Restoring Hindutva: Lift the Trident!

 

Imagine riotous groups of men, clad in the Hindu ritualistic color of saffron, carrying tridents in hands. Imagine their faces wrought with anger and a purpose fuelled by collective emotions as each individual assumes his role of Lord Shiva- the destroyer in Hindu Mythology.

 

Who are they? What are they trying to establish?

 

They are trying to address a deviation from and a potential threat to their heritage- their current ideology of Indian Culture. An ideology that is looked at solely through the “mnemonic lens” [1] of their latest reinterpretation of “Hindutva” , a Hindu way of life.

 

They could have been rushing to “return to their origin” [2] by demolishing the Babri Masjid- a mosque claimed by Hindu extremist leaders to have been built at a significant Hindu site; they could have been socialized [1] to avenge the loss of their brothers in a communal strife, or in this case, they could have been going to restore order,to cope with their “sentiment of loss and displacement” [2] by reclaiming Hindu women from their Muslim lovers, their attempt at going closer to their “lost home” [2].

 

These images were redrawn into my mind by a disturbing news article: ““Love jihad”—the Sangh Parivar’s sexual politics by another name” [3] The readings helped me articulate my thoughts as I tried to explore the reasoning behind political and religious manifestations of Nostalgia for Hinduism in India. I must confess, my thoughts are not mine alone, they are formed through personal experience but also result from an exposure to alternate forms of thinking through a variety of media inputs.

 

“Love Jihad”, a term coined in 2009 in the state of Karnataka [3], India, is a “conspiracy theory”  [2] claimed by the upholders and self proclaimed preservers of Hindutva in India. According to political parties such as the Shiv Sena (Lord Shiva’s force) or the Sangh Parivar (Hindu Nationalist Family) there is a new form of Jihad- coerced conversion being practised by followers of Islam, in the smaller towns of North and South India, through marrying and converting Hindu women to Islam.

 

Whether or not these marriages were through adult consent, and irrespective of the lack of evidence for such exaggerated claims and myths, the Shiv Sena has decided to introduce a special force of its men called “Love Trishul” (Love Trident) [4] for bringing these women back to their households and shaming or punishing the Muslim men who dared to practice this form of love or invasion.

 

This reminds me of the abduction of Lord Rama’s wife Sita by the demon King Ravana and the deployment of a force for her retrieval to her rightful place in Hindu patriarchy. Time and again, select concepts (unfortunately strongly conservative and newly ritualized [1]) and symbols of Hindutva have been appropriated by religious and political leaders as well as families and individuals for restoring their perception of the true Indian culture, reducing their “memorial signs to a single plot” [2], the plot to defend Hindutva, to defend family’s honour through their women’s honour (read sexuality), to defend superiority and so on.

Needless to say, deploying such rhetoric has often led to loss of rationale and violence. It is true indeed, “unreflected nostalgia breeds monsters” [2]. Be it the painful demolition of Babri Masjid and the riots that followed, or be it breaking of glass and furniture in cafes on Valentine’s Day (mythologised to be against Hindu tradition in the 21st century), the extremist preservers of Hindutva, use creative reconstruction [1] of their knowledge and hearsay to develop newer theories of “elsewhere, another time, a better life” [2]. In this case, of women who do not fall in love or marry outside of their community. As it is in Hindu tradition the woman is also a site that reflects ownership, be it the sexual symbols in the Mangalsutra (a neckpiece that the man places around her neck during marriage) or the Kamarbandh (a piece of jewellery worn around the waist) both are symbolic of his ownership of her sexuality, of the woman assuring continuity of his family. The idea of “Love Jihad” is perhaps then easier to propagate as a collective threat to continuity of Hindu lineage.

 

This apparent risk is not in isolation, different “impersonal sites” [1] are being currently focused on to instill the spirit of Hindutva. As the BJP came to power this election, India’s political scenario was one of heated debates over return to “Hindi” as official language. There have been efforts at introducing ancient Indian (read Hindu) wisdom in school text-books and further promotion of religious tourism.

 

But who agrees with these acts of intangible or tangible “heritagisation”  ? People who belong to the Hindu community, and fall prey to mnemonic devices such as popular Hindu imagery used in political campaigns or great oratory skills with references drawn from Hindu mythology. Some of these public speeches are choice lessons in how to familiarize “members with its past” as “an important part of a community’s effort to incorporate them.” [1] They could be compared with the mouse in the experiment, whose memory of the tone and associated danger was corrupted [5] A false memory is often implanted in such invocations to religious belief that leads to an ‘integration of various individual pasts into a single common past that all members of particular community come to remember collectively” [5] They might then forget the reality of their own experiences which could contradict the claims made by their leaders ascribing heritage value [5] to practices not necessarily healthy or in tune with times.

Bibliography

 

  1. B. Zerubavel, ‘Social Memories: Steps to a Sociology of the Past’ (1996) 19(3) Qualitative Sociology.

2. S. Boym, The Future of Nostalgia 2002, pp 1-56

3. Mody,Anjali.“Love jihad”—the Sangh Parivar’s sexual politics by another name  Caravanmagazine.in. Caravan magazine, 13 Sep,2014 <http://www.caravanmagazine.in/vantage/love-jihad-sangh-parivar-sexual-politics-another-name#sthash.IvKZgoJH.dpuf&gt;

4. Yadav,Ankit. “Shiv Sena forms ‘love trishul’ to counter ‘love jihad’” Timesofindia.indiatimes.com.TNN ,8 Sep,2014 <http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bareilly/Shiv-Sena-forms-love-trishul-to-counter-love-jihad/articleshow/42050534.cms?intenttarget=no&utm_source=TOI_AShow_OBWidget&utm_medium=Int_Ref&utm_campaign=TOI_AShow&gt;

5. R. Harrison, ‘Heritage and the Problem of Memory’ in Heritage: Critical Approaches Routledge Press: London 2013.

6. “Memory and Forgetting” Radiolab Podcast 2007. 12 Sep, 2014. <http://www.radiolab.org/2007/jun/07/&gt;

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About poornimasardana

Travel and Observations acquaint me with the Existent Pluralities around us and I wish to share those. I indulge in narratives (illustrations, words and pictures), it being my most cherished pursuit.
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