Santosh, Assistant Director of the Centre for Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy at the Mangalore University, said on Monday that Hinduism had portrayed women as a valiant and powerful being without disturbing the basic framework of patriarchy.
He was speaking at a seminar on “Re-affirming plurality, seeking justice and democracy”, organised by the Indian Association for Women’s Studies (IAWS) at the Roshini Nilaya School of Social Work here. “
The Hindutva discourse has projected the Hindu woman as a valiant and powerful being, such as Durga and Bharat Mata, without disturbing the larger framework of patriarchy that dominates the religion.”
Criticising the use of “nari shakti” in various scriptures, he said, they had failed to provide “nari mukti” (liberation to women).
While conceding that these powerful symbols had given Hindu women a sense of “empowerment and agency”, he said that it had failed to provide true liberty. Punning on the Hindutva rhetoric of ‘Nari Shakti’ (women’s power) he said that it is had not resulted in ‘Nari mukti’ (women’s liberation).However, the projection of Hindu women as warring goddesses represented Hindu cultural ethos very selectively for political ends, he said.
Drawing a parallel between fundamentalist Islam and Hindutva he said that both these religions shared a common understanding of secular feminism.
“Both Hindutva and Islamist positions define secular feminism as an imported and colonial concept that is bereft of morality,” he said. He described as “problematic” the linear understanding of Islam as a religion that offers a subordinate position to women.
“There is an increasing religious articulation of women’s positions within Islam and attempts are being made at re-reading Islamic tenets that were hitherto considered non-negotiable,” he said.
Earlier, Sumi Krishnan, former president of IAWS, said that she was “deeply disturbed by the sharp escalation of political and social violence against women in public and private places in Karnataka”.
She said that such violence was a means by which particularly regressive interpretations of culture were being enforced in the name of religion and country.
She said that fundamentalists of all kinds construct a particular public identity of religion which they then use to promote narrow and discriminatory definitions of citizenship, nationalism and culture. “And this leads to violence in terms of gender, caste and community,” she said.