Savarkar’s slogan of the “militarisation” of the “Hindu race” is reflected in the promotion of masculinity as a core feature of Hindutva, the creation of the macho man, the eternal warrior, whose very existence is dependent on aggression against the identified foe; whose every action must be imbued with the spirit of avenging “historical wrongs”; for whom every non-Hindu must be viewed as a potential enemy of the nation until the non-Hindu redeems himself by accepting the crimes of his forefathers and atones for them by subordinating himself to whatever punishment is meted out to him. Conversely, the belief is fostered that no Hindu can ever be a “terrorist” but must always be thought of as a man with the highest of virtues, especially if he is a Brahmin.

Savarkar, in the essay quoted above (Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History), makes a scathing critique of Buddhism because it preached ahimsa and universal brotherhood. He wrote of “the necessity of creating a bitter sense of wrong, invoking a power of undying resistance especially in India that had under the opiates of Universalism and nonviolence lost the faculty even of resisting sin and crime and aggression”. He spoke of the need of “political and masculine virility”. Decades later, this “necessity of creating a bitter sense of wrong” can be observed in the current attempts to rewrite India’s history as an endless war between Hindus and Muslims.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat in an interview to the Organiser said: “Hindu society has been at war for over 1,000 years… [I]t is but natural for those at war to be aggressive… [T]his war is not against an outside enemy, but against an enemy within. So there is a war to defend Hindu society, Hindu Dharma and Hindu culture…” One may add going by current practice – that in this war, women of the identified “other” are easy, soft targets to demonstrate “masculine virility”. There is another aspect to this. The masculinisation of Hindutva, which is an essential part of this project based as it is on violence, has a direct impact on the movement’s mobilisation of women.

In the drive towards a majoritarian India, there are two objectives of this women’s mobilisation. The first is the direct participation of women in aggressive Hindutva drills. The second is reiterating the central role of the “family” and the designated position of the ideal wife and mother in Hindutva’s cultural-nationalist narrative. The Rashtra Sevika Samiti was formed in 1936 to fulfil both these roles.

One may note how, across the world, often associated with right-wing politics is the stereotypical image of a passive woman. Ironically, the avenues opened up for all women by women’s movements for radical social change have influenced right-wing organisational structures leading to the promotion of women. Thus, we see women emerge as leaders of right-wing parties, spewing hate, as in the white supremacist politics in the United States or the antiimmigrant mobilizations in Europe. In Islamist societies, we see women leaders committed to fundamentalist ideologies, defending the subordinate role of women in patriarchal interpretations of religious scriptures. Here in India, the anti-minority hate speeches backed by mobilisations of the lynching mobs, are often led and provoked by right-wing women leaders, patronised by those in power.

During the 1990s, pre and post the Babri Masjid demolition, women such as Sadhvi Rithambara and Uma Bharti led the deeply anti-Muslim campaign with the filthiest of abuse. Since then, many other such women leaders have emerged. Their interventions are based in equal part on hate against the identified target, vocal reverence for a sectarian view of nationalism defined by religion and custom, and the glorification of the traditional roles of women expressed in their participation in and propagation of rituals, many of which are deeply male-centric. More recently, young women are being organised and trained in the use of batons and even swords, demonstrated in women’s marches during religious festivals, accompanied by provocative sloganeering against minorities. For example, the Ram Navami processions in Bengal saw unprecedented scenes of young girls wielding swords and aggressively shouting provocative slogans.

In the Dharma Sansads, women speakers deliver the most hate-filled provocative speeches. Pragya Thakur, an accused in the 2008 bomb blast that killed at least six people in Malegaon, who praised Gandhi’s murderer Godse, is an example of such a woman. A serial offender who asks “Hindus” to keep weapons in their homes, and “at least keep the knives used to cut vegetables sharp” to defend themselves, was not just elected on a BJP ticket, but has the patronage of top leaders of the party. This is a direct encouragement to other women in the Parivar who believe they can gain prominence, like Pragya Thakur, through hate crimes and speeches. A BJP Mahila Morcha office bearer in Uttar Pradesh, Sunita Singh Gaur, posted on Facebook in June 2019: ‘There is only one solution for them [Muslims]. Hindu brothers should make a group of ten and gangrape their [Muslims’] mothers and sisters openly on the streets…and then hang her in the middle of the bazaar for others to see”. The lady in question was subsequently removed from her post by her party after strong protests, but she was protected from prosecution for hate speech by the UP government.

In a Dharma Sansad held in Raipur in December 2021, another so-called sadhvi a female renunciate Vibhanand Giri urged the men present to “rape and impregnate Muslim women if Muslim men cast even a glance at Hindu girls” and that if Muslim men even look at Hindu girls, it would lead to “their” women “producing babies from Hindus without marriage”. Nupur Sharma whose vulgar comments against Prophet Mohammed made international news, which forced the BJP to sack her, was strongly supported by the Hindutva eco-system and protected from criminal action.

Dedicated to the one-point agenda of militant Hindutva, women spewing hate, asking their men to rape Muslim women, are the opposite of empowered women they do as they are told in the Hindutva family. This is as true of top BJP women leaders who, as ministers in the Modi government, have never criticised such statements never, not even once

It is in this context of the creation of an aggressive Hindutva women’s contingent that the RSS, according to its chief Mohan Bhagwat, in its centenary year, is actively considering direct membership to women in the RSS. In his interview, Bhagwat mentioned that while there is a Rashtra Sevika Samiti, women are more inspired by the RSS and want direct membership of the organisation. This would not mean the breaking of a male bastion far from it. It is not to fight patriarchy, dowry deaths, increasing sexual assault on women and children or against brutal acts of domestic violence that women are being inducted. The shakha will act as the womb to produce more hate-spewing women.

Excerpted with permission from Hindutva and Violence Against Women, Brinda Karat, Speaking Tiger Books.