On April 2, a woman called Anu Mokal was walking with her friend near the Satara bus-stand area in Sangli district. They passed a police inspector, Dayanand Dhome, who began abusing them aggressively. When they told him they were just taking a tiffin to their friend at the civil hospital, he called them liars. He and his subordinates started beating up the two women. Inspector Dhome kicked Mokal repeatedly. She kept pleading with the policemen to stop, saying she was four months pregnant. But they persisted and finally took the women to the lock-up. When taken to the civil hospital for treatment as is normally required when cops have kicked you senseless, and senselessly, Mokal told the doctor she was pregnant.
He prescribed medication. The police did not provide any, nor did they allow her to buy it. The next day, the women were released after being fined. Two nights later Mokal suffered a miscarriage, probably resulting from the beating. She filed a complaint against her attackers with the Superintendent of Police, MM Prasanna. The usual non-commital response of instating an enquiry has followed.
You must be puzzled reading this, no? You wonder why the cops did this. And if I tell you that these women are sex workers and part of sex-worker support organisations Sangram and VAMP in Sangli, will you say, ahh, now I get it? Why? What is there to ‘get’ here, that I don’t get? While beating Mokal, Inspector Dhome kept saying sex workers don’t need to be mothers and women like her brought him shame. The magistrate fined her for soliciting — which she was not doing at the time she was apprehended. So, which kind of women are permitted to be mothers, and which kind are not? Maybe we should check with these permissible mothers whether men like this are a shame to them or not.
But the inspector is hardly alone in his thinking. He is supported by so much around us which tells us what sort of moms are permissible. Advertising has given Nirupa Roy a new costume. The capri pants, the demure pastel kurtis, the discreet diamond Mother’s Day pendant on a slender gold chain.
There are advice columns galore for moms who dedicate all their time to choosing the best products for their baby, the best form of natural childbirth depending on if you’re a water, fire or earth sign; the best alternative school for grooming free spirits; the best brain gym to turn baby into a master of the universe. So many products to help permissible moms to be perfect.
If any other kind of woman is a mother that’s her problem, really. Especially if she wants to, or has to, depending on her class, be a mother plus other things. For her, the system does not create crèches, day-care, flexible corporate working hours, extended paternity leave or any of those things that would show we value mothers as women too, or have some understanding of women as mothers. And if a woman will have sex for any other reason than to become a mother, to be the producer of a kul Deepak or Deepika (now that we love our girl children so much) then, as Inspector Dhome said, all bets are off. On Monday, women, some sex-workers, some activists, some moms, some two or all of the above, will march in Sangli against this. Somehow I don’t think you will hear about it on TV. TV is a place that also has permissible women with permissible problems, where partial truths triumph.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevi.com.
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.