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Archetypal Motherhood and the National Agenda: The Case of the Indian Muslim Women


The grand narratives of Mother India posit women’s emancipation as the central concern, insisting on her public participation in the educational and economic sectors. The relegation of the archetypal motherhood to the national periphery is strictly rooted in the Hindu traditional culture. The schisms of caste, class, and religion in contemporary society are normalised whilst the gendered undercurrents of domestic violence, chauvinism and religious sensibilities are ignored. Such polished idealisms are, in fact, far from the living reality of most women and girls across all spheres in the country. By reviewing notable texts from past and present, this research problematises the position of Muslim women in India, specifically during the nationalistic discourse and post-independent era. The national freedom struggle movement assured a democratic constitution, which primed Mother India as the figurative Indian woman encrypting ideologies from socio-religious discourses. The grand narratives often become instrumental in politicising the vested interest of the hegemonic class. The struggles of Muslim women were foregrounded not only in the gendered disparity of the religious domain but also in the socio-cultural disparities which excluded them from the domain of Indian womanhood. Mainstream history, literature and even women development organisations deliberately typified Muslim women along with the religious discourse. Briefly, in this paper, we infer that Muslim women were rendered invisible in the limelight of the archetypal Mother India, denying their social, political, cultural and literary participation. They were thus subjected to constitutional othering by the mainstream socio-political entities (who subjected them) at the onset of nationalism, which continues to exist in post-colonial discourses where women are expected to constantly negotiate their religious identity over their national identity.


Mother India, Muslim women, Indian Nationalism, Constitutional Othering, National and religious identities


Author Biography

Ayshath Shamah Rahmath

Ayshath Shamah Rahmath is pursuing her PhD in Postcolonial literature at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (National University of Malaysia). She has worked in several educational institutions, both in the public and private sectors, in Kerala, India.

Raihanah Mohd Mydin

Raihanah M.M. is a Professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, National University of Malaysia, UKM. Her research includes minority fiction and comparative literature. She won the National Academic Award in 2014.

Ruzy Suliza Hashim

Ruzy Suliza Hashim is Professor of Literature at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, UKM. Her research interests include gender issues in literature and comparative literature. Her book, Out of the Shadows: Women in Malay Court Narratives, won the National Book Award in 2003.


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