Social Scientist. v 22, no. 248-49 (Jan-Feb 1994) p. 80.


Graphics file for this page
PAPIYA GHOSH"

The Virile and the Chaste in Community and Nation Making: Bihar 1920's to 1940's

It is the articulation of virility and chastity as correlates of shuddhi and sangathan (reconversion and organisation) that predominates in the post-1921-2 community and nation making discourse of the Hindu Mahasabha, as distinct from the Gandhian conceptualisation of swaraj against which it was ranged. Much of the discourse centred on the *woman' as a community signifier and consequently a site of contestation with the stereotyped 'other*—the aggressive Muslim, proselytizing and indulging in abduction and communal violence. In the adjacent discourse of the Muslim League, the 'woman* symbolized the victimhood of an embattled community, first in that late *30s 'Hindu Raj* of the Congress and then in the context of the 1940*s Pakistan movement. The patriarchal underpinnings of much of the politics of religious communities stood fissured during the riots of 1946 and the Partition that followed. The subsequent refurbishing and the rearticu-lation of the agenda of nation making are explored in the concluding part of this study.

In general in South Asian Islam the regulation of women was ensured by purdah. Representing an ensemble of social and cultural devices purdah was consensualised as a symbolic shelter from sexual vulnerability in the outside world. The violation of the sexual purity and modesty of the woman was equated with bringing ignominy to the family and kin group,1 as well as to the community. A recent study situates the transformation of the aggressive sexual woman into the silently self-sacrificing woman as a 'great symbol of sharif Islam* in the reformist literature of the nineteenth century. This symbol it is argued was thereafter appropriated by the non-sharif and became a site of desecration as well as iconoclasms.2

The figure of the woman was also of crucial significance in Hindu and nationalist discourse, where she appears as mother, nurturer, preserver of tradition and property. The crucial difference, it has been

Department of History, Patna University, Patna

Social Scientist, Vol. 22, Nos. 1-2, January-February 1994



Back to Social Scientist | Back to the DSAL Page