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Karna Was A Perpetrator Who Instigated Disrobing Of Draupadi, So Why Is He Still A ‘Noble Person’?

A perpetrator's crimes are "forgiven" because he is a top performer, because he comes from a well-respected family, because no complaint has ever been made against him.

I was discussing the Mahabharata with another lady.

“Draupadi and Karna are my favourite characters,” she said.
“Draupadi I can understand. But why Karna?” I asked.
“I love his character so much. He was such a noble person.”
“Noble? Karna? He was the one who instigated the ‘vastraharan’ of Draupadi. How can you call him noble?”
“But he was a loyal friend. I place loyalty above anything else.”

This exchange left me shaken up.

Shouldn’t loyalty mean you dissuade a friend from wrong?

Yes, loyalty is an important quality. But does loyalty mean that you remain silent when your friend is doing something wrong? In fact, doesn’t loyalty require a person to prevent a friend from doing the wrong thing?

To make things worse, in this particular case, Karna was not even a mute spectator. He was an active participant in the sexual assault on Draupadi. It was Karna who articulated the thought of disrobing her. It was Karna who insulted her and questioned her chastity. It was Karna who silenced Vikarna when he tried to dissuade his brothers from humiliating Draupadi.

No matter how you look at it, Karna was a perpetrator in the sexual assault of Draupadi. Yet, women defend him because he was “a loyal friend”.

Is this why we let off the rapist “from a good family”?

It is the same thought process that kicks in when a woman tries to complain of sexual harassment or sexual assault. Her complaint is weighed against the perceived virtues of the perpetrator, and she is found wanting. His crimes are forgiven because he is a top performer, because he comes from a well-respected family, because no complaint has ever been made against him. In the process of making excuses for him, she is disbelieved and her complaints are dismissed.

Karna was an accessory in the sexual assault of Draupadi. As long as we continue making excuses for him, how can we hope to end gender based violence?

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Image source: Raja Ravi Verma/ Public Domain

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About the Author

Natasha Ramarathnam

Natasha works in the development sector, where most of her experience has been in Education and Livelihoods. She is passionate about working towards gender equity, sustainability and positive climate action. And avid reader and occasional read more...

39 Posts | 47,561 Views

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