Saturday, December 22, 2012

Some facts and a note from the common person

It was the year 1974, somewhere in a small far away village in Uttar Pardesh, a wedding celebration was underway.
 Mayadin was getting his eleven year old cousin married off to a thirty something man. With the fiery girl child out of the way, he was sure that no one else would prevent him from the sole enjoyment of all family property, a small piece of land and wood from a neem tree. Mayadin was wrong, his cousin had no plans of being an obedient child bride or accept marital rape as her lot. So Mayadin decided to set up a false case of theft against his cousin, who was sixteen now. The cousin was arrested and apparently raped in jail by the police for three days.
Such were the first 16 years of Phoolan Devi.

"On the night of June 22, 2002, our family reaches a decision.
I, Mukhtaran Bibi, a woman of the peasant Gujar caste,living in the village of Meerwala, will be the one to confront an influential and aggressive local clan, farmers of the Mastoi caste....
My little brother Shakur is accused .....of having "spoken" to  Salma, a young woman of their clan. Shakur is only twelve years old, while Salma is over twenty. We know my brother has done nothing wrong but if the Mastois have decided otherwise, we Gujars must bow to their demands. This is the way it has always been."

The tribal council will eventually order the gang rape of Mukhtaran Bibi after which she was meant to commit suicide.  

Mukhtaran today runs schools in her village trying hard to educate little children especially girls but if you were to read of her fight for justice, it would take a cold heart of stone not to weep.

December, 2012, the metropolitan city of Delhi, the capital of India witnesses another brutal and horrible gang rape. A tragedy of insurmountable proportions stares at a young  23 year old girl.
 As details of the macabre incident unravelled condemnation flew in thick and fast on the social media, mobile phones, television, parliament, the internet, on the streets. Other rape cases,{ and mind you on an average one rape case is reported just about every day on some inside page of every national daily,} found more prominent space in newspapers. Effectiveness of the legal process, more stringent punishment including castration and death were discussed. Better policing was discussed. Courts aired their disgust and shock. The police was reprimanded and admonished. It seems that policing since the incident has improved or at least that was the observation of a friend who was visiting Delhi during this week. God knows who long will it last...    
 However somehow I the common person, my negligence was never discussed. I, the mother or father of a married daughter who cajoles her to go back to her matrimonial home and put her life and respect at peril; I the common person who sees nothing wrong in seeking dowry; I the common person who travels in public transport but would never come to the aid and assistance of any needy person leave alone a woman in peril; I the common person whose life actually resembles  the characters of "saas bahu" serials. I the common person who objectifies and stereotypes the woman; I the common person who seeks honour in killing a brother or sister simply because they choose to lead life on their own terms. I the common person who gives in to self styled gurus and god men seeking to explain the role of the woman as subservient to man; I the mother-in- law who doesn't have a problem siding up with her son against the daughter-in-law; I the common person who is too scared to be a witness; I the common person who is too caught up in his or her own life to bother for others....we the many common people who together make up the system that we all individually fear so much.......what do we have to say for ourselves?

The harsh truth is that we as a society are still very far away from respecting women and womanhood. The role of law comes in at a much  later stage; the issue is how and why are men even able to think that rape is an option? How has that thought found its way into society? A lot of notions of honour and respect have  to be unlearned... It is time that each person, each family, each community does some introspection and we ask ourselves what are the little things we can do so that no other woman ever has to face such horror.

Note:    Information on Phoolan Devi has been sourced from wikipedia and on Mukhtaran Bai from her      book "In the name of Honour"


Ahn said...

check out this wonderful link. She makes a lot of sense

Ahn said...

Lovely piece by Manini Chaterjee