March 15, 2023

India: Queer/trans Hindutva - A Hijra Case Study | Aniruddha Dutta

 Elsewheres in Queer Hindutva: A Hijra Case Study
Aniruddha Dutta
Feminist Review Volume 133, Issue 1


In July 2021, a series of gruesome videos exposed a case of brutal torture perpetrated by a guru or leader of the trans feminine hijra community in eastern India. This guru was allegedly of a Bangladeshi Muslim background, and various community members used the case as an alibi to target hijras of such national and religious origin, sometimes even demanding their expulsion from India. This phenomenon paralleled increasing affiliations between certain sections of trans/hijra communities and the Hindu Right. This article situates this case within the broader rise of queer and trans Hindutva or Hindu nationalism and locates it as indicative of Hindutva’s expansion to its erstwhile ‘elsewheres’: areas outside its traditional strongholds such as eastern India and communities such as hijras who are known for their mixed religious practices and have been historically stigmatised by Hindu society. However, the article also analyses the case to show how hijras and related communities evidence contingently wavering political alliances and complex dynamics of intra-community power and resistance that remain irreducible to typical equations of Hindu right-wing politics. Queer/trans Hindutva might become disrupted by its potential constituents themselves, showing how Hindutva’s ‘elsewheres’ trouble its assimilationist capacities.