Three days after a Bahujan Samaj Party leader, his son and aides attacked the office and staff of AALI -- Association For Advocacy and Legal Initiatives -- the state commission for women has taken note of the incident.” How many times have your eyes just slid over this kind of routine line -- a line that renders a terrible incident casual?
This is the incident. A young woman of 19 who says she has been facing sexual molestation from her brother for eight years and has had no help despite appealing to elders in the family, approaches the women’s organisation, AALI, for help. They help her take the necessary legal steps and provide her with shelter.
Three days later, the girl’s father, a BSP leader from Amethi, Ashish Shukla, along with his wife, son, and nearly 50 men barge into the AALI offices where two women are at work. They demand to know the whereabouts of the girl. When they are not told, they beat up the women. Then, they abduct the women to a temple nearby and proceed to beat and maul them for close to an hour. When the women still don’t provide the girl’s whereabouts, they threaten to rape and murder them.
Meanwhile, other members of the organisation have heard and arrive at the temple with the police. Some of the perpetrators are arrested. These do not include the BSP leader, or any other family members of the girl although they are named in the FIR lodged by the organisation.
The next day as the activists accompany the girl to record her statement before a court magistrate, they are verbally and physically abused by her relatives. A whole two days after the FIR is lodged, the police amble round to the AALI office to investigate.
A couple of days later, one of the arrested perpetrators is released. The Shuklas and their associates continue to be at large and regularly threaten AALI members. What is the police’s advice? Don’t rake up the issue because ‘we are living in society.’
Oh and of course the State Commission of Women takes note. The media does not take much note as, after all, this is so routine, no? We shouldn’t blame them because there are no interesting villains like khaps to blame here and no drama of killing.
Agar ultimately woh hoga, obviously they will take note, because then it will become a serious case, no? Death is urgent, the prevention of death is an exaggeration. Until then they also have to live in society. Every one of us, while living in society and meeting each other over drinks, dinner, coffee, chai or children’s birthdays in society, must have castigated such things.
Yet we, who live in society would also have condoned such things when they happen to people we actually know in society, because people we know are so much like us, not a comfortable other like a khap panchayat. We would have kept out of it because it is a ‘family matter.’ Family matters only become social matters when violence results in death.
Until then you can allow family members to freak out when an adult child makes a choice of her own and cops to assist them. You can keep people on the brink of being alive but far from freedom, happiness, security, choice and fairness; you can even break the law, because law is also after all, also living in society.
You could sign a petition of course -- and still keep doing some or all of the above until society catches up. So sign it, at least.
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.