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Everyday Nationalism

Everyday Nationalism: Women of the Hindu Right in India

Kalyani Devaki Menon
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Everyday Nationalism
    Book Description:

    Hindu nationalism has been responsible for acts of extreme violence against religious minorities and is a dominant force on the sociopolitical landscape of contemporary India. How does such a violent and exclusionary movement recruit supporters? How do members navigate the tensions between the normative prescriptions of such movements and competing ideologies? To understand the expansionary power of Hindu nationalism, Kalyani Menon argues, it is critical to examine the everyday constructions of politics and ideology through which activists garner support at the grassroots level. Based on fieldwork with women in several Hindu nationalist organizations, Menon explores how these activists use gendered constructions of religion, history, national insecurity, and social responsibility to recruit individuals from a variety of backgrounds. As Hindu nationalism extends its reach to appeal to increasingly diverse groups, she explains, it is forced to acknowledge a multiplicity of positions within the movement. She argues that Hindu nationalism's willingness to accommodate dissonance is central to understanding the popularity of the movement. Everyday Nationalism contends that the Hindu nationalist movement's power to attract and maintain constituencies with incongruous beliefs and practices is key to its growth. The book reveals that the movement's success is facilitated by its ability to become meaningful in people's daily lives, resonating with their constructions of the past, appealing to their fears in the present, presenting itself as the protector of the country's citizens, and inventing traditions through the use of Hindu texts, symbols, and rituals to unite people in a sense of belonging to a nation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0279-3
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Note on Transliteration
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-25)

    “What is the point of building a Ram temple on the blood of so many Indians? It is meaningless.” Ela Dube, a member of the Hindu nationalist organization Sewa Bharati, raised this rhetorical question in October 1999.¹ Although she did not know me, like many other Hindu nationalist women I met while conducting fieldwork in Delhi in 1999, Ela did not hesitate to meet me and generously invited me into her home in a Delhi Development Authority Middle Income Group colony to talk to her. It was Navaratri, the Hindu festival that marks the slaying of the buffalo demon Mahisasura...

  5. Chapter 1 Everyday Histories
    (pp. 26-53)

    “Who lit the fire?” Atal Behari Vajpayee, prime minister of India, asked this question at a speech delivered in April 2002 while Hindu nationalists orchestrated a violent pogrom against the Muslim community in Gujarat.¹ Asserting that Muslims in Godhra 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 deaths of fifty-seven individuals killed in the fire. Conservatively, about two thousand Muslims were killed in this violence and several thousands were displaced. Subsequent forensic reports indicate that the fire began inside the train, belying...

  6. Chapter 2 National Insecurities
    (pp. 54-79)

    Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two young sons were murdered in the eastern Indian state of Orissa during the night of January 22–23, 1999, when the station wagon in which they had been sleeping was set on fire. According to the Wadhwa Commission Report (1999), a government investigation undertaken by Supreme Court Justice D. P. Wadhwa, a group led by Dara Singh was responsible for this gruesome murder. Although police records cited in this report clearly point to Dara Singh’s connections with the Hindu nationalist group Bajrang Dal and the BJP, the report fails to find any links...

  7. Chapter 3 Violent Dharma
    (pp. 80-104)

    Sadhvi Rithambara is a powerful female renouncer belonging to the Sadhvi Shakti Parishad, a branch of the Hindu nationalist movement in India whose membership is limited to Hindu female renouncers (sadhvis).¹ She was speaking to a rapt audience of men and women in Ramakrishna Puram in Delhi in 1999 during the Sri Mad Bhagavad Gita Gyan Yagya. This three-day event held in the large hall of the Sankat Mochan Ashram, had been organized by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to spread the message of the Bhagavad Gita, an important Hindu scripture. Large speakers had been placed outside the hall so that...

  8. Chapter 4 Benevolent Hindus
    (pp. 105-130)

    I spent several afternoons working with Urvashi and Shashi in the obstetrics and gynecology wing of a government hospital in central Delhi. Referred to by the hospital staff as the “VHP social workers,” Urvashi and Shashi helped process female outpatients seeking prenatal care, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoon. In the overcrowded room, while nurses and doctors wove their way through meandering lines of pregnant women and their families, and hospital orderlies barked out peremptory instructions to women to line up and make way for the staff, the three of us performed tasks that were vital to the smooth functioning...

  9. Chapter 5 Fun, Games, and Deadly Politics
    (pp. 131-156)

    Payal invited me to attend a three-day Samiti shivir (camp) that she was organizing from December 24 to 26 in Delhi. Unlike the weekly shakhas held throughout Delhi for local girls and women, these training camps are intensive immersion courses for those who want a deeper association with the movement. The shivirs can be anywhere between three days and two weeks long and cater to those who have already been exposed to the movement and are often regular attendees of shakhas. Although all the participants of the shivir I attended were from Delhi, the longer shivirs usually draw individuals from...

  10. Chapter 6 Acceptable Transgressions
    (pp. 157-182)

    I arrived at Jamuna Sinha’s house in northwest Delhi feeling quite lightheaded and was extremely relieved when she offered me a cup of tea. I had just spent ninety minutes in an autorickshaw in morning rush hour traffic in Delhi, trying vainly to avoid inhaling the exhaust from the DTC bus crawling along beside me. As I sat down next to Jamuna on the brown synthetic velvet sofa in her living room, I was conscious of how disheveled I looked with my dusty windblown hair, crushed handloom shalwar kamiz, and wrinkled dupatta (scarf), which I had scrunched up and used...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 183-192)
  12. Glossary
    (pp. 193-194)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 195-212)
  14. Index
    (pp. 213-220)
  15. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 221-224)