RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat recently informed us that rapes happen in Bharat, not India. His words were defended by BJP leaders who said he only wanted to say that Indian culture respected women, and it was Western culture that led to rape. Bhagwat was not setting up gender-specific rules for women, BJP leaders said; he was advising both women and men to stick to Indian culture.
Wonder why Bhagwat’s organization, then, sticks to the khaki shorts uniform? Clearly, Bhagwat has no problem with men in his organization adopting Western dress and wearing shorts. But these shorts-clad men will tell women not to wear ‘Western’ clothes, which they claim lead to rapes!
Bhagwat also held forth about women being contractually bound to do housework for their husbands. Later, he clarified that he meant this as a criticism of ‘Western’ marriages, not as a prescription for all marriages. Well, what is the RSS model for an ideal Indian marriage? Krishna Sharma, leader of the VHP Women’s Wing, elaborated in an interview, “It is the man who must earn and support his family (while the women manages the household), his education is more important. This division of labour is natural.” (Quoted in Women and the Hindu Right: a collection of essays, Ed. Tanika Sarkar and Urvashi Butalia. New Delhi, Kali for Women, 1995, pp: 331-335) Clearly, Bhagwat’s ideas on women being bound to housework are not accidental; RSS leaders say this as a matter of course.
In the same interview, asked, “What advice would you give to a victim of wife beating?,” Krishna Sharma had replied, “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.”
And Krishna Sharma’s words on wife-beating are echoed verbatim by Sharda, a Rashtriya Sevika Sangh activist when a reporter of Outlook recently asked her about wife beating. (‘Holier Than Cow,’ Outlook, January 28, 2013)
President of BJP Mahila Morcha, Mridula Sinha, had similarly told the Telegraph, 1993: “I gave dowry for my daughter and received dowry for my son.... Wife-beating is bad, but if it has to be done to bring the woman on proper track it’s all right... Women in their own life should not take independent decisions about marriage and other things. The family should take these decisions.”
RSS founder, Guru Golwalkar held that Manu was the “first and greatest lawgiver of the world”, and suggested that the Manusmriti, which is abhorrent and discriminatory towards women and deprived castes, should be the Constitution of Independent India! We should remember that Dr. Ambedkar, who wrote the Constitution, publicly burnt the Manusmriti.
Bhagwat’s statements on ‘Indian culture’ are not innocuous and innocent. The Sangh’s definition of ‘cultural nationalism’ imposes an especially heavy burden on women, who are supposed to be flag bearers of ‘Indian culture’. And this definition of ‘culture’ includes a celebration of sati, child marriage, and of social customs that impose restrictions on women’s freedom. Women who wear jeans, celebrate Valentine’s Day, and Hindu women who marry outside caste/religion barriers are often attacked by the Sangh brigades for violating ‘Indian culture’.
In Golwalkar’s Bunch of Thoughts, the chapter ‘Call to the Motherhood’, asks Hindu women to avoid being ‘modern’. According to Golwalkar, women who enjoy the freedom and equality of modernity, lack in virtue and think that ‘modernism lies in exposing their body more and more to the public gaze’!
Golwalkar also led the Sangh in opposing the Hindu Code Bill (which was the first, and incomplete, step towards giving Hindu women equal rights to men), claiming that granting of rights to women would “cause great psychological upheaval” to men and “lead to mental disease and distress” (see Paula Bacchetta, Gender in the Hindu Nation: RSS Women as Ideologues, p.124).
Some other samples of the Sangh’s views on women:
“It is the fundamental right of Hindu women to commit sati, as it is in preservation of our past glory and culture.” - Late BJP leader Vijaya Raje Scindia
In the Sangh’s view, Hindu men must prove their masculinity by raping non-Hindu women, who are seen as ‘symbols’ of the ‘enemy culture’. Savarkar himself advocated rape as an act of nationalism:
“But because of the then prevalent suicidal ideas about chivalry to women, which ultimately proved highly detrimental to the Hindu community, neither Shivaji nor Chinaji Appa could rape Muslim women.” – V.D. Savarkar, The Six Golden Epochs of Indian History, p.71
No wonder Savarkar’s descendants in the Sangh brigade raped and massacred Muslim women in Gujarat! And SP Ankit Garg, of BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh, no doubt learnt from Savarkar’s views on rape as ‘chivalry’ – winning a gallantry award for the custodial rape and sexual torture of Soni Sori!
In the wake of the ongoing movement against sexual violence, leaders of Congress, SP, BSP, have all come out with outrageous, sexist statements about women, as have so-called Godmen like Asaram Bapu. But while India’s entire ruling class is united in sexist views on women, there is no doubt that the RSS and the BJP are the most organized political representatives of misogyny and women-hating, with entire brigades dedicated to punishing women who defy their diktats.
From Liberation February 2013