The manner in which the sections of any society behave reflects the mood of the nation. And there are often events that sometimes appear hyper local, even obscure, which determine which way the winds are blowing.
One such event was held recently in Gujarat’s capital city Gandhinagar. Organised by the women’s wing of the far right Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which itself is an offshoot of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological patron of the ruling BJP, the event called young Hindu women to arms.
WE VERSUS THEM
The VHP’s women wing calls itself Durga Vahini, named after Goddess Durga, the slayer of demons. The VHP firmly believes that Muslim men use ‘love jihad’ to lure Hindu women into marriages and convert them to Islam. Its members also say that violence is a legitimate tool to counter ‘jihadis’.
At the Gandhinagar event, attended by girls as young as 15 and women as old as 35 totalling over 1,000, dozens of ‘women warriors’ displayed their sword wielding skills.
The speakers urged the participants to “empower themselves” by training in martial arts, wielding weapons such as swords and knives, and most importantly, protecting themselves against “seduction activities” and thereby protecting Hindu dharma.
One of the VHP members VOI spoke to at the Gandhinagar event said that even after 75 years of independence, India was not “completely free”. He cited “Islamic fanaticism and the continued spread of Christianity” that threatened the “culture of the country”.
“Apart from these major factors, the blind imitation of the West has led to the young generation ignoring the traditional knowledge in areas such as diet, exercise, meditation, medicine, agriculture, and various sciences. Young Hindu girls are being targeted. This event has been organised to motivate Hindu women, and indeed all sections of the society, to ensure Hindu dharma is protected,” the VHP member said.
The VHP and Durga Vahini don’t just talk; they work at the grassroots level. In Gujarat, which is the right-wing laboratory for such training experiments considering the strong Hindu sentiment among not just the Hindu population in the state but also the NRIs, the VHP has been imparting arms training to women for the last 15 years.
Each year, Durga Vahini organises week-long training camps for girls and women in every district of Gujarat where self-defence, and plenty of talk on how to counter love jihad is imparted. The parents of these girls are also counselled into encouraging their girls to join the training camps. VOI spoke to one such “proud parent”, Bhoomiben Anil Kumar, a resident of Dehgam town in Gandhinagar district. “Our two daughters were on the stage wielding swords,” Bhoomiben said with a great sense of pride. “We have made sure they know how to use a sword and a lathi and know martial arts so that what is happening in the world doesn’t happen to them.”
LIVING BY EXAMPLES
At every training session or event, the VHP and Durga Vahini ensure the examples of ‘love jihad’ are drilled into the participants. The grisly murder of Shraddha Walkar and the ‘role’ of her boyfriend Aftab Poonawala, examples of girls eloping with boys from other communities and getting converted, to Hindu girls being kidnapped and converted to Islam in Pakistan… there is no shortage of narrative.
In their individual capacity, the BJP leaders themselves talk up the need to protect Hindu women against love jihad. On February 20, suspended BJP member and Goshamahal MLA T Raja Singh spoke about love jihad at a rally in Maharashtra, provoking the crowds to murder every Muslim man who is in a relationship with a Hindu woman. “No love jihadi will survive on the soil of Maharashtra. They trap Hindu women and make them slaves by producing more and more children. They rape them and cut them into pieces,” Raja said.
The VHP is equally vocal about this perception. Rajendra Rajagore, VHP’s Gandhinagar treasurer, told VOI, “Hindu teenaged girls are being trapped, tortured, kidnapped… There needs to be awareness in society. The VHP is trying to impart such awareness to our girls and women. Our aim is to empower Hindu women.”
On allegations of violent attacks on Muslim men for dating Hindu women, he said, “When someone approaches us, our volunteers investigate to know the truth. If indeed any woman is in trouble, we try to help,” he said.
The Gandhinagar event was attended by Sadhvi Krishna Giriji, affiliated to the Dhaneshwar Mahadev Temple. Emphasising the need for more such events, Dr Yajna Joshi, the coordinator of Durga Vahini in Gujarat, told VOI that Hindu women should consider Goddess Durga as their ideal. Despite the BJP in power in Gujarat and at the Centre, Joshi said that more needs to be done to counter “forces against Hindu dharma”. “Our sisters must learn to protect themselves. We need to ask ourselves what is our responsibility towards Hindu dharma and this nation? This is the kind of awareness we are trying to spread,” Joshi said.