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Stereotyping the "Other": Shiv Sena accuses "outsiders" for Juhu molestation
01/21/2008
By Ram Puniyani

The shameful molestation of two girls on the New Year eve 2008, in Juhu Mumbai, came to be seen in different lights by various sections of society. What was interesting is that the Shiv Sena leaders blamed 'outsiders' for this act. Saying that it is not the local Maharashtrians, but it is the outsiders who have done this. The thesis of Shiv Sena all through has been that the ills of Maharashtra are all the making of outsiders. As the matters turned out when the whole lot of abusers was apprehended most of them turned out to be with Marathi names! To add to the falsity of Shiv Sena's argument, several cases of sexual abuse by Maharashtrians, including the one of rape in the police chowkie (outpost), by one police constable, who has Marathi name, were also cited. So much for Shiv Sena pet thesis!

Shiv Sena is a close ideological cousin of BJP, the political wing of RSS combine. For decades it has been riding its politics by blaming the 'other', the 'outsider', it is the classic example of surviving on 'Hate other' ideology. Shiv Sena's political career began with targeting South Indians, lungiwallas as they were called, then it went on to blame north Indians, and later it targeted the Gujaratis for the woes of Mahrashtra. Finally it jumped on to the bandwagon of Hindutva in the wake of Advani's rath yatra and post Babri violence and targeted Muslims as the 'other'. Most of this 'labeling other' comes from the political mindset and contingencies of the political goals.

In Indian context the 'Hate other' ideology has been constructed by Hindu Mahasabha RSS, around the atrocities on women by Muslims. The RSS ideology picked it up as the major theme since its formation in1925. Around that time Muslim League was constructing 'hate other' ideology against Hindus, both these political formations were deriving from communal interpretation of history. It is surprising that while RSS ideology in the main is targeting Muslim minorities, its cousin Shiv Sena is trying to put the blame on the 'outsiders'. The manufacture of its ideology took shape over some time and it was presented as if the Muslims have done these despicable acts on Hindu women. The whole way of looking at history through the prism of religion was used to give effect to hate politics.

The molestation, violation of the being of women, is essentially a gender question. It is related to the patriarchal notions, the prevalence of men oriented values, it being part of men centric society. During the period of slave society the women slaves were used as sex slaves. Polygamy prevailed for powerful men, kings and feudal lords having many women as wives or concubines was nothing unusual. Even many a mythological gods were blessed with multiple marital alliances. The victor armies were taking the women from defeated society as captive, as a part of the loot. This latter was presented selectively as if kings belonging to 'our' enemy religious communities were doing it. By inference what is propagated is that people from that religious community are lecherous while 'we' are virtuous angels.

The major ideologue from whom RSS combine draws, Savarkar, came down heavily criticizing Shivaji, for his act of sending back the Muslim daughter in law of Subhedar (small ruler) of Kalyan on the ground that Shivaji should have taken 'revenge' of so many Hindu women molested by Muslim Kings/armies. Here the sense of' 'our women' 'their women', women as a vehicle of community honor stands out clearly. For Savarkar type of thinking it is not that the guilty should be punished but communal revenge is what is needed. And here again the community is held responsible for individual action.

This is the type of indoctrination which leads to cases of mass rape witnessed in Surat, Post Babri, and the type of sexual violence witnessed in the Gujarat. BJP ally, George Fernandez, was not wrong when he said that rape is nothing new, what was despicable was the subtle endorsement of the politics of   sexual abuse, inherent in his statement. In the build up to Gujarat carnage, it was propagated that Muslim boys are luring away 'our' Hindu' girls. Recently in the polarized community of Gujarat, Modi used the same propaganda with tact and shrewdness. In the public meetings he said that now women in Gujarat are safe, as they do not have to fear from Alia, Malia, and Kamalia. The hint to Muslim youth was more than clear. It is the same Gujarat where the sex ratio is falling drastically, it is the same Gujarat where the cases of atrocities on poor women, is no less than at other places. It is the same Gujarat which set the abominable standards of humiliation of the bodies of women. 

As such the projection of 'other' as the threat, the danger is hallmark of all sectarian ideologies. This also acts to cover up the real problems of society. During the rise of fascism, Hitler deflected the inner problems to the 'outsider', Jews. Here the definition of insider and outsider is exclusionary and generally against the grain of democratic constitutions. The notion of we, the particular race or religion, and they, the particular race or religion are constructed in popular psyche, are made the part of social common sense and this imaginary divide is used to crystallize different religious or racial groups. Here the 'we' and 'they' becomes the base of hate other and it serves to create a hysterical atmosphere in which the suspension of democratic rights is the major casualty. The sectarianism flourishes with exclusionism. In fundamentalist political outfits sometimes even the women are projected as the other and targeted as the source of evil in society, like many a countries where Muslim fundamentalism e.g. Saudi Arabia, dominates. As such what is common in all anti-democratic ideologies is that they stand opposed to the equality of caste and gender. The word caste is being used here in a broader sense to indicate feudal social hierarchies in different set ups.

During the Shiv Sena-BJP rule in Maharashtra this divisiveness was promoted and exclusionism was the core of politics. It has also been the base of BJP politics all through. In different degrees, it creates this wedge in the society and rides to power through this. While dubbing outsider may have escaped the attention of most of the people in the overall shame of the Juhu molestation incident, it cannot be forgotten that such constructed divisions are the fodder on which the fascist animal grazes. In this particular case it is also clear that truth is the first casualty. Shiv Sena leaders are least bothered as to who did it. As a matter of political expediency they do state what is useful to them in the first instance. Truth is either sacrificed or bypassed by constructing something which is politically more useful. How political ideologies construct explanations is best exemplified by the Modi's explanation of Godhra train burning. One remembers that Modi was least interested in finding the truth, as even before investigating the incident he stated that it is the local Muslims who have done it. And this falsehood became the base of massive carnage which he launched in the aftermath of the train burning.

With communalization, polarization, use of sexual abuse as a weapon to attack the minority community, the other, has gone to such an extent that even the women from majority community, as witnessed during Mumbai riots and during Gujarat carnage, helped the abusers in violating the being of minority women. That it is primarily a gender issue becomes clear when we see the parts of state machinery resorting to same type of activities. Be it the case of Manorama in North east, or the atrocities on Kashmiri women by army, the gender equations become apparent.

While such acts have to be punished as per the law, the question of gender equation, and changing the social situations and mindset which results in such acts also needs to be addressed. The political ideology which 'uses' the incidence of such acts being due to 'other', 'outsider' the one belonging to 'other religion' needs to be quashed at ideological and political level.