Modi sticks to core agenda at Ficci meet
Making a pitch for women’s empowerment before an audience of women entrepreneurs today, Narendra Modi tacitly employed some Hindutva themes and voiced social conservatism in an otherwise largely business-oriented speech.india Updated: Apr 09, 2013 00:17 IST
Making a pitch for women’s empowerment before an audience of women entrepreneurs in New Delhi on Monday, Narendra Modi tacitly employed some Hindutva themes and voiced social conservatism in an otherwise largely business-oriented speech.
Pointing out that the role of the mother was highest in Indian civilization, Modi rued that “1000-1200 years of slavery” led to social evils creeping in, diminishing respect for women and leading to female infanticide and eventually foeticide.
“1000-1200 years of slavery led to decline of Indian civilisational values. In the 18th century the girl child was killed by drowning. Post-1947, we seemed to be moving towards a modern India, but as we became educated and modern, we have gone behind even the 18th century….. with female foeticide,” Modi said.
Veteran historian Mridula Mukherjee told HT: “One-thousand years of slavery is a standard Hindu communal view of history. It can only mean seeing so-called Muslim Rule as slavery, and forgetting that in the nationalist view the fundamental clash of interests came under British Rule.”
Nationalists had tried in the heady days of the freedom struggle to argue an alternative historical view: that the British were the first to colonise India and that the Indo-Islamic political and cultural encounter before them had led to a composite and syncretistic culture.
Modi suggested that before this “slavery”, reverence for women was the core of Indian civilization.
“In our nation and culture, the mother is the highest. Purity and reverence are related to motherhood,” he said, clearly putting himself within a traditional frame where motherly nurture is the essence of womanhood. This is at odds with the gender-sensitive view that women are not necessarily “naturally” meant to be homemakers but socialized into domestic and nurture-related roles by patriarchy.
But Modi went beyond this, bringing the image of the cow as mother to emphasise the purity and reverences motherhood gets in Indian civilization: “Mother Ganga, mother India and mother cow: mothers are supreme in our ethos.” This again recalled Hindutva attempts at cow protection vis-à-vis Muslims – seen as beef eaters – leading to countless riots right from the late 19th century into more recent times.