The Durga Vahini is the women's wing of a Hindu nationalist organization in India — the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The militaristic camp aims to empower young women to fight for the Hindu nationalist cause and to espouse the traditional roles of women.
At the camp, women between the ages of 18 and 35 are trained in self-defense to combat those who go against their religious ideals. They are also taught to adhere to the idea of a male-dominated society and to reclaim their roles as wives and mothers.
A clip from the film The World Before Her shows how young women at the camp are brainwashed into believing they are naturally weak and need to be tamed. (WARNING: The video contains disturbing scenes towards the end.)
In the clip, a social worker, Aparnatai Ramtirthakar, talks to the camp's girls about their "duties as a woman."
She tells them that women should be married by the age of 18 because "by the time they're 25, they'll become so strong-willed, you won't be able to tame them."
She emphasizes that girls should never leave their homes, and blames Westernization for women wanting an education and a career.
She talks about how her mother slapped her for looking at herself in the mirror.
While dismissing gender equality, the social worker asks the girls, "Can you really hide your natural weakness or character as a woman?"
The clip then ends with disturbing scenes from a 2009 incident where members of a Hindu extremist group attacked women for drinking alochol at a bar in south India.
In this FirstPost interview, director Nisha Pahuja discussed the most disturbing part of filming at the camp.
"You know, more than the physical training the girls at the Durga Vahini camp are given, it's the brainwashing and the blood curdling chants they are taught that shocked and depressed me. On the bus ride they take en route to their parade, they learned a few phrases that I simply refused to include in the film. Those were the sorts of moments that were hugely trying for me and my crew as well. We saw how easy it was to manipulate young minds."
Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at email@example.com.
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