“But Hinduism Is Not Hindutva” by Riddhi Dastidar

Riddhi Dastidar


after Dr. Payal Tadvi

i don’t mean       the bodies       swinging at ease,
toes skimming       the trajectory       of those other ghosts,
a lineage       that is kindred       but not mine to claim.

i don’t mean       some intangible ailment       unpredictable and tragic.
i mean       the strange fruit       fed and watered
by us       groomed to recognise       unspoken markers.

this is not about       me and       my heartsickness.
this is not about       the way       the trains keep running,
and how protests       still       don’t make good copy.

i mean       the baby       in the metro
with eyes       so big       they ate the world
and outlined       its shape       with black crayon.

i mean       her open mouth       which knows
nothing       of how lips move       to deny truth
not thrice       but over       and over.

i mean the way       the baby’s tee-shirt       says PARIS
in shiny       silver sequins       and how her pants
are dotted       with a million       reserve hearts.

mostly i mean       the way she was raised       high
above all       our heads       in the metro compartment,
her fat baby fists       clenching the hand-clasps       on the rail.

i mean       how suddenly       our exhaustion
flooded       with joy       at her unabashed
grasping       to reach       up, up, up

and how she screamed       in protest       at being lowered
even an inch,       how she refused       to take
her designated seat       and settle down,       be quiet

i mean how happy       she was       and how loud,
shrieking with laughter       at laying claim to the space
and how she already knew       it was hers,       i mean that.

from Poets Respond
June 9, 2019


Riddhi Dastidar: “On May 22, Dr. Payal Tadvi, a second year MD student at a Mumbai medical college died of suicide, the result of months of deep-seated casteist harassment. This was a case of institutional murder, one in a long line. I feel completely unequipped to talk about caste—an extremely complex subject—as a Savarna woman. I learn everyday from Ambedkarite feminists online (@DalitWomenFight), anticaste movements and thinkers (Ambedkar, Periyar), and come from a space of unpacking complicity and understanding how to support anti-caste movements to undo centuries of oppression that continue to be perpetuated today, whatever the government may claim. This poem was written from a space of trying to process the continuous grief that comes with protesting institutional murder and the scale of injustice and horror in the country. Dr. Payal Tadvi’s institutional murder hit the headlines a few days after the result of Indian elections where an anti-minority Hindutva government has just come to power. I’d just read an article about how Dr. Payal Tadvi wanted to return to Jalgaon and open up a hospital for her community—something most doctors, seeking upward mobility in cities wouldn’t do. If you are from an Adivasi (tribal) community—the situation is even worse, as government sanctioned corporate land-grabs snatch livelihoods and land without providing any scope for equity. At this very moment, as India goes through a scorching heatwave and people die, Adivasis in Chhattisgarh are protesting their forests being cut down. The government essentially practices genocide by diluting Forest Rights laws that protect them and contracting companies like Adani to build mines in their land. The poem’s title is in response to many who try to dissociate Hinduism from Hindutva—the fundamentalist ideology which has led to a dramatic increase in mob lynchings, cow vigilantism, and violence against minorities. In Hindutva ideology, India has always been a country that belongs to the Hindus—it demonises plurality and particularly the Muslim, as a hated other. However, as institutional murders like Dr. Payal’s show us, the rot is deep and systemic. And Hinduism is at its core just as culpable.” (web)

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