New Delhi: “She is very simple, unlike the left wing activists,” said the volunteer of Rashtra Sevika Samiti while introducing V Shantha Kumari, who is the pracharika and samiti’s Pramukh Sanchalika since 2012.
The samiti is the women’s wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. It was founded by Laxmibai Kelkar in 1936.
In an exclusive interview with News18’s Eram Agha, Shantha Kumari spoke about the plans of her organisation and on a host of issues concerning the national polity and society.
Kumari said her organisation worked on creating bonds among different groups by focusing attention on 'Bharat ki Soch'. Speaking about the problem of marital rape, she said that law should not be brought into everything.
Kumari, also known as Shantakka, championed the garbh vigyan sanskar of the RSS, which lays emphasis on having a desirable child through imparting right values while the child is still in the womb. On the controversy surrounding 'love jihad', she said educated girls are being brainwashed.
Here are the edited excerpts from the interview:
Q: Since you have taken charge of the Rashtra Sevika Samiti, what changes have the samiti seen?
Shantha Kumari: Foundation of our work was laid down years ago, we are only building up on that by making the nation stronger. Keeping this view in mind we always stuck to the traditional line and did not digress. Our work is still in progress. Whatever work we undertake we do by building consensus and base it on our observation. We also look into the areas where our work is limited.
So, this time we found those areas where our presence is deficient and started our work there. We realised our work was lacking among college girls, and then pursued it for three years. After starting programs for Taruni or young girls we have had 1,560 sammelans.
We have started having monthly gatherings - Varg, taruni karyakram - in colleges on their goals and career. For this we contacted colleges and around four lakh girls participated across India.
Our reach among working women has also increased. There are regular interactions through intellectual groups like Medhavani Sindu Srijan, which is being headed by Preeti Malhotra of Delhi University. In these programs we tell them ‘what is their role in the development of the nation?’
Q: What does women empowerment mean to the samiti?
Shantha Kumari: Whatever we do empowerment is always kept in mind, our focus is on honing their leadership skills, and increasing their capabilities in making the women the nation builders. The issue of women empowerment is looked at from the point of view of society and nation building. That is the difference between sevika samiti and others in pursuing women empowerment.
Q: Who are the others you are talking about?
Shantha Kumari: There are many organisations that are working for women empowerment, I don’t have to name anyone, some of them are doing good work but we are not like them. There are so many institutions, everybody should try to work for women empowerment, and we are also trying. But work for it samaj ki drishti se.
There are some who have the divide and rule policy by talking about caste and in many colleges this is increasing, especially after the Rohith Vemula controversy. We observed that in the name of study circles a caste-centric narrative is being created in colleges. There is an attempt to create rift between the castes. Our young girls only tell us how the divide is being created. This needs to stop.
We speak to students on what is Bharat ki soch… Jaati me jhagda kyun? We encourage bonds and friendship among different castes.
Our programmes are creating awareness. In one college where we worked, the students told us that in the past they were taught ‘useless India’. Leftist or others who write so many articles, woh padhne ke baad the young students thought ‘we, India, are useless,’ they told us that nobody taught them about the contribution.
Q: There is a demand for criminalisation of marital rape and disenchantment over dilution of Domestic Violence Act. What are your views?
Shantha Kumari: Family plays an important role in inculcating the values in boys for respecting other girls. But rarital rape? Swayam ichcha se shaadi hui, so how marital rape? I am not saying it does not exist at all, in some places marital rape can happen. We also have to understand that we cannot hurt family as an institution. In our country marital rape is not rampant. Truth should be investigated but Sanskriti ka sarvanash nahi karna hai. Our country has given good status to women. I am not saying everything is fine. There are problems, we will work for it, but in everything kanoon nahi chahiye.
Q) What about domestic violence?
Shantha Kumari: The Domestic Violence Act is necessary but it is being misused. Any girl can get in-laws arrested. We feel there has been dilution in the laws but the changes made to the Act are fine. This will make sure that punishment happens only if the case is real. When the cases have been genuine we have been able to work in favour of women. False complaint is not correct and we are against it.
Q: What is your idea of working women?
Shantha Kumari: Women should have good careers. But when the family needs arise there should be other options open like ‘work from home’, which is a good opportunity. It will give them time to handle home and children.
Recently, I met a very successful doctor, who has been a gold medalist. She told me that she left her practice after having a child. She has taken a break to bring up her son well and will resume work after her son grows up. I believe that husband should also contribute in this role of family. Some homes have good husbands and both contribute. Phir bhi one should not give ‘vyaktigat mahatva’. Not dwell too much 'on my career' kind of sentiment.
Q: According to the Garbh Vigyan Sanskar project of the RSS’s health wing Arogya Bharati, there are ways to have a desirable child. What are your views on this practice?
Shantha Kumari: I have visited the clinic in Jamnagar. There I met a couple who said the practice of Garbh Sanskar worked – how they got to know? By comparing their two children: the one who underwent the treatment of garbha sanskar exhibited the sanskar and values as compared to the elder one who was not taken to the clinic.
It is a good initiative, if we bring up good citizens and inculcate sajjan shakti it will help in making the nation stronger. We can see what is happening in Syria and Iraq.
Q: Recently, there has been lot discussion on ‘Love jihad’ in the Sangh circle. There have been books released and films made. How do you look at this problem?
Shantha Kumari: It is a problem. We have met parents who were crying after their girls fell victim to it. Educated girls are being brainwashed. What I think has happened is 'the young got more information or exposure to Islam than their own religion' - apne Hindu dharam ke bare me nahi mila. Love Jihad is a problem and family role is failing, so now we are doing that through Kutumb Prabodhan, with this we take counseling classes to young girls in India.