Rashtriya Sevika Samiti, the women’s wing of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), recently, in their 15-day summer camp, taught young girls how to use knives, sticks and swords, while also enlightening them about their specified gender role in the society— being a good mother and a wife.
On culmination of the 15-day camp, over fifty adolescent girls, dressed in crisp white salwar-kameez, with a saffron ribbon tied around their wrists, chanted “Bharat maata ki jai!” while brandishing their weapon-wielding and yoga skills in the open courtyard of GLT Saraswati Bal Mandir school in New Delhi on June 11, 2017, reported the The Indian Express.
The Uttar Shetra Karyavahika of the Rashtriya Sevika Samiti as well as the chief guest at the event, Chandrakantha proclaimed that the goal of the sanstha is to “Teach the girls to be fully empowered and equipped – that is, physically, mentally and spiritually strong, so that a girl is capable of protecting herself and is able to guard her country, its traditions, its sanskriti and its languages. The Samiti instills pride for the nation in her.”
RSS women’s wing claims to make young girls adept in combat while also inculcating in them the importance of upholding family values because as women, they will be responsible for keeping their family united. “Jo bachiyan hain, unko yasasvi kis prakar banana hai, parivar ko kaise rakhna hai – jo kammi dikhti hai parivaron ke andar, jo parivar tooth rahein hain humare — usko jordhne ki kala yeh Rashtriya Sevika Samiti sikhati hai,” said Chandrakantha. (Rashtriya Sevika Samiti teaches the young girls how to maintain their families, how to overcome the obstacles faced by families that are weak or broken and the art to keep their families united.)
The chief guest then went on to elaborate upon the importance of motherhood in a woman’s life. “Maata nirmata bhaviti hai, ma chahe toh nar se Narayan bana sakti hai, ma chahe toh vidhwansak bana sakti hai,” she explained. (A mother is the ultimate creator. If she wants, she can bring up her child to be a saint or a destroyer).
RSS presents an extremely warped understanding of women empowerment.
While she maintained that a woman is solely responsible for sculpting the nature of her child, in context to the role of a man in the society, she told The Indian Express that specific gender-defined roles should be practised in the society. She said, “Purush ka hai bahar ka kaam karna, dhann ka kaam karna – paurush uska gunn hai. Stritiya, matritav ka gunn hai. Uss gunn ko aurat ko kabhi nahin bhoolna chahiye.” (A man’s job is to earn money, his masculinity is his quality. Whereas, a woman’s quality is motherhood. A woman should never forget this virtue of hers.)
She also presented the girls with a perfect role model, the mother of the Maratha king Shivaji, Jijabai Shahaji Bhosale. According to Chandrakantha, Jijabai is the true embodiment of motherhood as she raised Shivaji in such a way that he could later use his intelligence to establish the Hindu empire.
Once again, RSS didn’t fail to provide young girls with a lesson about being a woman, which is deeply rooted in patriarchy. RSS presents an extremely warped understanding of women empowerment. While on one hand, they train girls in combat, on the other hand, they teach girls that their only role in the society is of being a good wife and mother. The organisation, however, conveniently shrugs off the responsibility of actually taking up the matters of women’s real empowerment.
A woman, within the understanding of RSS, has no individual identity; her only identity is associated with the various roles she plays within a family unit. She isn’t supposed to work and be independent or do anything that varies from her associated gender role. The organisation very subtly indicates how families break because of women stepping out of the house through their teachings to young girls about how to keep their family united: by being a good wife and a good mother and letting the men deal with the task of earning money.
A woman has no individual identity; her only identity is in the roles she plays within a family unit.
Though, this won’t be the first time that RSS Women’s Wing has displayed it’s distorted, twisted understanding of women empowerment. RSS has had a long history of preaching patriarchal notions of gender roles and conventional beauty standards.
In May this year, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh came up with a guide to producing perfectly customised babies: tall and fair, even if the parents aren’t. How? Three months of shuddikaran (purification) for would-be parents, intercourse at specific times decided by planetary configurations and of course, only for the purpose of conceiving, then complete abstinence once the baby is conceived and some procedural and dietary regulations.
According to a report by Times Now, the project claims to have ensured the delivery of 450 “customised babies” so far, with a target of creating a facilitation centre, Garbh Vigyan Anusandhan Kendra, in every state by 2020. The national convener of the project, Dr Karishma Mohandas Narwani said, “Our main objective is to make a samarth Bharat (competent India) through uttam santati (excellent progeny). Our target is to have thousands of such babies by 2020.”
To mark the 80th anniversary of the Rashtriya Sevika Samiti, in November 2016, a three-day conference was organised in Delhi. Ahead of the event, Samiti general secretary Seetha Annadanam expressed her views about marital rape. Here’s what she said, “There is nothing called marital rape. Marriage is a sacred bond. Coexistence should lead to bliss. If we are able to understand the concept of this bliss, then everything runs smooth.”
In January 2013, an article by Outlook magazine brought to light the teachings given to the women in the women’s wing of RSS, incidentally by a man. Motherhood was taught as the absolute objective of a woman’s life and women’s subordination to men established the existence of the Rashtra Sevika Samiti. Women in RSS took pride in the fact that they didn’t fight for women’s rights, rather condoned highly misogynistic ideas.
When the reporter asked an RSS worker in her late-20s what advice would she give to a victim of wife beating, the answer was, “Don’t parents admonish their children for misbehaviour? Just as a child must adjust to his/her parents, so must a wife act keeping in mind her husband’s moods and must avoid irritating him. Only this can keep the family together.” When talking about divorce, she said, “Our task is to keep the family together, not break it. We tell the women to adjust. Sometimes, we try to counsel the husband too.”
To top it all, in 2016, an affiliate organisation of RSS, Sewa Bharati, was accused of trafficking as 31 tribal girls from Assam to Gujarat and Punjab. According to an Outlook report, the girls were taken to “initiate them into Hinduism”. Outlook‘s investigation on “Operation #BetiUthao” can be seen here.
Wondering why this organisation still stands? I am too.
Featured Image Credit: Indian Express