The 'avenging angel' and the 'nurturing mother': women and Hindu nationalism
Hindu nationalism presents Indian women with a variety of challenges and opportunities. This essay begins by looking at the historical origins of Hindu nationalism in the colonial period, particularly with respect to the role of women in this period of nationalism. It also considers the role of masculinity in Hindutva politics, and the idea of the ‘defilement’ of Mother India by Muslim invaders, as well as the perceived virility of Muslim and Hindu men contested in the female body, through sexual violence. It also looks at women’s empowerment in the context of right-wing nationalism and militancy and the public role of women in the Sangh Parivar. The essay then focuses on the view of the Shiv Sena on women, especially in the Bombay riots of 1993. The essay concludes that Hindutva politics attempt to marry two visions of the woman: one as a nurturing mother, the other as a warrior goddess. Women’s empowerment in this framework is limited to roles that conservative leaders link to ‘tradition’ and purity.
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