The Dark Side of Womb Cleansing: Hindu Nationalists' Radical New Initiative

A wing of the Hindu paramilitary organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) recently launched a campaign to train pregnant Indian women to instill sanskar (virtue/good action) and cultural pride in their children while still in their wombs.

Samvardhinee Nyas, a sub-wing under the women’s wing of the RSS, organized an event at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi March 6th, where they discussed women’s active role in the “restoration of the country’s glory.”

According to a report from an Indian newspaper, The Times of India, the national organizing secretary of Samvardhinee Nyas, Madhuri Marathe, told an audience of 70 doctors from 12 states that women should instill cultural pride in their children early from pregnancy and they must be taught that country is the first priority. Most of the audience were gynecologists, and ayurveda doctors, with some coming from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences or AIIMS.

Marathe also used Indian ruler Shivaji I as an example, narrating how his courage resulted from his mother, Jija Bai’s constant prayers. She urged Indian women to follow Jija Bai’s example so that India would have future leaders possessing the “qualities of Hindu leaders.

Dr. Rama Jayasunder, head of the AIIMS’s Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), claimed that garbha sanskar, or virtue in pregnancy, could help prevent autism and other disabilities at birth. Jayasunder noted a supposed rise in cases of these disabilities and claimed they were becoming more common among families from “comfortable economic strata.

Samvardhinee Nyas also plans to encourage women to engage in “womb cleansing,” which they claimed could be done by reading Sanskrit and performing “Gita Paath” or reciting verses from the Bhagavad Gita.

The event’s organizers also claimed that a child’s DNA could be changed while still in the womb through cleansing and that a fetus can learn 500 words while still in the womb, although there is little to no evidence to suggest this.

In addition, the body’s co-convener, Dr. Rajani Mittal, claimed that mothers would be happy if they could give birth to children like Lord Ram, who are bound to duty towards their parents and the country.

The organizers of the event also made unfounded claims regarding homosexuality. One of the participants of the event, Dr. Shweta Dangre, argued that homosexuality was a result of gender expressions at birth, adding that if a mother already gave birth to a son and expects to give birth to a girl but her second born is a boy instead, the child could grow up to be homosexual.

Samvardhinee Nyas claims to reach at least 1,000 women under their campaign. The right-wing Hindu nationalist has recently gained prominence since the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party to power under its current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

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