chapter  6
22 Pages

Communalism, nationalism, and gender

One of the distinguishing features of politics in the 1990s has been the rise of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), representing the Hindu right, as a political force in northwestern and central India. The shaping of political relations in India by the BJP in alliance with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS), collectively called the Sangh Parivaar,1 has been based on a nationalist call. The nationalism of the Hindu right is based on the (re)construction of the social landscape in at least two complementary ways: first, the reconstruction of religious identities in which a monolithic, victimized, Hindu identity is juxtaposed against a monolithic, villainous, Muslim identity; and second, accompanying historical revisions, because religious reconstruction has required a rewriting of history in essentially communal ways. Although there are differences between the BJP’s moderate and liberal factions’ acceptance of the VHP and RSS stand on communalism, communalism is essential to their collective stand on nationalism.2 This chapter claims that although communalism remains at the forefront of the right-wing Hindu political and social agenda, gender is inextricably woven into the (re)constructions of religion and history on which this movement’s claims of nationalism and communalism have rested.3