Violence against Women

Ram Puniyani

The case of brutal, horrific violence against Shraddha Walkar has shaken the whole nation. It is a gruesome and utterly despicable crime. One recalls with similar horror the case of Nirbhaya (Jyoti Singh), the Tandoor case, and the recent one of Abhijit Patidar, who slit the throat of Shilpa in a Jabalpur resort and video graphed it. One also recalls with equal fright when Rahul killed Gulshana in recent times.

In case of Shraddha Walkar since the culprit is Aftab, added angle of love jihad is being inserted by some, into the problem, which young women, involved in interfaith relationship find them. Many of these relationships, marriage or ‘living together’ occur against the concurrence of parents or close relatives and friends. They cut off the contact with the defiant girl who is left defenseless in the atmosphere where the patriarchal notions are dominant and some men involved in the relationship take the utter step, leading the condemnable violence, not only in India but all over the world.

The women in such situations are disowned by their families and the communication between the girl and relatives-friends is cut off, leaving the girls more vulnerable. A section of media has got the sensationalising material and frightening gory detail of heinous crime are being presented repeatedly for the TRP battle, which adds to the problem.

In the case of Aftab-Shraddha the communal twist not only shows the rising tide of divisive politics in India but also it tends to hide the real problem of violence in such alliances. Prominent rights worker Kavita Krishnan points out "The issue is not men from one community being abusive towards women from another community. Making this the focus simply surpasses the actual cause.”

Two tweets (translated from Hindi) summarise the propaganda which has been instilled into the social understanding. The first one by BJP’s Kapil Mishra states, “Bollywood, media, ads that promote false constructs like brotherhood, politics that is soaked in the blood of daughters, rich and upper middle classes drinking the poison of fake secularism, the sold police and the jihadi education model. Don’t blame daughters for murders like Shraddha.”

This second one is by one Tapan Das: “The biggest weakness is that we have not been able to keep our sisters and daughters within our grasp. They are left free to do what they want. If parents and brothers keep an eye on each and every sister’s/daughter’s movements, then I do not think anyone else will fall in love so soon. They will be caught in the net.” This shows patriarchal angle very prominently.
This is just a sample from what is circulating in the social media with all its negative impact and not only intensifying the prevalent hate but at the same time eclipsing the basic issue related to violence against women more particularly those in interfaith and inter-caste relationships.

The term ‘love jihad’ is a very clever signal for an alleged conversion conspiracy. The projected purposes are presented as recruitment into Islamic terror groups, sex trafficking and changing India’s demography.

Love Jihad, the construct floated by communal forces has been popularised in large sections of society by communal organisations. Conceptually, this love Jihad does not believe in the agency of women and girls being capable of taking their own decisions. This is part of the patriarchal ideology of religious nationalism. Ministers and leaders who are upholding the Hindutva politics are now promising new laws for ‘protecting Hindu girls’. Unfortunately even the Supreme Court Judges are directing the Government to do something about preventing conversions.

In recent months, Karnataka, Assam, Haryana, Gujarat, all ruled by the BJP by itself or in coalition, have promised laws to curb ‘love jihad’; Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and in recent weeks, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, have already passed laws that criminalise conversion by marriage.

The Recent film “Kerala Story” takes the falsehood of love jihad to absurd limits by claiming that 32000 Kerala girls have been converted and taken to Syria-Yemen etc. The sources of figures are totally unreliable and the maker of the film has ruthlessly trampled the logic to arrive at such a figure.

The need for ‘help lines’ and support systems for such isolated girls; in painful relationship; is the need for the hour.

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Vol 55, No. 25, Dec 18 - 24, 2022