Social Scientist. v 29, no. 332-333 (Jan-Feb 2001) p. 75.


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NOTE/MALINI BHATTACHARYA5

The Hidden Violence of Faith: The Widows ofVrindaban

During the last two decades in India, there has been a proliferation of forms of communal violence. Sometimes they appear in conjunction with one another, sometimes separately. In this paper, I shall be only talking on one specific form of such violence, namely that manifested in the Varanasi demonstrations against Deepa Mehta's shooting of her film Water. One cannot go into the merits and demerits of a film the making of which was forcibly stopped; anyway I feel that the incident was merely a pretext for the show of strength that was organised against the film unit, a show that perhaps even acquired a larger-than-life image through the intervention of media.

Unlike certain other forms of communal violence, this demonstration did not consist in a direct attack upon another community, but its stated purpose was to uphold the 'honour' of the Hindu community, as usual conflated with the Indian nation, and to mobilise opinion within the Hindu community to close the ranks on behalf of what was described as 'patriotism'. The argument was that a foreign-based director, with a westernised approach, was trying to spread calumny against Indian traditions, particularly against the status of Hindu widows. So all good Indians must come together to prevent, it. The violent demonstration was a mobilisation to prevent it both at the physical and the ideological level. Consent of those who did not actually join the demonstrations was important.

This, demonstration also recalls the show of Rajput pride that followed the protests against the Rup Kanwar incident. On that occasion no Deepa Mehta was involved, but the target of the community mobilisation around the so-called 'Satisthal' was the protesting women activists, who were said to be steeped in western

Teaches at the Jadavpur University, Jadavpur.

Social Scientist, Vol. 30, Nos. 1 - 2, Jan.-Feb. 2001



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