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Pragya Gupta

IWB Intern

Discussion: Is Indian Nationalism Threatening Freedoms Of Indian Women?

  • IWB Post
  •  July 14, 2017


The radio was blasting with cracking words that didn’t make sense to Aishwarya. The male voice declared that ‘women should serve as pure within Hindu Ideology and their duty is to be the mother of our nation. Aren’t they supposed to take care of their children? They should strive to be an ideal housewife,’ and then she turned it off.

This speech was a spark that again ignited an inner conflict – ‘what about my personal desires? I know I have huge responsibilities on my shoulders but I just started working and I can’t give that up too.’

Such statements are absolutely atrocious in nature, but they do represent the foul nationalism of our country today.

Nationalism is a term that has always confused people, and I might not be the right person to coin a more profound definition, but what I can certainly state is that it has three goals: autonomy, national identity, and national unity. Aishwarya for an outsider was just ordinary, but only a little could realize what course of history she has seen.

In January, she noticed a man pinning down and molesting a Muslim Woman in Bangalore but he was far too away to be stopped by her. Was there any reason behind it? Was this woman a threat to him? No and no, but I can probably speculate a few reasons behind this attack: male chauvinism, prejudice, or maybe the same foul nationalism.

You must be wondering the relation between women’s condition and nationalism, but surprisingly it is directly related. As soon as people develop a feeling of superiority or an ‘us vs. them’ psyche, it inculcates a bias against ‘them’ on every front. Furthermore, Indian Nationalism grants men a dominant position.

Let me walk you down the memory lane, and you might then understand it. Haven’t women faced bias during employment? An employer during an interview always asks this question: do you plan to get married soon? The purpose of asking this question isn’t social but economic from the employer’s perspective. Since set ideologies are embedded in him, he believes that as soon as the women are married, she will be leaving. Hence we are back to square one: patriarchal society. We are made to believe, even women, that after marriage our duty to some strange family is over our duty to ourselves. Remember the cracking radio voice?

This is because the discourse of Indian nationalism is written from the perspective of men. Men think they are heroic protectors while we are the child bearers whom they have to protect. Brotherhood is preached over sisterhood, and we are expected to give everything up because we are positioned in a private domain which is untouched by any worldly happenings.

Why only women? Why the minority race? The answer lies in psychology textbooks as it supports the fact that in order to gain high self-esteem people try to gain a sense of identity. As they age, their sense of belonging is only fulfilled through their presence in a group, and yet again in order to make themselves feel important they practice ‘in group favoritism and out group devaluation.’

The strongest way to demean or devalue any group is to ‘offend’ their women. You see what I am trying to convey here? I am simply trying to implant the fact that women are harassed everywhere irrespective of tangible or intangible borders that split one group from the other. During ancient times, when one king wanted to usurp any other kingdom he used to lay his hands first on women because that was the best way to humiliate the king and people up on hierarchy.

It all comes down to proving ourselves better and to do that humans opt for a twisted path. Nationalism can be that one thing that brings each mortal together, but it also holds the capability to divide us into small groups. The hunger for power drives these small groups to go to war against each other but what we fail to comprehend is that it is making us weaker.

I have seen as to how nationalism has the power to set stereotypes in everyone’s mind. I have tried my best to analyze our society from a neutral view point and have landed on this horrific conclusion: diversity threatens them. Diversity in any form affects them because they feel that these ‘others’ will disturb their homogenous demographic distribution that they have maintained from thousand years.

Due to the norms that they have been abiding by, they don’t see how diversity is economically and politically uplifting for a nation. If women are considered more than child bearers, then our employment rate will soar.

Let’s not strive for an ideal housewife, but of a group that is tolerant towards each other’s practices and principles. Why become boulders in each other’s path and in turn sacrifice our own freedom?

I leave it to you for you to be the best judge but if nationalism is about unity, then there can be unity in diversity.

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