Religious Fundamentalism and the
Twice-Fragmented Narrative of Gender
In Contemporary Punjab


Harveen Sachdeva Mann

Loyola University of Chicago

Copyright © 2000 by Harveen Sachdeva Mann, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. Copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the editors are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.

  1. In his recent book on the particular historical formations of the modern Indian nation, entitled The Nation and Its Fragments, Partha Chatterjee articulates the importance of the symbiotic relationship of elite and subaltern, majority and minority, constitutional and populist politics before recommending a direction for future theorizations and critiques of the modern nation thus:
    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. [1] 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.[2] 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.

  2. To this end, my article examines the intersections of gender and one particular sub-nationalism/nationalism, that of late twentieth-century Punjab, as they are narrated in various cultural scripts in different genres and languages: in the Sikh religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale's (1947-1984) selected Punjabi speeches; in V. S. Naipaul's travelogue India: A Million Mutinies Now (1990), Partap Sharma's novel Days of the Turban (1986), and Salman Rushdie's short story "Chekov and Zulu" (1994), all English-language texts; and in Mridula Garg's Hindi short story "Agli Subah" ("The Morning After") (1986) and Ajeet Cour's Punjabi short story "Na Maro" ("Dead End") (1990). In a symptomatic split along gender lines, Bhindranwale, Sharma, Naipaul, and Rushdie reinforce 1980s Sikh separatism as a fundamentalist,[3] androcentric script, whereas Garg and Cour write into history alternative, female-centered versions of the Punjab "fragment." Further, the forms of narrativization of the "nation" of Punjab are equally revealing about the authors' differently gendered perspectives: exhorting Sikh men to take up arms to protect both their faith and women, Bhindranwale reaffirms a regressive gender binarism in his speeches; Sharma sets his thriller-like, masculine saga around the 1984 Operation Bluestar military action taken against Sikh militants in Amritsar, adopting the male metaphor of the turban as his defining structural device; Naipaul focuses primarily upon the evolution of Bhindranwale as a charismatic, millenarian leader in conducting his journalistic inquiry into the exigencies of post-Bluestar Sikh militarism; and Rushdie employs the framework of Star Trek and its masculinized camaraderie to tell the tale of a Sikh loyalist. By contrast, Garg and Cour offer feminist accounts of women's active, participatory, and reconciliatory roles in contemporary Punjab: both narrate the stories of Hindu women who give temporary shelter to Sikh men, whether "extremist" or not, even as they are themselves virtual prisoners, kept homebound both by an oppressive patriarchal culture and the even more repressive politics of a "terrorist state" -- as Punjab had come to be known--as well as of a violent religious nationalism, whether Sikh or Hindu.[4]

  3. In India: A Million Mutinies Now, Naipaul, like Partha Chatterjee above, comments on the connections between national and regional politics, confederal and communitarian formations thus:
    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"[5] -- 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.[6]

  4. In terms more precisely Marxist and theoretically honed than Naipaul's, Partha Chatterjee articulates the complexities arising from the majority-minority split in Indian national politics, complexities also clearly reflected in recent Punjab history. The primary complexity, which is created and exploited by the Hindutva proponents, is, in Chatterjee's words, "frankly majoritarian. The majority community is Hindu; the others are minorities. State policy must therefore reflect this preponderance, and the minorities must accept the leadership and protection of the majority" (110). The second complexity, which also distinguishes between majority and minority "communities"[7] but in an inverse sense, is linked to a speciously circular "logic" which draws its authority from the constitutional guarantee of a secular India:
    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)[8]
    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).

  5. Straddling the gap -- both ideological and determinant -- between Naipaul and Chatterjee, and foregrounding contemporary Punjab politics, I maintain that such "fragmentary" minority discourse reveals those gaps in the Indian nation-state's professed "law and civility and reasonableness" -- the terms are Naipaul's -- that account for the "tenuousness" of its identity that Chatterjee rues. Not only this, but the "fragmentary" narrative of the Punjab -- as well as the (national) "tenuousness" it engenders -- in its interventionist and subversive roles, is also precisely the signifier of a genuine Indian plurality and secularism as set against an upper-caste, middle-class Hindu centrality masquerading as "secularism."[9] A nation that is home to a host of religions, ethnicities, castes, classes, and languages, and is marked by obvious and vast gender differentials can claim an unproblematized, harmonious and generic identity, that of a unified India, only if it violently suppresses or erases all marks of destabilizing difference.

  6. As Sikh studies scholar Harjot Oberoi points out, modern-day fundamentalism among (a minority of) Sikhs is "primarily a movement of resistance," and while Sikh fundamentalists "certainly envision a nation-state," that of Khalistan (the land of the pure), in the last decade and a half "much of their energies have been spent in assailing and battling the Indian state" (256). Similarly, T. N. Madan underscores the symbiotic relationship between Hindu (integrationist) nationalism and Sikh (separatist) nationalism, noting that "Sikh fundamentalism today . . . feeds and is fed by Hindu militancy . . . associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party and some militant Hindu groups [like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad]" (621).[10] Beset in post-independence times by and vehemently opposed to what they deemed to be a conflation of political, economic, and religious discrimination on the part of the central (largely Hindu) Congress Party, and internally split along class lines exacerbated by the social and economic transformations accompanying the much-touted "Green Revolution," the majority of Sikhs yet remained committed to the unity of the Indian nation.[11] Their secular demands for greater state autonomy and infusion of development funds remaining unmet, however, some Sikhs, led by Master Tara Singh, an Akali Dal leader, voiced a demand for a separate "nation," Sikhistan or Khalistan, even as early as the late 1950s. By 1983, the Akali Dal's political rival, the Damdami Taksal, were rallying considerable support under their leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. But while Bhindranwale never openly supported the idea of Khalistan, he did say that Sikhs "could neither live in or with India," as he demanded full state autonomy for Punjab (qtd. in Tully and Jacob 50).[12] Ironically, it was Bhindranwale and his radical followers, once wooed by the Congress Party and Indira Gandhi to destabilize Akali control of Punjab politics but now grown too strong, as well as another militant group, the Babbar Khalsa, who were the chief targets in the infamous Operation Bluestar military action undertaken by Gandhi's government in June 1984. Ostensibly a maneuver meant to flush out Bhindranwale and his supporters from their stronghold inside the religious complex of the Harmandir Sahib -- the Golden Temple -- the Sikhs' holiest shrine, Operation Bluestar claimed more than a thousand casualties, including not only Bhindranwale and his militia as well as government troops but also hundreds of innocent pilgrims. And it was in retaliation for this attack on Harmandir Sahib that two of her Sikh bodyguards assassinated Indira Gandhi, a death that was in turn to become the excuse for the carnage of Sikhs in the early days of November 1984 and the cause for much of the political turmoil in Punjab in the decade and more following.

  7. Even though much has been written both in India and abroad about this traumatic and bloody period of Punjab politics, the exclusive emphasis of scholars in the various disciplines has been generally upon patriarchal state politics and specifically upon Bhindranwale's brand of fundamental (sub)nationalism. Nowhere has the issue of gender ideology as it operates within Sikh (sub)nationalism received extended or even pointed, independent consideration. Writing about the dearth of critical attention to gender in the burgeoning literature on comparative fundamentalism, including Sikh fundamentalism, John Hawley affirms that "the construction of gender is an important part of the meaning of fundamentalism" and that "fundamentalist perspectives on gender" -- and female-gendered perspectives on fundamentalism, one might add --"cast a uniquely revealing light on the nature of fundamentalism as a whole" (27).

  8. To investigate the construction of women in fundamentalist contexts, Hawley proposes the following three paradigms: of woman as other, of woman as the object of nostalgia, and of woman as the impetus for religious machismo. As fundamentalist males confront a powerful external other--nonconformism, secularism, and Hindu "imperialism" in the case of Sikh radicals, for example--women come to embody for them "the other that is at once intimate and ubiquitous . . . . close enough to serve as [a] target, yet pervasive enough to symbolize the cosmic dimensions of the challenge" (27). As they devote themselves to the "cause of restoring an idealized past" -- of the age of the Khalsa panth, the community of true disciples, among the Sikhs[13] - - they turn to a vision of a coherent, simple past concretized in a remembrance of woman-as-mother (30-31). And as they perceive a need to reassert their maleness and enact a religious machismo -- as in the evocation of the martial heroism of Guru Gobind Singh and Maharaja Ranjit Singh as well as the "martyrdom" of countless Sikhs, including Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale[14] -- they create "[s]ymbols of endangered womanhood . . . where real women must depend on men to defend them" (32, 33).

  9. Although Sikhism is generally regarded as an egalitarian religion, committed to equality of the sexes,[15] recent fundamentalist rhetoric clearly reflects the entrenchment of a dominative patriarchy and the concomitant paradigmatic construction of women as dependent, as outlined by Hawley above. As Bhindranwale, the focal figure of recent Sikh fundamentalism, reveals in the following excerpts from his speeches, he considers patrilineage to be of the utmost significance to Sikhs in the late twentieth-century:
    "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)

  10. Bhindranwale's contrast between militant/masculinized fathers and weak/feminized fathers, his emphasis upon clan difference, and his call to take up arms in support of violent revolution all participate in constituting and reinforcing the rhetoric of a patriarchal fundamentalism. Further, as Hawley points out, such overriding militancy is not only "a metalanguage for a stance of opposition," whether to modernity (and its implications for the formation and maintenance of the hegemonic, oppressive nation-state), or to external religious, cultural, linguistic, or regional others, but it is also "an active force that helps make 'traditional' gender roles second nature in fundamentalist religion" (34). Not surprisingly, then, Bhindranwale casts women in secondary and supportive or symbolical roles in his movement, treating them not as women but according them value in excess of their existence, as is repeatedly evidenced by his discursive construction and containment of them as sexually violable and therefore in need of protection: be "prepared to die" to avenge such assaults as the Hindu "dishonor [of] our sisters" and the "insult[s] [to] Sikh girl[s]," he urges his (male) followers (qtd. in Hawley 32); "[t]he man whose sister is molested and does nothing about it, whose Guru is insulted and who keeps on talking and doing nothing, has he got any right to be known as the son of the Guru?" he upbraids them (qtd. in Juergensmeyer 71); "When we demand that the culprits who denude our women folk, should be handed over to us, why is our demand not met?" he questions; "[we are] desirous of demanding, and urging the young men to demand, justice for the lost honor of our daughters and sisters," and "I shall embrace the one who gets justice against . . . those who stripped our daughters naked," he states in a 1983 speech ("Speech at the Annual Conference of the All India Sikh Students Federation"); and "I cannot really understand how it is that in the presence of Sikhs Hindus are able to insult the SatGuru Guru Granth Sahib Sacha Patshah [the one and only True God, our Scripture, the True King]. I don't know how were these Sikhs born to their mothers and why they were not born to animals, to cats and to bitches," he wonders (qtd. in Pettigrew 16).

  11. Not only does Bhindranwale thus create the Sikh woman as the (sexualized) site on which the mettle of the Sikh man -- worthy son and defender of defenceless sisters and daughters -- is tested, but he also, on other occasions, equates Sikhism with manhood, casting women, both Sikh and non-Sikh, outside its bounds and constructing them as that weak or lascivious, negative other that has to be controlled or shunned altogether: "If you find the beard too heavy, pray to God saying . . . 'we do not like this Sikhism and manhood. Have mercy on us. Make us into women,'" he says, likening non-traditional Sikh men to women (qtd. in Juergensmeyer 79); and again,
    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)[16]
    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).

  12. That even a seasoned writer-journalist like V. S. Naipaul fails to examine the particular role of women and the effects upon them of the fundamentalist movement in Punjab in India: A Million Mutinies Now is a testimony both to the seductive masculinism of Bhindranwale's discourse and to Naipaul's own androcentrism.[17] In a sixty-nine page section entitled "The Shadow of the Guru," Naipaul analyzes the Sikh fundamentalist movement as one of many modern Indian "mutinies," alongside such others as those of the Shiv Sena, the Dalits, the Naxalites, and Muslims as well as women and middle-class people coming to terms with growing consumerism and urban malaise.[18] But in the Sikh segment of his travel narrative, instead of focusing his attention upon the politico-economic causes of the communal unrest,[19] Naipaul casts his eye on the concept of the suffering guru in Sikhism and the attendant move toward a "military brotherhood," dedicating much of his analysis to a male genealogical investigation of the latest "military" leader, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Nowhere, except in passing, does he refer to women, and then only as appendages to men -- the Indian Administrative Service officer, Gurtej Singh's unnamed wife who encourages her husband to continue with his studies of Sikhism; the old Maharaja of Patiala's sister-in-law, also unnamed in the narrative, a child bride who was abandoned by her husband when she was nine; and the group of keening women in Jaspal village, mourning the murder by "terrorists" of six members of a Sikh family.

  13. In addition, all of Naipaul's sources of information, both direct and indirect, are men, chief among them Gurtej Singh; the ex-Indian Civil Service officer, Kapur Singh; male witnesses within the Harmandir Sahib complex; the head of the household of Patiala, Amarinder Singh; and the correspondents Avinash Singh, Sanjeev Gaur, and Dalip. And, on the basis of his conversations, readings, and travels, even in those sections in which he lets his sources speak for themselves -- they are, of course, responding to Naipaul's queries -- he constructs a male narrative in which women are, in effect, silenced and virtually erased. Further, the trope for the Punjab section, the guru, as well as the terms of Naipaul's inquiry and exegesis, reinforces the male hegemonizing at work in contemporary Punjab politics. And of all the personal histories of males -- of Gurtej Singh, Kapur Singh, Amarinder Singh, and Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale -- that of the messianic, millennerian preacher comes naturally to occupy center-stage in Naipaul's narrative, with its emphasis upon the male trope of the Sikhs' "mythical suffering" and "persecution," the idea of "military brotherhood," and the "twin themes of the enemy and redemption" (429, 459, 475).

  14. Furthermore, Naipaul's insistent focus upon the violence in the annals of Sikh history -- past and present, collective and individual -- effects a male-centered discursive framework. He links newspaper accounts of recent killings by Sikh "terrorists" to the Sikhs' historical rebellion against Muslim persecution, their defeat in the Anglo-Sikh War of 1849, their role as imperial soldiers in the 1858 Mutiny, and as officers and soldiers in the modern Indian army. Using reductive terminology, he characterizes the Sikhs as essentially militant: believing them to be a "fierce" and ruthless, "sectarian and clannish and cantankerous" people who maintain "a medieval idea of the scale of things, . . . a villager's idea of a village feud" even in contemporary times, Naipaul concludes that they easily follow Bhindranwale in "declaring war on the state" (421, 423). And it is in exclusively military metaphors that he casts Bhindranwale, replicating rather than scrutinizing the latter's own language of resistance: "a politician and a warrior," according to Naipaul, Bhindranwale turned the Harmandir Sahib complex into "his fortress and domain" (446); identifying with the sufferings and persecutions of the later Sikh Gurus, he sounded "the call to battle" (450). In such an a priori, narrow construction of modern Sikh identity politics on Naipaul's part, it is little wonder that there is neither any investigation of women's issues nor any feminist-based analysis of recent fundamentalism in Punjab.

  15. In contrast to Naipaul's abbreviated "The Shadow of the Guru" stands Sharma's lengthy novel Days of the Turban, which tells the story of Balbir, a son of the Brahmin Mohiyal clan, and of his rebellion against his family, a rebellion cast against the larger canvas of, and serving as a metaphor for Bhindranwale's militant agitation for Sikh rights and the ensuing Operation Bluestar. While Sharma's analysis of Sikh history and politics is surer than Naipaul's -- it is after all conducted by an insider, an Indian documentary film maker and commentator who traces his lineage to a Punjabi village and who was shooting a film on location in Amritsar in June 1984 when Operation Bluestar was undertaken -- whereas Sharma's is the fuller treatment of contemporary Punjab, his narrative too betrays a similar male bias, both in its form and content, even though, in contrast to Naipaul's assessment, it is unmitigatedly critical of the divisive politics of pro-Khalistan Sikhs.

  16. From the foregrounding of the turban in the novel's very title, which in Sharma's words, "owes its inspiration to the cockaded frontier-style turban but is a tribute to all turbans and the times they have seen" (Days, title page), to its metaphoric associations in the narrative, it retains its status as male referent, coming to serve as the defining structural framework of the text as well. At times nothing more than a practical headdress -- "it keeps the head warm, protects it like a helmet" (143) -- or an appendage of violence -- Uday Singh "wound the saafa [turban] round Randhira's neck over the hilt of the dagger. No point in getting blood all over his own clothes" (54) -- the chief function of the turban in the novel is as a sign of clan honor, of tradition, of male courage:
    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)

  17. In addition, as the turban symbolizes the age-old link between Sikhs and Hindus -- having been the choice of head apparel of both communities -- and as the novel is itself intricately wound like a turban, the latter becomes the synecdochical equivalent of the whole Punjab, Sikh as well as Hindu, and of Sharma's nostalgic evocation of his ancestral land, as he describes it in the Dedication as well as in the narrative proper:
    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).

  18. Even though Sharma's rhetoric passes from "men" to "men and women" above, women remain the repositories of alterity and otherness, lacking autonomous subjectivity in a narrative cast along the axes of male bonding and brotherhood, of father-son relations, of (patrilineal) family loyalty and betrayal. A novel that Makarand Paranjpe correctly describes as "an old-fashioned thriller, a sort of macho, adventure book . . . [which] celebrates values of class, caste, tribe, race, gender, bravery, violence, sex, adventure, and victory," a novel written in the vein of Rudyard Kipling and Manohar Malgonkar, is hardly one that a reader would look to for the counter-discourse -- or independent voices -- of women.

  19. While there are some seemingly strong female characters -- Gulnari assists Uday, a Bhindranwale follower, in his "terrorist" activities, while Renate, Raskaan's German wife, is the one with the business savvy and runs their restaurants almost single-handedly -- they remain secondary to the "male" plot of high adventure and fraternal relations. The return to the patriarchal fold of Balbir, the prodigal son, remains the crux of the narrative, whereas the women -- Gulnari and Renate, Kulwanti and Aadran -- support both sexually and ideologically (and often in that order) the male quest for an androcentric clan identity. Cast one and all in sexually overdetermined imagery--Gulnari, who has "a slightly plump figure" and "eyes . . . like dancing peacocks," is "ravishingly attractive" and is pursued by both Uday and Balbir (55); Kulwanti seduces Balbir with her "nipples . . . long and tapering like cloves" and her "rich pubescence," and he comes to her "not as a lover . . . but as a plunderer roiling in to desecrate and sully" (63, 66, 64); Schliemacher's mistress poses in the nude for him and he shares her photographs with his "admiring" male companions (93) -- sexual beings all, the female characters overwhelmingly re-enact stereotypical male typologies of women.

  20. Further, Gulnari's story in particular underscores the masculinist enterprise of the Sikh fundamentalists. A young woman who seeks release from a tragic family life --her mother is mad, her father paralytic -- in the "togetherness, friendship, adventure" (238) of the movement, she ends up earning only the distrust of the leaders when her lists of "freedom fighters'" names fall into the hands of the police. In addition, because Uday, her contact, falls in love with her and so sullies the (professed) "purity" of the movement, the punishment for both is death, by suicide for her, and by torture and murder for him.[20] As Amar Singh, a leader in the Bhindranwale camp, puts it, "It's an example to the rest. They come and see how he is being punished for breaking up an action group. Girls who join us can see how we protect them. The movement cannot be sullied by lust" (231).

  21. Other examples of the paradigms articulated by Hawley regarding the male-gendered ideology of fundamentalism also abound in the Harmandir Sahib segments of Sharma's novel as well as in revealing editorial asides. There are only a couple of passing mentions of women joining Bhindranwale's faction and training as guerrillas in the Khalistan liberation movement (202, 59). Arguments for and against the fundamentalists' militant tactics are phrased in masculine terminology that labels women as weak and in need of protection; "What do you gain by making women into widows and children into orphans?" queries Balbir of Amar Singh, displacing the emphasis from the suffering of men to that of women, but only to elicit a "male" response; "'sisters and mothers are common to all religions,'" answers Amar Singh, adding, "we don't kill women unless absolutely necessary" (221, 230). The third-person narrator, whose point of view appears to be conterminous with Sharma's, while critical of the "extremists," voices his opposition to their tactics and general approval of the Punjabi character in language that glorifies patriarchal kinship and violence:
    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)
    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.

  22. Rushdie's tale about an Indian diplomat, the Hindu "Chekov," and a security official, the Sikh "Zulu," stationed at the India House in London at the time of Indira Gandhi's assassination in 1984, also rehearses the masculinism underlying Sharma's novel and Sikh fundamentalist discourse, as well as the western science fiction genre which frames it (even as it subverts some of the generic conventions of the latter). Like Days of the Turban, "Chekov and Zulu" is a story focused on (inter)national political intrigue and male fraternity, which also accords only peripheral roles to women, fashioning them as appendages of the men. Zulu's wife, who bears him seven sons, is the type of the unsuspecting, unquestioning, loyal Indian wife, whose function it is to keep house and procreate. And Chekov, who is unmarried, desires a wife only because she would be a suitable acquisition for him in the diplomatic world.

  23. Like much of Rushdie's fiction, "Chekov and Zulu" flirts with the fantastic, but this time the non-realist element is cast in the tropological discourse of the cult U.S. television serial Star Trek, the sexism of which has often come under attack.[21] As Henry Jenkins notes, the original Star Trek, produced in "a period when 'masculine' concerns still dominated science fiction," is a "traditionally 'masculine' 'space opera,'" with a preponderance of "exclusively action-oriented stories glorifying the Enterprise's victories" (187, 186). In his adoption of the trope of Star Trek as the defining framework of his story, Rushdie maintains its masculinism intact, even as he appropriates the original "text" for other, postcolonial ends. His protagonists, for example, are not white men, but Indians working in the ex-"Mother Country," an "England [whose] status has declined" ("Chekov and Zulu" 164) They are, further, fashioned not after the lead characters of Captain Kirk and First Officer Spock in the Star Trek series but after the secondary characters of helmsman Sulu and navigator Chekov; his Klingons are not the demonized Soviets of popular, western imagination but Sikh separatists; and his "English" language is heavily inflected with Indian accents.[22] Thus wresting subjectivity, both ontological and linguistic,[23] for the marginalized postcolonial being from within the colonizer's world, Rushdie sunders the essentially conservative discursive practice of (western) science fiction writing. Additionally, even as he maintains the Star Trek analogy in his story, he satirizes his adult protagonists' continuing (adolescent) passion for the series. Yet in his replication of its underlying patriarchal assumptions and masculine authority, he fails to radicalize or even destabilize the gender hierarchy narrativized both by the genre and by religious fundamentalist discourse.

  24. Like Sharma's story, "Chekov and Zulu," even as it focuses on characters opposed to Sikh fundamentalism, celebrates those very "masculine" attributes of bravery, loyalty, virility, and emotional volatility that the fundamentalists -- and indeed masculinists everywhere -- espouse and exploit, characteristics furthermore that are stereotypically associated with Sikh males in general.[24] Rushdie's Zulu is, correspondingly, the father of seven sons, athletic, a security specialist, quick to anger, fearless in his pursuit of his enemies, but fiercely loyal to his friends. And even as the more feminized Chekov mocks him as a "simpleton warrior prince," a "great lummox," a "wild man . . . suspected savage . . . putative traitor" (156-57, 163), the narrative voice clearly favors the warrior-like Sikh. Describing him as physically attractive, standing "proudly naked, thick-cocked, tossing his fine head of long black hair" in a club locker room, the narrator casts Zulu in stark contrast to the "prematurely graying" Chekov with "his softening waist . . . [and] exhaustion-shrivelled purple penis" (158)[25]; a contented man, Zulu has "a full heart . . . a full house, a full belly, a full bed" ( 160); kind even to those lower-class Britons who, as Chekov points out, "collaborated for [their] own gain in the colonial project," he believes that "the colonial period is a closed book" (156-57); a right-minded person, he takes the risk of resigning from his government job because, as he puts it, "terrorists of all sorts" -- whether Khalistani separatists or communalistic, murderous politicians and government officials -- "are my foes," while Chekov "repeats the party line" that there is "not a shred of evidence" of Congress complicity in the 1984 Sikh massacres.

  25. And while Zulu thus plays the stock character of the admirable Sikh male, his wife is cast as the unexceptional Punjabi woman who bears children, keeps house, and is a good "bargain hunter" (149). Additionally, as one who cannot be trusted with the truth regarding her husband's counter-"terrorist" activities, she serves only as Zulu and Chekov's unsuspecting go-between, as the following conversation between husband and wife reveals:
    "Call Chekov and say condition red."
    "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)
    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).

  26. For his part, Chekov wants a wife only because the latter is a desirable commodity. As he confesses in telling terms to Zulu, "I am in the wife market . . . if you know any suitable candidates. Bachelordom being, after a certain point, an obstacle on the [diplomatic] career path" (160-61), and again,
    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)

  27. Thus replicating in the main the marginal, supportive roles assigned to women in the Star Trek series, Rushdie fails, furthermore, to consider -- much less to plumb -- what must have been Mrs. Zulu's frantic anxiety on the disappearance of her husband. Additionally, confining himself to a portrayal, albeit non-realistic, of members of the Indian government "Federation," he neglects to examine the motivations of, or even to characterize the Khalistan separatists, both men and women: a narrative interlude describing an official dinner at Chekov's house fills the gap between Zulu's departure for and return from "Klingon" territory (the pro-Khalistan community in the English Midlands); and the text more generally contents itself with identifying the Khalistanis in Chekov's essentialist terms as "the enemy within," "the gang," "the tinpot Khalistan wallahs . . . [with] a ruthless streak," "Klingons" who "treat [their prisoners] with extreme prejudice," a "fallen breed of revolutionists," "big badmashes," "extremists," and "terrorists" (152, 153, 159, 164, 167, 168, 169). Finally, Rushdie's recourse to the non-realist genre of science fiction to convey the very real human tragedy of Punjab and his conflation of the fantastic and the real is itself open to criticism: instead of presenting a considered, realistic account of the unrest in Punjab -- as in his exegesis of the Sandanista revolution in The Jaguar Smile (1987) -- Rushdie's reliance upon fantasy foregounds issues of fictionality, ambiguity, and narrative distancing (from reality) that dilute the seriousness of the political and human crisis in Punjab.

  28. As is overwhelmingly the case with studies of the 1947 partition and the Hindutva movement, most of the commentaries on contemporary Sikh fundamentalism, the Khalistan movement, and Operation Bluestar neglect to examine the experiences and participation of women in any focused and extended way. And just as much of the history of modern-day India has been a male-gendered enterprise, so has most of the writing--whether political, academic, or representational -- on "the Punjab crisis" displayed a masculinist bias by failing to address women's agency, or lack of it, in recent Punjab religio-politics and culture. For this reason, it is imperative that we investigate women's experiences of and responses to Sikh (sub)nationalism as retold in oral accounts collected in such works as The Delhi Riots, Akas Punjab, Report to the Nation: Truth about Delhi Violence, and "Operation Bluestar: The Untold Story" and as represented in literary texts like those of Garg and Cour.[26] Through their first-hand recounting of torture, suffering, and grief as well as of heroism extraordinaire in the former works, the women eye witnesses, whether Sikh, Hindu, or Muslim, rescript the essentialist narrative of a masculinist Sikh fundamentalism that casts Sikh women symbolically as the dependent, sexualized other in need of protection[27] as well as subvert the dominant nationalist narrative of Hindutva and a "Hindu rashtra" or nation that regards them as the communal other who needs to be controlled. Amidst scores of narratives of rapes and beatings, of having their children or other family members torn from them and killed in horrific ways,[28] of watching their homes burn and their property looted, there are remarkable stories of women's action and strength: of those women who trained as guerrillas and fought alongside the "terrorists" in the Harmandir Sahib during Operation Bluestar; of the twenty-year old "girl student" who dressed the wounds of the dying during the army action, protected her relatives from being shot dead, and helped several chance acquaintances to escape from the temple complex ("Operation Bluestar"); of hundreds of Sikh women who, according to Madhu Kishwar, "came forward to protect not only their homes and children but also the lives of men" (31); and of those Hindu and Muslim women and men who protected their Sikh neighbors, even at grave risk to their own lives (Kishwar 23-24).

  29. Similarly, the female-centered texts of Garg and Cour challenge the silencing of women and counter the unabashedly masculinist narratives of Bhindranwale, Naipaul, Sharma, and Rushdie by portraying women's specific experiences and histories within the Punjab fundamentalist context. Instead of subsuming such histories under the mantle of a supposedly gender-neutral discourse, Garg and Cour craft ethnically-based, feminist stories in "Agli Subah" and "Na Maro" respectively, thereby participating in the articulation of a diverse Indian female tradition both at the political and literary levels. Intensely realistic and personal, Garg's and Cour's narratives question the traditional patriarchal vision of (Indian) nationhood and the circumscribed role of women in the economy of (material and economic) exchange in the modern nation. Originally written in Hindi and Punjabi respectively for a local/regional readership, "Agli Subah" and "Na Maro" additionally present an intimate view of the communities affected by the violence of fundamentalism in Punjab, in contrast to the distanced perspectives of Naipaul and Rushdie as outsiders as well as of Sharma, whose novel is written in English for an elite audience and set in distant Europe in addition to Punjab.

  30. In her Foreword to Blood into Ink: South Asian and Middle Eastern Women Write War (1994), Meena Alexander remarks on women writers' "bitter translation of self" as they thematize the violence of war or communal strife:
    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.

  31. Hearing about the riots in Delhi, in which Sikhs were being killed by the hundreds following Indira Gandhi's assassination, Satto hides Sarbjeet in an inconspicuous store-room in her flat, even though she is cognizant of the risk to her own life and to that of her sons for aiding "the enemy," as all Sikhs are now labeled by her Hindu neighbors (164). When Ajay, her younger son, goes to the police for help -- unwisely, as it turns out, for they too are collaborators in the violence against the Sikhs -- Satto helps Sarbjeet to disguise himself by cutting his long hair and shaving his beard and to attempt to escape the mob as it bears down on her flat in search of him. But, betrayed by her older son, Ashok, who has joined the rioters in the meantime, Satto is knocked unconscious with a steel rod at the narrative's end. Yet her (presumed) death ensures that the mob is deflected from its pursuit of "the shaven Sardar [Sikh]" (173). Thus, in losing her life, Satto saves the life of another; in questioning Hindu-Sikh "enmity," she denies the very "logic" of Bhindranwale's and the Hindu fundamentalists' "war"; and in subscribing to a politics of reconciliation, she actively challenges the ruinous binarism of communal (sub)nationalism.

  32. A story that thus subverts the dominant politico-religious ideology of the (Hindu) Indian nation in multiple ways, "Agli Subah," furthermore, does so in a primarily feminist way. A Hindu woman, Satto denies the communal and ethnic hatred sown by religious fundamentalist -- here Hindu -- rhetoric to claim a universality for motherhood. Not only does she repeatedly refer to Sarbjeet as her "son" (in a narrative, furthermore, in which Sarbjeet's own mother plays no role), but she attempts to halt the murderous Hindu mob by appealing to their parental instincts too: "She shouted at them, . . . 'What if your child were in his place? Should someone burn your Manku alive? Should they beat your Harish to death? Have pity, my brothers, have pity! You have children, too . . .'". (173-74). Paradoxically, and yet in keeping with Garg's vision of reconciliation and harmony, Satto loses her own son to the Hindu demogogues but gains moral agency as Sarbjeet's "mother," even though she pays for this relationship with her life.

  33. While at first glance, the casting of Satto as a self-sacrificing "mother" appears merely to confirm the fundamentalist constructions of gender as articulated by Hawley, a closer look at Garg's narrative reveals its revisionist nature. Initially likening the frenzied bloodletting of 1984 to the 1947 Partition massacres, then denying the parallel, Satto finally undercuts the nationalist ideology of India as a nurturing mother, Bharat Mata,[29] seeing her as murderous instead:
    "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)

  34. In a story, furthermore, in which men are seen in negative, compromised, or weak positions -- Bansal Babu and Manku lead the murderous mob, which Ashok joins; Ajay seeks help from the (corrupt) police; and Sarbjeet is locked in the store-room, completely dependent on Satto[30] -- Satto assumes control, hiding Sarbjeet, explaining mob psychology to her sons, confronting and challenging the murderers. Even as she is confined to the (domestic) space of her flat, moving between the bedroom, store-room, kitchen, and balcony, Satto breaks out of the constrictions imposed upon her as woman and widow in Indian patriarchal society by challenging the "monsters" who come to kill her "child" (173). Subscribing to a Hinduism that worships the lesser god Hanuman (Bajrang Bali), a healer and champion of the literary arts, rather than the dominant, patriarchal gods Rama and Krishna, Satto is accorded agency as well in her role as the dominant focalizer in the narrative. "Translating violence" (the term is Meena Alexander's) into pacificism, her voice of resistance continues to resonate in the reader's ears long after the story is concluded: "'NO!' she scream[s] with all her might. . . acting as if possessed . . . . shout[ing] at them," as she wards off Sarbjeet's would-be murderers (173). And even though she dies at the end, it is through Satto's "word[s]" that Garg has written an alternative, pacifist woman-centered script within the discourse of fundamentalism in Punjab: "'Have shame, demons, have some shame.' She shouted at them, 'Is this really your religion? Is this what makes you Hindus? . . . Come join me, let us save that Sardar in the house across the street!'" (173-74).

  35. As "Agli Subah" subverts the gendered ideology of Sikh -- and Hindu -- fundamentalism and Indian nationalism generally through an urbanized, middle class focus, in a realist story written about the carnage of 1984, Ajeet Cour's "Na Maro" presents an equally effective challenge to the dominant patriarchy through (unsurprisingly) similar narrative strategies and plot details, but centered on another time and place. Initially written in Punjabi and later translated into English by the author, the story, cast as a first person, realist narrative, traces the impact of the incendiary politics of late 1980s "terrorist" Punjab on a young, lower-class and -caste, rural Hindu woman. Her consanguineous brother, Kewal, having been killed by "extremists," the narrator -- who remains unnamed to mark her as representative of women's roles in strife-torn Punjab generally -- takes as her "brother" the wounded "extremist" who seeks shelter in her home. Shattering received notions of self and (oppositional) other, religious and ethnic divisions, and caste and gender conventions, she harbors and protects a man accused of being her brother's murderer, just as, at the narrative's end, her mother, conflating past with present reality, and symbolically rejecting communal enmity, rushes out to implore the police not to kill her "son." Commenting on Cour's reconceptualization of the "familial" in the face of fundamentalist violence, Chandra and Satya Mohanty foregound her egalitarian and healing (third world) feminist vision:
    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)

  36. Even though in her role as nurturer, the protagonist, like Garg's Satto, appears to re-enact the gendered paradigms of fundamentalism underscored by Hawley, in this and countless other ways she, in fact, inverts the male typologies of femininity and masculinity that lie at the heart of Sikh as well as Hindu fundamentalism. Primary among her resistive actions is her breaking out of woman's historical silence to claim narrative agency and to tell not only her own story but also that of the wounded "extremist" whom she helps. "I am telling you the truth," she says in a direct address to the reader; "believe me." And the "truth" that she tells disrupts the "truths" told by the majority of male participants in and reporters of the Khalistan movement. At the very outset of her narrative, she undercuts the oppositional, exaggerated rhetoric of militancy and explodes the binary construction of fundamentalists and/versus all others. "They think my brother was killed by extremists . . . . But the murderers could be anyone. Extremists, or anybody else," she says (67), thereby implicating rebels and loyalists, outlaws and the professedly law-abiding in the surrounding violence. A Hindu woman, she distrusts the claim of the police that the injured Sikh man they are searching for participated in her brother's murder, electing to believe his "truth" over theirs. As stated earlier, the so-called extremist, in fact, comes to occupy the place of the dead brother and son, as he addresses the narrator as "sister" and as the latter's mother, in her distraught state, confuses his final fate with that of Kewal, her son, crying, "Don't kill my Kewal. Don't kill my little one. Don't fire at my dove, don't fire at him! He is my only son, my Kewal!" (78)

  37. Yet, even as, on the one hand, the narrator insists on the veracity of her account, on the other hand, she undercuts her own discursive authority through a series of retrospective, self-reflexive statements: "But ever since Kewal has been murdered, all th[ese] [questions regarding religious, communal, ethnic, and caste enmities] keep buzzing in my head. They don't occur to me in any clear sequence. They are not even in clear focus. They just keep buzzing inside my skull" (68); "Was I still afraid of him? I don't know. Perhaps I was . . . (71); "A black whirlwind was moving in mad circles inside my head. I was trying to push it back with all the force of my will power. In my ears I could hear the buzz and beating of my own blood, but I was trying not to listen to its mad fury" (75); and "Perhaps he had also heard the knock at the outer door. How could he, in the condition he was in? I can't understand even today" (77). Not only are such statements testimony to the havoc wrecked by real events on the narrator's psyche, but they also bear witness to Cour's problematization of (contrastive) univocal, fixed narratives about contemporary Punjab, as exemplified, for instance, by the texts of Bhindranwale and Naipaul, among others. Whereas Bhindranwale is unequivocal in his belief that contemporary Sikh history has to be a history of "hatred and violence" in order to win the "war" with the Hindu enemy (qtd. in Sharma 209), Naipaul too presents a series of static, final conclusions that allow for no other historical/political version to be considered. "The Shadow of the Guru" segment in particular, in forwarding its neat assessment that "the Sikhs had brought this tragedy on themselves, manufacturing grievances out of their great success in independent India" (424), merely confirms Naipaul's prior convictions, convictions that, as he admits, are based on "work [that] has been done in my mind before" (qtd. in Jussawallah 129). In contrast to such determinate male narrativization, Cour presents a fluid, reconciliatory text focused upon women's lives in contemporary Punjab, thereby charting new territory in both the narrative and socio-political spheres.

  38. Not only does Cour establish her protagonist as speaking agent, she also constitutes her as a subject thematically. Even though she is largely confined, at both the literal and metaphorical levels, to her home and more narrowly still to the kitchen,[31] the protagonist does venture forth twice, once to help the injured man relieve himself outside the compound wall and the second time to the dispensary to fetch antiseptic lotion to clean his festering gun wound. At both times she is at grave risk of being discovered harboring a fugitive, her courage a testimony-in-brief to the participation of women in the pro- as well as anti-Khalistan agitations. And in multiple other ways too she reverses the conditions of the hegemonic fundamentalist discourse. A devout Hindu with ostensible grounds for hatred of militant Sikhs, she yet gives shelter to one such youth. The arch oppressed woman within the Indian context -- unmarried, with no father or brother to look after her, village-born and -raised, low-caste, and only semi-literate -- she yet displays remarkable independence and courage, providing succor for her distressed mother and holding the police at bay in order to protect a man she believes to be innocent. Finally, voluntarily donning the role of a surrogate mother--"I felt like a mother protecting her wounded son," she says of her relationship with the "extremist," and "I felt like pulling his head onto my shoulder, patting it and saying softly to him, 'Cry my child, cry'" (72, 75) -- she refuses to become prisoner to the regressive maternal ideology forced upon women and sanctified by Indian tradition. As Chandra and Satya Mohanty correctly point out, "Na Maro" thematizes
    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,"[32] 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).

  39. It is during such moments of dissent from the gendered ideology of fundamentalism that writers like Garg and Cour -- in addition to those women whose first-hand accounts are recorded in The Delhi Riots, Akas Punjab, Report to the Nation, and "Operation Bluestar," among others -- it is through such dissent, whether rhetoricized as in the case of the writers or more actively participatory as in the case of the oral narratives of female citizens, that women rewrite the masculinist narrative of Sikh fundamentalism and of the dominant nationalist narrative of Hindutva. During these key moments of transgression against the male code, such women can be seen, much like Kamala Das's female speaker in her poem "The Inheritance" excerpted below, renouncing the patriarchal legacy of Indian independence and its many progeny, including Sikh and Hindu fundamentalism. Unequivocally condemning the underlying divisiveness of virulent Indian (religious) nationalism as well as its contemporary offshoots in fundamentalist (sub)nationalisms, these women abandon their
    . . . [patriarchal] inheritance, this ancient
    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)
    Instead, 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).[33] 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.


  1. For an examination of the political turmoil in Punjab, see Rajiv Kapur's Sikh Separatism: The Politics of Faith (London: Allen and Unwin, 1986), Robin Jeffrey's What's Happening to India? Punjab, Ethnic Conflict and the Test for Federalism (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1994), and Joyce J. M. Pettigrew's The Sikhs of the Punjab: Unheard Voices of State and Guerrilla Violence (London: Zed, 1995). Key texts dealing with the violent history of Kashmir include Alastair Lamb's Birth of a Tragedy: Kashmir 1947 (Karachi: Oxford UP, 1994), Sumit Ganguly's The Crisis in Kashmir: Portents of War, Hopes of Peace (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997), and Sumantra Bose's The Challenge in Kashmir: Democracy, Self-Determination, and a Just Peace (Thousand Oaks CA: Sage, 1997); while Ajoy Roy's The Bodo Imbroglio (Guwahati: Spectrum Publications, 1995), Chandana Battacharjee's Ethnicity and Autonomy Movement: The Case of the Bodo-Kacharis of Assam (New Delhi: Vikas, 1996), and Maya Chadda's Ethnicity, Security, and Separatism in India (New York: Columbia UP, 1997) investigate the ethnic conflict in Assam. Pan-Indian studies of recent religious/ethnic nationalist upheavals include, among others, M. J. Akbar's Riot after Riot: Reports on Caste and Communal Violence in India (New Delhi: Penguin, 1988), A. Bonner's Averting the Apocalypse: Social Movements in India Today (Durham NC: Duke UP, 1990), Ainslie T. Embree's Utopias in Conflict: Religion and Nationalism in Modern India (Berkeley: U of California P, 1990), and Paul R. Brass's The New Cambridge History of India: The Politics of India since Independence (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994). Back

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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

  13. 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

  14. 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

  15. 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

  16. 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

  17. 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

  18. 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

  19. 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

  20. 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

  21. 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 [1983]: 292-97; Anne Cranny-Francis, "Sexuality and Sex-Role Stereotyping in Star Trek," Science-Fiction Studies 12.3 [1985]: 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 [1986]: 89-104; Mary Ann Tetreault, "The Trouble with Star Trek," Minerva 22.1 [1984]: 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 [1992]: 88-100). Back

  22. 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

  23. 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

  24. See, for example, Richard G. Fox's anthropological study Lions of the Punjab: Culture in the Making (Berkeley: U of California P, 1985). Back

  25. 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

  26. 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" (; 7 Oct. 1996). Back

  27. 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

  28. 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

  29. 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

  30. 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

  31. 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

  32. 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

  33. 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

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    "Operation Bluestar: The Untold Story." Comp. Amiya Rao et al. (7 Oct. 1996).

    Paranjpe, Makarand R. "Inside and Outside the Whale: Politics and the New Indian English Novel." The New Indian Novel in English: A Study of the 1980s. Ed. Viney Kirpal. New Delhi: Allied, 1990. 213-26.

    Pettigrew, Joyce. "In Search of a New Kingdom of Lahore." Pacific Affairs 60 (Spring 1987): 1-25.

    Pritam, Amrita. "Waaris Shaah Nuun" ("To Waris Shah"). Trans. Kiron Bajaj and Carol Coppola. Blood into Ink. 14-15.

    Rushdie, Salman. "Chekov and Zulu." East, West. New York: Vintage, 1996. 147-71.

    ---. Imaginary Homelands. New York: Viking, 1991.

    ---. The Satanic Verses. New York: Viking, 1989.

    Shanker, Rajkumari. "Women in Sikhism." Religion and Women. Ed. Arvind Sharma. Albany: SUNY Press, 1994. 183-210.

    Sharma, Partap. Days of the Turban. London: Futura, 1986.

    Singh, Nikki-Guninder Kaur. The Feminine Principle in the Sikh Vision of the Transcendent. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993.

    Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. In Other Words: Essays in Cultural Politics. New York: Routledge, 1987.

    Tully, Mark, and Satish Jacob. Amritsar: Mrs. Gandhi's Last Battle. London: Jonathan Cape, 1985.

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