NEW DELHI: Bhumata Brigade chief Trupti Desai who has fought successfully to lift the ban on women in temples, has now demanded that women be allowed to participate in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh shakhas. She said that she would soon write a letter to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, and since according to her the RSS is known for its ‘progressive’ thoughts, it would respond positively to her demand.Desai also stated that women have played an integral part in bringing the BJP to power, and hence it was essential for it to transform.

In 2011, Desai had contested the Pune Municipal Elections as a Congress party candidate. She has said now that her focus is on women’s rights and she is not planning to join any political party. Kanta Nalawade, vice-president of the BJP's Maharashtra unit has immediately criticized Desai’s demand and suggested that she should concentrate more on concrete issues rather than ‘ridiculous demands.’

Women are not allowed in RSS shakhas. According to Ragini Nayak, the Sangh Parivar continues to invoke citations like Pita rakshati kaumare bharta rakshati yauvane, rakshanti sthavire putra na stri swaatantryamarhati (A woman is protected by her father in her childhood, by her husband in her youth and by her son in her old age. A woman does not deserve to be independent) as propounded in the Manusmriti to restrict women's social space, limit their autonomy and control their choices.

Instead of enrolling women in the RSS Shakhas, there is a Rashtra Sevika Samiti which enrolls women cadres. The current chief is V. Shantha Kumari and general secretary is Sita Annadanam. Long back in 1936, Laxmibai Kelkar, who is the founder of Rashtra Sevika Samiti had met K.B. Hedgewar, the founder of the RSS and requested him to allow women in RSS but he outrightly declined. Even though RSS was founded in 1925, it took 11 years for its women’s wing to start functioning.

Even though women were active in the anti-colonial movements against the British Raj, be it revolutionary or non-violent, RSS did not take pride in their involvement and had always, quite strongly, detached them from their own ideology. It reveals the loopholes and caveats present in the RSS ideology which is deep-rooted with patriarchy and misogyny. Also, as a matter of fact, practicing celibacy is one of the main commands in RSS, and women participation would have diluted the cause. Thus, the Rashtriya Sevika Sangh does not nothing but silently replicate the RSS ideology, the women are trained in the Hindutva ideology and paramilitary through shakhas, vargs, Yoga and discussions.

Neha Dixit rightly states that “It is important to note that the name Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh means ‘Nationalist Volunteers’. In contrast, the term Rashtra Sevika denotes women who serve the nation. This difference in the meaning does hint at the conventional humble service that is expected of a sacrificial woman. The sense of autonomy and self-choice that are associated with the word “volunteer” are notably missing.” The Samiti has led a low­ priority, non innovative, routine-bound existence and it is that passivity and unquestioning attitude that is being indoctrinated in young girls through these camps. They are brainwashed with that Hindu nationalism that has always sought legitimacy in notions of female selflessness, sacrifice, and martyrdom.

When asked about Hindutva terrorism, pracharak Tara from Panipat openly stated “It is a conspiracy to malign Hinduism as a religion. The Samiti teaches the concept of ‘vasudev kutumbakam’. A Hindu can never be a terrorist. Terrorism in itself is an ‘American concept.’’

On the one hand, the women volunteers take pride in being a ‘pracharak’ and joining a political organization but at the same time, they do not fight for women’s rights. Instead, they are much more concerned in politically mobilizing the population for the creation of a Hindu nation. Sadly, with more than 55,000 branches across the country, the organization has failed to fight against the patriarchal systems of the society, let alone even take up the issues concerning women,

It is not likely that RSS will open its doors for women, with its leaders sharing a viewpoint that is, put it mildly, anti-women. What is degrading are the misogynist statements even from the RSS top brass that women should be restricted to household chores to fulfill the social contract, and that rapes happen in India and not Bharat.

In subtle as well as on-the-face narratives, such opinions are patriarchal and humiliating. And reveal how deep-rooted orthodox and biased are the pillars of RSS. If that was not the case, RSS would have been openly accepting, rather embracing women pracharaks as well. Sadly, it is not the case, so far and there is no indication to show that the disposition of RSS would change in the near future.