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An article by the New York Times suggested that promoting traditional attire is part of the government’s Hindu nationalist propaganda.
Image for representation/PTI

Women in India swear by the saree for any occasion. As Indians, many of us have grown up seeing our mothers and grandparents wearing the saree on a daily basis. While the younger generations may find the six or nine yards a pain to drape and carry around for more than a few hours, the fact remains that it continues to be the everyday attire for a large number of women in the country.

Now, what if someone told you that the saree is actually a political symbol for the ruling BJP government’s Hindu nationalist agenda? It wouldn’t go down well, especially when many have simply woven saree into their wardrobes over the years, regardless of the government in power.

Unsurprisingly, an article in The New York Times is under fire for suggesting that promoting traditional attire, the saree being one, is part of the ruling government’s propaganda. “The effort aligns with the party’s broader political program: to project multi-faith India, a country of more than 1.3 billion, as a Hindu nation,” Asgar Qadri wrote for NYT.

The article then points out how Modi’s “effort to restore Indian-ness in Indian fashion” has manifested in fashion exhibits, with top fashion designers promoting sarees in partnership with the government.

It also talks about the weavers of Varanasi, who are yet to reap the benefits of Modi’s promise to revive the Benarasi saree. “The weavers, who are mostly Muslim and following a family trade, largely live in poverty,” the author writes.

The article, which was published on November 12, has been severely criticized on many grounds on social media. Imminent journalists have also weighed in calling the NYT piece poorly researched. Many have also pointed out that their love for sarees is not political.

Read some of the reactions here:

 There were a few others who argued that the saree was not the universal traditional garment in all of India and hence, Asgar’s argument should be seen on a macro level, and not just with respect to the politicisation of sarees.