India is today standing on a precipice, staring at the grave danger of plunging into an ideology that threatens every single citizen. It threatens not just the minorities and the Hindu-oppressed lower castes but the majority of its citizens, the women.
Both the ideology and the many pronouncements of leaders of RSS and its many affiliates, confirm that women in their scheme of things, occupy pretty much the same place as women in the Taliban ideology. In their rule of five years in Afghanistan, Taliban suppressed women with unusual brutality, attributing it to their narrow interpretation of the Islamic Sharia law. Not just in Afghanistan, Taliban subjugated women in their areas of influence in Pakistan bordering Afghanistan. According to the international organisation, Physicians for Human Rights, “no other regime in the world has methodically and violently, forced half of its population (ie women) into virtual house arrest, prohibiting them on pain of physical punishment.” The most known of the victims of Taliban is the young MalalaYousfuzai, who was shot by Taliban gunmen in 2012 for her activism for education for girl children. She and two other girls were shot and injured, Malala very seriously, while they were on their way to their school. Two other girls who were with Malala were also shot in the Swat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of north west Pakistan.
The brutality of Taliban towards women is well-known. The women were banned from being educated; they could not go out of their homes unless accompanied by a male relative; they had to wear burqa compulsorily; they were prohibited from employment of all kinds except in the medical field and this exception was granted since male doctors were prohibited from treating female patients. There were several other restrictions such as wearing high heels, not talking or laughing loudly in public, they could not be photographed, appear on TV or in any kind of public gatherings, appearing on balconies of their homes, riding cycles even if wearing burqa, from playing any kind of sport, and so on. Punishment for transgressing these diktats was severe and brutal. The punishment was were often carried out publicly, like lashing, whipping, cutting off of finger tips, chopping off of ears, nose, and even execution. Another punishment was to punish the men of the household of the women who violated the rules of the Taliban, holding them accountable for the ‘crime’ committed by the women.
Misogyny and Patriarchy marks Hindutva
The all-pervasive misogyny and patriarchy that was practiced by the Taliban, also afflicts the RSS and its political wing of BJP and their many affiliates. Like any religious fundamentalist organisation, RSS believes in the superiority of man over woman, believes that women are superfluous to society, are of no use except to serve the man and reproduce his children. The only purpose of the existence of women is to promote, protect and propagate the ideology of patriarchy. And importantly, produce male children and inculcate patriarchy in them so that they will continue the tradition of domination. Similarly, the women should produce replicas of themselves in their daughters, to serve men so that the men can ‘protect’ their religion, a responsibility that they have given themselves. This is an extremely insidious side of patriarchy that has been perfected by Hindutva: use women to enslave women, so that they will replicate and reproduce the Manu-ordained prototype of the female slave. Hence, the ideology will promote traditions, rituals and mythology that subordinate women; it will wilfully distort history; adopt strong women of history as their own and attribute religious overtones to their martyrdom/rebellion/acts of bravery. In short, women should be, at all times, at the mercy of the all-powerful males of the family and society and rulers, for their survival; in fact, for their very existence. What happens should women should ‘stray’ from the patriarchal path?
Arsenal of Hindutva
The arsenal of Hindutva has many weapons. One of them is rape. One does not need to go very far in the past to look for examples. Not very long ago, Kathua happened, in which Hindutva male ‘soldiers’ had no compunction in raping a child for days in a temple till she died. The child was used to instill fear in the Muslim nomadic group to which she belonged so that they will leave the Hindu-dominated Kathua district. Then Unnao happened. A minor girl was said to have been raped last year by the local MLA of BJP, KuldeepSengar. She was again abducted a week later and gang-raped by the MLA’s followers including his brother. When the family complained to the police, ironically the victim’s father was arrested. He later died from torture in police custody. The victim attempted self-immolation. Only when outrage against the atrocities enveloped the country and against the brazen indifference by the BJP-ruled government that a SIT inquiry was ordered. According to a study by the Association of Democratic Reforms, the ruling BJP has the most number of MPs/MLAs with cases of crimes against women. Several of these cases are of rape.
BJP elected representatives celebrate and support rapists. They encourage kidnapping of women as in the case of a BJP MLA offering to kidnap a girl that a young male relative of his fancies. Should the women not do the bidding of men, or should they do something that men disapprove of , then the Hindutva followers, the men, will not hesitate to use physical and verbal violence to punish women, as happened in Mangalore a few years ago when the ‘warriors’ of SriramaSene chased, kicked, punched young women who were enjoying a drink in a pub.
The other weapons in the Hindutva arsenal against the women are religious edicts that they interpret to suit their patriarchal needs; the religious mythology that promotes Savitri, Seeta, et al as ideal women who were obedient to their husbands and were prepared to give up their life for that of the husband; distorting history to uphold chastity and virginity of women at the cost of their life; citing ‘culture’ and ‘tradition’ of dependency and acquiescence to the male; creating imaginary ‘enemies’ that ‘threaten’ the Hindu women like love jihad and religious conversion. Hindutva leaders, both men and women have justified husband using violence against wife, dowry. The Hindutva ideology does not believe in the independence of women nor in gender equality. These, it believes, are ‘western’ notions that are against Hindu ‘culture’. Any assertion by women, any talk of ‘women’s rights’, any seeking of equality with the male are dismissed as un-Hindu, un-Indian and hence, they are to be eschewed. In the event of controversy over these rights, it will be settled on the basis of ‘shastras.’ Unless there is a dire necessity, women should not ‘neglect’ home and the family and go out to earn. Divorce is a no-no and, polygamy is acceptable.
In short, the male power is over-arching, in all fields, in every sphere. Female power, if any, is to be devoted for ensuring the well-being of the husband and bringing up children. In short, the female power is totally domestic, if not domesticated. While the male will determine the physical, mental and emotional needs of the woman through control, domination and suppression, the woman will have to be happy to be dependent on the males in her family, the father, husband and son. In short, the male is the master and the female, a slave. Welcome to the Hindu Republic of Slavery.
Journalist and Academic. She can be reached at [email protected]