Saturday January 19, 2019
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Durga Vahini: A self-Defense Program for Hindu Women in India

A subsidiary of the Hindu nationalist organisation Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)

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Durga Vahini Image: Outlookindia

Durga Vahini is the female counterpart of the Bajrang Dal, a subsidiary of the Hindu nationalist organisation Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) which was established in 1991. The founding Chairperson of Durga Vahini is Sadhvi Rithambara. Women between the ages of 18 and 35 are allowed to join this camp and trained.

 Know more about Durga Vahini-

  • Set up by a Hindu organisation VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad or World Hindu Council) in 1984-85.
  • Women aged 18 to 35 years are eligible to join the group.
  • The organization’s website describes it as a “dynamic voluntary organisation” of young Hindu women.
  • It says the organisation “strives for the security of society” and imparts knowledge of culture and tradition.
  • Every member is expected to exercise regularly for “increasing her physical stamina” and to read “good literature”.
  • The group says it “ensures rehabilitation” of widows, women who have been deserted by their husbands, or women “involved in accidents”.
  • Training camps of 15-20 days are organised for members in all states.
  • The group runs vocational training and tailoring centres and blood donation camps, among other things.
  • Members are also trained in “dagger wielding” and use of firearms, according to the website. ( Source: BBC news)
  • Durga Vahini Training classes. Image source: vhpdelhi.blogspot.com
    Durga Vahini Training classes. Image source: vhpdelhi.blogspot.com

In India, thousands of youths have joined Bajrangi Dal. For girls who want to join such organisation, VHP founded an independent organisation of Hindu Yuwatis (Women) in the name of Durga Vahini on Ashwin Shukla Ashtami (Durga-Ashtami).

Durga Vahini stresses the Service, Security and Sanskars while working in the society —

  • Sewa- Durga Vahini run several service centres like Tailoring centres, vocational courses etc. in different places of the country. The Women uninhabited by her in-laws and widows are mostly among the women who join Durga Vahini. Aid to service projects/activities, hostels, orphanages etc. working in the Sewa Bastis is being acquired through the medium of Free Tution, Dan-Patra, Mushti-Dan Scheme etc. Ror rendering service to humanity, Durga Vahini also holds Blood Donation Camps, Blood Group Determination Camps etc.
  • Suraksha- During the course of this training, practice is being made of physical education, Yog and Niyuddha together with Chhurika (dagger wielding) Gun (firing) etc.
  • Sanskar- Sourya Prashikshan Vargas are conducted for 6 to 15 days in almost all the provinces of the country. Apart from these, a two-days Abhyas Vargas also are organised on divisional and district levels. The Durgas are trained to live a disciplined and Susanskarit (well-cultured) life.

-prepared by Pashchiema (with inputs from BBC news and vhp.org), an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @pashchiema

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Instead of having it as Hindu women, Hindu centric, it should’ve been just women. There are many women in this country who need the basic self defence education. So rather than confining it to ‘Hindu women’, it should be upgraded to ‘women’

  • Pashchiema Bhatia

    Durga Vahini has also been involved in many controversies.. A documentary showcasing the environment of Durga Vahini camp was also released.

SHARE
  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Instead of having it as Hindu women, Hindu centric, it should’ve been just women. There are many women in this country who need the basic self defence education. So rather than confining it to ‘Hindu women’, it should be upgraded to ‘women’

  • Pashchiema Bhatia

    Durga Vahini has also been involved in many controversies.. A documentary showcasing the environment of Durga Vahini camp was also released.

Next Story

‘Daughter’s Pride Festival’: Celebrating India’s Daughters

It will need a lot of perseverance to achieve women's empowerment, says Jaglan, but the hope is that the names of girls being displayed outside doors will herald a brighter future for girls.

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India, Names
There is excitement in Patuka village in Haryana state as a man heads out to put nameplates with daughters' names on several homes. VOA

There is a sense of excitement in India’s Patuka village — adults and children look curiously as signs with the names of daughters are hammered outside several homes. It is a novelty in a village where patriarchal mindsets have long held sway.

As Mubin Sumssu poses proudly with his family after the name of his 14-year-old daughter is posted outside his gate, he envisions a new future for her. “I hope she studies well, progresses in life, does a good job and makes a name for herself.”

This is not the life that girls can traditionally aspire to in this Muslim-dominated village, which lies in one of the country’s most backward districts in the northern Haryana state. Many girls do not complete school and their lives revolve around household chores and looking after siblings from an early age. Most are married off young.

The nameplate campaign, called “Daughter’s Pride Festival,” hopes to make a difference by persuading village families to treat girls on par with boys. The aim: Names of girls plastered outside doors will carry the winds of change inside homes that continue to be ruled firmly by men.

The head of the village council is a 23-year-old woman, Anjum Aara — laws mandating female participation in local bodies have brought women like her to prominence. More educated than most girls in the village, Aara has been emphasizing the importance of educating girls since she came to Patuka after her marriage.

She is optimistic that the latest campaign will raise consciousness about the need to empower women. “It will make people understand that the daughter is the identity of the family,” Aara said. “They will be inspired to educate girls. Those with negative thinking about this will become more positive.”

Patriarchal mindsets

It is not an easy goal in places where women traditionally never had a voice. One village woman approached by a reporter for her reaction to the campaign refused to speak without her husband’s permission. The girls whose names have appeared outside homes are shy and appear to have limited understanding about its significance.

India, Names
Some families in Patuka village in Haryana state are posting nameplates of their daughters as part of a campaign that aims to change patriarchal attitudes and empower women. VOA

Nonetheless, the man spearheading the campaign, Sunil Jaglan, is optimistic that such steps will slowly usher in social transformation. The nameplate campaign is part of a model he followed in his village, Bibipur, when he was its head. It has now been adopted by the government in scores of villages.

Jaglan says it is not easy to persuade men to put their daughters’ names outside homes in villages with deeply entrenched customs.

He points out that virtually no women get a share of parental property despite laws granting them equal rights. Terming the campaign a “mind-strike,” Jaglan says that “this is a symbol to make people understand that putting the man’s name is not enough. The woman also lives there. She also has an equal stake in the home, in the property, in the village.”

The initiative cuts across religious communities in a country where patriarchal mindsets prevail among both the majority Hindu community and minority Muslims.

India, Names
Many families in Alipur village in Haryana state are now educating young girls, and say they will treat them on par with boys. VOA

About 20 kilometers down a road that cuts through fields blooming with the golden mustard crop, 25 out of 700 homes in another village boast of nameplates with their daughters’ names. Alipur is more prosperous, but traditional mindsets rule here as well — women automatically cover their heads when they see men.

Skewed gender ratio

In this Hindu-dominated village, the campaign is addressing another challenge: a skewed gender ratio. In Alipur, as in thousands of other villages, the number of girls dwindled in recent decades due to illegal sex-selective abortions. The practice, known as female foeticide, has flourished in a society that traditionally prefers boys.

Nobody knows that better than Mahesh Jangra, whose home flashes the name of his 10-year-old daughter, Dipti. Growing up in Alipur, he saw many more boys than girls in his village. But he says the imbalance has brought an awakening.

“Now people realize that who will the boys marry if there are no girls?” Jangra said. “First everyone gave priority to sons, now we want to treat sons and daughters equally and put the daughter’s name ahead.”

That is why he willingly put his daughter’s name outside his door, instead of that of his 15-year-old son.

India, Names
Many women in Alipur village in Haryana state keep their head covered, as tradition demands. VOA

So far it is the more affluent families like that of Jangra that have opted to post their daughters’ names. But as they are usually the trendsetters in the village, the hope is that others will follow suit.

Komal Kalonia, a 19-year-old college student, is one of the few girls who has received a good education. She says her family did not need any persuasion to put her name outside. Kalonia feels the nameplate will send a message.

“When a passerby sees this, it will encourage them to do the same and take their thinking a step ahead,” she said.

As such campaigns make a mark, the state’s gender ratio has improved from 834 girls for 1,000 boys, according to the 2011 census, to 914 last year.

Also Read: The Risk of FGM Hangs Above British Schoolgirls During Holiday Break

It will need a lot of perseverance to achieve women’s empowerment, says Jaglan, but the hope is that the names of girls being displayed outside doors will herald a brighter future for girls.

“I cannot say everybody’s mindset has changed. But if families agree happily, then the message we are giving through these nameplates will ultimately percolate down.” (VOA)