The reasons that prompt activists of the Sri Rama Sene to physically attack women, or those of the Shiv Sena to oppose Valentine’s Day, are not merely ideological and political. Certainly these men have rightwing views, hate the minorities and are deeply suspicious of Western influences. But there are unacknowledged social and psychological motives.
Political analysts may see a diabolical game plan of the extreme Hindutva forces in instigating or even orchestrating some of the recent, deplorable instances of violence against women, which made headlines. But social scientists see other explanations too: the craving for fame, class resentment and above all, sexual frustration.
The mass media, especially television, has acquired a glamour and importance it never had before. But if one is utterly mediocre, with no special talent, how does one get on national television? Simple: by bashing up women in a pub. By dragging a girl out of a bus for talking to her Muslim co-passenger. The media happily bites the bait.
“The objective is to garner media attention globally,” said R. S. Deshpande, head of Bangalore-based Institute for Social and Economic Change. “Unfortunately these people succeed in getting it.”
With a little luck, such excess can even be a stepping-stone to a political career. “Incidents like these can provide an entry ticket to politics for their perpetrators,” said social scientist Ashish Nandy.
Class resentment and sexual frustration, too, play key roles. The pub attackers would love to swap places with the escorts of the women who were inside, but know they never can — they have neither the money to afford visiting it, nor the finesse to attract women. It feels even worse when youths from similar background — and that too Muslims! — are able to pursue romantic relationships with Hindu women, while they, true-blooded Hindus, can’t.
“It arises from a crisis of masculine identity,” said Reeti Mathur, a young lady percussionist who often plays in pubs.
“Women are soft targets for this sexually frustrated lot who use morality and cultural identity as a ruse,” said Neville Selhone, head of NGO Sahara House, which works with drug addicts and HIV positive patients.