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'Wear Bindi': How Women In Nagpur Are Advocating Hinduism

The women's wing of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti claimed Hinduism is a religion based on science at an event in Nagpur. Most of them say they are housewives.

By - Nivedita Niranjankumar | 31 March 2023 2:35 PM GMT

Women at the Hindu Rashtra event organised by the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti at Nagpur, Maharashtra. Nivedita Niranjankumar/BOOM

Women at the Hindu Rashtra event organised by the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti at Nagpur, Maharashtra. Nivedita Niranjankumar/BOOM

Nagpur, Maharashtra —“If the girls around you are starting to give up wearing bindis, bangles or refuse to wear sarees, then it is the first sign that they have been trapped by Muslim men….” narrates a woman in Marathi, in a video. Wearing a bright green saree, her hair tied in a bun, a bindi on her forehead, and bangles on her hand, the woman who looks to be about 30 years old, goes on, “Find these women and tell them about how Muslim men only want to convert them and then abandon them. Protect our girls…our culture, our children.”

The video is being watched by four women sitting at the steps of a temple in Borgaon Meghe, a village in Wardha district near Nagpur district in Maharashtra.

One of the women watching it, who did not wish to be identified told BOOM, “I noticed all these signs in my neighbour’s daughter a few years ago. I even caught her trying to learn how to tie her dupatta like a burqa. I told the girl’s mother about it and warned her that her daughter was falling prey to Love Jihad, but my warnings were ignored…”

She said, "The girl soon eloped with a Muslim boy from her college and returned home a year later. She gave birth to a son, they kept the child but threw her out. They would beat her up and make her eat beef every day. She had even changed her name to Safina and converted but is that ever enough for those people…they just want our girls so they can increase their population”

"Love Jihad" is a conspiracy theory propagated by the Hindu majority to claim that young girls are being lured by Muslim men and their religion converted. On March 25, a group of people - the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti- hosted an event on the theme of 'Hindu Rashtra'. The event had about 20 men and 130 women.

The two women who were leading the event were Bhargavi Kshirsagar and Bhakti Choudhari, part of the Ranragini brigade of the Wardha Unit of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti. They host events and regularly make videos for everyone to watch. 

In the backdrop of the video were two photos, one of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the Maratha leader and the other of Hindu deity Ram. The women refused to share the video with the reporter. 

Kshirsagar and Choudhari are part of the Ranragini brigade of the Wardha Unit of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti. The Ranragini brigade is the women’s wing of the far-right Hindutva organisation. In Borgao Meghe, there are at least 60 women who form the main core group, over 50 of them refer to themselves as 'housewives'.

Ladachi tu chandi ho…ranachi tu ranaragini ho…” shouts Kshirsagar from the podium. She is addressing a crowd of 150 people at the Hindu Rashtra Jagruti Sabha organised by the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti. The slogan which means, “Be the fierce warrior…be the brave soldier in the war” is to motivate the women present at the event.

The Hindu Janajagruti Samiti is a far right Hindutva group and an offshoot of the Sanatan Sanstha. The Sanatan Sanstha is a right-wing group that was investigated for its alleged links in murdering rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in the state in 2013. 

The Hindu Janajagruti is also part of the newly formed Sakal Hindu Manch, an umbrella body of several right-wing organisations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Karni Sena who have come together in Maharashtra to fight what they call "Love Jihad, Land Jihad, Economic Jihad". They also demand the formation of a Hindu Rashtra. 

A few days ago, on March 19, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti organised a 'Hindu Jan Garjana Morcha' in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar to show their support for the Centre approving the name change of the city from its previous name Aurangabad. The event also saw attendance by Maharashtra state ministers Sandipan Bhumare and Atul Save and Sena MLA Pradeep Jaiswal and BJP MLA Shivendra Raje. Later, the police at Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar booked Suresh Chavankhe, founder of Hindutva media outlet Sudarshan News, and T Raja Singh - a suspended BJP MLA, for making communally charged speeches at the event.

Chavhanke and T Raja made open calls for violence against Muslims, videos of which went viral. The two also asked the crowd to boycott shops and establishments of Muslims and from those who did not support the name change from Aurangad to Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar. 

BOOM has previously reported on how members of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti advocate violence against minorities and routinely make hate speeches at their events. In a Hindu Rashtra convention held in Bengaluru, Karnataka in 2022, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti said "Muslims are like cancer. They slowly take over the workings, economy, and properties of an area. And then spread over the whole city and do the same for a state and country." 



In Maharashtra, for a while now rallies are being organised to protest against 'Love Jihad' and 'Economic Jihad'. BOOM attended one of the rallies that was held in Mumbai. At a rally, on March 4, the Samiti organised a protest against alleged encroachment of forts in the state by Muslims.

In Nagpur though, the rally was not as big in comparison to the Mumbai or the Aurangabad one. The audience at the Hindu Rashtra Jagruti Sabha in Borgaon Meghe in Wardha is made up majorly of women in the age group of 25-50 and young teenage girls -- the women in sarees and teenage girls in the traditional Maharashtrian nine yard.

At the entrance are tables, with women selling religious books and one of them checking whether the women are dressed appropriately, those missing a bindi are offered the kumkum (red powder on the forehead) and not allowed to enter till they have applied it.



Archana Nikhar, a physics professor at a local college says, “Earlier I was curious. But then I realised there is actual science behind all of the rituals in Hinduism.” She elaborates, “Wearing a bindi activates your ajna chakra (third eye) which in turn helps a woman be more intuitive and wise. The kumkum in turn eases stress.”

She explains that all of this “protects” Hindu women from straying and getting lured by other religions. Her views are echoed by the women attending the event.

“Hinduism is in danger, despite us being more in population. All other religions wear their religious identity on their sleeves quite literally, but Hindus will not do so…that’s what we want to change,” says Choudhari who spearheads the group's activities in Borgaon and nearby villages in Wardha.

Choudhari, originally from Pune, says she joined the Sanatan Sanstha as a teenager. She says the most effective way of spreading the message of Hindutva is via Hindu women. “Women are the ones who observe what their children are doing, they are involved in the lives of their daughters, they know who is staying in the neighbourhood and what kind of students attend the schools and colleges of the area. So who better to take Hindutva forward?” asks Choudhari.

Choudhari says they follow a four-point agenda for Hindutva - Shikshan, Jagrukta, Sanrakshan and Sanshodhan which roughly translates to, Teaching, Creating awareness, Protecting Hinduism and Purification.

The group implements this agenda on the ground and via online means, especially using the messaging platform WhatsApp.

As part of the Dharm Shikshan (teaching), Choudhari says the group makes a list of schools and colleges and checks whether they object to students following the Hindu culture. “We ask the female students to wear bindis or a tikka to school. We also check whether the students are being taught any religious texts which are not related to Hindutva. Or if they are being taught Hindu prayers too,” she says.

She also says that if the school teaches them English prayers and not the Bhagavad Gita then they lodge complaints. “All Hindu children should be taught Hindutva rituals like lighting a lamp every day, and singing Vande Mataram. Schools should not object to female children wearing bindis or bangles and should definitely not have skirts or pants for female students as uniform,” she says.



“That is part of our work around Sanrakshan that is protecting Hindutva,” explains Choudhari. “Muslim women wear a hijab, Christians go to church and wear a cross around their neck…what to Hindu girls do? They shun the bindi, traditional clothes and won’t fast or even go to temples. That makes them more vulnerable to fall prey to other religions especially Muslims. We want to end all of that…”

The group visits villages in the taluk and hold satsangs (prayer meets), and meets over tea to discuss how they can make Hinduism more relevant. “We meet with the women in the villages and talk to them about holding public events for festivals. Like for Gudi Padwa, we ensured that all Hindu houses put up the gudi and all the Hindu girls made sweets and distributed it among others.”

Choudhari adds that women deserve education but not education which makes them stray from their path. “This modern education, these self help women's groups and people who advocate feminism and that IIwomen don’t need men are all western concepts. Hindu women should be cultured and being pati-vrata (dedicated to husbands) is a part of our culture. Women should be married by a certain age and have children by a certain age….it is written in our books and it is also scientific,” she says.

A woman audience member pitches in with, “Muslims have 4-5 children, that means more Muslims taking over the country, but look at our modern Hindu women who don't even want to get married…how will Hinduism exist? It is up to Hindu women to uphold it and give birth to more Hindus…”

As part of this, the group makes small 1-2 minute videos and shares it on WhatsApp and shares it on groups. BOOM saw some of these videos on a group called, “Hindu Ranragini” In one video, a woman says, “Do not let your daughters watch many Bollywood or English movies. They wear skimpy clothes, marry men from other religions and show women arguing with elders. Do you want your daughter to be like that?”

Choudhari says they don’t have set plans for each day or a social media team. “Most of the women in villages do not know what Facebook or Instagram is. But they all have WhatsApp. So we make videos talking about why one should fast on certain days, the science behind applying bindi, on why women should have long hair and send it to these groups. We also send recipes for traditional Hindu sweets so that we can get our kids to have those instead of cakes which are a western concept. These women watch it and implement those steps,” says Choudhari.

The event ends with all the people present asked to pray and take an oath to "to follow, to preseve and to protect Hinduism by all means possible".




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