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Sri Lanka, Kerala next on expansion list

Established in 1990 during the Ram Jamnabhoomi movement, the Durga Vahini was meant to “increase women’s participation” in the movement. Namita Kohli tells more.

india Updated: Nov 02, 2008 00:58 IST
Namita Kohli

Hindu samaj mein bahut dhaerye hai. Iski koi pareeksha na le

, (Hindus have a lot of patience. None should test it),” Durga Vahini’s national convener Mala Rawal sets the tone for the conversation that is careful and cautious. Her outfit, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) youth women’s wing has just gained notoriety after Pragya Singh Thakur’s alleged links to it.

“We are worshippers of Durga Ma. Violence is not the solution, we are all deshbhakts (patriots) here. Pragya was never a member of my organisation. Anyway, the charges haven’t been proved yet.”

But once the chief starts discussing critical issues — religious conversions, rise in terror activities — it’s the usual talk of ‘threat’ to the Hindus and a need to ‘awaken’ them.

And for that, the strength of her fringe group — 50 full-time members, and lakhs of part-timers — will be beefed up. “By 2011, our aim is to have five full-time members, and 100 part-timers at the tehsil level. In the last three-four years our membership has doubled,” says Rawal.

With state conveners in place, the ‘mass-based’ outfit is already active in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Assam and Andhra Pradesh, according to Rawal. The outfit now plans to widen its base, particularly, in Kerala, Orissa and Bihar. “Recently, we have also set base in Sri Lanka for the benefit of the Hindu samaj out there,” she says.

Established in 1990 during the Ram Jamnabhoomi movement, the Durga Vahini was meant to “increase women’s participation” in the movement. Membership is restricted to middle-class Hindu women between 15-35 years, while the older ones join Matri-shakti, which propagates the ideology through satsangs and trains them in rigorous physical activities like karate, nishanebaazi (shooting), yoga and dhyaan (meditation). “The idea is to discipline young women and inculcate Indian values in them,” says Surendra Jain, VHP’s national secretary.

Most of members devote time to grapple with issues of ‘national interest’. “At the camps, we focus a lot on samachar sameeksha (news analysis). The young girls are full of questions about what’s happening in the country, and why terrorists are not being punished. Their energy needs to be channelised. One 14-year-old asked me how to deal with Pakistani
terrorists with ahimsa (non-violence),” says Rawal. Her answer? “Samaj ko jagrit karo taki who desh drohiyon ko pehchane (Awaken society so that it knows who the traitors are).”

On religious conversions, Rawal would like the girls to understand why they occur. “Everyone knows about the activities of the churches. They want to convert and can even kill if they fail in the mission. That’s why we need to stop this. Riots awaken people,” she says.

But all has to be done peacefully. The meetings are held behind closed doors, but all the prachaar (campaign) is in the open.

“Like I said, violence is not the solution. We only prepare the girls mentally. The arms training is just for self-defence, to raise their self-esteem. But if you see them, you’d say they are physically ready as well.”