SSPC's Animesh Roul was quoted by Al Jazeera on the Hindu Right Wing

Film shows two worlds of Indian women

Documentary recently released follows beauty pageant hopefuls and Hindu right-wing training camp for girls.

Alys Francis: Al Jazeera 19 Jun 2014

Excerpts: Hindutva ideology

The conservative Hindu ideology, Hindutva, envisages India as a culturally Hindu state and its followers are known for going to great pains to defend their ideas.

Books have been banned, school texts altered, movies boycotted and plays attacked in the name of this ideology. Of 52 cases of censorship reported in the first three months of 2014 by media monitor website The Hoot, Hindu right-wing groups were the second biggest culprits, behind the Indian state.

India’s artistic community was particularly tense when Pahuja was trying to launch her film before the May polls because many of BJP's party members are also members of these right-wing groups.

After all, India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, earned his ideological stripes in a Hindutva organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, as a child.

Shiladitya Bora, general manager of cinema chain PVR which is screening "The World Before Her", said he was nervous until VHP leaders saw the film.

"I was a little worried until before the film was released, but then it started and then these guys watched the film and they liked the film, and then nothing happened," said Bora.

The documentary has become PVR’s most successful yet, with screenings extended to more cities.

Pahuja believes the film was well received because she did not sensationalise the material.

"It’s so easy to just simply demonise them because you know for a lot of people their political beliefs are so problematic but… it’s important to understand why these forces exist, or why these belief systems exist, as opposed to just criticising the fact that they do," she said.

She plans to take the film on tour in rural India to raise awareness about women’s rights.

Fringe Hindu groups are emerging to counter conservative elements in other religions following a spurt in domestic attacks within India, according to Animesh Roul, director of Delhi’s Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict.

"Vigilantism within certain sections of the Hindu community is increasing, and primarily for religious insecurity developed within that section which perceives that Islam and to some extent Christianity are posing a threat to Hindu existence," Roul said. He added that nobody should feel threatened by Durga Vahini given its priority not to fight other religions but "protect their own".

"So-called Hindu extremism does not threaten the integrity of India rather it attempts to protect Hindu beliefs, traditions and customs," said Roul. "The only wrong is the use of violence."

India's home minister and president of the BJP, Rajnath Singh, did not respond to a request for comment while Durga Vahini leader Malaben Rawal said she was unavailable to talk.

In June, Hindu right-wing groups made headlines when riots broke out in Pune, Maharashtra, after derogatory images of a deceased right-wing leader were spread on social media and led to the death of a Muslim man. The state government is now examining whether to ban Hindutva organisation Hindu Rashtra Sena, members of which were behind the attacks.

The nervousness that these groups create is perhaps best expressed in the wide-eyed, deadly serious stare of Miss India coach Sabira Merchant.

She tells Pahuja in the film: "They’ll come after your family, they’ll come after you - be careful of that."

Al Jazeera, 19 Jun 2014