MUCH has been written about the excitement of Hindu nationalist men at the prospect of being able to marry Kashmiri ‘girls’, but a question still remains. Why in the world would Kashmiri ‘girls’, or at least those interested in boys, want that — especially in light of the hotness quotient of Kashmiri men? This could well be damned as a politically incorrect joke. Fair enough. But might it also point to a dimension that lies at the heart of understanding why men of Hindutva have such fantasies. Might the answer lie in their sexual anxieties vis a vis Muslim men? Might it help to view this through the lens of the psyche?
To place men of Hindutva on the analyst’s couch as it were I will draw upon research that I have undertaken for a book entitled Fantasy Frames: Sex, Love and Indian Politics to be published early next year. To analyse how Hindu nationalist men’s sexuality relates to Muslim men, I will look back at love jihaad, as espoused by Yogi Adityanath and even further back in time to the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992.
I would like to begin with the infamous speech made by Yogi Adityanath in 2007 at Azamgarh in which he says to a hooting, whistling crowd, ‘We have decided that if they take one Hindu girl, we’ll take a hundred of theirs. If they kill one Hindu, then we’ll kill a hundred of them.’ The laughter and cheering was as much as and no less when at the beginning of the speech he had said that a Muslim from Gorakhpur had filed a case saying that whatever happens elsewhere, in Gorakhpur it is in fact Muslim girls who go to Hindu homes. The happiness produced by ‘their’ women wanting us speaks to how much Hindu nationalist men’s sexual selves are determined by Muslim men.
The oversexed Muslim man is also the one who steals our joy. When I use the term ‘our’ it’s not because I’m a Hindu but in order to underline the philosophy of Hindu nationalism. In his speeches Yogi Adityanath has spoken of the Muslim who steals our land, our electricity, our scholarships etc. But this notion of the other stealing our joy plays out most powerfully with respect to sexuality. They steal our women. Muslim men have all the fun with not one, but four wives. A recent video from Madhya Pradesh showed the Hindu nationalist from Shree Ram Sena say exactly this, while hitting a Muslim man.
The idea of stolen enjoyment has been written about by Thomas Blom Hansen, an anthropologist who has done intensive work on Hindu nationalism in India. In his book The Saffron Wave, Hansen quotes the political philosopher Slavok Zizek as saying that the nation or community’s enjoyment can ultimately only be expressed through the narrative of its loss and impossibility. There is a need to ascribe to the ‘other’ an excessive enjoyment, which ‘steals our enjoyment’ and prevents a community from fully enjoying its particular way of life.’ Hansen also writes about the ‘lecherous Muslim always staring at Hindu women who, uncovered by purdah, are exposed to Muslim youths, who only await the right moment to abuse and rape them, while Muslim women are covered and inaccessible to the gaze of the Hindu man’.
The particular context today is one in which the larger fantasy of Kashmir as the object that was stolen from us is playing itself out. We finally have it back, and along with it the women whom we are now free to enjoy. Ours at last!
I would now like to move to how love jihaad was defined on Yogi Adityanath’s website.
‘A system where a girl surrounded with fragrance is enticed into a stinking world; where the girl leaves her civilised parents for parents who might have been siblings in the past; where purity is replaced with ugliness; where relationships have no meaning; where a woman is supposed to give birth every nine months; where the girl is not free to practice her religion; and if the girl realises her mistakes and wants to be freed, she is sold off’.
Several questions come to mind. What does their world stink of? What is the point being made about parents who may well turn out to be siblings in a past life? Might there be a touch of the incest taboo at play here, one we all must try to successfully expunge in order to be a civilisation? And if that is what is ugly about them, might accusing them of it be our one chance of touching the taboo? I get a whiff off the yummy yucky here.
We don’t need Adityanath’s definition of love jihad to know that Muslims are very often talked about as being ‘dirty’. The word ‘stinking’ is telling. Words such as this have often been used to describe the other. In the context of pre Nazi Germany, sociologist and writer Klaus Theweleit in his book The Male Fantasy, draws our attention to words linked to the senses. He writes powerfully and poetically about the fear of being invaded. The sense of smell makes us even more vulnerable perhaps, he says, than the sense of sight, in the way that the smell seems to enter us. Theweleit, also links the fear of dirt to the fear of ‘ambivalence and amorphousness’, ‘infiltration’ and of losing oneself. He reminds us that dirt is linked to the fear of ‘commingling’ which is why sex is often said to be ‘dirty’.
The demonised other is also the one who is the container of desires that disgust us. I’m speaking here of desires that we might not even be aware of, of fantasies that are in the realm of the unconscious. Might the joy that the men of Hindutva take in cursing the Muslim for being lascivious and oversexed offer a better option, as it were, than repression of their own desire into oblivion? It can be kept alive as that which can be bated in the other — always available? The idea of the Muslim as a container of unacceptable desires has been written about by psychoanalyst and writer Sudhir Kakar. He links this to the child who struggles with the good child and bad child within. Kakar describes what in the child is associated with ‘bad’ is that which is considered to be animal-like such as aggression, ‘dirtiness’ and ‘unruly sexuality’. This is what the child and later the adult must deny within oneself and project onto the group who performs the role of being the receptacle. Might this help us understand why men of Hindutva perceive the Muslim as being ‘dirty, aggressive, and sexually licentious’. In their sad efforts to be the good child, might it be that they lop off and fling the bad towards the other? The only thing to do next is to kill it, with words and as we are seeing more and more through deeds.
I would like to end with glimpses from the time of the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 which speak powerfully to the Kashmir moment today. These draw upon the work of sociologist Manisha Sethi who wrote about the role that had been played by Hindu Nationalist women such as Sadhvi Rithambhara and Uma Bharti. About Sadhvi Rithambhara she wrote, ‘Her carefully modulated voice, the starkness of her yellow robes and her self-imposed chastity all elevate her to the status of a screen goddess, visible and desirable but out of reach. Conversely, the graffiti inscribed by kar sevaks in Ayodhya read, ‘I sleep with Zeenat Aman’ or’I sleep with Saira Banu’, both highly successful and glamorous actresses from Bombay. The Muslim woman is made accessible in the individual and collective fantasies of Hindu men.’ Uma Bharti, also instrumental in drumming up passion in the run up to the demolition, in one of many such speeches says, ‘Throw off the cloak of cowardice and impotence… learn to sing songs of valour and courage…’
Men of Hindutva need no longer worry. The Big Daddies, and one must speak in the plural now, seem to be taking care of the impotence, and converting fantasies of Zeenat Aman and Saira Banu into those of Kashmiri ‘girls’ who can be theirs. The question however remains — why would Kashmiri ‘girls’ even look their way?
Countercurrents.org, September 8. Jaya Sharma is a feminist and political commentator.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Opinion