The much-awaited Uttar Pradesh state election results are out, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), under the leadership of a saffron-clad monk Yogi Adityanath has come out as a victor. Despite showing an abysmal performance under most of the social development indicators in the last five years of governance, the resounding mandate given by the people to Bhartiya Janta Party raises several questions and force the advocates of pluralism to ponder whether the voters are, after all, willingly supporting this politics of hatred and Hindu supremacy!
Given the achievement that Yogi Adityanath will be the second UP Chief Minister after Sampurnanand to consecutively run the state administration has led to an enthusiastic response from various political commentators and social scientists. Some believe that the narrative of Hindutva successfully overcame the social crisis faced by the electoral as the deciding factor in the UP election. In contrast, some commentators argue that welfare schemes effectively helped the BJP to cut across the caste barriers and mobilise voters to vote for them.
While the election result and an increase in the vote share of the BJP (39.7 to 41.3%) justify the Hindutva narrative and welfare scheme’s significance in voter mobilisation; under the subtext of these two terms (i.e., ‘Hindutva’ and ‘welfarism’)- marginalisation of women and establishment of Hindu patriarchal society willfully achieved by BJP and RSS (its parental organisation) remains an entirely untouched conversation in the outcome analyses of the election.
Moreover, the discussion around the suppression of women’s rights in the analyses of the UP elections outcome must also take into account how women voters (48%) outnumbered men voters (44%) and voted for the BJP in greater numbers. This support for Yogi Adityanath’s authoritarian government, despite facing an increase in crimes against women, raises several questions. Furthermore, when the state is essentially and unabashedly resorting to communalism to control the freedom of women and other marginalised sections (Love Jihad law, Anti-Romeo squad, moral policing) and is still coming out on a winning side, one wonders whether the UP patriarchal model has successfully been sold after all, and will it be presented as a blueprint for establishing the patriarchal Hindu Rashtra that the BJP envisages.
So what is a patriarchal Hindu Rashtra, and how does the UP election become a path to achieve the desired result?
According to Manusmriti, controlling women’s autonomy is one of the ways to maintain Hindu unity. Manu stated, “A girl, a young woman, or even an old woman should not do anything independently, even in (her own) house. In childhood, a woman should be under her father’s control, in youth under her husband’s, and when her husband is dead, under her sons.” It is evident from Manu’s statement that for him, women’s identity existed as ‘nobody’ and he only viewed them as a glue that could unite Hindus.
Certainly, Manu believed that to maintain dehumanising practices like casteism, women need to be controlled and disciplined so that they do not break the caste hierarchies and pollute the Hindu identity constructed around the notion of purity and impurity.
Women were ‘nobody’ in Manu’s text; however, their identity was interlinked with nationalism, communalism, and caste purity. Moreover, in his writing, women were crucial in forging a heroic Hindu masculine identity. Thus, it would not be wrong to say that Manu utilised and exploited women’s identity in his text to establish a utopian civilised Hindu Rashtra in which women are depicted as the weak gender who need to be surveilled and protected by an alpha male.
Interestingly, in the recently concluded UP elections, Yogi Adityanath earned the new sobriquet of ‘Bulldozer Baba’ due to his strong alpha Hindu male image. The on-field BJP and its IT team ensured that the ‘Bulldozer Baba’s’ obsession of controlling women’s freedom was glorified as the only solution to prevent the rise of violence against women. Suppression was advertised as protection from the members of the specific minority community. Female victims were character assassinated, and women who questioned the regime’s tyranny were termed anti-nationalist.
Following the rules of Manu, the BJP, RSS, and their supporters made sure that Yogi Adityanath in this election was presented as Hindu Hriday Samrat (Monarch of Hindu Hearts) with an absolute power to control women’s autonomy and justify the regressive marginalisation of women’s identity in the name of protection.
Nevertheless, this is not the first time that UP as a state was chosen to fulfil the idea of establishing a Hindu patriarchal society. Due to its population and caste identity politics, UP has always been on the radar of Hindu fundamentalists as a fertile ground to propagate the regressive and patriarchal values of Manu. According to Charu Gupta (2005), in 1920, when Hindu militant assertion reached its new peak, UP saw many communal clashes and a wave of Hindu revivalism. Many conservative Hindus started conducting dharamsabhas (religious congregations) in UP, and from here, the Hindu nationalism ideology inspired by Manusmriti spread to different parts of India. Women again emerged as a powerful means to unite Hindus, and thus to control their freedom and establish a patriarchal Hindu Rashtra, the marginalisation of their rights was justified on behalf of protecting them from Muslims.
The RSS and Hindu Mahasabha’s prominent ideologues M.S. Golwalkar and V.D. Savarkar had even termed Manu as one of the wisest lawgivers of mankind and Manusmriti as the most worshippable scriptures after Vedas in Hinduism. Given their commitment toward Manusmriti, the RSS even wanted the newborn Republic of India to be run as per Manu laws. If it was not B.R. Ambedkar and his written constitution (that provides democracy, justice and egalitarianism), independent India might have become a patriarchal Hindu Rashtra long ago.
However, in this election, the BJP and the RSS have successfully achieved Manu’s idea by portraying Yogi as a protector; women as the weaker gender; and other identities like nationalism, communalism, and caste overshadowing women’s identity – an identity that remained ‘nobody’ in this UP election. Moreover, there is no Ambedkar to burn a Manusmririti, and the sad part is that other BJP ruled states, Gujrat, MP and Karnataka, have already started adopting the patriarchal Hindu Rashtra model of UP for the upcoming elections.
Olivelle, P. (Ed.). (2004). The law code of Manu. Oxford University Press, USA.
Gupta, C. (2005). Sexuality, obscenity, community: Women, Muslims, and the Hindu public in colonial India. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan.
Satkirti Sinha is a PhD research scholar in the Performing Arts department at DMU University, Leicester. His areas of expertise are Folk Culture, Dalit Theology, Feminist Theory, Post-Colonial Theory, and Sexual Politics. His email address is: Satkirti.Sinha.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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