The Durga Vahini (Carrier of Durga) is the women's wing of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP). It was established in 1991 and its founding chairperson is Sadhvi Rithambara. The Vishva Hindu Parishad states the purpose of the Durga Vahini is to encourage more women to participate in prayer meetings and in cultural activities. Kalpana Vyash, a senior leader of the organization, said that the Durga Vahini members dedicate themselves "to physical, mental and knowledge development". The aim of the organization is to establish Hindu solidarity by helping Hindu families during the time of hardship and by providing social services. According to Vyash, the total membership of the group is 8,000 as of 2002, and 1,000 members are from Ahmedabad.
Activities and ideology
The Durga Vahini is often considered to be the female face of the hardliner Bajrang Dal and have been accused of actively contributing to instigating violence against religious minorities. The organization is described as a militant outfit, right-wing religious fundamentalist group.
The Durga Vahini aggressively recruits young women from low-income earning and lower caste families. Members learn karate and lathi, and receive ideological education. The organization especially recruits young girls for carrying risky tasks of militant activism in which much physical strength is required, for example confronting Muslim people who they view as enemy and to fight on the front lines in places like Ayodhya.
On 16 March 2002, Durga Vahini activists wielding tridents and sporting saffron headbands ransacked the Orissa Assembly along with VHP and Bajrang Dal members.
The Durga Vahini alleged to have participated in the 2002 Gujarat violence. Durga Vahini has denied such allegations. Regarding the Durga Vahini's role in the riots, VHP spokesman Kaushikbahi Mehta said, "We in the VHP had nothing to do with the violence except to take care of widows and victims of the Godhra mayhem. So was the case with the Durga Vahini". But many people claimed that white-churidar clad girls were involved in the violence. A senior police official said, "They were found providing healing touch to the male activists, information back-up and if the ethnic cleansing theory is true, I have a feeling they played a significant role in intelligence network as well. While it will be very difficult to prove their direct involvement, women Sanghis had definitely scrutinised voters’ list or the traders’ licence papers to screen the minorities with an innocuous intention".
Six members of the Durga Vahini were arrested in Gwalior in March 2004 for blackening the face of Neetu Sapra, director of the play Kal Aaj Aur Kal. The Vishva Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal claimed the play depicted Rama, Sita, Laxman and Hanuman in "indecent" way. The activists also damaged the furnitures in Sapra's home.
In July 2017, Durga Vahini organized a training camp for self-defence in Jammu & Kashmir, girls from 17 border towns of the state participated in the camp.
- The World Before Her, a documentary partly chronicling the training at a Durga Vahini camp
- Rashtra Sevika Samiti
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