Posted by Pragathi Ravi
Hindu nationalism, as tom-tommed by the BJP, has its foundational roots in gratifying the religious majority at the expense of the minority, women being a part of the latter. A party with national prominence such as the BJP totes a venomous religiosity, that has berated the independence and self-reliance of women since the time of its inception. Justification of sex-based discrimination, which is based only on the physiological differences of reproductive capabilities, have had their roots in Manusmriti and ‘Judeo-Christian notions of morality’. There is adherence to practices and advocation of beliefs just because they held significance in the old age, an age with depreciated education, little scope for thinking and expansive cultural submission.
German philosopher Hannah Arendt in her book Eischmann in Jerusalem talks about the ‘banality of evil” that is the action (or inaction rather) of submission without conviction. This ideology is of a derivative mentality where an individual or the doer derives his or her ideals or beliefs from a charismatic leader and implements or advocates them as their own, with an absence of personal thought or differential opinion. Arendt attributed this behaviour to the banality of evil, thoughtlessness and the lack or personal opinion or judgment that would deflect the established decree of command. This toxic thoughtlessness pervades the premise of ‘man with reason’ and infringes the rationality that humankind is assumed to have.
This is can be deemed relevant in a more domestic and present-day context while drawing parallels to the RSS sanghis or other Hindutva fringes and the BJP. The presence of a charismatic authority in the embodiment of Damodar Savarkar or Narendra Modi whose schools or thought seldom go questioned by their followers and are carried out personally and diligently. This mindlessness is toxic and their credulity makes them easy victims of manipulation by the ones in power.
On several occasions, the Hindu fringe has referred to Modi as the ideal male saviour that the country needs.
BJP has been feeding on culture, they derive their support from the traditional patriarchal families and panders to them by mirroring their beliefs and incorporating it as the party’s ideology. They formulate a customary public opinion of right and wrong, and determines the direction the country has to steer in. These are culture bound, not constitutionally bound and thus a clear violation of the liberalism, freedom and democracy. It is also true that the cultural conditioning has eroded one’s personal judgements. The Hindu scriptures, are filled with women subjecting their lives to the male counterparts in their life have conditioned the women of their household to follow the same path as of a fictitious mythical being belonging in a surreal time. Even the fiercest of our goddesses have been subjected to the control of the male gods.
In her paper titled Women and Hindu tradition, Susan Wadley talks about the dangerous demeanour of goddess Kali when she is unleashed on Earth by her husband Shiva for the destruction of the savages. Having defeated them, she “performs a killing dance to which the Earth trembles and its destruction seems eminent” Shiva is sent to domesticate her, and she stops her dance when Shiva lies down at her feet as a respectful Hindu wife would never stomp on her husband (owing to his established patriarchal superiority and gendered and sexual prowess).
This prints the image of a ‘male messiah’ with a fierce moustache and a broad chest (56 inches to be precise) clearly radiating the toxic masculinity that feminism tries ridding of. On several occasions, the Hindu fringe has referred to Modi as the ideal male saviour that the country needs. “The election campaign of 2014 had fuelled the chauvinist male imagination when the Prime Ministerial candidate Mr Modi was stereotypically put forth by the BJP, as an alpha, macho, superman who could instil fear in his enemies by making them quiver and most importantly, the one who could swiftly work to solidify the Hindu identity and ideology”, states Shalu Nigam.
The comments made by the party’s leaders threaten the distinctiveness and individuality of a woman.
The Hindu society of the current ages, form these scriptures and sacred texts the basis of their familial behaviour and societal attitudes. Hindu men have been used to their (the usage of ‘their’ to signify the women ascribed to men and have absorbed the identity of the men, while foregoing their own) women having adapted to private spheres in the household. They also believe that education and exposure to western ideals will cause a shift in their priorities, that individualistic women would dismiss marriage, motherhood and domestic household to focus on non-familial aspects such as fame and profession. This hits the traditional male-centric cultural foundation that they were taught and brought up of, one where submission to the husband’s control is preached as the dominant duty of the wife, one that barely has reciprocity.
BJP’s incessant dream of an established patriarchal order propounds the ancient construct of the genders’ superiority and inferiority. Women are portrayed as selfless, asexual family-oriented beings whose lives revolve around kids and husbands (safe to assume heteronormativity, as the party has time and again condemned homosexuality and denied it its existential normalcy); whereas a man is individualistic and self-driven. His selfishness is celebrated as his entitlement from birth. The comments made by the party’s leaders threaten the distinctiveness and individuality of a woman. In cases of love jihad or inter-faith marriages, there is a certain infantilization of women to exhibit them as ‘innocent’, ‘young’ and incapable of rational decision-making. The concept of the couple’s consensual relationship is foreshadowed by reducing the women’s decisions to influenced or swayed results of her ostensible infatuation. As if the only possible explanation would be her mindless luring, and not the possibility of her making a choice for herself.
Actions like love-jihad and beef lynching, have a cultural obligation which incurs into the freedom of people of a different culture. This is for the illicit curtailment of choices and establishment of discipline, not democracy. With respect to the Lok Sabha polls of 2019, voting the BJP into power would mean our allowance of the State to intervene in our personal notions of choice, and shall pave way for the installation of State sponsored boundaries on permissible and impermissibility. The anciency of tradition mandated construct of gender, after several decades, is inches away from erasure. This milestone will be effaced if the Hindu Nationalist party regains incumbency.
Pragathi Ravi harbors a vast interest for politics, literature and writing. A media studies graduate from CHRIST (Deemed to be University) Bengaluru and an ardent lover of democracy, she hopes to curtail the steady dissipation of constitutional values. You can follow her on Twitter.
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