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India: Hindu Taliban attack women for going to pubs

Monday 9 February 2009, by South Asia Citizens Web

From South Asia Citizens Wire, January 28-29, 2009, Dispatch No. 2602

- Editorials, Statements and Reports compiled by

(i) Ram Sene attack is form of terror (Editorial, The Asian Age)
- (ii) Pub Brawl (Editorial, The Telegraph)
- (iii) Barbarians At Large (Editorial, Times of India)
- (iv) Mangalore’s Taliban: India outraged (Prerna Thakurdesai)
- (v) What Is Sri Ram Sena? (NDTV)
- (vi) Sene’s shame old story (
- (vii) Sri Ram Sena should be strongly disciplined; its origins thoroughly investigated (Press Statement, SAHMAT)
- (viii) Mangalore Attack: Take Firm Action (Press Statement by Communist Party of India (Marxist))
- (ix) Women drinking is as old as the hills in Karnataka (Sowmya Aji)
- (x) Outrage in Mangalore (Editorial, The Tribune)
- (xi) It’s goondaism, not Hinduism, say experts (Vikas Pathak)
- (xii) Man who fought vigilantes in Karnataka receives threat to life


The Asian Age, 28 January 2009



Jan. 28:The Sri Ram Sene, which shamefully assaulted women in a Mangalore pub last Saturday, has relied on an inglorious tradition to justify its degrading action, executed in the name of defending “Indian norms”. The perpetration of cruelty and violence, especially against women, in the name of religious or moral sanction, or taking the plea of defending the putative values of a society, or nation, or a particular tradition, has been with us for hundreds of years. In our own times, the Taliban began shooting women at point blank range or beheading them in public for not taking seriously the mores sought to be enforced by them. This, incidentally, was among the social causes that led to revulsion against the extremists in Afghanistan prior to the US invasion. In Kashmir, from time to time, terrorist elements have used violence against women in particular to enforce their diktat on a generally unwilling society. Not so long ago, Hindu society in Rajasthan and other places found the recrudescence of the hateful sati system, which had to be put down through the use of administrative force. More often than not, attacks on women are conducted by well-organised groups that enjoy political patronage of influential groups, and often administrative patronage as well. It will indeed be a surprise if the Ram Sene is found to be a body without powerful patrons who will spring to its defence.

It is interesting that the Bajrang Dal has reportedly sought to take the credit for the physical attack on young women in Mangalore away from the Ram Sene. The Bajrang Dal is an integral part of the Hindu far right, many of whose affiliates have gone on the rampage from time to time in different parts of the country. Such outfits keep their cadres mobilised by attacking artists and the arts in various forms, assaulting the integrity of women, and spreading poison against minority groups. Invariably, the justification is an assumed moral outrage at deviations from the religious or cultural sensibilities the political parties or ideological formations backing these outfits happen to espouse. There is little that distinguishes the self-proclaimed “guardians” of our tradition from the guns-and-bombs category commonly described as terrorists. Both use violence to intimidate ordinary people in order to spread fear and achieve political ends. Both consciously subvert processes as by law established. The only way to beat them back is to meet them frontally. If the state retreats, they are emboldened. If powerful elements of the state deviously support them while pretending to do otherwise, extremists eventually overtake those elements and seek direct power for themselves. This is what the Taliban are doing now in Pakistan, for instance. In recent history, the inspiration of the Hindu far right comes from the gory episodes of Gujarat, circa 2002, and the wilful and organised demolition of the Babri mosque, circa 1992. The administration must meet the challenge posed by the likes of the Ram Sene forcefully and skilfully. If it is serious, the goons will take flight. It will also help if the Sangh Parivar leaders publicly dissociate themselves from the self-appointed guardians of our values and our culture.

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The Telegraph, January 28 , 2009



When a bunch of Hindu rightwing thugs stormed a pub in Karnataka and beat up the women in it, their ostensible reason had something to do with “Indian norms†. It is not quite clear whether these norms were being violated by the women drinking alcohol in public or being affirmed by their being beaten up by the men. Perhaps a bit of both. But the violence of the assault on the women and on the men who tried to come to their rescue, together with the verbal abuse hurled at the women, was evidence of the passion with which these norms could be upheld. More than 25 members of the Sri Ram Sena have now been arrested in Karnataka, but the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have distanced itself from the Sri Ram Sena’s zeal, claiming that the outfit was not a member of the sangh parivar. Mangalore’s cosmopolitanism, its religious mix and its urban culture were all against the grain of the conservatism of a BJP-ruled state. In a big city like Mumbai, the bigotry of the Hindu Right, though often in evidence, gets diluted by the magnitude and variety of its citizenry. But it would be easier to bully a smaller city like Mangalore. And everything would depend on what sort of an attitude the state government adopts with regard to such incidents, and the extent to which the state’s law and order machinery can deal with such lawlessness without bowing to partisan pressures.

As with the Shiv Sena’s agitations in Maharashtra almost every year on Valentine’s Day, what such collective eruptions attest to is a violently irrational element at the heart of certain invented traditions that are nevertheless perfectly capable of organizing themselves institutionally. Outfits like the Sri Ram Sena are driven by passions that find their focus on such preoccupations as female virtue or appropriate forms of publicly expressed patriotism, all formulated in terms of a certain idea of India. Women sitting in a pub drinking alcohol violates this idea in a way that civilized, rational and modern minds will find difficult to fathom. Yet, the power of hordes is just as difficult to ignore, and benighted enthusiasms are very often collectively held. The freedom to have fun in a secure, yet liberated, public arena is a fundamental right for women and men in any modern democracy. The State as well as civil society will have to persist in protecting these rights.

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Times of India, 28 January 2009



It only keeps getting worse. Intolerance is a stain that is spreading deep and fast in our country. Violent attacks by hoodlums inspired by
extreme ideologies - be it regional chauvinism, religious bigotry or a warped sense of Indian tradition and ethos - are becoming an alarmingly frequent feature of our times. The incident last weekend in Mangalore, in which women were physically assaulted by a bunch of goons bearing allegiance to the Sri Ram Sene - a fringe right-wing outfit - simply because they chose to visit a pub is further evidence of this phenomenon.

Like those associated with other extremist right-wing groups, members of the Sri Ram Sene are self-appointed custodians of ‘Indian culture’. Just what is this monolithic culture that these people refer to and use as an excuse to further their exclusionary political agenda? Is beating up women also part of this culture? Our culture and traditions are neither static nor singular. Through the centuries, they have been shaped and reshaped by historic events and interactions with other cultures. Today, there could be more than a billion ways of being Indian.

It’s worrying that small groups of people can hold the public to ransom and assault our collective liberties with such apparent ease. More troubling is the fact that our state and central governments seem ill-equipped and unwilling to crack down swiftly on such groups. Be it against Raj Thackeray in Mumbai or similar troublemakers elsewhere, administrations move too slowly and feebly, undermining citizens’ faith in their ability to secure law and order. Those responsible for attacks on churches and prayer halls last year in Mangalore have not all been brought to book yet.

This time, a couple of dozen men involved in the pub attacks have been taken into custody but all attackers have not yet been arrested. State home minister V S Acharya has not helped matters by saying that pub owners must “augment security to prevent this kind of incident in future”. What is the minister suggesting? That we privatise the enforcement of law and order? Isn’t it the government’s job to ensure public security?

The state government’s condemnation of the incident and stated resolve to suitably punish the guilty are welcome. But that is not enough. Unless it fairly pursues the matter, and is seen to be serious about keeping its word, the government in Karnataka runs the risk of being accused of looking the other way as the state, known for its tolerant spirit, slides down a path of intolerance.

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by Prerna Thakurdesai

Tuesday, January 27, 2009, (Mumbai)
The attack by activists of a fringe group called the Shri Ram Sena, attacking women at a pub in Mangalore, has brought back memories of similar acts of moral policing across the country.

It’s an incident that’s bringing back bitter memories of attacks by other fringe groups across the country where state governments watched rather than crackdown.

A case in point is the Shiv Sena’s various attempts to stop those celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Another instance, is Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), which attacked north Indians to promote its sons of the soil issue.

In August 2008, on the outskirts of Bangalore, the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike had attacked a rave party.

Again in October 2005, the Pattali Makkal Kakchi had attacked actress Khushboo over her comments on pre-marital sex.

“Besides condemning these Talibanese, we should ask the question why the government is doing nothing about it. It almost seems like they are a part of it,” said writer and lyricist, Javed Akhtar.
The outrage against the Mangalore incident was evident on the streets, specially among women, the primary targets of the attack.

“They don’t want us to live in peace. It’s not like we don’t know how to regulate ourselves,” said one woman.

There were similar reactions on the web from bloggers and Youtube users.

“We are celebrating Republic Day today and this video shows exactly how Republic we are,” said a web user.

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- NDTV Correspondent
- Monday, January 26, 2009, (Mangalore)

A handful of men from a group thought of deciding how others should behave in Mangalore. The group is called Sri Ram Sena. Here’s the history of the group and the man who founded it.

There was nationwide outrage, as the images of the Mangalore pub incident scarred the collective psyche of a nation that’s celebrating Republic Day.

Pramod Muthalik is the man who laid the foundation of the right-wing Hindu group called the Sri Ram Sena.

“Whoever has done this has done a good job. Girls going to pubs is not acceptable. So, whatever the Sena members did was right. You are highlighting this small incident to malign the BJP government in the state,” said Pramod.

Pramod Muthalik, a full-time RSS man earlier, was the Karnataka coordinator of the Bajrang Dal four years ago. Soon he was expelled from the Bajrang Dal after which he joined the Shiv Sena and later he formed his own group.

This isn’t the first time the Sri Ram Sena has indulged in moral policing.

In August, 2008, it vandalised an exhibition of M F Husain’s paintings in Delhi.

Interestingly, the group also finds mention in the Malegaon blast chargesheet filed by the Maharashtra Police. In the transcript of a conversation, the prime accused Colonel Purohit is quoted saying, "The Shri Ram Sena is doing very good work. Purohit calls the leader of the group as Muthalik.

In an interview given to a website, Muthalik staunchly defended Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, another key accused in the Malegaon blast case, saying she is innocent.

And now he’s dismissing the Mangalore pub attack as a small incident.

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BRUTE FORCE: A group of Sri Ram Sene activists attacked women at the Amnesia pub in Mangalore on Saturday, triggering an uproar
- Express News Service
- First Published : 27 Jan 2009 07:24:15 AM IST

MANGALORE: As the nation watched in horror the shameful act of women being chased out of a pub in Mangalore and being assaulted, the pressure on the Karnataka government was clearly showing.

On the one hand, Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa said that nobody would be allowed to take the law into their hands, on the other, Home Minister V S Acharya appeared to be in denial mode.

Speaking to reporters in Udupi, Acharya said it was an attempt by former CM M Veerappa Moily to malign the government, adding that extortionists were behind the attacks and the Sangh Pariwar had nothing to do with it. This was despite the fact that Sri Ram Sene national president, Pramod Mutalik, owned responsibility for the attack on women at Amnesia pub in Mangalore’s Balmatta and promised similar action in the future. Speaking to Express from his hideout, Mutalik said, “Sri Ram Sene will not sit silently, watching the attack on Hindu culture.

Sene will not apologise for what has happened in Mangalore.†While admitting to the fact that Sene men chased the girls out of the pub, Mutalik justified the act and said, “We got information that they were all drug addicts… The Sene men made them run but we never tried to molest the girls.â€

Media to blame, say SP, DGP That the police had been caught on the wrong foot was also evident from the notice the Mangalore Superintendent of Police, N Satheesh Kumar, served on mediapersons who were present at Amnesia pub when the attack was carried out on Saturday. He wanted to know from the mediapersons why they did not inform the police when they had information about the action.

DG&IGP R Srikumar took the same line and said media was hand-in-glove with the attackers.

In New Delhi, Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Choudhary called it the Talibanisation of India. “I am absolutely horrified at the insensitivity on the eve of Republic Day. I will seek an explanation from the state government as well as the self-styled Sri Ram Sena,†she said.

25 arrested Eight more persons were arrested on Monday for the attack in Mangalore, bringing up the total to 25. The 17 accused arrested earlier were produced in court on Sunday and remanded in judicial custody for 15 days. IGP (Western Range) A M Prasad told Express that the arrested persons would be booked under the Goonda Act, if they are found to be repeat offenders.

The police is also examining the possibility of charging them under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, he said.

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- 8 Vithalbhai Patel House, Rafi Marg
- New Delhi 110 001
- Telephones: 23711276/ 23351424
- email: sahmat



We join all right-thinking people in condemning the criminal assault on a group of women at a Mangalore pub by hooligans operating under the banner of the Sri Ram Sene. We remind the public that this group (whose name has been spelt as it is in phonetic loyalty to the Kannada language) is the same as the Sri Ram Sena, which carried out an attack on an exhibition mounted by Sahmat in August last year, celebrating M.F. Husain’s contributions to Indian art.

We take note of the hurried and deeply embarrassed statements by the leaders of the Hindutva cultural fraternity, dissociating themselves from the Mangalore atrocity. Yet we denounce their concurrent assumption of the power to legislate on what social practices are true and what are not, in their relationship with Indian culture.These are not decisions to be made by a sectarian political leadership.

The Sri Ram Sena was little heard of or known, till it attacked the exhibition that Sahmat mounted in August to protest the exclusion of M.F. Husain’s work from a major display and sale of Indian art that was mounted at that time.

Sahmat sounded the alarm then about this debutant group, a spawn of the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, both credentialed members of the Hindutva family. And Sahmat has continued to warn about the dangers posed by the new organisation within the Hindutva fold, which has been showing the kind of destructive energy that belies its fledgling, newborn, character.

Clearly, the Sri Ram Sena has emerged out of the campaign of hatred and intolerance that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its affiliates within the broader Hindutva parivar launched many years back. The BJP leadership has issued some hasty and embarrassed statements distancing itself from the atrocities in Mangalore. But these have little credibility, since the BJP continues to take political capital out of the legacy of its baleful campaign of moral majoritarianism.

We call for the immediate arrest and prosecution of all those who have participated in this atrocity in Mangalore, or contributed to it in any fashion. The prosecution should be purposive and should address all individuals who bear constructive responsibility for creating the climate of intolerance that made this criminal assault possible.

We urge the investigating agencies to pay attention to the growing evidence that this is about more than an art exhibition or about an incident in Mangalore that may seem trivial in relation to the scale of atrocities perpetrated in the last two decades by the agents of majority communalism.It has been credibly reported that the elements who directed the Mangalore attacks were in intimate contact with individuals currently being prosecuted for their culpability in the Malegaon bomb blasts of September 29 last year.

The individual identified as the leader of the assault on Sahmat’s exhibition last August, was also the principal agent of a severe transgression of the basic ethos of academic life, when he spat at a college lecturer who had been invited to a discussion on the scourge of terrorism at Delhi University in November. Again, the Sri Ram Sena drew its moral and ideological sustenance from the Hindutva parivar, since the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, a recognised affiliate of the family, had prepared the ground for this act of barbarity, by pronouncing an anathema on the college lecturer invited to speak about his first-hand experiences as a victim of so-called “terrorism†investigations.

The Mangalore incident shows that terrorism has several manifestations and multiple protagonists. We appeal to the public to break out of the template on terrorism that has been moulded by the Hindutva parivar and to recognise that all offences against civilised norms of conduct and the rule of law, contribute to the triumph of terrorism.

The police and investigating agencies, we urge, should not fail this test of standing up for the rule of law. Regrettably, their conduct over the last many years gives us little confidence that they will.

Finally, we would like to appeal to the media to evolve a set of norms on the coverage of such acts of criminality. We do not go along with the stricture handed down by Karnataka’s Director-General of Police, that the media should have informed the authorities of this criminal gang’s intent once it got advance notice. This is an issue that each media professional should resolve in accordance with his or her own sense of civic responsibility and his or her own ethical commitment.

We do believe however, that the media should evolve a credible set of norms on the coverage of criminal acts that it has advance notice of. Clearly, the Mangalore hoodlums staged their criminal act in the belief that they would, through the breathless reporting of India’s booming and thoroughly irresponsible electronic media, enjoy a few minutes of nationwide fame.

If the media were to deny moral vigilantes the coverage that they so desperately seek, it would deny them the oxygen of publicity that they flourish on. Media professionals need, in this context, to clearly lay down the norm that they will not succumb to competitive pressures and provide any variety of coverage to the perpetrators of criminal actions, even when these are dressed up in moral and political terms.



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January 27, 2009


The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:

Mangalore Attack: Take Firm Action

After the brazen and criminal attack on young women by the Shri Ram Sene in Mangalore, the BJP state government has not acted firmly in taking action against this Hindu extremist outfit.

It may be recalled that this extremist group was responsible for a series of attacks on churches in Mangalore and targeting Christians in other places. The failure to take firm action in these instances and the efforts to soft-pedal their activities by the Home Minister then have emboldened the group.

The Polit Bureau demands that all the leaders of the Sene be arrested and immediate steps taken to proscribe the organisation’s activities.

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Mail Today
28 January 2009


by Sowmya Aji in Bangalore

THE attack on girls in a Mangalore pub in the name of “ Hindu ethos†has led to a public outrage in Karnataka.

Litterateur and critic K. Marulasiddappa opined that Hindu culture was being used as a mask by goons to indulge in anti- social activities. “ Ours is a very healthy tradition, all these narrow minded ideas have actually come to them from Christian influence. How can you complain about halfnaked women when our temples in Belur and Halebidu have sculptures of half- naked women? That is our tradition.

And what is the Shiva linga , that we worship? Why are we being prudish?†he said.

Unless Hindu ethos are narrowly defined as the Brahminical practice of abstinence, the Kannada Hindu tradition doesn’t bar women from drinking in public and this spirit of gender equality is celebrated in many works of literature.

Sure, the girls of Mangalore belong to the category of the upwardly mobile urban women, who earn and hold their own. And among the urban women in this happening coastal town, drinking in public is nothing new.
Upper middle class women have been drinking in public for at least 25 years, much before the Sri Rama Sene or its goons who vandalised the pub were even born.

Then, the lower classes whom the vandals probably claim to represent, always enjoyed their drinks without any gender biases. Folklorist Kodihalli Ramaiah contends that the attack by the Sri Rama Sene goes against the essential multiculturalism that is said to constitute the Hindu way of life.
“ In all our folk rituals in Karnataka, be it the Dalits or backward classes, drinking, whether it is men or women, is a very essential part. Far from being banned, drinking is actually mandatory,†he said.
Ramaiah pointed out that there are also great scenes of women getting drunk in venerated Kannada writer Kuvempu’s novels set in coastal Karnataka. “ It is true that women do not really come out in the open spaces and drink, but it is certainly a part of Hindu culture. What we do not understand about the Sri Rama Sene contention is, what kind of Hinduism are they talking about? There are several layers in the Hindu community, so this attack on women drinking in public is actually an attack on Hindu culture itself,†he maintained.

The state has very strong traditions of women drinking in other contexts also. “ Women are given brandy to drink to ward off the jinni ( spirit) right after childbirth. It is to warm them up and is a socially accepted norm,†said Dr Vivek Benegal, additional professor of psychiatry at the Deaddiction Centre in Nimhans.

Particularly during festivals of individual gods, that vary from community to community and region to region, women drink publicly and participate on par with the men.

The Kamana Habba, similar to the North Indian Holi, is one such festival where women drink in public and participate in the celebrations. This stretches across all the socioeconomically backward sections of the society.
Benegal, who collaborated with the India segment of the WHO’s study on gender, alcohol and culture international study ( GENACIS), said that the drinking of alcohol in women had gone up from approximately 1 per cent in 2003 to over 5 per cent in 2007. The study had Karnataka as the India hub.
“ Women seem to be drinking when spouses or male family members are also drinking. They start off because of some social practice like the childbirth tradition,†he explained.

The study has also identified the new trend among urban women, not just in Bangalore but in places like Mangalore, Shimoga and other tier II and III cities, of social or connubial drinking. “ There is a lot of social drinking that happens.

These people are not drinking to get drunk,†Benegal added.

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The Tribune
June 29, 2009

The BJP govt falters again

The manner in which some activists of the Hindu hardliner group called the Sri Rama Sena barged into a pub in Mangalore on Saturday and thrashed revellers, including girls, is highly reprehensible. The self-appointed moral police chased many girls in the pub, mercilessly beaten and molested them. Strangely, the activists have justified their criminal action, claiming that they have received “complaints†from the people that the pub users had been “violating traditional Indian norms†. Clearly, the Sena activists have no right to interfere with the freedom and independence of young boys and girls. The BJP government headed by Mr B.S. Yeddyurappa has responded to the outrage belatedly. About 27 activists were arrested after two days of the incident. Worse, Ram Sena chief Pramod Muthallik has been arrested not for the pub attack but for a different offence — creating communal disharmony in Davanagere on January 11!

How will these hooligans be punished if the government tries to protect them? The law and order in Karnataka has been vitiated ever since the BJP came to power. The saffron outfits appear to have no fear of the law. The government’s delayed response to the Mangalore outrage is a shocking repeat of its earlier inaction when the Hindutva extremists torched Karnataka’s churches and prayer halls a few months ago. Such incidents have been occurring with sickening regularity. Recently, the activists of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike stormed a private party on Bangalore’s outskirts. Earlier, Karnataka Yuva Vedike activists went on the rampage at a leading hotel’s pub in Bangalore.

Unfortunately, though pseudo-vigilante outfits are proliferating and acting with impunity in the BJP-ruled state, the government has been found reluctant to tackle them. The BJP can restore law and order only if it gets rid of the lumpen elements in the party and checks its outfits from taking the law into their own hands. It needs no new laws to deal with hooligans. The existing laws are enough to deal with them. What is needed is the will to crackdown on some of the Parivar’s elements who are out to disturb peace in the country on one pretext or another. The rule of law in Karnataka is under serious threat and the BJP government would do well to remember that it cannot afford to be seen on the side of the hoodlums even if they are motivated by the ideology of its liking.

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The Hindustan Times


Vikas Pathak, Hindustan Times

New Delhi, January 29, 2009
In Brindavan, there is a park where Lord Krishna is believed to come every night to perform Raas Lila. “Nobody stays back at Nidhi Van at night as it is said that anyone who does so, goes mad. People say Krishna’s flute and the sound of the Gopis’ anklets are heard there,†said Uma Shankar Mishra, a local resident.

Popular Hinduism does not consider the “erotic†as polluting: the god who gave the message of the Gita is also revered as a lover-god. But this pluralistic tradition is under threat from fringe right wing groups such as the Sri Ram Sene, which attacked women at a pub in Mangalore on the absurd ground that this was against “our culture†.

“The Sri Ram Sene has nothing to do with Hinduism. They are goondas posing a law and order problem,†said Hinduism scholar Jyotirmaya Sharma.

Historian Ramchandra Guha said these attackers have nothing to do with Indian culture or Hinduism. “We have a vast reservoir of young men in India who haven’t had quality education and can be mobilised in any sectarian way — Sri Ram Sena, MNS or even Maoism,†he told HT.   

Both ‘ascetic’ and ‘erotic’ ideals are part of Hinduism. Hindu beliefs exist in multiples. Rather than “right†and “wrong” ways, there are various alternative paths in Hinduism.

If there is a celibate Hanuman, there is the lover-god, Krishna. On 12th century poet Jaydev’s celebration of Krishna as a lover-god in Gita Govind, historian A.L. Basham wrote, “Its inspiration to the Western mind seems erotic rather than religious.â€

The Hindu Right, however, wants asceticism to be hailed and eroticism banished. This is an imitation of the 19th century Victorian repression of anything amorous and is thus colonial in inspiration. Ironically, this imitation of Victorian values is being paraded as “pure†Indian culture.

Popular images of Ram show him as a smiling god. However, the Sangh Parivar depicts him as a warrior, seeking to reduce a benevolent god to a warrior. In the process, they have damaged the idea of Ram – which inspired many including Mahatma Gandhi. “Neither Valmiki nor Tulsidas ever saw Ram as a violent god. Valmiki depicted him as a pretty boy,†Sharma pointed out.

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