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The point . . . is no longer one of simply demarcating and identifying the two domains in their separateness, which is what was required in order first to break down the totalizing claims of a nationalist historiography. Now the task is to trace in their mutually conditioned historicities the specific forms that have appeared, on the one hand, in the domain defined by the hegemonic project of nationalist modernity, and on the other, in the numerous fragmented resistances to that normalizing project. (13)In the contemporary Indian context, such "numerous fragmented resistances," including the automist and/or secessionist movements in Punjab, Kashmir, and Assam among others, are certainly worthy of the critical attention that they have been accorded thus far.  Of equal significance is the study of their interrelationships with dominant, essentialist Hindu nationalism embodied in the political philosophy of Hindutva, which seeks to replace the secular idea of the modern Indian nation with a Brahminic, middle-class, normative discourse of nationalism. However, the twice-fragmented -- because traditionally doubly marginalized -- narrative of gender within such movements, and its destabilization of or imbrication in the masculinism underlying the various contemporary political, religious, and cultural ethno-nationalisms deserves far more assiduous consideration than it has been given so far.
Independence had come to India like a kind of revolution; now there were many revolutions within that revolution . . . . A million mutinies . . . . And--strange irony--the mutinies were not to be wished away. They were part of the beginning of a new way for many millions, part of India's growth, part of its restoration. (6, 517-18)Elaborating upon the singular class-, religion-, caste-, and region-based origins of the freedom movement, Naipaul marks the points of departure for the recent "newness," "growth," and "restoration." Against the "India of the independence movement, . . . of the great names . . . . the great civilization and the great classical past," in other words, of a continental Indian identity, he sees ranged a host of "new particularities, new identities," "smaller ideas of who and what they [Indians] were," wherein people find "stability in the smaller groupings of region, clan, caste, family" (8, 9). Whereas independence was "worked for by people more or less at the top," the freedom it brought "has worked its way down," Naipaul maintains, in the sense that "[p]eople everywhere" -- among all classes, castes, religions, regions -- "have ideas now of who they are and what they owe themselves." But, because of extreme, pervasive, and, in fact, accelerating economic stratification in the country, such "liberation of spirit" "had to come as disturbance . . . as rage and revolt" (517; emphasis added). Although commentators in both the political and literary-cultural arenas have overwhelmingly regarded the Punjab "situation" -- as also the politico-cultural agitations in Kashmir, Assam, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh among other Indian states -- as engendering a crisis in Indian national unity, I posit, somewhat congruently with Naipaul, that the Sikh "mutiny" plays an essential role in the redefinition of the late twentieth-century Indian nation, reiterating and enforcing--through a necessary resistance--the secular and egalitarian script of the Indian constitution.
This view holds that in order to prevent the oppression of minorities by the majority, the state must enact legal measures to protect the rights and the separate identities of the minorities. The difficulty is that the formal institutions of the state, based on an undifferentiated concept of citizenship, cannot allow for the separate representation of minorities. (112)Consequently, reasons Chatterjee in contrast to Naipaul, the "question of who represents minorities necessarily remains problematic, and constantly threatens the tenuous identity of nation and state" (112).
"We have a minority complex. But don't consider yourselves a minority. We are not the losers. A loser is a man whose Father is weak but the one whose Father is powerful he can never be a loser." (qtd. in Pettigrew 15)
"We are the sons of our Father [a reference to Guru Gobind Singh] who fought with only 40 Sikhs besieged by 100,000 and the only difference is that we are not so strong as was our Father because He was our Father." (qtd. in Pettigrew 13)
"There is no difference between us [Sikhs and Hindus] but we must insist on the difference. . . . Our gurus have given their lives and those of their sons to stand by the Hindus. But now we must fight for ourselves . . . . And what are they teaching our children in their schools? That Mahatma Gandhi was the father of the nation! That creaking old man with a walking stick! No, the men we call fathers should be men with weapons. We will not be fooled by talk of love and non-violence . . . . It is time to hate and be violent . . . . Arm yourselves and prepare for a war and await orders." (qtd. in Sharma 209)
What do you call a boy who does not resemble his father? Of course -- "illegitimate." We are the sons of the 10th Guru [Guru Gobind Singh]. Do we take after him or not? . . . It is for you to decide whether you wish to be lawful or illegitimate children of your father. You can be either men or women. If you wish to be men, keep long hair and beards. And if you want to be women, go to the Gurudwara and pray to the Guru to change you into women . . . . (qtd. in Jalandhary 186)Of what he regards as duplicitous reporting regarding Sikhs, Bhindranwale notes, "The press in India is like that prostitute who says that she is true to her husband" (qtd. in Jalandhary 176); and responding to his critics' censure of him for fortifying the Akal Takht (the Timeless Throne), a part of the Harmandir Sahib complex, he speaks once more in (sexualized and degrading) gendered terms, "Let the Sangat [congregation] tell me where have the Sikhs of the Guru to offer such an Ardas (prayer)? In a cinema hall, at the door of the prostitute or in a Gurdwara?" (qtd. in Jalandhary 182). Thus, whether as venerable mothers, violable sisters and daughters, or corrupt prostitutes, women serve in Bhindranwale's rhetoric as symbolical markers intended to define a masculinized Sikh identity, and all in ways that are detrimental to women's own rights. As Amrita Chhachhi rightly concludes in her article "The State, Religious Fundamentalism and Women: Trends in South Asia,"
Whether it is an attempt to reassert traditional authority, or to create a certain identity in the context of economic dislocation, the symbolism of the [fundamentalist] community gets tied up closely with a particular meaning of femininity and masculinity. This process of identity construction results in a series of measures which leads to increasing patriarchal control over women. (575)Thus, far from liberating Sikh women, Bhindranwale's fundamentalist agenda contributed to a regressive gender ideology, so much so that even when women participated in the Khalistan agitation, they found that, as Rajkumari Shanker puts it, "the movement had nothing to offer them as women" (205).
Lok Raj studied his son -- the tough skin, the strong hands, the brush moustache, the clan turban, the Muhyali turban with its proud cockade, its turrah. "No," he said, "the honour of the family is safe as long as I uphold it, it will stay erect like the turrah of our turbans." (38)
Here, in my village, the men carry guns and anger easily between their quotidian farming chores. These are the men of the far North . . . . born out of and into . . . war. They carry their bloodshed lightly between jokes and daily lawful living. They are men and women of the earth, as basic as that--as quick to yield harvests of kindness and goodwill, as quick to dry up and turn sullen and destroy. These are my people. (Days)and again, "Among the Muhiyals are Hindus, Sikhs and even some Muslims. Clan kinship goes beyond religion and pre-dates the advent of all religion" (6-7).
When a Punjabi wishes to do good, he can be totally self-sacrificing; when he wishes to do damage he can be terrible. He will often martyr himself unhesitatingly in order to avenge what he thinks is a wrong. As a popular folk-song has it: Doh din jeena par jeena toard dey naal. Live two days but live with flair. (173)and,
Now among Punjabi Hindus and Sikhs the ties were even stronger, closer, and often literally bonds of immediate blood kinship. If the extremists had their way they would turn father against son and brother against brother. There would be murders within the family. (173-74)Finally, in order to condemn what he regards as his murderous fanaticism, Sharma quotes some of Bhindranwale's speeches verbatim but fails to see the similarities in the phallocentrism underlying both the latter's and his own/the narrative focalizer's ideological stances.
"Call Chekov and say condition red."Satirized as well for her illiberal sentiments, she is also cast as the representative of Indian race and class prejudices. Looking down on those "blacker" than herself, she resists the name "Mrs. Zulu" because "it sounds like a blackie" (150). Comfortable in her class privileges, she exploits her Indian servant, Jaisingh, and criticizes him for having "become lazy since coming from home. Days off, TV in room, even pay in pounds sterling, he expects all. So far we brought him, but no gratitude, what to tell you, noth-thing" (150).
"Arré! What is wrong with your condition?"
"Please. Condition red."
"Yes. OK. Red."
"Say the Klingons may be smelling things."
"Clingers-on may be smelly things. Means what?" (166)
Damned difficult doing all this without a lady wife to act as hostess, he grumbled inwardly. The best golden plates with the many-headed lion at the centre, the finest crystal, the menu, the wines. Personnel had been seconded from India House to help him out, but it wasn't the same. (163-64)
It is as if the continuous pressure of violence . . . has forged itself into a second language--an Otherness more radical than any the woman writer has been forced previously to feel--and through this anguishing, potentially fatal medium, she is to voice her passions, reconfigure her world. Such expressive acts require fierce labour of the feminine imagination. (xv, xvii)One such "expressive act" demonstrating the "fierce labour of the feminine imagination" is Mridula Gar's "Agli Subha," a story included in Blood into Ink alongside dozens of other narratives by twentieth-century women authors thematizing conflict and war in South Asia and the Middle East. First published in 1986, and written soon after the bloodshed of November 1984, Garg's story narrates the horrors of "the morning after" Indira Gandhi's assassination through the perspective of a Hindu woman, Satto, and her son's Sikh friend, Sarbjeet, whom she tries to save from the fury of a murderous Hindu mob. Anthologized as well in two short story collections -- Kala November [Black November]: The Carnage of 1984 (1987, 1995), and Garg's own anthology From the Glacier (1990) -- prior to its publication in Blood into Ink, the Hindi original "Agli Subah" was intended to speak to the local geographical and linguistic community in Delhi, the site of most of the Sikh massacres, as well as to the Hindi readership in Punjab, the region worst affected by the violence of Sikh fundamentalism and separatism. Focusing on a middle-class widow's stand against politico-religious prejudice, the story thematizes the moral agency of woman even as it problematizes the issues of family, community, and nation. Paying close attention to domestic details, the narrative brings the larger political tragedy of contemporary Punjab home in the most intimate way, in the description of one day -- and night -- of the life of an (extra)ordinary woman.
"You boys don't know this, but the same thing happened in 1947." . . . .
What a fool I am, she thought. . . . What happened thirty-seven years ago had a different cause. The whole nation was being divided then. The English brought about our partition. Otherwise, Hindustan was like a giant tree, anyone could come and seek shelter here. But even a Banyan is a big tree, under which nothing grows, nothing can grow. (165, 168; emphasis added)
Cour suggests new possibilities for cross-gender interaction and relationships; she also ends by suggesting a community of women drawn together by their common perception of an emotional and affective economy that transcends imposed social divisions and barriers . . . [and plumbs] the possibility of a renewed feminist imagination. . . . [I]t is through attentiveness to emotions and feelings of loss, sorrow, and suffering that the young woman is able to imagine and practice familial and communal relations based on dignity, kindness, and reciprocity. (21, 23)
a domestic economy in which inherited caste-specific roles of mother, sister, and brother are remade through the everyday, ordinary gestures of kindness and nurturance. . . . [T]his [story] is . . . one that fundamentally transforms the intimate relations of domestic and sexual exchange, suggesting that the practices of mothering and the labor of caretaking are what make one a mother or a sister--not some inherited, abstract, codified notion of the role of a mother or sister. (21)Not only, then, does Cour's protagonist redefine her role as woman, choosing to mother her "enemy," but she is also, at the end, the failed mother who abandons her "child," in a reversal of prescribed roles: "I didn't ask him to stay . . . . Both of us knew that we had reached a dead end . . . . The danger lurking outside for the last two days [the police] was about to cross the threshold and enter. . . . I opened the back door. . . . He went out. I bolted the door from inside . . . " (78).
. . . [patriarchal] inheritance, this ancientInstead, like another modern writer, Amrita Pritam, who thematizes the sorrows of Punjabi women victimized by the (male) political violence of Indian partition in 1947 in her best known poem "Waris Shah Nuun ["To Waris Shah]," Garg and Cour join other women -- and men -- in "open[ing] a new chapter/In the Book of Love," "writ[ing] a new page/In the Book of Love" in an attempt to cleanse the land of the "poison" of religious and ethnic hatred and destruction that still infects India (Pritam 14, 15). And it is only through such a stance against sectarianism and its attendant violence and in favor of secularism, as well as through women's active -- and equal -- participation in the larger political, economic, social, and cultural arenas, that India can make the twenty-first century its own.
Virus that we nurtured in the soul so
That . . . . we
Walked with hearts grown scabrous with a hate, illogical,
And chose not to believe . . . .
That it was only our fathers' lunacy speaking,
In three different tones [here Hindu, Sikh, Muslim],
babbling: Slay them who do not
Believe, or better still, disembowel their young ones
And scatter on the streets the meagre innards. (63; emphasis added)
Hindutva ideology, committed to converting India into a strict Hindu theocracy, Ramrajya, has been in existence since the 1920s with the formation of the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS); it proliferated in the 1980s, abetted especially by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (an organization founded in 1964) and more militaristic groups like the Shiv Sena, Arya Vir Dal, and the Bajarang Dal; and in the 1996 and 1998 general elections, the Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), established itself as the largest parliamentary party in the Lok Sabha (the Lower House) and led a coalition national government. As India headed to general elections again in late 1999, the BJP, attempting once more to win an electoral majority, tried to distance itself from its Hindu fundamentalist past in order to gain greater mass appeal. But even after the elections, as Atal Behari Vajpayee was again sworn in as Prime Minister, this time as the head of the Nationalist Democratic Alliance, questions regarding the credibility of the party's ideological shift toward a greater secularism remain: as historian Bipan Chandra noted sceptically in 1998, "Anyone who asks if the BJP is changing should phrase it differently. Since it is the political wing of the RSS, is the mother organisation changing? Why don't you attend an RSS shaka (camp) and hear what they preach there?" (16). As political correspondents Sumit Mitra and Harinder Baweja point out, the RSS, "with its Taliban-like adherence to [essentialist Hindu] ideology," continues to retain its position as the "high command" of the BJP (16, 12); and as political journalist Sutapa Mukherjee confirms about the latest elections, "[W]hatever the BJP may say, it is still seen as the principal adversary by the minorities" ("Minorities Undecided, yet Decisive"). It is imperative, then, that we be alert to the continuing threat of right-wing ideology in India, not only on the part of the BJP but other national and regional parties as well: for example, unsuccessful in the last three elections in its bid to form a national government, the Congress (I), currently opposed to the BJP, has in the past played to Hindu nationalist sentiment, as evidenced by its abetment of the massacres of Sikhs following Indira Gandhi's assassination by two of her Sikh bodyguards in 1984; and many of the regional parties making up the United Front in 1996 and entering into a coalition with the BJP in 1998 and 1999 were/are, in many cases, themselves communally motivated.
Although a detailed examination of Hindu fundamentalism -- as well as its similarities to and differences from Sikh fundamentalism -- is not my primary focus, the early sections of my article do discuss the unambiguous implication of Hindu nationalist ideology in the rise of a reactive Sikh fundamentalism. For more detailed exegeses of modern-day Hindu fundamentalism, especially in its majoritarian backlash to (what its architects perceive/manipulate as) the "threats" of such minorities as the Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians, see Walter K. Anderson and Sridhar D. Damle, The Brotherhood in Saffron: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Hindu Revivalism (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1987); Bipan Chandra, Essays on Contemporary India (Delhi: Har-Anand, 1993); Peter van der Veer, Religious Nationalism: Hindus and Muslims in India (Delhi: Oxford UP, 1994); Paul R. Brass, The Politics of India since Independence; Tanika Sarkar and Urvashi Butalia, Women and Right-Wing Movements: Indian Experiences (New Delhi: Kali for Women, 1995); and Arun Shourie, Harvesting Our Souls (Delhi: ASA, 1999). Back
For contrasting views on the use of the controversial term "fundamentalist" to describe recent Punjab separatists, see Harjot Oberoi, 257-59, and John Stratton Hawley, 33. The former defends his usage on three grounds as follows:
First, in the Punjabi word mulvad, Sikhs possess a term that exactly corresponds to fundamentalism and stands in stark opposition to adharma, a Punjabi word for secularism. Although the term mulvad is of recent coinage, resulting from the need to have a Punjabi counterpart to fundamentalism, Sikh journalists, essayists, and politicians, in discussing contemporary religious and political movements, now constantly use the term mulvad, connoting a polity and society organized on the basis of religious (particularly scriptural) authority. . . . Second, there are strong cultural reasons for adopting the term "Sikh fundamentalism." . . . Sikh fundamentalists have no patience for hermeneutic or critical readings of Sikh scriptures. Their scriptural absolutism precludes any secular or rational interpretation of what they consider to be a revealed text. . . . Third, the current Sikh movement . . . amply manifests many tendencies like millenarianism, a prophetic vision, puritanism, and antipluralism, trends that have been commonly associated with fundamentalism. For these three reasons - linguistic, cultural, and associative -- I think we are justified in speaking and thinking in terms of Sikh fundamentalism. (257-58)Picking up on Oberoi's admission that the term mulvad is "of recent coinage," Hawley, however, argues that
[t]he word bears . . . [a] derivative stamp, and it has for this reason been questioned as a proper analogue to fundamentalism by other scholars of Sikhism such as Gurinder Singh Mann. Mann notes that the term mulvad is very infrequent in current usage, being confined apparently to leftist journals and almost never being used in more general contexts such as newspapers; certainly religious militants would never so characterize themselves (Mann, personal communication, January 29, 1991). (qtd. in Hawley, n. 33, 39)Further, and most importantly, we must remember to distinguish between fundamentalism and orthodoxy, as T. N. Madan points out:
In the judgment of the government, largely shared by the public (including many Sikhs), Bhindranwale was a fundamentalist. In contemporary political discourse in India, a "fundamentalist" is a person who resorts to selective retrieval, picking out from his religious tradition certain elements of high symbolic significance with a view to mobilizing his coreligionists for action. The goals of such action are usually a mixture of religious objectives (pursuit and propagation of the traditional way of life and of the Truth as stated by the proponents) and the politico-economic interests of one's community as against those of similarly defined other communities. The government, too, is opposed if it comes in the way. Fundamentalists are seen by their critics as closely associated with, or as being themselves, political "extremists" (those who press communal or regional demands against the state so hard as to constitute a threat to political stability) and in certain situations with "terrorists" (those who use different forms of terror, including murder, to further political ends). In Punjab, Bhindranwale had himself been charged twice with complicity in political murders but had not been prosecuted. The fundamentalist is very much a creature of his situation rather than a pure traditionalist, and fundamentalism is not pristine orthodoxy. Orthodoxy would in fact discourage fundamentalism: if the teachings of the [Sikh] gurus are our guide, they advocate catholicity and not narrowness of the mind. (596; emphasis added)In my article, I generally subscribe to Madan's definition of a fundamentalist/fundamentalism. Back
That women, especially the RSS women's wing revivalists Sadhvi Rithambara and Uma Bharati, have also played extremely reactionary roles in the contemporary communal unrest in India is undeniable as well. And while a consideration of such unorthodox gender positioning vis-à-vis ethnic/religious violence is beyond the scope of my article, I point the reader to such critical analyses as Sucheta Mazumdar, "Women on the March: Right-wing Mobilization in Contemporary India," Feminist Review 49.1 (1995): 1-28; Sudhir Kakar; Tanika Sarkar and Urvashi Butalia. See also note 30 of this essay. Back
I place such descriptors as "the Punjab situation," "the Punjab crisis," and "the Punjab case" in quotation marks to underline their problematic usage as they reduce the very real tragedy afflicting thousands of Punjabis to an abstraction and simplify the enormously complicated politics of Sikh (sub)nationalism. Back
I part company with Naipaul, however, in his unusually sanguine conclusion that such movements strengthen the Indian state -- the workings of government as differentiated from the constitutional "imagining" of the nation -- by "defining it as the source of law and civility and reasonableness." As the Indian Union "gave people a second chance, calling them back from the[ir] excesses," Naipaul holds, the "mutinies" augmented the "strength of the general intellectual life, and the wholeness and humanism of the values to which all Indians now felt they could appeal" (518). On the contrary, the notion of the nation as the "source of law and civility and reasonableness" was/is severely undermined by the government-abetted repressions and atrocities aimed at quashing such "mutinies": for example, the number of people who died in the "encounters" between the "terrorists" and the government in Punjab alone -- conservatively estimated at 25,000 in 10 years (1984-1994) -- hardly points to the "humanism" of the Indian nation or to the "law and civility and reasonableness" of either the loyalists or the militant separatists.
In an incisive review of India: A Million Mutinies Now, Akeel Bilgrami similarly criticizes what he regards as Naipaul's "indiscriminate optimism" regarding modern Indian nationalism and assigns the "tragedy" of the Sikhs to the "tragedy of the failure of federal rule." Distinguishing between a centrifugal -- largely Hindu-religious -- and a centripetal -- largely regional-ethnic -- nationalist sentiment in contemporary India, he too underlines the necessity of a "redefinition of [Indian national] unity," a redefinition that should be grounded in the recognition of differences, whether of caste, class, region, religion, language, or gender:
The idea of the Indian nation, which has never been as precarious as it is now, needs such a redefinition of the process by which unity can be retained. The federal unity that will emerge from diverse coexisting cultural traditions without inegalitarian social formations is far more likely to pull India out of the present crisis of nationhood than a mythical unity with caste inequalities at its very core. And such a redefinition of unity will . . . allow for a framework of central government that readily concedes cultural and political autonomy to the regions. In India's tense mixture of secessionist and unificationist sentiments, in other words, such a redefinition of unity will pre-empt the secessionist threat. (34) Back
The quotation marks are Chatterjee's to mark his borrowing of the term from Benedict Anderson. (See the latter's Imagined Communitites: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism [London: Verso, 1983]). But even as he references Anderson's theorizing and usage of the term, Chatterjee also criticizes the Eurocentric bias of his conceptualization of the nation and nationalism (5). Back
Underlining the (potential) disjuncture between the equality promised to all citizens under the Indian constitution and the real, differential protection afforded along caste, religious, and regional lines, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the untouchable leader who drafted the constitution, noted presciently,
"On 26 January, 1950 [India's Republic Day], we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we shall have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. . . . We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which we have so laboriously built up." (qtd. in Keer 415) Back
In a related comment, writer Amitav Ghosh too forecasts the emergence of new majority-minority coalitions based on new conceptions of national identity, noting that
[w]hat is really at issue is the question of finding a political structure in which diverse groups of people can voice their grievances through democratic means. It seems to me that India is indeed lurching in fits and starts toward finding such a structure. . . . In many ways, the turmoil is a sign of the astonishing energy that India has generated over the last couple of decades. (A19) Back
For a distinction between three types of nationalism in contemporary India -- secular, Hindu, and separatist -- see Ashutosh Varshney's "Contested Meanings: India's National Identity, Hindu Nationalism, and the Politics of Anxiety," Daedalus 122.3 (1993): 227-61. Back
For a discussion of the divisive, even disastrous social and class impact of the 1970s peasant-based, economic "Green Revolution" in Punjab, see Vandana Shiva's The Violence of the Green Revolution: Third World Agriculture, Ecology and Politics (New York: Humanities-Zed, 1991). Joyce Pettigrew specifically traces the link between the economic unrest engendered by the new agricultural policy, which pitted small against wealthy farmers and the central government, and the rise of the Khalistan movement in her book The Sikhs of the Punjab. Back
It should be noted, of course, that there is a great variety and difference of opinion among Sikhs regarding the issue of self-rule and that no one leader, Bhindranwale or other, can claim to speak uniformly for them all. Back
For a study of the linkages between the Khalsa tradition of religio-military brotherhood and recent Sikh fundamentalism, see Angela Dietrich, "The Khalsa Resurrected: Sikh Fundamentalism in the Punjab," in Studies in Religious Fundamentalism, ed. Lionel Caplan (London: Macmillan, 1987), 122-37. Back
For an informative history of Sikhism, see J. S. Grewal's The New Cambridge History of India: The Sikhs of the Punjab (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990). Back
In her feminist analysis of Sikh literature, religious studies scholar Nikki-Guninder Kaur Singh distinguishes between the ascendance accorded to the feminine principle in the Sikh scriptures and the low position occupied by women in modern Punjabi Sikh culture. This she attributes to the "reincubation of [masculinist] Hindu ideology within Sikh exegesis itself": comprising less than two per cent of the Indian population, Sikhs are, according to her, "surrounded and confined by an androcentric society" (253, 255). Back
In 1981, the Akali Dal made a demand to the federal government for a separate personal law for Sikhs as part of its forty-five point charter of demands. Such a customary law would have carried a provision for a widow to marry her husband's brother and a statute to deprive women of the right to divorce and to property, currently guaranteed to them under the Indian consitution, as well as injunctions against women's use of jewelry, cosmetics, and clothing that reveals the body. "All these features," concludes Amrita Chhachhi, "link patriarchal control to newly emerging class interests particularly the need to maintain and keep control over landed property by sections of the Punjab peasantry," as well as over female images and sexuality. The fact that while the central government ignored the secular demands of Punjabi leaders for additional water for irrigation, state territory, and Chandigarh as the capital city, but took the communal demand for a Sikh personal law under consideration, is further proof of the coincidence of religious fundamentalist, capitalist, and patriarchal interests working to the detriment of women's rights (571). Back
The fact that Bhindranwale's masculinist rhetoric appealed to women as well as men can be seen in the acts of the women's wing of one of the extremist Sikh political groups, which harassed Sikh women who were not wearing salwar kameezes, the traditional dress, and which issued a directive that "women who wear saris [considered Hindu, rather than Sikh attire], pluck their eyebrows and put on lipstick will face dire consequences" (qtd. in Chhachhi 576).
Regarding Naipaul's androcentric bias, Rob Nixon notes generally that "just as, in A Turn in the South, black southerners were more likely than white to be spoken for, so in A Million Mutinies Now, even when women's experience is the subject, Naipaul's interlocutors are unremittingly male. They also emerge as mostly urban, middle aged, and middle class" (170). And Fawzia Mustafa writes more specifically about the chapter in A Million Mutinies Now entitled "Women's Era" that
rather than even approaching anything resembling a feminist analysis or an investigation into women's issues, it instead describes a male-edited, and -centered, helpful-hints-and-fables tabloid for lower-class working women to more easily participate in maintaining the status quo. The loose, non-comprehensive survey of publications for women is soon superseded by Naipaul's fascination for The Women's Era's editor, and his ideological contradictions and love of printing. (193) Back
Naipaul rejects the alternative description of the 1857 Mutiny as the First War of Indian Independence, seeing in the latter phrase a revisionist "20th-century view, 20th-century language, and a kind of mimicry, seeking to give to old India something of the socialist dynamism the Russians found in their own history" (351). For this reason, he stays with the historically situated, colonial term "Mutiny," even taking the title of his travel book from it and charting its much evolved and varied nature in the "million mutinies" in India today. For a criticism of the adoption of the term as the governing trope of his travelogue and his expanded and loose use of the appellation to cover "everything from regional secessionist movements . . . to middle-class individuals . . . tinkering with the edges of caste rituals," see Nixon 170-71. Back
Commenting on the lack of analysis and "intellectual substance" in India: A Million Mutinies Now, Akeel Bilgrami declares that Naipaul "does not bother to make much of an effort at diagnosis. Instead he offers a series of detailed interviews with people chosen as typical of some aspiring community or interest group." Especially with reference to contemporary Punjab, "the 'manufactured grievance' and the 'tragedy' of the Sikhs is nowhere evaluated (not even by the Sikhs interviewed) as a grievance manufactured, to a large extent, by the Congress Party high command in New Delhi, nowehere diagnosed as a tragedy of the failure of federal rule" (30, 31). Back
Even though Gulnari's father -- another stereotypical patriarch -- persuades her to commit suicide so that she might protect the honor of her family, besmirched by her having joined the terrorists, her action is also precipitated by her treatment at the hands of the fundamentalists. Back
See, for example, feminist critiques by Karen Blair, Anne Cranny-Francis, Tom Lalli, April Selley, Mary Ann Tetreault, and Clyde Wilcox of the stereotyping of femininity, the oversexualization or demonization of the (limited number of) competent female characters, and the exoticization of women of color in the Star Trek series, both old and new (Karen Blair, "Sex and Star Trek," Science-Fiction Studies 10.2 : 292-97; Anne Cranny-Francis, "Sexuality and Sex-Role Stereotyping in Star Trek," Science-Fiction Studies 12.3 : 274-84; Tom Lalli, "Same Sexism, Different Generation," in The Best of TREK # 15, eds. Walter Irwin and G. B. Love [New York: Penguin], 39-67; April Selley, "'I Have Been, and Ever Shall Be, Your Friend': Star Trek, The Deerslayer and the American Romance," Journal of Popular Culture 20.1 : 89-104; Mary Ann Tetreault, "The Trouble with Star Trek," Minerva 22.1 : 119-29; and Clyde Wilcox, "To Boldly Return Where Others Have Gone Before: Cultural Change and the Old and New Star Treks," Extrapolation 33.1 : 88-100). Back
It is this Indian inflection that is responsible for the transformation of the name "Sulu" into the Africanized "Zulu," a moniker that the race-conscious Mrs. "Zulu" loathes. Back
Whereas Jumpy Joshi, the poet character in Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, defines "the real language problem" of the postcolonial writer as one of "how to bend it [Received Standard English], shape it, how to let it be our freedom, how to repossess its poisoned wells, how to master the river of words of time of blood" (281), Rushdie himself writes in his essay "Imaginary Homelands" that the Indian British writer's linguistic struggle reflects "other struggles taking place in the real world, struggles between the cultures within ourselves and the influences at work upon our societies" (Imaginary Homelands 17). Back
See, for example, Richard G. Fox's anthropological study Lions of the Punjab: Culture in the Making (Berkeley: U of California P, 1985). Back
This passage, if taken to be reflective of Chekov's perspective, could point to an undeniable homoerotic desire on his part. Such a reading is further corroborated by Chekov's confessed "cold-bloodedness toward women" (160) and his maintenance of bacherlorhood until his death. Back
The Delhi Riots: Three Days in the Life of a Nation, eds. Uma Chakravarti and Nandita Haksar (New Delhi: Lancer International, 1987); Akas-Punjab: Punjab Dukhant nal Sambhdit Minni Kahanian da Sangrah, pubs. Shiam Sundar Dipti and Shiam Sundar Aggarwal (Kotkapura, India: Minni Prakashan, 1992); Amiya Rao, Aurobindo Ghose, and N. D. Pancholi, Report to the Nation: Truth about Delhi Violence (New Delhi: Citizens for Democracy, 1985); and Amiya Rao, Aurobindo Ghose, Sunil Bhattacharya, Tejinder Ahuja, and N. D. Pancholi, "Operation Bluestar: The Untold Story" (http://khanda.unl.edu/~sikhism/zulm/part2.html; 7 Oct. 1996). Back
Although the effect of such masculinist ideology has been largely to curtail women's rights as well as political participation and activism, rural women who, in particular, made a militant contribution to the Khalistan movement, and urban women who protected their children, the aged, and their homes -- as well as their menfolk -- during the murderous days of October-November 1984 shatter what Madhu Kishwar describes as "people's preconceptions" that "men alone are the defenders of the community and that women are incapable of performing this task" (31). Back
As Madhu Kishwar points out, Sikh males, both men and boys, were killed selectively, perhaps so that their families would be left without earning members, so that their killers would not have to fear retaliation (9), and so that not only the libidinous, hyper-masculine Sikh male aggressor -- stereotypically constructed and perceived as such by the Hindu majority -- but also his entire community would be emasculated. See also note 30 below for additional commentary on the intersections of gender and communal violence. Back
Several critic-theorists, chief among them Gayatri Spivak, have remarked upon the gendered circumscription of women within Indian nationalism, especially as concretized in the iconography of Bharat Mata, Mother India. In her commentary on Mahasweta Devi's story "Stanadayini," Spivak asserts that
the ideological construct "India" is too deeply informed by the goddess-infested reverse sexism of the Hindu majority. As long as there is this hegemonic cultural self-representation of India as a goddess-mother (dissimulating the possibility that this mother is a slave), she will collapse under the burden of the immense expectations that such a self-representation permits. (244)In a similar strain, Partha Chatterjee points out that
the inverted ideological form of the relation of power between the sexes: the adulation of woman as goddess or as mother . . . is wholly and undeniably a product of the development of a dominant middle-class culture coeval with the era of nationalism. It served to emphasize with all the force of mythological inspiration what had in any case become a dominant characteristic of femininity in the new construct of "woman" standing as a sign for "nation," namely the spiritual qualities of self-sacrifice, benevolence, devotion, religiosity, and so on. . . . In [addition], the image of woman as goddess or mother served to erase her sexuality in the world outside the home. (130-31) Back
Two alternative readings of the marginal or unfavorable roles accorded to the men in "Agli Subah" are possible; both underscore my support of feminist, anti-patriarchal interventions in fundamentalist violence. Sarbjeet can be seen, for example, as a positively feminized male who mounts an effective critique of the fundamentalist, masculinist logic of war, as he wonders,
Is it his fault that Indira Gandhi was murdered by her Sikh guards? Why did the bastards kill her? Why did they become traitors? They had taken an oath to save her life, they had eaten her salt to guard her, and they murdered her with their own hands! And an unarmed woman at that! No just one shot! Sixteen bullets! This is no bravery of a Khalsa. We don't even strike an animal twice. (169)But a much more unfavorable interpretation of the feminization of the male "enemy" is also current, as psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar points out in a particularly pertinent example:
Violence between relgious-ethnic groups is, then, also a struggle over the assignment of gender, a way of locating the desired male and denigrated female communitites. As a Hindu patient, echoing the sentiments of a few others, remarked in a session during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi: "It serves them right! Every one of these cunts (chutiye) behaves as if his prick is at full mast!" (142)Such an acutely negative reconfiguration of gender relations also underlies the "logic" that pits self-claimed emasculated Hindu males against stereotypically constructed hyper-masculine Sikhs and "enables" the former to violate the latter, often in ways in which women are degraded. Such a "logic" is voiced in particular by the Hindu Bansal Babu in "Agli Subah": "These people were not going to learn a lesson without a beating. They killed so many Hindus in Punjab, and we kept quiet . . ."; "How can you make excuses for the enemy? If we don't kill them, they will surely erase every trace of Hindus, don't you know that?" and "If they start shooting, will we not set fire? Or should we give them a drink of water, you think? We won't claim to have a name if we don't burn them alive" (167, 170). Paradoxically, it is such a claim of the figurative emasculation of Hindu men by men of minority communities, whether Sikh or Muslim, that created the conditions for Hindu women like Sadhvi Ritambhara and Uma Bharati to join, and even occupy leadership positions in the Hindutva militant community. Back
For a discussion of the larger linkage between male nationalist ideology and the gender-based dichotomy between the spiritual/material realm and the inner/outer, ghar (home) / bahir (world) social space, see Partha Chatterjee 116-34. Just as the early Indian nationalists, citing a need to preserve Indian national culture against the onslaught of British colonialism, confined women to the home and constructed both as "represent[tatives of] one's inner spiritual self, one's true identity" (120), so do modern fundamentalists perpetuate the ideological home/world, female/male dichotomy in the social sphere. It is such a gendered ideology amongst fundamentalist Sikhs specifically and rural Punjab generally that Cour is metaphorizing in her protagonist's enclosure within the bounds of her home. Back
In his dependent status, Cour's male "extremist" can also be regarded as positively feminized like Garg's Sarbjeet. In addition, aware as she is of her power of life or death over him, Cour's protagonist, like Garg's Satto, subscribes to a politics of egalitarianism, treating the "extremist" as a brother and (an equal) human being. Back
It is important as well to note that Pritam invokes the eighteenth-century male poet Waris Shah, author of the Punjabi epic Heer, which tells the tragic story of a young woman who falls victim to the manipulations of a patriarchal society, to enable her to write her modern-day "Book of Love" amidst continuing male violence. Back