This remarkable book, based on Atreyee Sen's immersion into the low-income, working-class slums of Bombay, tells the story of the women and children of the Shiv Sena, one of the most radical and violent of the Hindu nationalist parties that dominated Indian politics throughout the 1990s and into the present. The Sena women's front has been instrumental in creating and sustaining communal violence, directed primarily against their Muslim neighbours. The author presents the Sena women's own rationale for organising themselves along paramilitary lines, as poor women and children have used violence and 'gang-ism' to create a distinctive social identity, networks of material support, and protection from male violence in the explosive environment of the slums. Sen's moving account foregrounds the ethical dilemmas that surrounded her 'covert' research and writing of the book, and she considers wider questions involving women, violence, and religious fundamentalism.
Atreyee Sen is a Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Sussex.
Introduction Urban alienation and the birth of women's 'gangs' The Mumbai riots and women's agency in violence Mobilisation and organisation Sena boys and 'survival' Women, history and the future samaj (society) Conclusion