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Opinion: A Bhakt’s Idea Of ‘Evil’

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Recent reports suggest that the idea of ‘inclusiveness’ has taken a new dimension in India. India, a land known for ‘unity in diversity, which has as many different cultures as there are states in the subcontinent, has taken a big leap in the direction of being a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural space. It will contribute immensely to the dream-cum-reality-cum-illusion of the $5 trillion economy project that is set to be achieved by the year 2025. Also, it will help US President Donald Trump win the next presidential election with a majority that the USA has never seen. It will further increase the cheer of “Howdy Modi” all across the world, and India will rise to heights that the world has ever seen or any nation across all the seven continents has ever dreamt of achieving.

All this has been made possible by a recent development that took place in many places in the country. Constant efforts were made to spread this development nationwide, in every city of every state of India. Many people believe that the particular development will stop the ever-increasing farmer suicide cases, bring Bihar out of the damage caused by floods, and also revive the economy from the current despair that it is in. The development, in very lucid and clear language, reads so:

Non-Hindus (particularly Muslims) were banned from Garba events in different states of India during Navratri.

This recent secular, equalitarian, all-inclusive decision is the prime blessing that India wanted this year. The nine days of the pious festival intended to eliminate non-Hindu communities that have been residing in the country for hundreds of years. In the northeastern and eastern states, Durga Puja celebrates the victory of goddess Durga over the powerful and deceptive demon Mahishasura. In the western and northern states, the festival celebrates the victory of god Rama over the demon king Ravana. In the south, it celebrates the victory of different gods or goddesses against some-or-the-other evil personified in the form of a demon.

The main intent of mentioning this is to put emphasis on the main idea that the festival revolves around-the victory of good over the evil. Taking the contemporary situation as a reference point, when more than 80 people have been lynched from 2010 to date, majority of them Muslims and from Dalit communities, proves that modern-day evil is very clear for India. It lies in front of us, besides us, in the house next door. Going by the population numbers, it is fairly easy to eliminate this societal evil by the hands of the societal good. Muslims form 14.23% of the Indian population and Hindus 79.80%. Logically, only 14% of the Hindu population is needed to pick up swords and arms to finish the 14.23% of the evil, while the remaining 65% sits at its home and enjoys the victory of good over evil.

The decision of banning of non-Hindus from the Garba events came from the Bajrang Dal, a religious militant organisation that forms the youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). S. Kailash, the media convener of Bajrang Dal announced on September 28 and urged all Dandiya and Garba organisers to make Aadhar card mandatory at the entry points of these events to identify “non-Hindu” people who want to be a part of the celebrations. Further, they also gave out orders not to hire any non-Hindu bouncers for the events as they will be more susceptible to allow members of their community to enter the celebrations.

For representation only

Volunteers-cum-members-cum-goons of the Bajrang Dal were supposed to be present at the venues to ensure that the instructions were being followed diligently. They gave clear instructions to take immediate action in case of any attempts of infiltration. Just a few days later, on September 30, the Ahmedabad zone coordinator of Bajrang Dal, Jwalit Mehta, announced the same and further contributed to the ‘war against the Evil’. Posters were put up near all major Garba and Dandiya event venues mentioning the same. In S. Kailash’s words, the primary evil deed that the Muslim males commit at these venues was that “they are trying to do love jihad with the girls playing Dandiya and Garba in the event.”

For representation only. Source: Wikimedia Commons

M K Patel, north Gujarat’s coordinator of Bajrang Dal, said, “non-Hindus, who have nothing to do with this Hindu festival, take advantage of it to lure our girls/women.” Ranchhod Bharwad, the general secretary of Antar-Rashtriya Hindu Parishad (AHP), an association headed by Praveen Togadia who is the ex-president of the VHP, went on to propose that in order to be a part of the celebration, a non-Hindu must first embrace Hinduism and drink gau-mutra (cow urine). Another AHP leader, Jitendra Prajapati, in Hyderabad, said that in order to stop non-Hindu men from entering the venues, patrolling teams would be present outside and will keep on spraying gau-mutra on the participants.

The Bajrang Dal is not a political party that is a part of the Center. Neither does it form the government of any state. The party in power in the mentioned states are the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), YSR Congress Party, and the Jana Sena Party. Going by this, the Bajrang Dal reserves no power or authority to give out such public notices or take such drastic measures to gain control. When they do not have any power or authority then how did they manage to put up posters and release an open letter? Do they reserve the right for this? Or they have some serious political backing and shared interests with a party in power? Or they are the pawns carrying out the agenda for the king?

There are endless cases against the Bajrang Dal. It has been banned multiple times in the past. The organisation was labeled as a ‘Hindu extremist group’ by the United States Department of States’ annual report on international religious freedom for the year 2000 and also by the World Report of the same year. It has also been described as an Indian equivalent to the Nazi party’s paramilitary, the Sturmabteilung by Paul R. Brass, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and South Asian Studies at the University of Washington.

For representation Only. Source: IndiaToday

On the national level as well, it has been criticised for adopting the same violent methods as adopted by Islamic fundamentalists to justify terrorism. Late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a BJP member and former prime minister of India also criticised the organisation and said that it has “only embarrassed the BJP”. The question that arises here is how has the Bajrang Dal and many other Hindu-nationalist parties gained such power and authority in the last five years? How is it possible that an organisation that was criticised for its activities in the past is now being backed up for the same activities by the same people?

Also, when people from such organisations talk about protecting women, it proves that they consider them as their personal property. The very phrase ‘our women’ highlights the ownership such people think that they have over women and girls. Instead of empowering the women and making them aware of any societal risks and dangers, these people take charge of ‘protecting’ them. Because if they make the women aware and self-dependent, they might start raising their voices against the same people. If such a thing happens these men will lose the power that they hold over the women’s bodies and minds, thus bringing an end to their phallocentric world. This is not even the last thing that they want.

Bajrang Dal, or its parent organisation, VHP, or for that matter all right-wing Hindu groups, have managed to convince people that evil in the society, are the ones who live and breathe alongside us. This idea of creating fear and personifying it in the form of a person or community is a very old way of Hindu right-wing parties to create a divide in society. It is their way of deviating the attention of people from the actual issues in society and using them for their own selfish interests.

Often these people, who claim themselves as ‘Hindus’ and ‘Hinduvadis‘ are the ones who know the least about the religion and its practices. They are pseudo-nationalists who do not care about ‘nation’ as such, but only about their own idea of ‘saffronising’ the country. They give a communal angle to everything that is happening in the country, be it Triple Talaq, Love Jihad, and for that matter even slogans like “Jai Shree Ram” (glory be to Ram) or “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” (Glory to Mother India) which were never used as an excuse to lynch people in broad daylight. It has always been the strategy of such people and organisations to scare people by creating evil in society. If not so, the same people who are completely engrossed at present in identifying the ‘other’ amongst themselves, will realise that the actual evil lies inside them. And the moment one realises this fact, they will stop believing in the hate theories of the same people.

For representation only

The question that India needs to ask itself is what will it do after abolishing these evils, when it will become a country of one religion and one faith? Because after that, will the attention of the general public would be drawn towards the actual issues and problems prevailing in the country? And when they will start asking questions, who will the Hinduvadi parties embody as evil to deviate their attention, and who will they spray the gau-mutra on? Because gau-mutra doesn’t identify a Hindu or a Muslim. It will dirty everyone equally. In the current scenario, it would be only one entity as a whole that will turn dirty and stink of violence and intolerance: India.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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