdev in 2012 while he was lobbying the government to get black money back to India.
- Then came AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal’s turn. Kejriwal was attacked with black ink in 2014.
- AAP founding member Yogendra Yadav was attacked and his face smeared with black ink at a press conference in 2014.
- Sahara chief Subrato Roy wasn’t spared either. Black ink was thrown at him while he was attending a court hearing in 2014.