Why I am not a Hindu Woman is Wandana Sonalkar’s autobiographical reflections on Hinduism as a religion, as an upper-caste Marxist feminist, and in the context of India’s socio-political journey in the last seventy three years, particularly in the shadow of Hindutva majoritarian politics. Sonalkar uses her life and experiences as an entry point to the wider social and political climate of the time, moving fluidly from normative texts composed c. 300 CE to India’s early years as an independent republic, while also bringing into the narrative recent public movements from Bhima-Koregaon to the pan-India anti-CAA/NRC protests. Across this vast time span, Sonalkar makes a compelling case for rupturing the private and political divide, by tracing the roots of the political philosophy of Hindutva in the Hindu normative ideals of family and household.
Historiographically, Sonalkar locates herself amid a series of books written mostly by men on their own relationship. Notably, these include Kancha Ilaiah’s path-breaking Dalit Bahujan Critique of Hinduism (1996), Shashi Tharoor’s attempt at reclaiming a more pluralistic, tolerant Hinduism (2018), the Marathi film director Atul Pethe’s similar attempts at showing how his Hinduism is not violent (September 2018), Bertrand Russell’s (1927) and Ibn Farraq’s (1995) monumental pieces on their disassociation with Christianity and Islam respectively.