Hindutva brigade is using sadhvis and sanyasins only for inciting masses | columns | Hindustan Times
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Hindutva brigade is using sadhvis and sanyasins only for inciting masses

The sad part of ‘feminist Hindutva’ is that women’s rights are the last thing that it pushes

columns Updated: Jun 24, 2017 16:02 IST
Lalita Panicker
A screenshot of Sadhvi Balika Saraswati Facebook profile)
A screenshot of Sadhvi Balika Saraswati Facebook profile)

Goans must remember they live in India, not Portugal – these are the words of Sadhvi Saraswati, the latest in a long line of such women sadhvis employed in drive for the greater glory of Hindutva. The burden of this telegenic Sadhvi’s song is that Goans must give up beef, indeed all non-vegetarian fare, to prove their nationalist credentials. According to the Sadhvi, all beef eaters must be hanged forthwith. And she is in good company. Not so long ago, we had Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti using such unparliamentary language to describe the minorities. She is a minister in the NDA government today.

Remember the famous words of Union minister for water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation, Uma Bharti: “Ek dhaka aur do, Babri masjid tod do”. And of course, we cannot forget Sadhvi Rithambara whose speeches against the minorities were accompanied by vulgar gestures much to the delight of lumpen crowds. The sadhvis and sanyasins have been a potent and effective weapon in the greater drive for Hindutva. To a woman, they are more charismatic and better orators than their male counterparts such as Pravin Togadia and assorted mahants and sants. They are used with great and good effect during elections and in many ways they seem unhindered by any need for restraint and moderation in public discourse.

The rise of militant Hinduism among women is a phenomenon, which does not get the attention it should. The Durga Vahini, for example, is focused on martial arts training for women – enough to break the bones of enemies or slit their throats if required according to its leaders – but the underlying theme is that they should be the pivotal unit of the family.

Career seekers are frowned upon, indeed subject to vituperation as unworthy of being good mothers and wives. But those who are capable of `breaking bones’ are expected to be docile to their husbands and cater to their whims and fancies. As the RSS chief has often told us, the duty of the woman is to look after her husband, failing which he can disown her and refuse to take care of her. The unfortunate part of this whole feminist Hindutva, if it can be called that, is that women’s rights are the last thing that it pushes. In fact, there is a regressive mindset, which is propagated effectively and actively by these women, which is that `modern’ women are straying from our glorious culture and ethos. This is a smart and I daresay cunning way of ensuring that women stay in the background, do not ask for their rights, confine themselves to the home and raising children and do not question any patriarchal notions. They have no freedom of choice of their life partner, career or even the number of children they have.

What a deeply patriarchal Hindu hierarchy seems to do is make use of the dazzling oratorical skills of its sadhvis and sanyasins to propagate an anti-women agenda, something they acquiesce to wittingly or unwittingly. When it comes to larger decision-making, they are left out of the loop. I cannot imagine the RSS leaders taking any woman’s view into account unless it was to reinforce its own ideology, which has delineated a place for women in the home.

How different it would have been and how uplifting for Hindu society if these women would preach real women’s rights instead of advocating that Hindu women produce more babies to right the demographic balance. I have never heard any sadhvi talk about inheritance rights, the plight of widows, the increasing sexual violence against women or providing women education and skills. All their discourse revolves around notions of sacred rivers, sacred cows and reviled minorities.

It is almost as though a woman sadhvi can get away with incendiary remarks against minorities or indulge in hate speech, which men cannot. They could have been agents for social change, instead they serve very effectively to bolster patriarchy and oppression of women. They have fallen neatly into the trap of prescribing the ‘right’ sort of clothing for women, dietary habits, family size and hatred of the ‘other’.

What they don’t seem to realise is that once their utility value as rabble rousers is over, they are generally discarded as Uma Bharti found to her dismay in the past. She has now been rehabilitated somewhat but has hardly accredited herself well. As for Niranjan Jyoti, I cannot remember when I last heard anything from her with regard to her ministry. What better vehicle to get the patriarchal message across than throught sadhvis and sanyasins as long as they know when to fold up their tents and vanish into the shadows when their time is up.

@lalitapanicker