India: "Our" women, "their" women

South Asia Citizen's Wire
Communal ideology and women.
The Governments driven by communal ideology do come up with moves, which many a times astound us beyond belief.
The BJP Government's decision to swap the location of MLB Girls College and Hamidia College, Bhopal (June 2005) is one such action, which betrays the deeper communal thinking of the BJP Govt. of Madhya Pradesh.

Government of Madhya Pradeh in one of its recent orders swapped the MLB Girls College located in a Muslim area with the co-ed Hamidia Arts and Commerce College. The logic given by the Govt was that the Hindu Girls were unsafe in Muslim area. The BJP affiliates, RSS and Bajrang Dal, were more forthright in giving the reasons for the unthinkable move of the Government. Two members of Sangh Parivar claimed that 439 Hindu Girls in Bhopal have converted to Islam in past 8years and 90% of these happened to be from MLB College. As per them a confidential inquiry by CID has revealed these statistics. An interesting and new assignment for CID! One never knew CID is assigned such tasks! It later came to be known that no such inquiry exists and it was just a make believe propaganda by RSS affiliates. It is not for nothingthat RSS also stands for Rumor Spreading Society!

As such MLB Girls College has a long and glorious tradition, situated across the lake it has picturesque location. Girls in general and Muslim girls in particular feel at home here due to its ambience. It has all the disciplines, science, home science, fine arts and what have you. Its botanical garden is unique. Hamidia College is having only arts and commerce faculties. One is not sure how much time will it take to set up these facilities in the new location. In addition Hamidia College, located kilometers away will deter the girls from Muslim locality to travel that far. In effect it will mean a deterrent for Muslim girl's higher education. To cap it all Government never bothered to take the opinion of the college authorities and students in such a crucial move.

Any way, it does give the justification to the Govt. to undertake this swapping, and it gives a sense of righteousness to the Sangh activists who now will feel that they have been ratified in their propagation that Muslim boys and Muslims have been converting Hindu girls in an effort to increase the population of Muslims to eventually convert this Hindu nation in to an Islamic state.

By now this propagation has been made the part of social common sense. It is said that Muslim boys have been given the assignment to lure or to intimidate the Hindu girls into Islam. Surely, there is a decline in the sex ratio amongst Hindus but the reasons for that pertain more to dowry deaths, amniocentesis and the killing of girl child in the womb and due to the poor nutritional status of girls and mothers. Selective conversion of Hindu girls into Islam may be occurring more as a rarity than as a systematic phenomenon. But it does serve as a powerful appeal to the communalists that the "others" i.e. the Muslims are luring "our" girls. This forms a powerful propaganda point for the Hindu communal ideology. The ideology of communalism plays around the game of numbers. It goes on to assert that the population of minorities is on the rise due to more wives and children of Muslims. And this will result in this Hindu Rashtra being converted to Islamic country. Communalism is the most blatant patriarchal ideology, which puts forth the notions of male centric world. It is based on the projection of threat posed by the 'other'. One major threat projection is about 'they' violating 'our' women. When communalists construct the History, one of the points taken to frightening proportions is that the Muslim Kings did atrocities on the Hindu women. Here the basic notion that during the era of Kingdoms women were subject to control and violation of their being by the powerful of the society irrespective of the religion of the king or the feudal lord is underplayed. The armies irrespective of their religion resorted to rape and plunder of women, as exemplified by various narrations of the exploits of the armies. This continues today as well goes without saying.

One such narration, which describes Shivaji's army bringing in the daughter in law of the Subhedar of Kalyan, goes on to show the humane attitude of Shivaji, who disapproves of the act of his army and returns her to her family. While this incident shows the plunder of women as the norm of the armies, the communalists see this in a different light. Savarkar, the pioneer of Hindu communalism, while commenting on this incident criticizes Shivaji for this humane policy on the ground that this could not bring in the similar feeling amongst the cruel Muslims. Connecting this up with what happened to women during the partition tragedy, Savarkar's biographer, Dhananjay Keer observes. " He (Savarkar) said that Pakistan's inhuman and barbarous acts such as kidnapping and raping Indian women would not be stopped unless Pakistan was given tit for tat. Two years earlier Savarkar had expressed similar opinion that the liberal policy adopted by Shivaji in case of Muslim women was wrong, as this cultured and humane treatment could not evoke in those fanatics the same feelings about Hindu women. They should have been given tit for tat, he observed frankly, so that they might have realized the horrors of those brutalities." Keer, Veer Savarkar, Popular Prakashan, 1966, p.539).

Going a step further in the communal riots of 92-93 in Mumbai and Surat and the Gujarat riots of 2002 Muslim women were targeted in a horrific way. In all communal ideologies women are regarded as the property of men and as the vehicle of community honor. Rape is used as the weapon to humiliate the 'other' community. The rapists coming in Khaki shorts with saffron underwears in Gujarat gave a message of sorts. The communalized section of Hindu women helping 'their' men in committing of this heinous crime spoke volumes as to how the perversions of communal ideology can influence the victims of communal ideology, the women themselves. The other aspect, which has got linked up with the communal ideology, is the dangerous fertility of 'others' and "their" women. The selective targeting of women's reproductive organs in the Gujarat carnage stared in our face telling the tale of the success of this propaganda which subsists as the fodder that Muslims are increasing their population. The fact that the relative rise in Muslim population has nothing to do with religion, or that it has more do with the poverty, illiteracy and social development does not have any place in such thinking. In a sense when all these acts are being perpetrated on the hapless victims it is regarded as a service to a particular nation as the case may be, in this case, the Hindu Nation!

The present move to apparently 'protect' the Hindu girls from the Muslims is the step further in the Hindu nations gender project. It is the other side of coin of gendered violence against "their" women. To protect 'our' girls from 'them' is the logical next step of what we have observed in the politics of Hindutva and what we have seen in the case of Kausar Bano and her likes who were raped and whose unborn children were done to death right in front of their eyes. The shifting of girls' college away from Muslim locality reveals the deeper communal agenda, with BJP govt. in power, it does intensify the communalization process in the manners which are novel and horrific, both at the same time.

by Ram Puniyani