Friday, September 27, 2013

Everyday Nationalism — Women of the Hindu Right in India

Everyday Nationalism — Women of the Hindu Right in India by Kalyani Devaki Menon (2010)

[224P] ISBN: 978-0-8122-4169-9 University of Pennsylvania Press

Book Review: Kavneet Singh

Kalyani Devaki Menon of Syracuse University wrote this book as her doctoral dissertation. The field work 

was conducted in the City of New Delhi in 1999. Among her sponsors one was the American Institute 

for Indian Studies a long arm of the Indian government which funds scholars in North America. Kalyani 

has used her field study work to show her real life perspective of Hindu women working for the RSS 

(Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) both extreme right wing political 


Chapter 1 — Everyday Histories

"Who lit the fire? "Atal Bihari Vajpayee, prime minister of India, asked this question at speech delivers 

in April 2002 while Hindu nationalists orchestrated a violent pogrom against the Muslim community 

in Gujarat. Asserting that Ivfuslims in Goclhra had set fire to a section of the Sabarmati Express 

transporting Hindu nationalists, Hindu mobs killed, tortured, and raped Muslim men and women to 

avenge the death of fifty seven individual killed in the fire. [Page 26]

It is shocking that the Prime Minister of a so-called democratic-secular country has the audacity to 

publicly act as a racist and no one can take him to task. No Hindu journalist in India or anywhere else 

has had the courage to tell the truth. These Hindu nationalists while stopped at the Ghodra train station 

actually tried to molest a Muslim street vendor's granddaughter — 14 year old Sophia, against his very 

vocal protest and then kidnapped the young girl and put her on the train. In the melee, while some Hindus 

were left behind, someone pulled the chain and stopped the train as it was about to leave. The Muslim auto 

rickshaw drivers and others tried to help save the girl, but in the meantime someone inside the train started 

a fire with a cooking stove which eventually killed all the Hindu men. This triggered one of the worst 

genocides against the Muslims statewide in Gujarat, planned, orchestrated by the RSS and VHP leaders 

with the help of the state apparatus in and around February 2002.

The image of a Hindu nation struggling for actualization against the tyranny ofi\Muslim rule is a key 

trajectory of the nationalist fantasy that grounds the Hindu nation. Indeed, it is a normative construction 

that is consistently recalled in the everyday narratives ofHindu nationalist women.

[Page 377

Kalyani nails the premise of her book and the key to the foundation on which the entire edifice of the 

RSS/ HP superstructure stands which is continually processed and fed to the base instincts of the rabidly 

insecure, the educated and uneducated Hindu masses. The pitch of all the women involved in inculcating 

the extremely racist propaganda is woven into a mythological history of the insecure, effeminate Hindu man 

who has never stood up to the Muslim aggression against the poor, insecure, pure, virgin, Hindu women, 

whose perceived chastity has been violated. The hypocrisy of the Hindu(s) is unbelievable. Across India, 

Brahmins and upper caste men routinely molest and rape lower caste women with impunity in rural areas. 

In fact with over 26,000 (2012) reported rapes, and 90% of the rapes gone unreported which makes the 

numbers over 260,000 annually nationwide. The question is whether all these rapes are being committed 

by Muslims and Christians? In the state of Karnataka girls as young as 11-12 are taken to temples at the 

onset of puberty and in the name of holy rituals, the temple priest(s), (dis)honorably deflower them. It is 

most sickening evidence of a demented religious practice, which again is with the full blessing of the Hindu 

Brahmins, which continues even today. For further proof watch the Hindi documovie called `Maya'. As of 

late 2012 a young Brahmin girl, Jyoti Pandey got gang raped in the capital of India. The primary reason it 

has got so much media coverage is that she is a Brahmin, because lower castes such as Shudras or Dalits are 

not important enough to be considered.

In Samiti representations men are portrayed as weak and lacking commitment, while women, through the 

figure ofJijabai, are depicted as integral to the historical creation of the Hindu nation. At the very chart 

of discrepant viewpoints of men and women is the suggestion that Jijabai, not Shivaji, was responsible for 

founding the Hindu nation. Jijbai's role is these stories is not simply to teach Shivaji the values, courage, 

and morality needed to become the leader and defender of the Hindu nation. Although she never takes up 

arms and only acts through Shivaji, through counseling and strategizing, she herself becomes this very 

leader and defender. [Page 52]

Kalyani makes her point very clear of how the Hindu nationalist women construct (fabricate) these age 

worn theories of a lost Hindu nation (Rashtriya) through the ineptitude of their own doing. Never once is 

the glaring fact brought out, which is that the hideous caste system is the bane of Hindu society as it breaks 

and disrupts any kind of unification. No enemies are required since there is no cohesion except complete 

disunion within their own socio-religious system. The upper castes do not want to do away with the caste 

system, instead have come up with `something' novel to unite the disunited.

Chapter 2 — National Insecurities

More important for the purposes of this chapter is that many of'the Christian communities are older 

than many traditions ofHincluism in India and understand themselves and their religious traditions to 

be "virtually indigenous ". Yet, despite the long history of Christianity in India, the women I worked with 

claimed that these new communities are the result of recent forcible attempts to convert low caste Hindus 

and "tribals" out of the fold. [Page 58]

Again the perceived conversion of communities who have been Christian for nearly two millennia 

in the minds of the Hindu nationalists is nothing short of being deluded. Hindu-ism only started to 

coalesce barely a century ago. It was one of the most fractured loosely held as thousands of sects, 

with very divergent religious views and those sects still exist, but today under the official stamp of 

legalized Hinduism due to political power of the upper castes in Hindu India. They (the rest) have 

been made official so that the Brahmins feel more secure, as power can only be gained by sheer 

numbers, otherwise Brahminism would be marginalized. This is extremely scary for the top tier 

Hindus, therefore this terrible insecurity which exists deep down in their beings, which forces them to 

overtly and covertly be violently fascist.

So since the day that the Christian Faith first set foot in this country, since that clay there has been rape 

and oppression of women in India. They come here and wear their short dresses, the

Christians wear them. [Page 71]

Christians set foot on the Malabar coast - modern day Kerala around 50 AD, that is nearly 2,000 

years ago and most of the converts were Brahmins since they were a somewhat educated. It is not 

the Syrian Christians of Kerala who dress inappropriately but rather the Hindu women who would 

go bare chested. While growing up I have seen women all over Southern India who barely cover their 

upper torso. In fact the Christians have always dressed modestly and Hindus have had no decorum. 

As far as rape and oppression, the upper caste Hindus themselves, are the criminals as they have 

been raping and oppressing the lower castes for more than two millennia with no abatement. The 

percentage of unreported and unabated rape by the upper castes against the lower castes is much 

higher in the rural areas than the urban. Poor lower caste and tribal women even today barely cover 

their chest in the South, Central and in the East. This ongoing fabrication of stories being passed 

off as history is really the heinous propaganda machine of the RSS/VHP very similar to Hitler and 

Goebel's anti-Semitic propaganda which eventually exterminated six million Jews.

Anti-Christian violence does more than send a message. Indeed, Arun Appadurai has argued that extreme 

violence is an effective way to fix identities, particularly in a world marked by uncertainty. Violence 

against Christians not only establishes them as threats to the nation but also promotes Hindu nationalists 

as true defenders of the Indian nation and creates a community of support for them. Fear of external 

threats becomes a way to unite people against a common enemy, a strategy that has been used extremely 

successfully by Hindu Nationalists in various contexts. [Page 78]

It is exceedingly clear that instead of teaching and inculcating correct Hindu values honestly to all 

Hindus so that they become better humans and citizens, the RSS/VHP combine, is a hate mongering 

propaganda machine geared to bring the ultimate downfall of so-called secular India. Unfortunately 

there is `not much' of ethical and moral value in the various, Brahminical Santana Dharma's scriptures 

to impart to the underclass. Therefore the only way forward, to unite a

disunited Hindu nation is to proselytize hate of `others' and actually perpetuate extreme violence to get their 

point across.

Chapter 3 — Violent Dhar na

In particular, two female renouncers, Sadhvi Rithambara and Uma Bharati, escalated to fame as they 

stood in front of crowds of Hindus exhorting them to defend Hinduism, destroy the mosque, and kill 

ivfuslims, who were constructed as the paramount threat to Hindu India...... In their speeches they suggest 

that Muslim men committed atrocities against Hindu women and figuratively violated the honor of India, 

conceived as the goddess Bharat Mata. [Page 83]

These two women have been at the forefront of the hate mongering for the last twenty years. They would be 

deemed terrorists and thrown in jail, in India if they belonged to any other faith group. This soft approach 

of fabricating fairy tales of the past and weaving them into a modern day event through women such 

as Uma and Rithambara is actually causing massive fissures in society and all minorities are becoming 

insular and defensive due to these murderous repercussions. It is astounding that these women even have 

a large fan base in North America and elsewhere. This kind of `hate propaganda' has been used against 

the Dalits, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians again and again by the RSS/VHP with the direct help of the central 

state machinery with impunity. All this is able to function solely because the highly corrupt national leaders 

are hand in glove with the judiciary, the police and the intelligence agencies. Out of the 500+ high court 

judges over 58% are Brahmins. Over 50% of the senior police officers are Brahmins. In the civil services 

between 40-75% of all positions are taken by Brahmins. India's (IB) Intelligence Bureau is comprised of 

100% Brahmins. It is strange that the Brahmins barely make up 3.5% of the Hindu population yet they 

hold powerful positions way out of proportion to their actual numbers. This vice like control of the national 

power is precisely why the Brahmins have and will continue to preach hate covertly and overtly, otherwise 

their status quo of political power can be upset very quickly if the deluded underclass wake up to their true 


The Gita became popular during the Hindu reform movement of'the colonial period and is now widely 

read and sold as an independent text. It has remained an important vehicle for religious politics and 

religious actions since Gandhi's use of'the text to construct his own philosophy of non-violent action. 

[Page 87]

The Gita is simply a part of the voluminous fairy tale Mahabharata, in which a one god king Krishna is 

giving a long lecture to Ai juna who is hesitating and indecisive whether to wage war against his first 

cousins the Kaurvas in a fratricidal battle. Krishna a supposed `god' is goading _ juna, not to worry about 

the consequences and instead, brainwashing him into making a fine decision to go ahead and fight and kill 

all his cousins, without worrying about the moral consequences. It is the greatest fallacy of men in general 

not to realize that the Gita is really a treatise which is making a `soldier' into a `terrorist' whose only j ob 

is to murder with impunity. In short, Krishna is teaching `Hindu Jihad' to Aijuna. Wow! If Hindu gods can 

teach terrorism

what can one expect of the RSS/VHP `human terrorists'? By the way, MK Gandhi did not practice 

non-violence. He feigned it for the public consumption. In reality he was a rabid Hindu and a violent 

man. During a prayer speech, "If we had the atom bomb we would have used it against the British". 

June 16, 1947 (Ref: Gandhi's `The Last Phase' Vol II, p 326} "Among the many misdeeds of the 

British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving, a whole nation of `arms' as the 

blackest."{Ref: Gandhi's Autobiography, Part V, Chapter XXVII} He even covered up a murder of 

an American engineer in Bombay by his disciples, that he went out of his way to appease the widow 

and make sure his own public image was not sullied. This con artist literally got away with murder of 

millions of Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus and yet is called the father of the Indian nation.

Chapter 4 — Benevolent Hindus

These mechanisms very clearly institute a hierarchical division between the patients and those in charge of 

dispensing health care. It also reinforces class divisions between patients, who are mostly urban poor, and 

the health care workers, who are lower-middle-class (orderlies, Urvashi, Shashi) and middle-class (nurses, 

doctors). This distinction was also clear in the class-based attitudes of health care workers toward patients. 

For example a hospital administrator told me to keep an eye on my purse because "these People" might 

steal my money. [Page 109]

On one hand the middle class RSS/VHP Hindu volunteers like Urvashi and Shashi are trying to do 

good but with a very clear ulterior motive for the long run, which is to get the support and buy in, 

of the lower castes into the RSS/VHP `scheme'. Also the hypocrisy of everyone up the class chain 

is very obvious. This is in fact exactly how Afro-Americans are treated by the EuroAmericans in a 

similar setting, except that the change for good is much faster in the US than it is in India. So the 

harsh reality is that the lowest castes are simply being coopted by the upper castes for their own 

selfish political reasons not because they have found their conscience, or have become casteless and/

or genuinely care. The reality is, if a Hindu officially drops his/her caste he/she does not remain a 

Hindu anymore!

Yet Sewa Bharati 's willingness to celebrate Sikh festivals suggests that the construction of nation does 

not preclude all non-Hindus. Like other in the movement, Sewa Bharati women believe the term "Hindu" 

encompasses all those religions whose tradition originated within the boundaries ofIndia. At the same 

time, unwillingness to celebrate Muslim and Christian festivals indicates that some religious minorities are 

clearly excluded from the Hindu nation. [Pages 113, 114]

If, India is really a supposed democratic country, based on so-called secular principles, then all the 

above flagrant racism flies in the face of all those ideals. When the Sikh, Buddhist and Jain Faiths 

originated there was no India. The Sikh Faith happened to be in South Asia but never in India and 

further the Hindu octopus loves to coopt anything that threatens it, especially the

casteless Sikh Faith which could bring the Brahminical edifice of Hinduism crumbling down. 

Further the Brahmin framers of the Indian constitution very cleverly shoved all the other three

South Asian Faiths under the purview of Hinduism permanently through Article 25 of the Constitution. 

The Sikhs have been protesting this blatant and grave injustice for over 62 years and yet even the Supreme 

Court refuses to relent, which makes these three independent Faiths into mere sects of Hinduism. The 

Jams went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2011 wanting to be independent of Hinduism but the (dis)

honorable court refused. On the other hand Islam and Christianity has been in South Asia for one and two 

millennia respectively, and should be given equal respect but the absolutely irrational RSS/VHP being who 

they are, will never do it.

Through the appropriation of traditions, stories, and practices that are sacred to Hindus, women activists 

suggest that Hindu nationalism is a religious movement with a dharmic charter, rather than a political 

movement with a Hindu chauvinistic one. [Page 129]

This is precisely the conundrum. The RSS/VHP agenda has a religious charter with an extremely overt 

political, chauvinist, publicly racist agenda which is exactly like the Hitler's Nazi propaganda with extreme 

violence clearly woven into it.

Chapter > — Fun, Games, and Deadly Politics

Below are the excerpts from her lecture: Raksha is something we do for ourselves while suraksha is 

something we give others. Our rashtra is a Hindu nation, while rashtriya is how we should think of our 

nation.......These intruders include missionaries and Muslims who have come to live with us. [Page 138]

These kinds of deceptive lectures are common across the spectrum in India. Christians and Muslims are 

the common enemy, but do include Sikhs, Dalits and anyone else who rankles the RSS/VHP, as they are 

fair game too, whenever the need arises. The Indian government instead of putting such people behind 

bars actually goads them on. Any non-Hindu doing the exact same `thing' would be arrested and charged 

for inciting religious violence. The application of laws in India are very selective, one for the upper caste 

Hindus and another for the rest. The entire power

structure is hand in glove with these rabidly fascist political parties.

Describing similar physical drills and commands at male shakas run by the RSS, Joseph Alter has 

argued that despite claims to indigenousness, these sessions are western in origin and designed to teach 

discipline and obedience to hierarchy. [P age 148]

Joseph Alter has correctly observed to some extent that the teaching sessions are western in their origin 

but not entirely. What the RSS/VHP machine wants, is, mindless slaves who follow their orders without 

a conscience, just like Krishna made ijuna a mindless slave to eventually kill all his first cousins in 

Mahabharata. That is the reason there have been more genocides committed in India than any other country 

on the globe since 1947. So the discipline maybe of western origin but the ideology is wholly Hindu, 

straight from the revered Bhagvad Gita.

Through such games the Samiti teaches girls to be aggressive and violent, qualities that are central to 

Hindu nationalism but are often neglected in the upbringing of middle-class and

middle-class Hindu girls. [Page 153]

Kalyani clearly shows how the RSS/VHP trains women into becoming violent to a degree that they 

actually support murder with impunity, because in India it happens regularly like clockwork. The only 

question is, `whose turn is it this time to be taught a lesson?'

Chapter 6 — Acceptable Transgressions

A male BJP activist sitting in the room with us responded jokingly that both of them should fill out 

reservation forms saying that they were chamars and take advantage of'reservation system. ivfandira 

was horrified by this suggestion: "Are you crazy? I have three daughters to marry. How can I do that?" 

[Page 178]

Overwhelmingly all the upper caste women are hypocrites. In public they pretend to be tasteless but when 

it comes to private socialization and especially marriage it is back to their caste. The funny thing is none 

of the lower castes had a say in whether they want to be part of Hinduism ever in the first place. Given a 

choice they would leave Hinduism immediately and all the reservation system would be done away with, 

but the upper castes would have the tables turned on them and they themselves would need the reservation 

(affirmative action) they currently hate

so much.

Kalyani Menon has done a pretty fair job of relaying the truth as she saw on her field trip to New Delhi in 

1999. Even though this is a snippet of what the RSS!!VHP are doing overall across India, it gives the lay 

reader outside India a look into this extremely worrying and scary reality of violent India which publicly 

claims to be non-violent like the world class charlatan MK Gandhi. While the world is busy worrying 

about Muslim extremism, the wide and large scale Hindu terrorism within India against `other' religious 

minorities goes on unnoticed, staying mostly under the radar. I would recommend this book to all students 

of Hinduism who need a reality check on the timid chaste Hindu women.

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