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Home > Communalism Repository > India: A ’Raksha Bandhan’ Campaign Designed To Divide

India: A ’Raksha Bandhan’ Campaign Designed To Divide

by Subhashini Ali, 12 August 2014

print version of this article print version, August 12, 2014

A Raakhi Campaign Designed to Promote Hatred

by Subhashini Ali

(Subhashini Ali is former MP, former Member of the National Commission for Women and Vice President of the All India Democratic Women’s Association.)

This weekend marked Raksha Bandhan, a festival dedicated to strengthening bonds of love, affection and support between brothers and sisters. The threads that sisters tie on their brothers’ wrists are symbolic of what binds them and what they expect from each other. It is a festival that has been celebrated to cement relationships beyond familial ones and one in which people of many communities have traditionally participated. It is a matter of concern that this year, the Sangh Parivar has launched a campaign all over India to ’celebrate’ this festival in its own unique fashion. Thousands of volunteers carrying bags of rakhis are to fan out all over the country, specially to villages in Uttar Pradesh, so that Hindu girls and women can tie rakhis on their Hindu brothers’ wrists in order to protect them from Muslim men and forced conversions.

The recent incident that took place in a village in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, in which a young woman filed a complaint of gang rape and forced conversion against some Muslims is being used as the motivation for this campaign. I was part of a delegation that met the girl and her relatives in the hospital where she is admitted. From their account and from that of the lady doctor who owns the hospital, we found that many of the statements recorded by the young woman are questionable. It has been confirmed that on the first date of the alleged ’gang rape’, she was actually admitted in the government hospital in Meerut; the affidavit in which she has stated that she is converting to Islam, of which we obtained a copy from the family, has been declared to be a forgery by them. None of this detracts from the fact that the young woman must be given every kind of support by the Government and womens’ organisations and society.

The VHP campaign, however, is not aimed at achieving this end. It has nothing to do with ensuring the security and well-being of women in an atmosphere of increasing attacks on them. Theirs is a completely unacceptable response to the frightening dimensions that atrocities and discrimination against women and girls are assuming, both in the frequency of their occurrence and the brutality of their nature, and is, actually, an incitement to increased violence and bloodshed that will engulf the lives of men, women and families.

It is important to understand the context of these events. Different sections of our society are witnessing incredible changes that are taking places in very short time spans. Access to education and technology are widening horizons and boundaries for very large numbers of people, especially young people. At the same time, caste and communal identities, tensions and conflict are also getting intensified. Poverty, unemployment and inequalities of all kinds are also growing apace. It is in this cauldron that women and girls are not only rendered more and more vulnerable to exploitation, assault, discrimination and violence but are also simultaneously finding opportunities to take important decisions regarding their lives, livelihoods and life partners. Unfortunately, more often than not, this right to decision-making is not only unacceptable to their families and communities, but is often met with violence and punishment.

So called ’false’ cases have to be understood in this context. Fear of violence and familial violence are very real as far as the vast majority of young women and girls in our country are concerned and are responsible for many incidents. Rather than unthinking acceptance of statements made or condemnation of fabrications resorted to, what are needed are compassion and dispassion in sifting fact from fiction so that the integrity and well-being of the victims are safe-guarded and miscarriage of justice averted. It is also imperative not to lose sight of the thousands of attacks that women and girls are facing in their own homes, places of work, public places, fields and remote areas. There is a real danger of this happening behind strategically placed smokescreens of ’false’ cases.

What certainly is not needed is the hijacking of the trauma and suffering of women and girls by communal organisations for whom the question of justice for the victim is of no concern. Their immediate agenda is one of interpreting the issue of violence against women in a narrow and sectarian manner. This can only lead to conflagaration and conflict. And, of course, to even greater violence against women and girls.

This is probably a good time to remember one of the most celebrated rakhis in our history, the rakhi that Rani Ahilyabai Holkar sent to the Moghul Emperor.


The above article from NDTV is reproduced here for educational and non commercial use.