Hindutva’s War on Women: The gendered face of ‘saffron fascism’

Originally published in the Daily Maverick, available at https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-11-02-hindutvas-war-on-women-the-gendered-face-of-saffron-fascism/ An excerpt included here:

Women fight back

But let us be outraged and then look for the silver lining. This saffron fascism is being resisted, and that resistance too has a powerful gendered anchor in India. As the 2019-2020 protests against the Anti-Muslim Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that creates a tiered citizenship with Hindus on top and the National Population Register (NPR) with its stringent documentation requirements reveal, women are not giving in without a fight. Whether it be womxn students in Jamia Millia Islamia forming a protective cordon around their male colleagues during the police attacks on peaceful protestors, or student leader Aishe Ghosh, carrying on the protests, with her head in bandages and arms in a sling, after Sangh leaders attacked student protesters late at night, or the now iconic Shaheen Bagh protest – where protesting womxn occupied the streets of a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood for months on end –  the new face of protest in India is that of women. 

It is not really surprising that Indian women make such powerful protesters.  Women, across religion and caste, in India have had to fight to survive, to speak out, to roam the streets. The fights are different, according to one’s privilege, but azaadi (freedom) is never a given, for women. 

At the same time, the impacts of CAA-NPR are likely to be gendered, where women, like other monitories and the poor, will bear the brunt. The now famous protest slogan, “kaagaz nahi dikhayenge”, “we will not show our papers to prove citizenship”, will resonate with many women. Which working class woman has documentation that reveals ownership of property, utility bills, birth and school certificates? In a country where daughters’ births go unnoticed, uncelebrated and often mourned, who bothers to get them a birth certificate? 

As these women on the streets, shout loud and clear: We want Aazadi – freedom – I paraphrase Arundhati Roy’s poetic lament: “India is fighting for her soul.”  

Is South Africa going to sit and watch?