What the VHP got wrong about the Muslim man

The conservative’s imaginary ideal polices the Muslim man and the homosexual in vain


The masculine body has long plagued conservatives over the ages, even Michelangelo’s famous statue David wasn’t spared. Photo: Fritz Rudolf Loewa/Wikimedia Commons
The masculine body has long plagued conservatives over the ages, even Michelangelo’s famous statue David wasn’t spared. Photo: Fritz Rudolf Loewa/Wikimedia Commons

The latest thing to affect Hindus, as per the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), is the Muslim community’s mission of population growth. Last Saturday, the VHP central margdarshak mandal passed a resolution at the ongoing Kumbh Mela in Nasik, which appealed to Muslims to undergo an “internal reform” in order to control the growth in their population. According to data of the 2011 Census released by the government recently, the Muslim population is 172.2 million, which is 14.2% of the total population of India. The Hindu population is just a touch under 80%. So clearly the VHP resolution is not just misplaced concern, but also highly illogical.

VHP leader Pravin Togadia, who has made several hate statements towards minorities in the past, stated in an article published in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh mouthpiece Organiser that Muslims who have more than two children ought to be punished, and their ration and educational facilities stopped. This spectre of the Muslim man with four wives and many children is repeatedly raised by the Hindu right wing group to spread disgust. Hindus, on the other hand, have no such constraints. The more children they bear, say spokespersons of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), like MP Sakshi Maharaj, the better.

The Muslim man’s body is not the only one that the conservative right wing wants to police—the homosexual is equally a risk to their ideal society. Accordingly, the homosexual’s body is reconfigured as something that is perverted, against the order of nature, and a threat to that most sacred unit of society—the family. When the Supreme Court of India reinstated Section 377, Rajnath Singh told The Telegraph that his party supported the law, as “homosexuality was unnatural”. Shortly before the first International Yoga Day was held in June this year, Baba Ramdev, a vocal BJP-supporter, brand ambassador of BJP-run Harayana and with thousands of followers said that yoga could cure homosexuality.

Of course, experience teaches us that bodies are more than procreative vessels, but the idea behind the imaginary ideal is too strong to be dismissed.

The ideal makes a case for upholding family, and by association, nation, with righteousness, so deviation of any form is met with indignation and outrage. The deviant himself is criminalized, as in the case of the homosexual or abused, threatened, and killed in the case of the Muslim.

Asking the Muslim man for “internal reform”—as much as asking the homosexual for it—is a logical fallacy. Neither has anything that they need to reform, but this tiny yet vital detail is subsumed under the conservative’s righteous anger; he has given them a ‘chance’ to mend their ways, and since they have failed to act on it, his anger is justified.

Yet, there are two important things that this imaginary ideal fails to recognize. One, the reality of our times, and history bears witness to this as well: inter-caste, inter-religious marriages happen; lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons exist; sexual intercourse that is outlawed happens routinely among consensual adults in the privacy of their bedrooms, irrespective of their religion, caste, or gender. While the imaginary ideal may size us up and find us wanting, the Constitution of India doesn’t ask us to prove our worth before we avail of our fundamental rights. We don’t need to explain why we are the way we are to demand dignity, privacy, equality and freedom. A homosexual doesn’t deserve these rights because ‘homosexuality is natural’ and/or he can or cannot help it. He deserves them because it’s a fundamental right, and it is the duty of government and society to protect it.

Two, in a democracy, the move towards greater freedom is imminent, and indeed, woven into the DNA of our aspirations. The conservative ideal is premised on the curtailing of rights and in a country with the largest youth demographic, it’ll take a lot more than luck for this ideal to fructify.

The Sex Talk is a fortnightly blog on gender, sexuality and blindspots

READ MORE