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Nisha Ritambhara alias Sadhvi Rithambara is a member of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), India’s Hindu extremist paramilitary group known for orchestrating violence against India’s religious minorities and planting bombs in various parts of the country.
Ritambhara is the founder of Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the cultural affiliate of RSS, which in 2018 was designated as a militant religious outfit by the CIA World Factbook.
She is notorious for her fiery anti-Muslim speeches, leading to the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 that shook up India forever. The subsequent anti-Muslim riots across the country killed more than 2000 people. Check out this video.
In January 1991, Delhi police charged Ritambhara for making provocative speeches. FIR no. 19/91 was registered against her for delivering an anti-Muslim speech at Chowk Vishwas Nagar, East Delhi on 29/11/90. This was the letter written by the then Deputy Secretary (Home) to the Delhi Commissioner of Police Special Branch for registration of case.
In 2009, more than 16 years after it was launched to probe the events that led to the destruction of the Babri Masjid and the murderous rampage against Muslims that followed, the Liberhan Commission, headed by Justice M.S. Liberhan concluded that Sadhvi Ritambhara was one of several people culpable of leading the country “to the brink of communal discord.” A Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court framed criminal charges against Rithambara in May 2017. But after interference from the ruling BJP, the party of prime minister Narendra Modi, Rithambhara, along with 32 other BJP leaders, were acquitted by another CBI court in 2020.
Currently, the revision petition filed against the acquittal of Rithambhara in the Babri Masjid demolition case is being heard in the Uttar Pradesh high court.
Writing in the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars in 1993, historian Tanika Sarkar wrote:
“The demolition of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya on 6 December 1992 and the subsequent explosion of anti-Muslim pogroms all over India have highlighted the very real possibility of a right-wing takeover of the Indian state in the name of the Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) movement.’
“Any such transition would involve the redefinition of the state as Hindu rather than as secular or multicultural. It would also initiate a shift of state policies in a considerably more authoritarian, centralized, and militaristic direction than they are at the present moment.”
“The audio-cassette speeches of Sadhvi Rithambara, a woman ascetic of the VHP, were the single most powerful instrument for whipping up anti-Muslim violence.”
Scholar Maya Azran has noted in her paper ‘Saffron Women: A Study of the Narratives and Subjectivities of Women in the Hindutva Brigade’ that: “Rithambara’s speeches were repeatedly broadcast at temples across the country, recited at BJP assemblies, and dispersed within the homes of RSS affiliates. Her voice and its message sold on street corners for one rupee. Priests throughout Uttar Pradesh even suspended their normal programmes of recitation from sacred texts at temples to continuously play the cassette.”
In April 1995, Ritambhara was arrested for making a public speech in which she attacked Christians and described Mother Teresa as a “magician”. Her inflammatory speech led to Hindu led violence against Christians which resulted in 169 people being arrested for arson.
In 1998, Sadhvi Ritambhara was charged and arrested in Indore, Madhya Pradesh state, on the grounds of making an inflammatory speech.
In 2006, Ritambhara, during a rally held in Gujarat said: “They [Christians] call us harvest. They intend to pluck us out. And foreigners want to do this to us.” She added that it was imperative for Hindus to take up arms to save their religion.
In 2008, Ritambhara was arrested by the Jammu police in Jammu and Kashmir state for attempting to hold a rally with the intention of making communal speeches against Muslims.
Ritambhara has also spent a considerable time vilifying and demonizing Indian Christians. Suggesting that the Christian missionaries were attempting to convert people, she said, “If a single choti or janeu (a Hindu thread) is cut, Christians will be wiped out from the face of India.”
On August 13, 2010, Digvijay Singh, Former General Secretary, Indian National Congress, and former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, said: “Sadhvi Ritambhara made an inflammatory speech at the same place where VHP workers had murdered a Christian nurse. The administration filed a case against her, and she was arrested.”
Ritambhara’s student Sadhvi Pragya Singh was one of the masterminds behind the Malegaon Blasts of September 8, 2006, in which 37 people were killed and over 125 injured. Ritambhara had vigorously defended Singh.
On January 27, 2022, Rithambhara, while delivering a hate speech at a university in Surat, Gujarat state, referred to Muslims as invaders and said they were responsible for all the evil customs among Hindus.
In April 2022, Ritambhara said every Hindu should have at least four children. Out of the four children, she said, two should be handed over to the paramilitary organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or the militant religious outfit Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).
Hindu leaders have called her the anti-thesis of Hinduism.
“Sadhvi Ritambhara is the anti-thesis of Hinduism, always speaking ill of other faiths, I wonder how the State Department issues visa to such promoters of hatred,” Shrikumar Poddar, the Hindu spiritual leader of Vaishnava Center for Enlightenment, Lansing, Michigan said.
Over the last few years, she has kept a relatively low profile but maintains a very active presence in the Hindu diaspora abroad. The Param Shakti Peeth (PSP), an organization founded by her, has a sister organization in the US called Param Shakti Peeth of America. Every year, millions of dollars are funneled into PSP India through PSP America.