Shivah shakthya yukto yadi bhavati shaktah prabhavitum. Na chedevam devo na khalu kusalah spanditumapi: Shiva, only becomes able through his consort, to do creation in this world along with Shakti. Without her power, nothing is possible. Soundarya Lahiri, Adi Shankaracharya The above verse is the first canto of Adi Shanakaracharyas (700-750) epic text centered on the Mother Goddess vividly describes the Indic perspective on Shaktitva, the Indic perspective of the feminine. In myriad ways this ancient imagination is imbibed in the daily lives of the people of Sanatana Dharma (path of the eternal truth). While tainting of this perspective has occurred throughout India there is an equal if not greater visibility in the respect for the feminine agency in India than meets the eye. This is an aspect which opportunistic critics are not willing to admit. However, the concept of women’s agency and expression in India, notwithstanding other developing countries as well, is now linked to a Western derived feminist episteme that has become so large and hegemonic that it has obscured indigenous understandings of the expression of ‘prakriti’, or what western feminism through “gender” studies. Indian history offers us ample examples of empowered Shaktitva. Subsuming Indian perspectives of gendered relations within colonial conceptual frameworks is not merely constrictive but also questionable. It begs a fundamental question about why such functional ideologies are ignored in favour of simplistic reductionist models that are foreign to indigenous thoughts and worldviews. Western concepts of patriarchy, gender relations and formats of power relations at various levels of interaction from domestic to national interests are incapable of dealing with the real meanings of life in a country such as India. Thus there is a range of narratives framed within a discourse that Indic Shaktitva does not exist and in an extraordinary reversal of hegemonic positions that Hindutva and Hinduism are in fact political forces that are devouring, raping and oppressing women in India. These narratives are best understood as hegemonic narratives emanating with planned regularity from a persistently colonial hegemonic media and academia including compradors very often originating from within the once colonized countries. Amrita Pande and the likes of Arundhati (Suzanna) Roy are among such ‘captured’ rabble-rousers who will engage in criticalities of the present incapacities of women as though there is no historical perspective to its current realities. Sanathana Dharma, ‘Hindutva’, and Shaktitva is best understood in terms of the practices and enabling scholarship that emanates from those who live it, as well as among the scholars that are re-examining it to ensure its survival and sustainability. The task ahead will be long and arduous, but it will eventually prevail. The framework of Indic Shaktitva and the indigenous feminine position Perspectives of Indic Shaktitva and the indigenous feminine position must essentially be understood against a background of what it is not. The Indic understanding of gender is not based on a simplistic dichotomy between the masculine and feminine gender identities and roles. It is not about compartmentalization, or about creation of the public and private contingent spheres, rather, it is about the creation of a working basis of social cooperation and a principle of spiritual unity. The analogy given to the idea of gender relationships: as the linkage between the Prakriti and Purush is also applied to a conceptualization of the cosmos in the form of Maya and Brahman. Prakriti, Maya and Shakti are depicted as the context and situation as well as the source of Power for the sustenance of all life. Purush is widely interpreted in Vedic Sanskrit as Atman (Pure-sheteiti-purushah) or a manifestation of the Brahman, while the Vedant and Upanishads see it as the Brahman itself (Tat-tvam-asi). However, Shakti or Maya is neither a contradictory or antagonistic force to the Brahman or Purush and nor is it merely an instrument for creation, subjugated to its creator who is seen as a Superior Truth or as a priori Reality. The Indic woman , Shaktitva is Bhavnatmak (emotion) rather than rational. An important thrust of Western feminism is the acceptance and extension to women of the nineteenth century Enlightenment thought of individualism and rationality. Shaktitva predates the enlightenment period by several millennia and is not bound by West European individualism or rationality. The majority of Western philosophers, particularly those belonging to the liberal political tradition have seen humans as “rational animals” and believe that rationality is what guides humans in their behavior and beliefs. Unlike this straitjacketed Eurocentric version of rationalism, which led to monolithic, compartmentalized, exclusionary, culture-centered and context specific definitions of “rationality” as opposed to the “irrational other”, the thought process of Shaktitva is based on tradition, culture and emotion. Interconnectedness is a key Indic thought governing life in the East. It is a key element of Dharma (righteous action based upon responsibilities more than it about individual rights), as well as lived experience of people. It is also different from the emphasis on personalized or collective materialistic gains that underpin both western style individualism and Marxist socialism. The basic Indic idea of interconnectedness places the individual at the center. However, this individual is interconnected to family, society, the nation, the world and the universe. This inter-connectedness is thus two-fold: it is inward bound as well as concentric outward bound, but in ways that are fundamentally different from either western individualism or Marxist collectivism. While gender has surfaced only over the last few decades in these ideological pursuits they remain underdeveloped against the established practices in Shaktitva and Hindutva. Their relevance is experiencing a meteoric rise in India and is formidably challenging the constructs of casteism and patriarchy that were so easily manipulated and abused during British colonialism. Shaktitva or the Indian feminine position thrives on this idea of interconnectedness co-responsibilities, but not at the expense of individual material and spiritual upliftment. Ironically, it is those who accuse Hindutatva supporters as “communal”, are the most guilty of fanning the flames of differences among India’s diverse masses. Since time immemorial the Indian woman thrived on "antardrishti" - which means seeking to see what lies within oneself. Antardrishti is based on the Sanathan Philosophy of the all-pervading Self. The Self or the Soul is a manifestation of the ParBrahman who is considered to be both the "creator" of whatever exists and is also the element of which everything is "created". Antardrishti is about experiencing (anubhav) this state. Antardrishti is not merely a practise, or a ritual, rather, it is state of being and facing one's own undiscovered potential and limitlessness. The infinitely expansive Banyan tree bears lots of seeds that in turn contain infinite huge Banyan trees within themselves. The human spirit too is likened to this limitless banyan tree. Its discovery is not restricted to gender, caste, class or race. Such capacity is inherent within every individual, convincingly articulated by Swami Vivekananda’s persuasive declaration that “every soul is potentially divine”. The idea surfaces in the Puranic legend of Parvati and her quest to realizing her Self and seeking oneness with Shiva, as Adi Para Shakti. The ego is sublimated to Shiva. Like men, the Indic woman is limited only in terms of bodily experiences, but limitless in terms of spirit and primal energy. Her identity is not just the individual self because its ultimate goal is to merge with the limitless creative spirit, referred to in various names and forms. It therefore enjoys no less a place than their male counterparts in the quest for eternal liberation from the cycles of birth and death. Hindu, Hindutva and Women of the past and present Throughout the colonized world, the colonizers were steadfast in dismantling local systems of beliefs, customary practices and modes of production. Shashi Tharoor for instance, in his book The Inglorious Empire, illustrated how the British, in their failure to understand the complexities of India’s localized patterns of occupational specialization, transposed their simplistic understanding of the British system of lords, manors and peasants in the properties that the elites controlled. They dismantled sophisticated systems of interdependencies that displaced millions from their lands and close-knit social fabrics. The infamous speech on 2nd February 1835 by Thomas Babington Macauley , to the British Parliament is testament to them as colonisers and the servitude they tried to establish in their colonies: “If the Africans think that all that is foreign and English is good… they will become what we want them, a truly dominted nation”. He made a similar statement about the Indians as well, recognising that poverty was an alien element in Indian society and religion played an essential role in stabilizing their social fabric. Amilcar Cabral, prominent Bissuan-Guinean freedom fighter theorized how it was essential to kill the culture of a people if they were to be colonized. Many from within India continue this colonial practice of undermining indigenous world views and cosmological beliefs that reign supreme over the materialistic pursuits of western capitalism and socialism, where talks about gender equality have gained significant currency. However, such talks are more rhetorical than of real substance. The narratives surrounding Indic femininity, Hindutva and Hinduism fall within the same framework. Protagonists in opposition to Hindutva view it as an indefinable version of political Hinduism. Hence, that which is indefinable is therefore non-existent and thereby rendering it irrelevant. This begs the question: “What is Hindutva?” The Indian freedom fighter Veer Savarkar is credited with defining this concept. Sarvarkar raised the concept to a commendable level that reinvents the “ancient” into meaningful forms of conceptual and structural constructs that are relevant to modernizing India. In his own words it can be best described as ‘not a word but a history’ ; Hinduism can only be defined as a very small part of this concept of Hindutva. Since history is an important part of Hindutva, who are the women that Hindutva idolizes? Apart from the long list of women in Ancient India who were Rishikas and Brahmavadinis (explain) in the current context Hindutva idolizes the feminine in role models such as Jijau, Mother of Shivaji, Lakshmibai - the queen of Jhansi, as women with profiles that were no less worthy of the bravest men in India, yet deeply embedded in values of motherhood and Shaktitva. Savarkar’s personal views on marriage were very liberal - This is evident in the following advice he gave to his wife Yashoda before going to prison, which the bias in someone of the ilk of Amrita Pande will not be able to recognize: “If the Almighty shows compassion, we shall meet again. Till then, if you are ever tempted by the thought of an ordinary family life, remember that if producing children and collecting a few twigs to build a home is to be called married life, then such a life is led by crows and sparrows as well. But if a nobler meaning is to be given to married life, then we are blessed to have lead a life fit for human beings. By breaking our hearth and utensils, golden smoke may ensue from thousands of homes in future. And did not plague render our homes desolate when we were building them? Face the odds bravely.” What actually underpins Hindu and Hindutva perspectives on the feminine are a range of thoughts described in the section above. They are by no means archaic, in no way selective towards any segment of Hindu society, and is not inclined to disempower women. As underpinnings of State policy they are sound principles for policy planning. But their origins are Indic and they serve as formidable challenges to western thought processes. It is our duty as supporters of Hindutva to raise the bars for what is indigenously Indian and to openly challenge the misrepresentations and deliberate distortions by sectors that push hidden agendas about ideologies that have stood the test of time over the last millenium. Policy Regime for empowerment of women in India since 2014 One of the early schemes of the Central government in 2014 was the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao yojna (Educate and Save the Girl Child). In 2015, around 234 One Stop Centres (OSCs) have been constructed in several states to tackle gender based violence and to provide integrated support and assistance under one roof to women affected by violence in both private and public spaces. In 2016 India’s Central Government increased maternity leave given to Government and private employees to 26 weeks from 12 weeks through an amendment introduced to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. Maternity benefits were extended to adoptive mothers and surrogate mothers. The Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Yojna launched by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare focuses on providing free medical consultations to pregnant women on the 9th of every month in government health centers. Women’s dignity in the rural belt of the country was given acknowledgement and approval through the Free Toilet Scheme under the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan. Officials familiar with the policy say that a total of six million households have been built over the last four years under the Union government’s scheme. Between 2014 and 5th February 2019, more than 9 crore (90 million) toilets were built, increasing sanitation in rural areas to over 98% - reaching over 550 000 villages and giving them for the first time the ubiquitous title of Open Defecation Free (ODF). This Hindutva inclined government gave women, for the first time in a millennium, since outsider intrusion in India, the dignity of relieving themselves in privacy. Which developing country can boast of such achievements for women in such a short space of time? The Pradhan Mantri Ujwalla Yojna launched on 1st May 2016 from Ballia in Uttar Pradesh aims at providing Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) connections to women who live Below Poverty Line (BPL). According to official data, it has reportedly provided about 72 million new LPG connections to households in 714 districts in Uttar Pradesh. On India’s 72nd Independence Day speech, permanent commission was announced for women in the armed forces selected through the Short Service Commission (SSC). In March 2019, the defence ministry announced that women officers be granted a permanent commission (PC) in all 10 branches of the Indian Military services. The 10 branches include Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Army Air Defence, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers, Army Service Corps, Army Ordinance Corps and Intelligence. In 2019, Triple Talaq, the practice of Muslim men divorcing their wives over a three-time repetition of “talaq” provided much required reform to Muslim women in India. The practice of Triple Talaq gave married Muslim men unfettered control over their spouses and held them to ransom in their rights to property and access to children. The practice is not operational in ultra-conservative Islamic states of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan but was still valid in India. Its abrogation resonated with the repeal of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, restoring the rights of women and Dalits (so-called lower castes), as well as the LGBTQ communities in Jammu and Kashmir. Interestingly, against all the odds that the prevailing BJP led government faces from the opposition parties publically and in parliament, most of them avoided attending the special session that disabled the triple talaq law. It made it easy to for the BJP government to bring Muslim women into the normal fold of India’s mainstream economy. For most of the 72 years that the Indian National Congress (INC) was in power in post-independent India, there was no attempt to either question or repeal this law. The INC has and its allies has become infamously renowned for its appeasement politics with India’s minorities, since the Hindu majority has lost faith in its leadership. Why did Amrita Pande omit mention of this draconian practice? If the BJP government was as retrogressive as her diatribe tries to suggest, why would they even care about the rights of Muslim women? How is that there are more Muslims wanting to leave their countries of birth, such as in Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Libya? Of the 57 countries that make up the Organisation of Islamic (OIC) countries, only Turkey and Pakistan opposed the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A. Other Muslim leaders continue to build bridges with the Hindutva inclined government in India. Rejection of colonial Western constructs History is replete with examples among Indic women with characteristically independent minds. In Ancient India women not only read the Vedas, they also wrote them. It is true that Vedic scriptures do not force anyone to engage above and beyond their capacities and wishes, and therefore in Vedic civilization a woman had the choice to simply dedicate herself to family, children, husband and home, but such occupations did not constitute a limitation, an obligation or a priori duty. The grhasthashrma, or the household and the idea of matritv or motherhood, were not conceptualized as a public-private divide, as opposed to contemporary portrayal, rather they were perceived as the sphere of cooperation between the two major forces of gender in society, the “prakriti” and the “purush”. These are constructs that are yet to be appreciated by scholars of western feminism. But they are unlikely to be foreign to scholars who are of Indian origin, and who are schooled in India. Yet like Amrita Pande has done, conveniently avoided such constructs because they are, meaningfully speaking, challenges to their distorting and cock-eyed narratives. Women were educated and also held positions of reverence and honor like their male counterparts. A list of highly esteemed Rishikas is provided by the ritual texts of the Vedas and the students were expected to offer their homage to them during their learning of the divine texts. Brahmavadinis also had the right to engage in the performance of the Agnihotra (daily fire sacrifice) and the veda-adhyayana sanskara (daily study of Vedic scriptures). These were started at a very young age, with the only difference existing, that owing to their physical dispositions - girls were not required to adhere to the stringent obligations concerning austerities prescribed for males. Vedas were revealed to the same number of women as men. Hindu Women Scholars were studying Vedas; adjudicating religious discussions - even when male renowned scholars like Acharya Sankara and Acharya Mandana Mishra were debating - both accepted Ubhaya Bharati as judge (Adjudicator). Indic women were no less warriors than men. The legends of Jija Mata and Rani Lakshmibai for instance, are well known. In the pantheon of female deities, there is no less adherence to their instructive leadership that male deities provided as well. Unfortunately, up to this disjuncture, what is lesser known are the inspiring accounts of brave Sikh women in India. Mata Khivi is best known as the person who expanded the concept of langar or community kitchen . Born to a wealthy family, she was the wife of Guru Angad Dev, the second among the 10 Sikh Gurus. It was then that she continued Guru Nanak’s (founder of Sikhism) tradition of giving meals to everyone. Born around the 1660s, Mata Sundari was the wife of Guru Gobind Singh. She single handedly managed the Sikh religion after the death of her husband, the last living Guru. Mai Bhago was a woman warrior of Punjab who donned the male war attire with ease. All of the above, without prejudice, were revered as mothers, rulers and warriors. With such a rich philosophy and legacy of India, Shaktitva provides an empowering platform for women to realise their worth on equal terms to their male counterparts. The current national administration in India is rapidly advancing towards acquiring rightful and overdue recognition of the country’s historical heroes and heroines. There is a fear among academics like Amrita Pande and Arundhati (Suzannah) Roy that the persuasive literature of India’s version of the feminine will displace western social constructs. The fear is not so much about its persuasiveness as it is about reassertion of the Hindutva and Shaktitva’s ideologies and their inherent ability for the population of India to find value in what is proudly and essentially indigenous. Their value belies an adequacy that can meaningfully outwit and displace western constructs of secularism and their dependence upon Abrahamic faiths to churn up moral philosophies as the only dependable pathways to truth, guidance and the moral state. The unacademic and vulturing tendency of the ‘narrative brigade’, as euphemistically known among more patriotic Indian academic and journalistic circles, can be best explained by Cabral’s iconic words against comprador intellectuals: . The experience of colonial domination shows that, in the effort to perpetuate exploitation, the colonizer not only creates a system to repress the cultural life of the colonized people; he also provokes and develops the cultural alienation of a part of the population, either by so-called assimilation of indigenous people, or by creating a social gap between the indigenous elites and the popular masses. As a result of this process of dividing or of deepening the divisions in the society, it happens that a considerable part of the population considers itself culturally superior to its own people and ignores or looks down upon their cultural values. This situation, characteristic of the majority of colonized intellectuals, is consolidated by increases in the social privileges of the assimilated … There is a significant resonance between the type of captured person that Cabral refers to and Amrita Pande’s diatribe against the Indian state. Pande’s claim to be an invited writer for media groups in several parts of the world was boisterously made, but it omitted to mention the financial incentive that accompanies such invitations, and whether she accepts that or not. Recent claims by journalists in India either accepting or rejecting payments of up to a thousand dollars per 1000 word articles in American newspapers surfaced in many parts of India. A similar claim was made recently by a Pakistani operative, Rashid Banawaz, who allegedly works for that country’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency in South Africa. The allegation is that he operates fake Kashmiri accounts with $US1500 payments to people doing propaganda work for Pakistan. Its major preoccupation is anti-India propaganda through compliant agents. India is not short of such agents wherever else they might have settled. But it is much bigger in the numbers they require for the patriotism that is needed to rebuild its narratives on its historical figures and institutions. There are varying dates about when Shankaracharya died. Some believe he died at the age of 32, and others believe that he lived up to the age of 50. He had set up ashrams in the north, south, east and west of India – providing India with boundaries that pre-date colonial claims for creating what is today Bharat Mata. Shankaracharya is credited for advaita Vedanta (the oneness cum indivisibility of God and all of creation). Given the title “Lord” by the British parliamentary system. There are actually, for now, 56 countries, plus Palestine, which does not have a country status as yet.